Memoir Monday: Clara Barton, Porn Star

I last spoke to Metal Nose Boy on the day that Daylight Savings Time ended, so I had an extra hour of agony, which I spent writhing and sobbing on my parents’ sofa bed. My eyes hurt from crying. The next morning I cried over my omelet. My mother instituted a “No more crying” rule, which I disobeyed. It just wasn’t fair. MNB was perfect for me. Why did he have to be dumb and broken?

My relationship with MNB gave me two things. First, an aversion to UPS trucks, at which I would hiss in an angry feline manner ever after. And second, a belief that I was worthy of someone with whom I was passionately in love. Unfortunately, for me, passion and loss had always been inseparable. I had to believe that somewhere out there, there was a Metal Nose Boy who would commit.

If this person existed, I figured I’d have to find him on the internet, which I wasn’t looking forward to. I’d used internet personals before, and I’d had to wade through a staggering number of inane, poorly-spelled headlines. In one headline, the word “want” had an apostrophe. I fail to conceive of such a monstrosity, yet there it was before my very eyes.

EHarmony, for which I’d registered during a particularly low point with MNB, persisted in telling me that no matches existed for me. Not that they were unable to find matches—that no matches existed. I’m still trying to find a way to blame my lack of success on the obvious fact that Neil Clark Warren is some sort of alien.


Unearthly blue glow = not of this world
Unearthly blue glow = not of this world


Tired of hearing me complain, a friend at work suggested that I join the personals at The site looked promising—there were pages and pages of men who appeared to be attractive, highly literate, and just quirky enough to be interesting.

The first man I met on Salon shared my disdain for religion and sports. He had his own atheism library and appreciated when I quoted Bertrand Russell. He was smart, verbally expressive, financially stable, hygienic, and fashionable. In fact, he excelled so much in certain of these areas that Ray and I suspected he might actually be gay. I’d never seen a straight man with such a clean and beautifully decorated house, nor one with such an astounding array of button-up shirts from Structure. He also had (I counted) seven different watches and a collection of expensive colognes that Ray would have salivated over. I noted all this in a pros and cons list, not realizing that if you’re making a pros and cons list, the curtain’s already closing on that little drama.

The atheist metrosexual, known to Ray and me by the nickname Seven Watches, gave me about three weeks of constant sex. Whenever I went to his house, I toted along my own little first aid station stocked with bottled water, cranberry juice, acidophilus supplements, emergency antibiotics, and personal cleansing cloths. I felt sort of ridiculous–like Clara Barton, but also sort of like a porn star.

A strange vignette of Clara Barton the Porn Star formed in my mind. There she’d be, in a field hospital prepping for an amputation on a hot young Billy Yank, who’d tell her he has a thing for nurses (or Johnny Reb, who tells her he has “a thang for lady doctors”). As she placed the bullet in his mouth for him to bite, he’d lick it suggestively, propositioning her with his eyes. Soon Clara would hitch up her petticoats and engage in illicit sexual congress with Billy/Johnny. Of course, she’d be on top, as Billy/Johnny would be supine on the operating table, bleeding profusely from a major appendage. The field hospital sex would be only the beginning of Barton’s porn career. Matthew Brady would make a fortune distributing her pornographic daguerreotypes, and she’d singlehandedly become responsible for the Red Cross motto: Together, we can save a life. A fuck a lot.


I do not think you want to know what is in this coloring book.
I do not think you want to know what is in this coloring book.


Being part of the Red Cross for those three weeks, when Seven Watches was always telling me how beautiful and sexy I was, was fun. But I also felt sort of lost, like I was falling away from myself. Appropriately, I literally lost my way every time I drove home from his place. He lived in a part of the city I didn’t know well, and I had some kind of mental block navigating out of his neighborhood. I have memories of circling the same streets in the dark, listening to Keane. After we broke up, I could never listen to that album again. I had to throw the CD out, because it sounded like urinary tract infections and bad judgment. (Yes, I said “CD.” That was before iPods, whippersnappers.)

Seven Watches was a great guy. He would have made an amazing partner for somebody. But that somebody, I knew, wasn’t me. I just didn’t feel what I was supposed to feel—what I felt, that is, with MNB. I’d loved MNB and Mr. Italy in different ways, but I’d loved both of them deeply, and whoever was to follow the two of them would have a lot to live up to.

Maybe that’s why I had to lower the bar.


To be continued next Memoir Monday