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Me Sexy

 

Me Sexy, edited by Drew Hayden Taylor

In Me Sexy, Drew Hayden Taylor continues the fascinating anthologized exploration of Aboriginal culture he began with Me Funny—a collection of humour pieces by some of North America's top Native writers. For Me Sexy (published by Douglas & McIntyre), Taylor & Co. turn their collective attention to matters of Native sexuality.

About Me Sexy, Drew Hayden Taylor writes:

Within these pages you will read about topics as varied as erotic Inuit theatre, how sensual and sexy the Cree language can be, what our art has to say about how we bump uglies and where we fit in amid today’s complex sexual society. It’s a potpourri of information in thirteen interesting essays. Think of it as a 'How to make love to a First Nations person without sexually appropriating them' type of book. It will inform you. It

Drew Hayden Taylor & pal

will shock you. It may make you laugh. It may even make you blush. But above all else, this is a book about honesty, love and survival —three qualities that make for an excellent date.

Below, in an excerpt from Me Sexy, Joseph Boyden, author of the novels Through Black Spruce and Three Day Road, ponders the perennial question: Do Native people have more, or less, pubic hair than non-Natives?

 

 


 

Bush Country

by Joseph Boyden

One time, many years ago, while living in Moosonee, Ontario’s last, great outpost before it’s all bush planes and freighter canoes to get farther north, I ended up at a house party near the ambulance station. The party wasn’t well attended, which was no fault of the host, a genial white guy who’d lived in Moosonee for many years and seemed to truly care for the town and its people, the majority of whom are Cree. He’d gone much further than most of the transient white population in making friends with the locals of both Moosonee and the nearby reserve of Moose Factory, and, as far as I know, he still lives there today.

He was a good guy, from what I remember, but he had a few redneck friends at this party who were not. One of them in particular I will never forget. He was a big, scary-looking guy, clad in the northern tuxedo of lumber jacket and jeans, clearly very strong, and just drunk enough to want to go at it with anyone in the house he figured he could beat up. If memory serves, he was one of those guys Ontario Hydro hired from some small town in northern Ontario or Quebec to clear bush from Moosonee straight north to Fort Albany and Kashechewan in advance of the hydro poles that would eventually connect those isolated reserves to the rest of us.

Joseph Boyden

He was the kind of white guy even other drunk white guys of his build and bravado didn’t want to mess with. He’d just come out of the bush after a long mid-winter stint and clearly needed, but wasn’t going to get, sexual release with one of the few women at the party. He stunk of frustration and paced around the house for a while, saying hello to the women. But as soon as they stopped talking to him, which didn’t take long, he grew frustrated. And, as I sensed would happen from the moment I saw him, he decided to focus his pent-up frustrations on me, a long-hair at the time. He made it clear he didn’t like me. Not in that “Outside now so I can beat your ass dead” kind of way--he hadn’t drunk enough yet. Instead he tried to get me to make the first move so that he could pound me and then tell our genial host, “The ponytail threw the first punch! I was just protecting myself.”

He began his conquest of me in the kitchen—where else? I sat at the table with our host’s girlfriend, whom I’ll call Claire, a pretty Cree student of mine. The redneck, let’s call him Dale, took a beer from the fridge and, seeing us talking and having a good time, zeroed in and proceeded to twist the beer cap in his sausage fingers into something that looked like a DNA strand, then demanded that I try this party trick, too. I’m a writer, for Christ’s sake, I wanted to tell him. But instead I tried to play along, twisting off the cap of a new one. The hiss of the carbonation, when I think of it now, was foreshadowing. I took a large gulp of the beer to show him I was a party guy too, put the bottle down, picked up the cap between thumb and fingers and began trying to twist. Not a chance in hell. Failure hurts. “Ouch,” I said for emphasis when the sharp edge cut into my finger. Dale smelled blood. I think he thought that his show of strength might win over Claire. He decided to go in for the kill.

“You got hair like a girl,” he said, looking at me. Claire giggled, so he kept going. “Are you a girl?”

I nodded coyly. Amazingly, my spur-of-the-moment strategy worked; he didn’t know how to respond. I have three brothers and seven sisters, all of whom have beat me up at different times, so I wasn’t too worried about fighting if I had to. I had Claire as backup, to boot.

