Archive for the ‘celebrities’ Category

One time in the Johnnie’s Foodmaster that is no longer located in Inman Square, I saw a man fondling himself in front of the granola bars.

Obviously, the recent revelations that Louis C.K. deliberately masturbated in front of unwilling women put me in mind of this incident. Although, actually, it wasn’t the revelations themselves; there have been rumors of C.K.’s predatory tendencies for several years that, as a person who reads a lot of entertainment news, I have come across again and again without remembering the incident in the FoodMaster (please notice my restraint in not referring to it as the FoodMasturbater).

So it wasn’t that the news about C.K. was finally, at last, being acknowledged, but his statement confirming the allegations, specifically, this part near the beginning:

“But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

Better minds that mine have already discussed how C.K.’s statement, full of admiration and self-regard and “bravely” “taking responsibility” does not actually constitute an apology, so I won’t rehash that. But I will point that, having never seen him before, the guy in the FoodMaster did not have the power of my admiration, but I was still in a predicament because of his penis.

Which, I should clarify, again, I did not actually see. Johnnie (let’s just call him Johnnie, because that’s easier) was fully clothed there in the aisle of the grocery store. But there was no mistaking what he was doing:  his hand was inside his pants, clearly gripping his genitals and stroking them in a way he found pleasurable. He was wearing a blue and white striped shirt, like you might imagine a Greek sailor wearing in a film from the ‘40s, and he looked me squarely in the eye, with an expression on his face that said “Yes, I am staring directly at you while fondling my penis in front of granola bars. You can’t stop me, and I will do worse if you try.”

And, indeed, I could not stop him. Not by myself. So I went to the Customer Service booth. I was glad a woman was staffing the booth that afternoon because she would believe me, but I still felt bad that I was making this her responsibility. She was startled by the news but still was ready to act, and I, relieved, went back to my shopping.

But the most upsetting part of this entire incident – wherein a stranger fondled himself in front of me in a grocery store – was several hours later when, at home, I told the (male) friend with whom I had plans that afternoon what had happened and he responded

“Are you sure? You have a tendency to see these things.”

(I will tell you right now that I am still friends with this guy. There’s every chance in the world he is reading this right now, and an equal chance that, if he is, he doesn’t remember it all. )

I insisted I was sure. “His hand was in his pants and he was staring at me.”

He wondered if maybe Johnnie’s hand was in his pocket.

(If you’re worried you are maybe the friend, I’ll narrow it down: this is a different friend than the one who said I should have just laughed at the guy who exposed himself to me, the only girl on the Red Line after midnight; it’s also not the friend who said “Well, you must have been doing something,” when I called because someone was following me in their obviously unobtrusively-painted terrifying black van as I headed to the ATM in Coolidge Corner at 8:30 one summer evening.)

I, a college-educated woman, did not feel like defending my ability to tell the difference between a pocket and the waistband of a pair of jeans. Plus, I was busy trying to remember when else I had ‘seen things’. So I dropped it, even though I did not understand why a stranger in a supermarket – a stranger who would masturbate in a supermarket at that – should be believed and I should not.

But I’m bringing it up again, today, because of Louis C.K. Because you, guy who is reading this right now, you, guy who shook his damn head over and over this week over Louis C.K., you need to do better. On the simplest level, you need to believe the women in your life when we tell you that someone masturbated in front of us. You need to trust that we are telling you the truth when someone is threatening us, even if it means trusting us more than someone you’ve never met. You need to understand that, even though you would never hurt a woman, there are men who will, and if we are so unfortunate as to encounter one of them, we need you to take our side. The power you actually wield, even if you are not a famous (and, now that we’re being honest – completely overrated) comedian, is not based in our admiration, but your understanding that you have the ability to improve women’s lives simply by believing that we deserve better from everyone. Including you.


A new trend that I’m not a particular fan of, or potentially a well-established trend that I’ve only just begun to encounter and am not a particular fan of, is for the cost of a ticket to a book-reading by a celebrity to include a copy of the book. I’m not opposed to the selling of books per se, nor even to the inflated cost of a ticket to these particular readings; however, just because I’m interested in hearing what a particular actor I enjoy has to say about things doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to own a copy of their book. Especially if they’ve written a children’s book. While I do want to hear what successful people can share about their creative process, so that I can know specifically what I should be doing when I’m not doing it, I don’t want my bookshelf to look like I read nothing but celebrity memoirs. Which is why, in addition to generally avoiding celebrity book events, I also never invite anyone over to my house.

Last week, though, I bit the bullet and bought a ticket to see Nick Offerman read from his new book at the Wilbur mostly, I think, because I just found out on Wednesday that he was reading on Friday and the pressure of last-minute decision-making overrode my natural aversions. The event was interesting; Mr. Offerman is an engaging speaker with an interesting perspective and a laugh as ridiculous as it is divine.

