I saw Pretty Woman entirely by accident when I was about six years old. I walked into the living room when my parents were watching it. My mom had always had this idea that if she tried to block me from seeing or knowing about something, it would just make me dangerously curious about those things. The problem was, I was naturally already curious. She tried to justify things on screen.
“Why does she have dark hair now?” I chirped to her, the first of many questions.
“She used to work at a wig store and now she has to put them to good use.”
“Why won’t those ladies let her go shopping?”
“They're jealous of how pretty she is.”
“Are they married?”
“Why is his face so young but his hair turning gray?”
“Stress from being an important businessman.”
“Can I wear that?”
“No, you’re too short.”
“What’s a hooker?”
“She works with Captain Hook part time.”
“Why is that bathtub so big?”
“They also take swimming lessons in there sometimes.”
“What are the colored things she’s holding up?”
And so it went. I spent years uncertain about the plot of Pretty Woman, although I loved it. As I got older and started to put together the pieces, I realized that this was the exact same fairy tale I'd been told even if she was a sex worker and not Captain Hook’s favorite employee. I did, however, think those individually packaged colored disks she offers Richard Gere were lollipops. I assumed it was sort of like when you went to see your doctor and they had a bowl of candy there. Having sex was her job and so she was being gracious and thinking of her client. It wasn’t until I watched this movie again at 20 with a friend on a lazy afternoon that I put it all together.
“Oh. OH. Those are condoms.”
“What else would they be?” she said.
“Lollipops.” She looked at me for a long time before completely losing it laughing at me.
One time, a friend and I were discussing the above events as well as other things that have confused us over the years. This of course led to the discussion of two of our favorite sex terms: “eating out” and “blow job”. She told me how when she was a teenager, her boyfriend suggested that they, uh, try eating out that night. She looked at him skeptically and laughed.
“Pshh,” she said. They ate out all the time, several nights a week! She wasn't sure why he looked at her so strangely.
I countered with the tale of being horrified at the actual details of a blowjob. For years, I assumed that you blew air on an erect penis, this large fleshy Grand Poobah of a birthday candle. I wondered if there was a superstition about your wish coming true if you blew it on one try. I was intercepted as a teenager by a more experienced friend before I had the chance to perform my excellent skills of blow on someone; I was highly disappointed by the choice in description.
“Why not suckjob?”
“I don’t know, Anaïs.”
“Swallow and try not to choke job?”
“I DO NOT KNOW.”
One time at a party supply store, I saw birthday candles shaped like little penises and I felt vindicated by my former notions and thought to myself, as I often do, “How did I get here?” I purchased a package of these and stuck them in a pan of red velvet cupcakes I made later that day; I leaned over the counter and gave 24 blowjobs that evening.