He was the naive on-call plumber. She was the superstar feminist clothing theorist he hoped to impress—until she hungrily ogled his butt cleavage. Two years later, he’s speaking out. But the Matriarchy still isn’t listening. A turgid story of sex, secrets, and soccer mom denial.
by Paulie Intaglio
G&G Plumbing Specialists
Long Island City, Queens
For All Your Kitchen & Bathroom Plumbing Needs
Twenty months on, I am handing over a secret to its rightful owner. I can’t bear to carry it around anymore.
In the early summer of 2002, feminist Naomi Wolf did something banal, human, and destructive: she put her unwanted gaze on the unprotected asscrack of a unsuspecting plumber —a plumber who was tasked with replacing the In-Sink-Erator model 17 3/4 HP batch feed disposal in her well appointed Manhattan kitchen.
The plumber was me, a 34-year-old journeyman with G&G Plumbing Specialist in Long Island City, Queens. Here is why I am telling this story now: I began, nearly a year ago, to try—privately—to start a conversation with my union, that would reassure me that steps had been taken to ensure that another union brother would not fall victim to this repulsive woman's unwanted ocular sexual advances. I expected her apartment Co-op board to be responsive. After nine months and many calls and e-mails, I was shocked to conclude that the atmosphere of feminist collusion that had helped to keep me quiet two years ago was still intact—and as quiet as a Crane Cranada Silent Flush commode.
How did this all begin? For some time, Wolf has been contacting me: Would I come take a look at her backed-up sink? Would I charge extra for a service call to the Upper West Side? Would I be licensed and bonded? Would I take Visa or Mastercard?
I declined her initial advances, for a reason that I explain to my (mostly plumber) audiences at Gino's Tap Room in Woodside: I am NOT climbing 12 flights of stairs with a 50 pound tool box.
But I eventually relented. Other plumbers explained to me that Wolf was connected - her word alone could make (or break) my dream of becoming the go-to drain and fixture supplier for New York's celebrity feminist intellectual community. Little did I know then that my other dreams would soon be destroyed by Wolf's insatiable gluteal voyeurism; and, perhaps, by my own fearstruck - and shameful - complicity.
When I first arrived at her comfortable Westside apartment, the surroundings gave no hint that here lived a perverted intellectual asscrack fetishist. Wolf answered the door. The apartment was clean, spacious and elegantly appointed with Yale Field Hockey pennants.
It was also empty.
Wolf explained that her husband was at a Burning Man festival in Vermont, and that her Peruvian nanny was out with the baby at a matinee performance of "The Vagina Monologues." Was it simply a convenient "coincidence?" I can only venture.
After a bit of small talk, she explained that her sink and disposal had been "acting up" for several days. "It makes this funny sound," she said. "GRRRkkktth ZWEEE ZWWEEEK! Like that. I would love to hear your hypothesis."
Oddly, the disposal was less than a month old - a Badger 5 half-horse unit - and I quickly determined that the problem was due to incorrect wiring, and showed her where the ground terminal had been mysteriously worn through. Unfortunately, it had burned up the motor and needed replacement. I suggested the model 17.
"Brilliant!" she enthused. "I can't wait to share your insights with Susan Brownmiller."
She offered me a drink. Whether my answer was driven by was the heady rush of having my work personally praised by the mind behind Al Gore's Alpha Male Earth Tone clothing strategy, or the rich, clean, never-bitter taste of Keystone Light, I can't say.
"It's after five o'clock somewhere," I joked.
After a few sips, I set into a crouch in front of Wolf's sink space, dilligently exploring the rich intellectual challenge of the potato peel-choked In-Sink-Erator, while Wolf looked on. And then she spoke the words that still haunt my nightmares two years later.
"They're very downy."
"Pardon?" I asked, not looking up from my task.
"The hairs in your... crevasse. They gather lint quite nicely."
I felt them... her animal eyes, hungrily caressing my can-canyon, which I suddenly realized had become half-exposed from crouching.
All of my training - the apprenticeships, the faucet seminars, the flap valve colloquia -- had not prepared me for this moment. I was paralyzed, vulnerable, my bootycleft quivering before to her piercing glare. Sobbing and sickened, I ran to the bathroom, and began convulsively vomiting into her American Standard EF-6 Al Gore Signature low flow.
But she was not quite done with me. As I continued retching, I hear a strange whirring sound... the sound of a camcorder. It was true. While my confused head was desparately searching for answers in a porcelain bowl, my half-naked moonriver was starring in this grotesque woman's newest "home movie."
To this day I don't know how I got out of her apartment. Psychologist tell us the mind sometimes represses horrid memories, especially with the help of Keystone Light. If only I could repress it completely.
I tried to escape the truth like I escaped that apartment. I told the tale often at the Pipefitters Union Hall, where I lead a weekly consciousness raising workshop for young plumbers.
Where is the woman now? they will ask. She is still there, I explain: famous, productive, revered, with a dependable model 17 humming beneath her stainless steel double sink. I describe what the transgression did to me—devastated my sense of of self worth, a pawn of a powerful Alpha feminist.
Then, heartbreakingly, a young plumber will ask: “Did you tell?”
I answer him honestly: “No. I did nothing.”
“Have you never named the woman, all these years on?”
“No,” I answer. “Never.”
“But,” he will ask hesitantly, “don’t you have an obligation to protect other plumbers who might be targets now?”
“Yes,” I answer. “I do have that obligation. I have not lived up to it. I have not been brave enough.” And then there is always, among those young, hopeful plumbers, a long, sad silence.
And then, Keystone Light.
After such speeches, a young plumber will come up to me—in Bayside, in South Jamaica, in Flushing—in tears: A client harassed me, he’ll say. I tried to tell the union grievance board, but they told me it is my word against hers, and that I should get shirts with longer tails. I won’t get another job if I do anything about it. My 3 o'clock service call wouldn't signed the check until I show her my beer gut. I can’t sleep, I can't bowl. What should I do?
I wondered about the young ones, the naive plumber boys off to their first call in a pair of droopy Dickies, who might have suffered because I was too scared to tell the truth. In my asscrack, Naomi Wolf saw a soft spot of lint. I look, and see the soft spot of complicity.
Finally, last summer, I could no longer bear my own collusive silence. Wolf had reached out to me once again. She sent a flattering voice mail, as if nothing had happened, asking me for a quote on installing a new shower drain.
I think my long journey to courage and redemption stems from a spiritual reawakening, a rediscovery of my Catholic roots. As I was undergoing therapy for my trauma, I began thinking about the time our CYO basketball team attended a Walt Frazier skills camp in Syosset back in 1981. The memories of that time are nearly endless.
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