After the reading, Mr. Offerman opened the floor to questions, and was met immediately not with questions but with a single word, shouted again and again by the audience: mustache. It wasn’t entirely a surprise; when he first took the stage, his face seemed empty without the iconic Ron Swanson mustache. I was taken aback to see his face so naked, and though initially I mourned the loss of Ron Swanson from the world, I was quickly won over by the similarly staunch and intelligent, though infinitely more ribald, Mr. Offerman.

In response to the audience, Mr. Offerman explained that he, a character actor, would be unable to play a new character if people only ever saw him as Ron Swanson. Thus, as beloved as the mustache may have been, it must now belong to the ages. As much as much sense as that makes, though, that we should learn to draw a distinction between the man and the character he portrayed, it does call into question the photo used for the cover of the book, which, now that I can tell the difference, is much more Ron Swanson than Nick Offerman.

As I said, I’m not opposed to the selling of books, and at this particular point, Ron Swanson will probably move more product than Nick Offerman. And probably, too, the cover was shot while the final season of Parks & Recreation was filming. But still; while I would never have cause to question Nick Offerman’s integrity (seriously: you should hear him talk about how much he loves his wife), I just wish he had used a picture of himself.

After the Q&A, there was to be a book signing. And though I enjoyed the idea of telling the erstwhile Ron Swanson that I am a librarian, the theater was so ill-prepared to organize the audience into a formation that would allow any single person to get his or her book signed while also not being an unbelievable fire hazard, that I decided my best course of action would be to head home.

And because last Friday felt like summer, unlike the deep autumn in which we find ourselves lo these several days later, I decided to walk. I know; I’m a damn hero over here. A hero who sees no reason to spend $2.10 to go two stops on the Red Line. Thrift is a virtue, I understand, and virtue is its own reward. Which makes it all the more amazing that on this walk I received the greatest possible gift when I found myself slightly alongside a couple engaging in perhaps the most awkward romantic banter in history. The topic, obviously, was mailboxes.

It may seem, especially when inebriated, which I desperately hope this couple was, that the mailbox presents no end of possibilities for romantic conversation. I mean, when you have key players like “box,” “slot,” “sign for delivery,” and “insufficient postage” doing the heavy lifting for you, the wit practically writes itself. And yet, despite this cornucopia of material, this fair woman, who hopefully was drunk, lost her grip on the topic in a terrible way but tried desperately to keep up with it by announcing that isn’t it so weird that no one ever steals from mailboxes?

As a practical person not generally given to romance, I would probably not have been swept up in her desperate whimsy and instead replied that it’s not, because they do. In fact, it’s a federal offense to mess with someone’s mail, and it probably wouldn’t carry a five-year penalty if no one ever did it. Which would have been unfortunate, as I believe pointing out that the drunken person trying so hard to impress you that they’ll say something unbelievably stupid just said something unbelievably stupid is what the kids call a mood killer.

On the other hand, though, sometimes a topic is so egregious that such a killing would be a mercy. Because even though her young man tried valiantly to engage, or at least not to dash the conversation altogether, it did not get better. On the contrary, it got so much worse that it was thrilling. Desperate to course correct, the woman announced that they just don’t HAVE mailboxes where she’s from.

I didn’t fully hear the rest of what said for two reasons. The first was that, when presented with an intellectual puzzle, I need to make an attempt to solve it, however feeble. Where could a person be from that doesn’t have mailboxes? The most obvious answer is another planet, and this young woman was some sort of intergalactic spy. Which is encouraging to think of, that at least this particular alien race is so poor at fitting in amongst us that any possible invasion would have to be several years away.

However, their conversation continued and turned to the delivery of packages – because they were talking on their DATE about PACKAGES; and not in the sexy way. I assume, while I was marveling, it was put forth that, though the mailbox itself is impervious to theft, not every delivery will fit within said box and must then be left completely unguarded on a person’s porch, tempting any thief who might pass by with its vulnerability,causing her to reveal that on her home planet, packages are simply left with neighbors. Which means she lives in a place without mailboxes, but people are always home during the day. So, alien home world, or, just as likely, trailer park.

The main distraction, though, was that I am, like, 1 billion percent sure that I know guy who was on this amazingly awkward date. A former co-worker, I believe, with whom I was not particularly friends with but knew a number of people who thought well of him. By which I of course mean thought he was cute.

I have to say, here in the honesty of the internet, that I did not see it. Which, as with other things that are particularly beloved that I don’t get, I chose not to comment on. Not out of preservation in this case, but simply because I am very much in favor of finding people attractive, in general; that I may not agree in a specific case is irrelevant to the larger cause, which is one that I think should be celebrated in all its forms.

So my relationship with this gentleman is tenuous; we know each other well enough to recognize and say hello, but not well enough for us ever to laughingly reminisce about that time I saw him on a date with an alien female who wouldn’t stop talking about mailboxes, and he was gamely trying to go along with it. It’s not a memory he and I will share, which is sad, because it is one I will treasure forever.

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