Full Frontal Disclosure

Susie Bright exposes the nature of freedom.

SUSIE BRIGHT WAS my boss; I was her "personal assistant," a deliciously ambiguous title. On my first day, Susie set me to filing and so forth in the basement office of her suburban San Francisco home. Shortly thereafter, she called in dulcet tones down the stairs, "I like to walk around nude sometimes here at home. Are you comfortable with that?" "Well, of course," I called back thinly, attempting to sound nonchalant. Full Exposure by Susie Bright (HarperSanFrancisco, $22) She came down a few minutes later wearing a fuzzy red angora sweater—and only a fuzzy red angora sweater. I was somewhat taken aback. I guessed I really wasn't in Kansas—I mean, Seattle, anymore. Apparently in San Francisco nude meant fuzzy red angora sweater (topless suddenly made an inordinate amount of sense, or plain old all-the-way naked), and nude was your boss. Was this some sort of test? Was I supposed to do something? I kept filing, and we talked, and then she went away, and when I saw her again she had pants on. Does this whole fuzzy red angora sweater thing strike you as strange? Are you thinking, "I would never subject my new personal assistant to the spectacle of myself garbed in and only in a sweater of any sort or fuzziness"? Well, Susie's world is one where delicious ambiguity is the order of the day and people don't run screaming at the sight of a little puss—even in the home office. I HAD A LOT TO learn—and so, likely, do you. Throughout her career as a writer and speaker about sex and sexual politics, Susie has audaciously taken the radical position that shame is bad, the body is beautiful, and that the fuzzy red sweaters of all of our sexuality should be worn unapologetically. She is the unilaterally pro-pride sexual liberation superheroine we all need; she's the cool older sister we never had who knows all about everything and will actually tell us; she's the girl next door in a rosy-cheeked fervor wanting only to give us a stronger, sweeter, downer-and-dirtier sense of self. Susie started out as a salesperson at the clean well-lighted institution Good Vibrations in San Francisco and, through her Best American Erotica series and many projects and books of essays since, she has never stopped gently pulling the rug of red-faced embarrassment out from under people, helping them to get it done with astounding warmth and wisdom. Her writings in Full Exposure take her from her unique soapbox to witty, weird anecdotes and back again; the personal is the political here, but none of it is stale or easy to pin down. Throughout her exposure of the whole under-the-bed of our fears, our stunted vocabulary for sex, the links and lack thereof between love and lust, the crippling effects of silence and gender roles on sex and life, the vaunted institution of monogamy, and much more, she retains a basic respect for the delicious slipperiness of identity, the fact that we all, always, have much to learn. (And much fun to have learning; such issues as topless lawnmowing and whether the Tin Woodsman is gay are given their share of her attention). If you possibly can, go see Susie read from her new book: She's frank and funny and enlightening. Take your lover or your mom or your personal assistant. Give some thought to your own metaphorical red angora sweater, and listen to Susie. She sounds like freedom. Susie Bright reads from Full Exposure at Bailey/Coy Books Thursday, 9/30, and Elliott Bay Book Co. Friday, 10/1.

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