Inspired by William Matthews’ poem by the same name
Promiscuous is what my
called a friend of mine in high school.
It wasn’t just the word, but the way
she said it – savoring every syllable
as if sipping a smooth single malt scotch.
Pro-mi-scu-ous, she would say — the way
she’s drops one boy for the next,
the way she dresses. I would admonish
myself — Why tell her anything, I’d rant
in my head, you stupid you.
My friend wore short dresses with boots,
left her legs bare, strong. I tried it once
but kept pulling my tights back on,
I was no slut like Marion. She was
probably sleeping with our English
teacher, Mr. Hardy, taught us Madame
Bovary and had dimples. Yes, for sure
she was sleeping with him, with her good
vocabulary and her bare legs.
Mr. Hardy used the word “promiscuous”
when teaching the story of Emma’s compulsive
love for Rodolphe. The cliff notes say
“she falls for him because of his stylish green
coat and his title, and he desires her because
she seems like an easy conquest.” See:
promiscuity! Was Mr. Hardy Marion’s
Rodolphe? I never had her over again,
after my mother’s remark. I kept things
secret – those bare legged things, as I pinched
my nipples to make them pop under my shirt,
meticulously drew the black liner under
my lids, as I rolled my tights off in the girl’s
bathroom before I slid into the seat of my
11th grade math class, I too, would get a green
coated man! Perhaps Mr. Bander. After all,
I needed extra help in Geometry, not in language
or matters of the heart. I already knew then
what I know now. In short, it’s no mystery
how sluts get to be sluts. It’s all
knot in your stomach, headlong, obsession
and remorse, sizzle and ghost.
I want to take this opportunity
to thank my breasts for being
such good sports, still perky
after so many let downs, still
happy to meet new people,
willing to try new things.
When they first arrived, way before
my friends had theirs, we had some fun
jumping up and down on my bed, lying
on my side to feel them squish together,
the miracle of cleavage. I’d imagine
I was Ann-Margaret in Bye Bye Birdie,
hold my pink princess phone,
watch them in the mirror watch me
as I flirted with a pretend boy-friend.
They tormented Mr. Johnson, my pervy
flute teacher, were felt up by Angel
at Phil’s Pizza on Broadway, took me
to bed at night crying to be touched.
They hadn’t a clue how far we’d go together—
how many padded bras I’d shake them into,
release them from. There was that scare
when I was twenty – an overnight at Doctor’s
Hospital, anesthesia, biopsy, stitches, pressure
bandage covering my left nipple like an eye patch,
damp with sweat that long, humid summer.
But that was that; only a wisp of a scar remains,
pale as a thinning hair, undecipherable
to even the smoothest lips. They got smaller as I
got older, but a man I love tells me they’re pretty.
They fed my son those glorious first 18 months,
and when the milk was gone, their new life began.
They had no friends, no other breasts to talk to,
but they always had me, still do, and right now
we’re going to take a walk in the park.