Not drunk enough to go right then and there, Dale decided to engage in a little verbal jousting. I think he realized the night was still young, and if he were to get kicked out of a house party in Moosonee this early, his options would be sorely limited. Ontario Hydro bunkhouse. The same well-worn and weary copy of Penthouse. Or worse, the OPP drunk tank.

“What is someone like you doing in Moosonee?” Dale asked. Good question.

“I’m a teacher,” I said. Round one to Dale.

“A teacher? You?”

“Those who can’t twist beer caps, teach,” I said. Round two? A draw. Confusion in his eyes, Dale turned his attention to Claire, licking his lips. “Are you his girlfriend?”

Claire giggled. “Ever!” she said, drawing the last syllable out.

“You’re too pretty for him,” Dale said.

“Ever!” I responded.

Our genial host re-entered the kitchen. “Come on, you guys. Let’s be friends,” he said, sensing the tension.

Dale pounded his beer and grabbed another from the fridge, making a show of twisting the cap once again. “Do you know what I like about Indian girls?” he asked, looking Claire in the eye. “They barely got any hair on their pussies. Just a little black fuzz. Almost like a kid.”

The three of us just stared, puzzled at the non sequitur. The gross, icky non sequitur. Dale’s words shut me down. Round three decisively to Dale. Claire’s face reddened. She stood up and walked away. Our host followed. I looked at Dale. He smiled. “I love Indian pussy,” he reiterated, “because it’s almost hairless.”

How do you respond to that? I didn’t know. Still don’t. A whole race and gender objectified, and the whole thing somehow tied in to pedophilia.

I remembered that moment for a long time. I think because I didn’t stand up and defend my friend. Or Aboriginal women. Or any woman. I just sat there at that kitchen table, a long-hair chicken sipping a beer.

I’ll admit I had a few daydreams not long after that night about standing up and confronting Dale, making him understand. But understand what? His words were the basest of confrontation. When you want to offend a man, you attack the woman. If the man doesn’t stand up, he’s a pussy. An almost hairless pussy, in my case? Dale won, I guess.

Not. Dale is a pig. Dale is probably dead or in jail. Or worse, and hopefully, he’s still out there, his hairy ass being chewed off by mosquitoes or frozen ice-white by the James Bay winter as he futilely attempts to clear bush, so to speak, in Indian country.

And so the years went by.

My old friend of Mexican and Apache heritage—I’ll call him Matt—and I were drinking beers on my porch, complaining to one another about the slow recovery of our Katrina-ravaged city, New Orleans. The wrongness of what happened to this city, how all of my local Houma Indian friends had been washed away by the flood. About wrongness in general. We drank some more, starting to one-up each other about what was wrong.

“You want to hear something that’s wrong?” Matt asked.

“Tell me,” I said, opening another beer.

“It’s really wrong,” he warned. It all started back when Matt and his friend were twelve or so, during those sad, pubescent years. Once in a while, Matt would shower at his friend’s house, and vice versa. Don’t ask me why. I never got around to the question. Maybe both friends’ families had pools, or the boys slept over at each other’s places every so often. I’d like to think of this part of the story, anyway, as innocent. But the story begins one day when Matt’s friend showered after Matt and was grossed out that Matt had accidentally left a few pubic hairs on the bar of soap. And then the next time they showered one after the other, Matt commented that his buddy had done the same. Maybe at first the two were both intrigued and mortified by the strange powers of their maturing bodies. And, as only pubescent and then post-pubescent boys can do, these two friends created a grotesque tradition.

Whenever the opportunity arose that one would shower in the same place right after the other, the first made sure that a number of strands of curly dark hairs remained on the soap for the second to see. I can understand this sort of prank in high school, maybe even college. But it continued, as only men can continue such a tradition. Now the two friends, living in different cities with girlfriends and respectable jobs and bills to pay, only got to visit each other occasionally. But their ritual persisted.

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden - due September 2008

Who knows who upped the stakes? But, as Matt relates it, one time, during his buddy’s visit, Matt found a couple of foreign pubic hairs on his toilet seat lid and one or two on the sink. They certainly weren’t Matt’s girlfriend’s. He knew her well enough. And so when Matt next visited his friend, he did something that made him giggle and gag at the same time. Matt plucked more than a few of his short and curlies and carefully placed them into his friend’s shampoo bottle.

