Barbara the Slut and Other People

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9780008123031: Barbara the Slut and Other People

Fearless, candid, and incredibly funny, Lauren Holmes is a newcomer who writes like a master. She tackles eros and intimacy with a deceptively light touch, a keen awareness of how their nervous systems tangle and sometimes short-circuit, and a genius for revealing our most vulnerable, spirited selves. In "Desert Hearts," a woman takes a job selling sex toys in San Francisco rather than embark on the law career she pursued only for the sake of her father. In "Pearl and the Swiss Guy Fall in Love," a woman realizes she much prefers the company of her pit bull-and herself-to the neurotic foreign fling who won't decamp from her apartment. In "How Am I Supposed to Talk to You?" a daughter hauls a suitcase of lingerie to Mexico for her flighty, estranged mother to resell there, wondering whether her personal mission-to come out-is worth the same effort. And in "Barbara the Slut," a young woman with an autistic brother, a Princeton acceptance letter, and a love of sex navigates her high school's toxic, slut-shaming culture with open eyes. With heart, sass, and pitch-perfect characters, Barbara the Slut is a head-turning debut from a writer with a limitless career before her.

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About the Author:

Lauren Holmes grew up in upstate New York. She received a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA from Hunter College, where she was a Hertog Fellow and a teaching fellow. Her work has appeared in Granta, where she was a 2014 New Voice, and in Guernica. Lauren lives in New York's Hudson Valley.

Jorjeana Marie has narrated over seventy audiobooks, performed in hundreds of commercials, and starred in Listen to Grandpa, Andy Ling with Elliott Gould. She is also a stand-up comic who has opened for Richard Lewis, Louie Anderson, and Kathleen Madigan.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

 

 

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK TO YOU?

In Mexico City the customs light lit up green, which was lucky because I had fifty pairs of underwear with tags on them in my suitcase. They were from Victoria’s Secret and they were for my mom to sell to the teenagers in her town for a markup of three hundred percent. She managed a hotel in Pie de la Cuesta, a fishing town six miles west of Acapulco, and she said the kids there wanted this underwear more than marijuana. I thought this sounded like a second grader’s plan, but I said I would do it because I hadn’t visited her in three years.

In addition to bringing my mom the underwear, I was supposed to use this trip to tell her I was gay, to ask her to start talking to Grandpa again so I didn’t have to feel bad about taking his tuition checks, and to generally make up for the ten years I was in California, in middle school and high school and college, and she was in Mexico, in the city and then at the beach.

She was supposed to meet me at the airport, but at the last minute she told me it was safer to take buses than cars late at night. She said I had taken buses in Mexico before but I was pretty sure I hadn’t. All the other times I’d visited my mom in Mexico, she’d been living at her parents’ house in Mexico City, and Grandpa’s driver would come and get me at the airport.

My mom told me to take a taxi from the airport to the south bus station, a bus from there to Acapulco, and another bus from Acapulco to Pie de la Cuesta. In Mexico City, the taxi passed the exit for Río Piedad, and I wished I were going to Grandpa’s house. My mom had told me not to tell him I was coming, but now I wondered if it would be a good way to get her to talk to him, to tell her she had to come to his house if she wanted to see me. In the meantime I could go to sleep right away, and swim in Grandpa’s pool, and have his driver go get me tacos.

I slept on the bus to Acapulco, and when we got there it was still dark. I was half awake waiting for the bus to Pie de la Cuesta and when it came it wasn’t a bus with air-conditioning and a stewardess and soda and chips like the one I’d just taken. It was a city bus that wound along the coast at what felt like a hundred miles an hour, but when the bus wasn’t turning and I wasn’t looking off the dark cliff, I realized it was probably more like twenty. The five other passengers were asleep. Only the bus driver and I were awake and listening to the staticky radio.

The sun rose behind the bus. I started to get nervous when we wound down the cliff. My mom said that when the bus got to town and passed her pink hotel, El Flamenco, I was supposed to yell “¡Bajan!” and get out. As we drove, there were more and more houses on the right side of the road and more and more hotels on the left side, where the beach was. Finally the houses were stuck together, and the hotels were almost stuck together. The hotels looked like motels to me, and there was more than one pink one. Finally I saw El Flamenco and stood up to yell but I couldn’t do it. I sat back down and pretended like, Oh man, I almost got off at the wrong stop again. Five hotels and ten houses later, the teenager in the backseat yelled, “¡Bajan!” and I got off with him. I pulled out the handle of my suitcase and started walking back toward the motel.

