bad girls with no fingerprints

So, now that the holiday madness is over and LORD OF BONES is handed in*, this is the week I get the rest of my life in order. If I owe you an email — or a book, for that matter — you should hear from me shortly and thank you for putting up with my chaotic lulls in communication.

E and I returned to our social circle to the rather staggering news that a friend of a friend, who is in that transitional phase of becoming our/my friend, appears to be dating Sharon Stone. He is a much younger man. She is still very much the drop-dead beauty — those of us who have seen her ** all comment on this — one of that rare breed of woman (at least in southern California) who actually knows how to age with style and sex appeal and sparing use of botox and plastic surgery (there are some pretty freaky people walking around these neighborhoods), who doesn’t try to look twenty or compete with the twenty year olds because she knows that they can’t compete with her. This strikes me as a good way to be.

Coincidentally, my friend Joanna and I have recently discussed the lack of bad girls/femme fatales in pop culture, and my own growing desire to write a sympathetic femme fatale, with events filtered through her perspective. It irritates me how the term ‘bad girl’ has been co-opted by certain young starlets who aren’t ‘bad’ so much as sloppy and childish and out-of-control, who end up squandering their considerable power through sheer lack of impulse control. A true bad girl should be rebellious and hedonistic, most definitely, but also intelligent and mysterious and controlled and silkily controlling, someone who steers the narrative rather than be steered by it. We were trying to think of any ‘bad girl’ characters who had snagged our imagination since Sharon Stone in BASIC INSTINCT and came up blank. But when Joanna casually mentioned in an email to me that she and her husband had just had the “original Catherine Tramall” over to their house for dinner, I still didn’t understand what or who she meant, if just because that universe between my reality and Stone’s reality seems too deep (and bizarre) to cross. Joanna spelled it out for me and said that she hadn’t known what to expect with Stone but they talked “politics, art and poetry”, Stone was “very cool and sweet and a true triple threat –beauty, brains and balls.”

Last night when E and I saw Joanna and her husband Ryan in person, we cut right to the heart of the matter: “So are they sleeping together? They’re actually sleeping together…?” Alas, the man in question has kept mum on the matter and we have only speculation to go on.

So Ryan and I moved on to an equally earth-shattering topic: who has the faster typing speed. I still have no idea how the hell this came up. Possibly because Joanna mentioned an essay I wrote recently and I, in my red wine-induced cockiness — I get cocky when I’m intoxicated, and then embarrassed about it afterwards — bragged about my status as county typing champion for three years running. (Because what brings more glory and glamour than a typing championship trophy? I ask you…). For some reason Ryan thinks he can type faster than I and we challenged each other to a typing match which I hope to the gods we’re not pathetic enough to actually carry out. Ryan said something about being on the computer all day, thus honing his words-per-minute rate. I sneered and laughed in his face. “I type so much that I have no fingerprints***. My laptops have a short life span because I use them to death. First I lose the ‘e’ key, then the ‘s’ key, then maybe the ‘t’ or the ‘n’ or the ‘a’ key, then I have to replace the keyboard…”

Ryan’s bewildering typing egomania aside, I adore these two partly because they’re lending me their guesthouse to write in for a bit. (This is the couple about which mutual friend Jason said, after someone made a remark about Joanna and Ryan being ‘sensible’ people, “How can they be sensible? They have moved 9 times in 8 years!****That is not the action of sensible people!”). My own home has become too active and bustling during the day — home to me, workplace to others — and coffee shops and Borders just aren’t cutting it any more. I forget who defined ‘home’ as ‘the place where all your stuff is’ but it occurs to me that that’s exactly what I’m looking for. A place to put all my writing stuff.

Plus they have one hell of a view. And a gorgeous redwood deck to go with it.

* Still feeling a bit shocked and raw and exposed, the way I always do when I hand in a manuscript and know that it has gone from potentially perfect, shining thing to a thing that can no longer be reworked or changed and, indeed, is what it is. But my insecurity about the book seems to be settling down….which means that I will finally be able to show the thing to other, non-editor people…I think it’s a good story with some great little bits, with a level of characterization that is my best yet. I love these characters and can’t wait to begin their next book. I’m a better writer for them.

** Saw her at a private-house event in Malibu promoting microfinance. She wore a long black dress that draped snugly across her torso and extremely cool black boots. I covet those boots.

*** I did not even know this was possible until I went to get fingerprinted for my green card in San Francisco some years ago. They put gel on your fingertips and you press each fingertip along an electronic surface so that your fingerprint shows up on the computer screen. The woman did my fingertips three times before going off and coming back with someone else who also attempted the task. Then they asked me how much time I spent at the computer. Something about the pressure and the oils in your skin can wear the skin so smooth that your fingerprints turn into dusty smudges, lacking distinctive ridges and whorls.

**** Ryan sold his company about five years ago and since then, still relatively young, hip, and childless, the couple has spent much of their time figuring out where to live. They’ve gotten very good at buying and selling houses. They tried an avocado farm in Santa Barbara once; that didn’t go so well. They moved to Beverly Hills, then up to the Bay Area, and now to Bel Air. I think they’ve decided that LA will be home for a while — “you have to stay,” I argued, “if just for the sheer novelty of staying in a place longer than a year” — largely because Joanna no longer wants to deal with the hellish hassle of taking their stuff out of one place and relocating it someplace else.

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