That, in my opinion, is only asking for trouble.

Matt’s friend’s retaliation? Think carefully camouflaging a few pubic hairs into the bristles of Matt’s toothbrush. The gag of foreign itchies sticking to the back of his throat. There’s not enough Listerine in the world for that experience. So wrong, this thing we call retaliation.

Now, I don’t want you thinking that I think about pubic hair very often. Truth is, I rarely do. But Matt’s and my recent conversation re-invited that jerk from so long ago back into my head. This in turn made me wonder, if only for a brief time, if, by chance, Dale somehow knew something I don’t. That night, I asked Matt about Dale’s theory. He scratched his thinly bearded chin. “Only one way to find out.” He suggested we compare our pubic mounds.

“We’re both mixed bloods, though,” I said. “What would that prove?”

Matt shrugged. He was drunk. I explained to him that the two of us were too tainted as subjects for such an important scientific experiment—Matt by his genes from the conquistador Spaniard, me with drunken Irish and cheap, cheap Scottish. For a moment, though, I imagined my gene pool, hairy little Irish and Scottish genes attacking my proud but rather sparsely haired Ojibway genes, the Ojibway genes snared in finely woven traps. I realized at that moment that I’d had one or two beers too many out on my porch.

But over the next few days the question continued (in a small way, admittedly) to gnaw at me, until I finally decided to put my rather minor and renewed fascination with a bizarre comment made long ago to rest. Do Aboriginal women (and men, for that matter) have sparser pubic hair than other races?

Immediately, the diffculties presented themselves. First and most important, I’m married to a gorgeous but non-Aboriginal woman, Amanda. She’s of German descent, and, as it happens, she’s almost hairless in the nether regions. So desperately trying to get Indian ladies to show me their womanly bits wasn’t going to fly. I considered the Internet as a source for my research, but a few excursions into the cyberworld yielded either sociological examinations of race, with nary a pubic hair in sight, or some really dirty pictures of women who didn’t look Native at all giving their best for the camera. And it took a lot of explaining and reassurance on my part to explain to my wife that this online sleuthing wasn’t simply an excuse to look at porn. I even encouraged Amanda to sit beside me when I began googling. She passed.

Another idea sprung up, if only momentarily. What about placing an ad in a couple of carefully chosen classified sections?

“If you are an Aboriginal woman or man with pubic hair, please contact me for a short but clinical discussion.” I’d read stranger ads in the back of NOW Magazine in Toronto and the Georgia Straight in Vancouver. I’d even recently met the young and energized Sarah Scout, editor for an Aboriginal youth magazine in Calgary called New Tribe. She might cut me a deal on a classified ad! But wait—was there a slim chance that people might not understand my true intellectual intentions and try to brand me as some kind of pervert for pursuing this research? The potential trouble outweighed my slight thirst for knowledge.

Frustrated and defeated after a couple of days, I decided to scrap the whole project. How ridiculous to even approach it. What would complete strangers think of me, this guy, proposing such a stupid hypothesis? What if my mother were to one day get her hands on this essay?

To my surprise, it was Amanda who urged me not to give up. She reminded me that it wasn’t the hair so much as Dale’s racism and sexism so long ago that had driven me to explore this issue in the first place. She was right. “Why don’t you call a few of your Native buddies up north and ask them if they think it’s true?” she asked.

I immediately pictured myself calling Louise Erdrich, one of the great Aboriginal writers of our time, in Minnesota to pose the question. “Louise, I know you are mixed blood, but in your experience, do you think you have less pubic hair than women of other races?” Or I could call the handsome and imposing Thomas King in Ontario. “Now Tom, I assume you have at some point in your life had to shower with other men—men of different races, even. Did you notice anything peculiar? I know you wouldn’t purposely look at other men’s private parts in the shower, but when you did, did the white guys appear hairier down there?”

Not the best idea, dear wife.

But I had a few other options. I have a Moose Cree friend way up in northern Ontario who is one of the great hunters and trappers of James Bay. My friend, let’s call him William, lives in Moosonee, and we have been close for many years. We’ve spent weeks in the bush together and have shared a lot, although I don’t ever recall us seeing each other naked. Who better to ask? I came up with all kinds of excuses to put off the call. There was laundry to do. Dirty dishes. A new novel to write. But when I couldn’t stall any longer, I picked up the phone.