My mom was standing outside, under a string of lights.

“Lala!” she said and ran toward me. She was wearing woven shorts and a white tank top and she looked really good. Her boobs were huge and her arms were toned and she was so brown.

She gave me a million kisses all over my face and my hands. She touched my hair, which had always been long but now was short. She started to cry.

“Hi Mama,” I said.

“Hi baby,” she said. “I knew that was your bus. You’re so beautiful.” She took my free hand and I wheeled my suitcase into the courtyard. There was a pool in the middle with strings of lights around it, and the doors to the rooms were around the courtyard in an L shape. The office was separate from the L, between the pool and the street.

She opened the door and we went inside. It was cool in there and I wondered if she was the only person in Pie de la Cuesta with air-conditioning. Her apartment was above the office, and we walked up the stairs. It looked like no one lived there—there were no plants or pictures or glasses of water, just a couch and a wooden chair in the living room, and a square table and two more chairs in the kitchen. In the bedroom she put my suitcase down. There was a bed with no frame and another chair. But the bed had her same white sheets on it, these sheets that cost a million dollars and feel like clouds and smell like clouds.

My mom got into the bed and I got in with her. She traced the spot on my forehead where she said I had a swirl of hair as a baby. Every muscle in my body relaxed. She stroked my head and then I was ten years old and we were lying in the cloud sheets in Los Angeles and I was crying because we had to put our dog Maria von Trapp to sleep. That night my mom had stroked my head until I fell asleep. I don’t know where my dad was—he was there when we put Maria to sleep but then not there later.

After a while my mom said, “Are you hungry, baby?” and it brought me back to the present and being twenty and I felt embarrassed to be in bed with my mom. I wanted to sit up but I was too weak. I tried to open my eyes and my mom laughed at me.

“I’m starving,” I said.

She went to the kitchen and made me an egg sandwich, which is one of my favorite things, with Oaxacan cheese, which is another one of my favorite things. She cut up a papaya and two bananas and she ate the fruit while I ate the sandwich.

After breakfast I asked my mom if I could make a phone call.

“Of course, baby, who do you want to call?”

“I want to tell Dad I got in safe.”

“Oh,” she said. She said that the phone in the office didn’t make long distance calls, but she gave me a phone card and told me there was a pay phone to the left of the hotel.

When I got to the phone I dialed Dana’s number. I had told her I would call her every day but now that I was here I didn’t really feel like it.

“Hey it’s me,” I said when she picked up.

“Hi!” she said. “I was so worried about you.”

“Why?” I said. “I told you I would call you when I got here.”

“I know, but I was worried. How’s your mom?”

“She’s fine. How are you?”

“I’m really great. I haven’t eaten or used an animal product in forty-two days.”

“Oh right,” I said. “That’s good.”

“Did you come out to your mom yet?”

“No. I’ve only been here for like an hour.”

“I can’t wait for you to tell her. I’m so proud of you.”

I told her I would call her the next day and then I hung up by accident.

Then I called my dad and made the mistake of telling him about the buses.

“You got in in the middle of the night,” he said, “and your mother couldn’t pick you up?”

“It’s safer to take the buses at night,” I said.

“This is not what we agreed,” he said. “I’m going to call her.”

“Dad. Please don’t call her. I’m fine. I want to have a good time.”

He said he would wait until I was back to call her, and I said okay and hoped he would forget by then. He told me to call Dana because she had called the house twice. He made me promise to wear sunscreen and to not go swimming. He said he was reading about Pie de la Cuesta on the internet and the undertow was deadly.

•   •   •

When I got back to the apartment my mom said, “Ready to go to the beach?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Do you have the underwear?” she said.

“Yeah.” I opened my suitcase and took out the underwear and my bathing suit.

“Did you get the bags?” said my mom.

I was supposed to get fifty striped bags to go with the fifty pairs of underwear.

“They would only give me ten,” I said and gave them to her.

“Okay,” said my mom. “I can give them to the girls who buy a lot.”

I went into the bathroom and took off my shorts and T-shirt. My mom came in behind me and snapped my underwear band and said, “You should get yourself some new underwear.”

