THE BLOG
04/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Among Strangers, Among Friends

Okay, admit it, the reason blogging has so much allure might be because you can talk about stuff among strangers that you've never told your friends. You can maybe even talk about stuff you've never told anyone. hmmmmm..... do I dare? The blog may one day replace the confessional... why not give it a shot then. So here's a story I've never told anyone -- until tonight:

When I was in my early teens, oh, say, about 13, I had this huge hankering for hairy chests -- don't know where it came from, but it was powerful stuff all these erotic fantasies which even led me to write to actor Alan Bates, after having seen him in Georgie Girl, to tell him I fell in love with his hairy chest, and how I'd like to buy him dinner if ever he comes to Bayside, Queens.

Fat chance -- Bates would never come anywhere near Bayside, Queens, but he was a decent fellow. He had his secretary write me this lovely note about how flattered he was by my compliment, and that he could never take out a 13 year old girl, or his career would end right there. (Remember, this was in the days before Roman Polanski.)

So, anyhow, we belonged to the Bay Terrace country club which consisted mainly of a swimming pool, a dressing room, some bathrooms, and a pool table. There was this one fellow, Carl, who frequented the club, and who would position himself on a lounge chair in such a way that I couldn't help but be totally consumed with his mostly naked, and hugely attractive body, as well as, you guessed it, his chest hair. He was quite a bit older than I -- oh, I dunno, say maybe around 23. I'd hold a magazine up to cover my face, and hide the fact that I couldn't keep my eyes off him.

Being an inquisitive child, I found out Carl's last name, and looked him up in the local white pages. At the time, I shared a bedroom with my sister who was around 11. We had a spacious walk-in closet, so I took the telephone in there, and closed the door. I proceeded to phone Carl. An older woman answered. "Is Carl home?" I asked plaintively. "Who's this?" she snapped. "Tell him it's Phyllis." Phyllis, I shrieked, when she put the receiver down -- wherever did I come up with that name? Could be because that was the name of my best friend's mother.

Carl came to the phone, and he asked if he knew me. I told him the truth -- I saw him at the pool every Sunday afternoon, and that I was enchanted with his hairy chest. He laughed, and asked if this was a joke. I asked him what he meant by "this." He asked me if I was putting him on. I convinced him I wasn't, and we ended up talking about lots of things -- at first, erotic stuff. He asked what I liked to read. "Story of O," I said, and the occasional marriage manual.

We progressed from things sexual to philosophical stuff. He asked me if I knew anything about Zen Buddhism. When I said I didn't, he proceeded to teach me everything he knew about Zen, and on and on we went from there -- for about five months. That's right. I called Carl at about the same time every week from my walk-in closet, and we spoke for hours.

The good news is that I still got to see him every Sunday afternoon at the swimming pool, and drool anonymously; he was none the wiser.

After about four months, he told me he wanted to see me. "Oh," I said, "the fantasy is always better than the reality. Why don't we leave it like this." "No, I can't go on like this. I have to see you. It's killing me. You either agree to meet me, or you're going to have to stop calling me."

I took a long, deep breath. "Okay, where do you want to meet?"

"There's a dance on Friday night," he said, and gave me the address. I tried like the devil to get out of going, but he won.

That Friday night, I walked into the dance hall, and Carl was dancing with another girl -- quite a bit older than I was. I gulped, summoned my courage, and asked if I could interrupt. The girl moved away from him in shock. "What's this? Who are you?" he asked. "I'm Phyllis, well, not really..."

He started to laugh. I started to cry. He took me in his arms, and said "You're a sweetheart. How old are you?" He continued to laugh some more, and so hard it seemed like he was crying. "I'm almost 14" was all I could muster. We only had that one dance.

I went home. My heart was broken, briefly, but I'm still a sucker for a hairy chest.