“William, it’s Joseph.” How to approach this? Be direct! I imagined starting the conversation: “William, does your wife—let’s call her Pam—does she have a lot of pubic hair, or a little pubic hair, or somewhere in between?” Silence on the other end. “William? Are you there? I’m only asking for purely scientific reasons.”

Instead, we began our conversation as we always do, telling each other about the weather in our particular territories, me asking him when he was going out into the bush next. The bush. I found my entrance into my real reason for calling.

“I’m, uh, I’m writing an article about pubic hair. Specifically, whether Native people have more or less pubic hair than other races.”

“Joe, I haven’t been with another woman for twenty years. I can’t remember.”

Hmmm. “What about Pam?” William and I go way back. This would be a test of how far.

“I’m married, Joe. I try not to look down there.” Ahh, William. He’s a trickster. His wife is beautiful. They had a new child not so long ago.

“Liar.”

“Well, less than most other people, I guess. I think it’s because Indians are more highly developed than other races.” Hard to disagree with that.

“But wouldn’t it make more sense for a people like the Cree,” I asked, “a people who live in such cold climates, to have lots of body hair to keep them warm?”

“That’s what rabbit fur’s for, JoJo.”

I heard Pam shouting at the kids on the other end. “Ask Pam,” I said.

Garbled talking. A laugh. “She says the Indian women she’s seen naked are pretty bushy sometimes. Sometimes not. Are we talking full blood, mixed blood?”

“Just generally, William.”

“Well, my grandma, she was full blood and didn’t have any hair under her arms. Does that count?”

“I guess. What about you? Are you furry down there?”

“Compared with a rabbit, no. I don’t really have any way to compare.”

I asked William if he wouldn’t mind doing an informal poll for me of some of his friends. It took some work, but he actually did it. Unfortunately, not a lot came back. A few of the women claimed they couldn’t wear bikinis. Lucky they live in the Arctic lowlands. Many shared that they had little or no armpit hair. None of the men William polled had much of anything to say on the matter. When it came down to the bottom line, I didn’t learn much I didn’t know already.

But do I really need to? Before getting off the phone, Will and I made plans for a spring fishing trip, an annual occasion where I bring my son and William brings his family and we spend a number of days on the river fishing and laughing and cooking shore lunches. Some of the best memories I have.

I could go on about how people like Dale will always attempt to denigrate me and my friends and Indian women and women in general. I could go on about how he tried but failed, and I could talk about how in the spring I’ll be up fishing with my friends, and we’ll talk and we’ll laugh and we’ll let our pubic hair down, so to speak, and enjoy one another’s company. How we might even compare bushes or maybe even decide to pluck part of our pubic hair out and place it in a communal bucket, and when we have enough we’ll weave gillnets for pike and sturgeon, braid strong snares for rabbit and fox. I could go on about how we’ll all be there together, me and my friends, continuing to entwine our mutual hair into long beautiful braids, braids that go on and on. But I won’t.

Is there some lesson to be learned from this? I’m skeptical, except for the fact that I shouldn’t ever have let some ass get me so worked up. Mohawked or Brazilian, gloriously full or bald as an eagle, who, ultimately, really gives a damn? The beauty of the bush is in the eye of the beholder.

 

—Joseph Boyden

 

"Bush Country" is an excerpt from the book Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality, edited by Drew Hayden Taylor. ©2008. Published by Douglas & McIntyre. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

 


Joseph Boyden is a Canadian with Irish, Scottish, and Métis roots. His first novel, Three Day Road, received the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General Award for Fiction and published in 10 languages. He divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana, where he teaches writing at the University of New Orleans. He is the author of Born with a Tooth, a collection of stories that was shortlisted for the Upper Canada Writer’s Craft Award. His work has appeared in publications such as Potpourri, Cimarron Review, Blue Penny Quarterly, BlackWarrior, and The Panhandler. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, will be published by Penguin Canada in September 2008.

 

Drew Hayden Taylor is an Ojibway from Ontario’s Curve Lake Reserve. An award-winning playwright, columnist and comedy-sketch creator, he is widely known for his thoughtful and sharply witty observations on Aboriginal subjects and issues. He lives in Toronto.

 

(Photos courtesy of Douglas & McIntyre and Penguin Group (Canada))