I imagined myself wearing the pair I had bought that said “Boys Boys Boys” a thousand times in black letters. My mom had said to get as many pairs with English words on them as possible. Another pair said “See you tonight,” and I thought those were really funny, because if someone else was seeing them, wasn’t it already tonight? Unless it was a reminder to yourself, like, see you tonight when I take my pants off again.

“I like my underwear,” I said.

“They’re kind of sturdy,” said my mom. They were gray and boy-style but for girls, and I wondered if she thought they were butch. I wanted her to think so, so that I wouldn’t have to tell her.

“I’m going to put my suit on, okay?” I said.

“Oh, okay,” she said and left the bathroom.

When I was done I went back out to the living room. My mom came out of the bedroom wearing a terry cloth dress. “Do you want to borrow a beach dress?” she said.

“No,” I said.

“We have to sell ourselves if we want to sell the underwear,” she said.

“I don’t want to sell myself,” I said.

“Okay, don’t sell yourself,” said my mom, “sell the American dream.”

“Really?” I said. “This underwear is going to fly people to the U.S. and get them green cards and jobs at hotels and then they’re going to win the lottery?”

“Ha,” said my mom. “Come on, let’s go. I have to be back for checkout at noon.”

“And then they’ll buy forty cars and go bankrupt and have to come back to Mexico?”

“Ha ha. Are you ready?” She had the underwear sorted by size in three of the bags.

“We’re selling the underwear now?” I said.

“Of course,” she said. “It’s Saturday, a lot of kids are going to be at the beach.”

It was starting to get really hot outside. We walked through the row of palm trees that separated the hotels from the beach. On the other side was sand and water, and some sets of tables and chairs under a thatched roof. The sky was almost clear except for thin stripes of clouds. As we made our way to the water I saw that there were already people weaving in and out of the sunbathers and selling things—women with buckets of something, a woman carrying a bottle and calling “Masajes, masajes, and a man leading a pony and offering rides. I wondered what my mom’s plan was. She was ahead of me at the water.

“Put your feet in,” she said. “It’s nice.”

I went in up to my knees and it was nice. The rest of my body was getting hot and I wanted to go in all the way. There were kids swimming and I wondered if my dad was wrong.

“I can go swimming, right?” I said.

“I wouldn’t, baby, the current is so strong.”

“Those kids are swimming.”

“They’re pros.”

“I really want to go swimming,” I said.

“You can swim in the pool,” she said. “And I’ll take you to the lagoon on Monday, it’s gorgeous.”

We walked along the water toward where it looked more crowded.

“So, are there any boys I should know about?” said my mom. Always her first question.

“Nope,” I said. “Still no boys.” That was always my answer, and she never seemed to think it was weird or some kind of clue, which she shouldn’t have needed anyway. Shouldn’t she have noticed when I was born? Wasn’t there something about me that told her I was going to grow up to cut my hair and wear sturdy underwear and date a girl who brought her leather biker boots to textile recycling and then bought vegan ones? And if not when I was born, she should have noticed in elementary school when I was obsessed with amphibians and reptiles and with my friend Emily. And if still not then, she definitely would have noticed in middle school, when I hit puberty and was really confused and, according to my dad, really weird. But she was already gone.

I followed my mom out of the water and into the crowd of towels and people. She didn’t say anything or approach anyone.

“How do you say ‘underwear’ again?” I said.

“Pantis,” said my mom.

“¡Pantis! ¡Pantis!” I called.

“Lala!” said my mom.

“What?”

“I was going to go up to girls that looked like they would want them.”

“Okay,” I said, “good plan.”

We walked through the people until my mom spotted four girls and an older man together. She went up to them and said she was selling ropa interior from Victoria’s Secret, and would they like to buy any.

One girl sat straight up and said, “¡Papá, me encanta Victoria’s Secret!”

The dad looked at her and at my mom and frowned. “Huh,” he said.

The other girls sat up too, and soon my mom was spreading out the underwear on one of their towels. The daughter picked out like eight pairs. One of the other girls looked at “See you tonight” and said, “Hubba hubba.”

“Those are my favorite,” I said.

“Su favorito,” said my mom.

I wasn’t sure that they were impressed with me because I was starting to get really sweaty, but the daughter grabbed a pair of the same ones and looked at her dad.

“¿A cuanto?” he asked my mom.

“Ciento cincuenta.

The dad raised his eyebrows but they bought three pairs. Then we sold some more pairs to another group of girls nearby, and when we were walking away my mom said, “See?”

