A wellbred woman might spend her entire maturity never once hearing the words "May I be of service to you?"—although she may spend her life waiting on others, particularly children and men. Such a predicament could make strong women weep and gnash their teeth, but when the going gets tough, the tough throw a party. A very unusual party.
"Strip Tea" from Susie Bright's Sexual Reality
RIP my dear friends Amy Wallace and Tom O'Conner
It all started when I received an invitation to attend a salon of women artists. We were offered an occasion to read aloud, sketch, and indulge ourselves in a proper High Tea. Most intriguing of all, the invitation promised we would be served our scones and punch by naked slaveboys who would not speak unless spoken to. The aspect of social nudity was of course titillating, but would ordinary men actually keep their lips buttoned for an approximately five-hour affair? That had to be seen to be believed. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Upon arrival, I was indeed greeted by a nude doorman who took my coat. Alas, he was the only servant in sight, and in the meantime, guests were arriving by the score. What a delightful group of invitees they were, too. If I had been able to get a simple cup of hot Earl Grey, my afternoon would have been complete.
But unfortunately, although the company was sublime and the concept impeccable, only two slaveboys were on hand to provide services, and despite their best intentions, I don't think either of them had ever so much as poured a cup of decaf.
The guests were uneducated in the fine art of being served. Though a couple of us were dressed in literary salon frocks, some came in sweatpants. One lovely woman offered to get up and fetch me a scone, and when I gently reminded her she was a guest, she pleaded with me, "It doesn't matter, I'm a bottom in real life." Ah yes, but real life was what we were trying to escape.
The ultimate affront was the vision, midway through the party, of an attractive girl on her knees, giving a "slaveboy" a neck massage!
I departed with my friend, Laura. We reviewed the afternoon and agreed it had been a wonderful, yet insufficient, experience. Wouldn't it be perfect to have a party like that in a grand mansion, with slaveboys who looked like Greek gods and served like altar boys?
"I'll dream of it," I told her as we parted, but Laura wasted no time in wistfulness.
The very next day, she called me. "My friend Amy Wallace has a beautiful home in the Berkeley hills, and she would love to hostess the kind of tea party we have in mind. The living room is Byronic, and there are even special servants' quarters."
I blinked. The first hurdle, getting out of our filthy, tiny, crime-ridden neighborhood apartments, had been overcome in the twinkling of a phone call. Now where on earth would we find the slaveboys?
Laura was an editor of local weekly paper at the time, where personal ads of all persuasions abounded. She agreed to place an ad for four weeks, but I had my doubts about getting much of a response to anything so bizarre. I was more confident that in my Rolodex I would find lots of liberated men who would love to serve us tea.
Little did I know the raw nerves our search would scratch. I got my first glimpse of the reaction during a trip to my mechanic. "Look what I'm up to," I said, pulling into the garage and waving my carefully typed personal ad:
Genteel and Bohemian gathering of women writers requires comely slaveboys to serve at our tea party. You will serve nude and will not speak unless spoken to. Standards are high. Food and beverage experience a must. No sex. Please send photo and qualifications to Madam Tea Party.
"What the fuck do I want with waiting on a bunch of broads?" asked Tom, leaning against his desk. "You're not paying anything for this? No way."
Some little lost feminist emotion in me snapped. "Women have been waiting on you from the time you were born," I said. "And you can't imagine switching sides for a couple of hours?"
The next week, I saw Tom again, and he asked how my search was going. The ad had not yet appeared, and I was getting nowhere.
My gay friends said they wouldn't have any fun waiting on women. "Why not?" I asked. "Whatever happened to your sense of classic theater? This isn't a pickup scene, it's the tea to end all teas!"
My straight friends, even the most sympathetic, went into a panic about penis size and fantasized far more permanent humiliation than anything I had in mind.
All my reassurances were in vain. But fate was about to turn her head. The Wednesday paper hit the streets...
Continued in Susie Bright's Sexual Reality, "Strip Tea"
Photo: Michael Rosen, of the late Tom O'Conner, our chef for the Tea Party, and Susie Bright