Museum Lover's Day
Museum Lover's Day is observed next on Sunday, May 5th, 2024 (154 days from today).
I spent the day at the art museum and the night at the sex club. In the museum, I pull down the hem of my skirt to hide the top of my thigh-high socks every time I sit on the couch. In the club, I look up after kissing strangers to identify replicas of erotic paintings in gilded frames: Leda and the swan, Watteau's mistress basking in a silken bed, Galatea — her feet were still cold as marble — bending to embrace Pygmalion.
I was traveling in Paris. What a contrast, I thought as I prepared to leave the Louvre, wearing dark lipstick in an aged mirror in an art deco gallery. But I have reconsidered. Is the pleasure I have in the museum really different from the joy I find in the sex club?
I imagine touching the bodies that I see in art. That day at the Louvre, standing in front of an ancient statue of a Mesopotamian ruler, I wanted to bend down and lick the glossy shadow on its bald head. I imagine it hot and cool at the same time on my tongue, like meat and ice mixed.
It's not like I'm masturbating behind the display cases. But my attention to art has an erotic aspect.
The first time I remember seeing this was during my fifth grade teacher's outing party. I was flipping through a catalog as I sat on the beige carpeted steps of a sunken living room in a home in the foothills of Tucson, Arizona, clusters of ocotillo cacti fluttering in the wind outside.
That was in the mid-nineties. I have enrolled in a private missionary Christian school, and my teacher is leaving to become a missionary in China. I crisscrossed a pillow for her, embroidered it with a garland of pink and red flowers. Our mothers praise our teacher's Christianity and mutter about the danger she will face. Preaching the gospel is somehow illegal, or barely tolerated, in China. We are said to be jealous of our teacher for having such a good opportunity to demonstrate our faith. She might even become a martyr — a ticket straight to heaven, without worrying about any sins she may have committed here on earth.
I love my teacher. She is young and kind with shoulder-length honey-colored hair. I didn't want to think about her leaving, so I picked up a directory from a stack on the end table beside me. Land's End.
It opens to a panorama of a model stepping out of the ocean, wearing a blue bathing suit with a fringed skirt around her hips to cover a bruise she doesn't have. Her face was long and calm. Her honey-colored hair slid down into a curl at the top of her bare shoulders.
I lost all awareness of the party, and even the room, as my attention drifted to the image. The little blue triangle exposed beneath her skirt, between her legs, widened to fill my field of vision.
My hand moves to tear the page. I want to gently fold it and take it home. But then I returned to myself, remembering that I was in a room full of eyes. My classmates or mom or even teachers might ask what I'm doing. How can I explain wanting a photo of a woman in a swimsuit?
I was thinking of tearing off that triangle. But if someone saw me touching the woman, how will they think?
Instead, I memorized her. I could still see her calm face, accepting that I or anyone else could look at her body. But I've disguised my attraction so well — from my classmates, from adults, and especially from myself — that it's only now, as I write this, that I realize that the model looks a lot like my teacher, and that I don't love my teacher for her kindness, but for her beauty.
Then, on a high school field trip to the Tucson Museum of Art, I stood near a monochrome painting. It was my first time going to the museum. My eyes are not focused. All I could hear was a humming, growing louder as the canvas spread around me. I am nothing but a floating eye.
ObservedMuseum Lover's Day has been observed annually on May 5th.
Thursday, May 5th, 2022
Friday, May 5th, 2023
Sunday, May 5th, 2024
Monday, May 5th, 2025
Tuesday, May 5th, 2026