•   •   •

Back at the motel my mom checked some Swiss people out and I went swimming in the pool. Later my mom came out and read, and I spent the afternoon sleeping until I was too hot, and then swimming until I was too tired.

At the end of the day we went back to the beach to watch the sunset. My mom said that when the sun set in Pie de la Cuesta, it lit up the backs of the waves, and you could see the silhouettes of kids swimming. Tonight the waves were too small, although they didn’t look small to me. If I were braver I would have gone in and felt the water rush over my body and my head, and I probably would have been fine. But I was scared. My mom wasn’t one to tell me something was dangerous if it wasn’t. And she was sometimes one to tell me something was safe when it wasn’t.

•   •   •

When the sun went down we went back to the apartment and got ready to go out to dinner. My mom came out of the bathroom with makeup on and said, “My friend is going to meet us at the restaurant. Is that okay?”

“A man?” I said.

“No, a woman. Of course, baby, a man. His name is Martin and he’s from Pah-ree. You’re going to love his accent.” I assumed Pah-ree meant Paris.

“Great,” I said.

The restaurant was ten motels down and when we got close we saw Martin waiting outside. He was tall and skinny and he waved at us.

“Oh shit, I forgot to tell you something,” said my mom. “I only speak Spanish, okay? I’ll explain later.”

“How am I supposed to talk to you?” I said.

“You speak Spanish.”

“I haven’t spoken Spanish since I was fiv...

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. `Astonishing - one of those rare books that manages to be both poignant and hilarious. The last time we had a debut this big was Junot Diaz with `Drown . Holmes is a major talent. Philipp MeyerA fresh, honest, and darkly funny debut collection about family, friends, and lovers, and the flaws that make us most human.One woman takes a job selling sex toys in San Francisco rather than embark on the law career she pursued only for the sake of her father. Another realises she much prefers the company of her pit bull - and herself - to the neurotic foreign fling who won t decamp from her apartment. A daughter hauls a suitcase of lingerie to Mexico for her flighty, estranged mother to resell there, wondering whether her personal mission - to come out - is worth the same effort. And Barbara, a young woman with an autistic brother, a Princeton acceptance letter, and a love of sex navigates her high school s toxic, slut-shaming culture with open eyes.Fearless, candid, and incredibly funny, Lauren Holmes is a newcomer who writes like a master. She tackles eros and intimacy with a deceptively light touch, a keen awareness of how their nervous systems tangle and sometimes short-circuit, and a genius for revealing our most vulnerable, spirited selves. With heart, sass, and pitch-perfect characters, BARBARA THE SLUT is a head-turning debut from a writer with a limitless career before her. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780008123031

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Barbara the Slut and Other People, Lauren Holmes, 'Astonishing - one of those rare books that manages to be both poignant and hilarious. The last time we had a debut this big was Junot Diaz with 'Drown'. Holmes is a major talent.' Philipp Meyer A fresh, honest, and darkly funny debut collection about family, friends, and lovers, and the flaws that make us most human. One woman takes a job selling sex toys in San Francisco rather than embark on the law career she pursued only for the sake of her father. Another realises she much prefers the company of her pit bull - and herself - to the neurotic foreign fling who won't decamp from her apartment. A daughter hauls a suitcase of lingerie to Mexico for her flighty, estranged mother to resell there, wondering whether her personal mission - to come out - is worth the same effort. And Barbara, a young woman with an autistic brother, a Princeton acceptance letter, and a love of sex navigates her high school's toxic, slut-shaming culture with open eyes. Fearless, candid, and incredibly funny, Lauren Holmes is a newcomer who writes like a master. She tackles eros and intimacy with a deceptively light touch, a keen awareness of how their nervous systems tangle and sometimes short-circuit, and a genius for revealing our most vulnerable, spirited selves. With heart, sass, and pitch-perfect characters, BARBARA THE SLUT is a head-turning debut from a writer with a limitless career before her. Bookseller Inventory # B9780008123031

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Book Description Fourth Estate. Book Condition: New. 'Astonishing - one of those rare books that manages to be both poignant and hilarious. The last time we had a debut this big was Junot Diaz with 'Drown'. Holmes is a major talent.' Philipp Meyer A fresh, honest, and darkly funny debut collection about family, friends, and lovers, and the flaws that make us most human. Num Pages: 272 pages. BIC Classification: FA; FYB. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 142 x 215 x 23. Weight in Grams: 310. . 2015. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780008123031

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