On what turned out to be the world’s longest book tour (two years) for my first published book, I loved to joke around with the audience. I’d become something of the Henny Youngman of book tours (only with a vagina).
One of my favorite stories to tell was when I catered the all-star, first-ever, V-Day benefit.
Born out of Eve Ensler’s wondrous “The Vagina Monologues,” V-Day was to begin a global movement to stop violence and sexual abuse against women.
The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City was sold out. There were more than 2,500 people in the audience. Twenty celebs, including Whoopi Goldberg, Lilly Tomlin, Glenn Close, Rosie Perez, Winona Ryder, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Calista Flockhart, Margaret Cho and Eve Ensler herself lined up to play parts in the “Vagina Monologues.” It couldn’t have been more exciting. They’d even roped in my favorite girl group, Betty, to rock the house.
I had been asked to cater the VIP after-party. There was only one direction.
“Make the food anatomically correct.”
You get a lot of interesting requests when you call yourself The Raging Skillet, but none ever as interesting as being asked to feed 600 plus VIPS a sea of vaginas. That was my kind of party!
I was so focused on building a giant vagina out of dried fruit that I forgot to ponder the magnitude of that day.
I left my staff to sprinkle black sea weed on tuna tartare while I snuck into the back of the hall.
There were lots of powerful moments that night (Susan Sarandon gave birth on stage), leading up to Eve herself, performing three minutes of orgasmic moaning.
But for me, the most powerful moment was when Eve asked the women in the audience to stand up if they had been a victim or knew a woman who had.
One by one, by one, by one, most of the audience stood up.
I was already standing, and watching the other women rise, I felt tears forming in my eyes. Then, as if possessed, my right hand began to float.
I looked over and saw it rising, cautiously at first then reaching for the ceiling.
Why was my hand up? Well, of course I had been sexually harassed.
Trying to become a female chef in the 1980s was a one-way ticket to Sexual Harassmentville. The slaps on the ass, the derogatory sexual innuendos, I didn’t even think of these things as sexual harassment when they were happening. It was just another day climbing the culinary ladder in a man’s world.
But it wasn’t the misogynist male chefs of my past. It was something else that had caused my hand to levitate seemingly without my permission.
It was older, buried in the dank basement from whence it came. He was a friend (supposedly). A nice Jewish boy my mother would have loved me to marry.
“You can always trust a boy with a yarmulke,” she used to say.
You were wrong, Mom.
I had heard that despite the all-star power punch, V-Day had trouble finding sponsors. They were scared off by the word “vagina.”
Amazing. So many businesses use capital S-E-X in their marketing, but were afraid of the word “vagina.”
Since that night, I throw the word VAGINA around every chance I get.
I began to warn audiences on my book tour: If you don’t like the word “vagina,” you might as well leave now.
I don’t know why so many men in this world (and in the White House) feel your having a vagina gives them permission to grope, grab, belittle, under-pay, disrespect and molest you.
I think having a vagina gives you power. The power to scream, the power to rise, the power to stand up, the power to fly, the power to demand basic human rights and dignity.
One of the premises of “The Vagina Monologues” is, “If your vagina could talk, what would she say?”
If my vagina could talk, she would skip whispering; she would roar.
See you at the Women’s March, January 20th!!