Adults Only

Adults Only

I like my insurance agent. He gives that personal touch – you know, like I’m his only client, his only concern. He looks me in the eye. He knows my name. He asks about the kids. He never scolds me or rolls his eyes when I ask redundant questions or need it all re-explained to me, one more time.

When my husband wanted to switch providers after a particularly horrible exchange with his current company, I suggested my guy. My husband called him, and my guy transferred him over to his female associate. The hubbie says she gave great phone. She really listened. She ran all the numbers, then ran them again, as many times as he needed, without complaint. She was cheerful about it, even. He signed on with her and is looking forward to a long, mutually satisfying relationship.

Last week, we went to the Adults Only program at the Beaufort Maritime Museum, where we sampled Carolina moonshine (my favorite tasted like a pina colada), smelled whale poop (pungent but not overpowering), and learned about such topics as: why bare boobs are lucky at sea, King Louis XIV’s enemas, whale bone dildos, and actual whale weenies.

Prostitution came up, as it will, and the host told of a wildly successful port town brothel in South Carolina. It catered to an elite clientele, even offering a legislators-only week in the spring. That brothel reminded me of a book I read not long ago, Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways & Sailors’ Wives.

With such a great title, my expectations ran high. Unfortunately, the focus was more on men than women; the women were about as well-developed as those racy arm tattoos that dance when the fellas shake them.

Still, the chapter on magical marine maidens was helpful. Turns out there’s 3 kinds: nymphs, sirens, and mermaids. Nymphs ride dolphins, sirens sing the (deadly) music of the spheres, and mermaids can occasionally transform into humans.

There, that’s all cleared up.

And the pirates were entertaining, of course. It would be hard to ruin the daredevilry of Mary Read and Anne Bonny. I’d enjoy an entire book just about them (any recommendations?). Can you believe they pirated together and were the only members of their crew to refuse surrender? Mary shot a crewmate when he wouldn’t fight and Anne reportedly told her captain, while he awaited hanging, “If you had fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”

What I most clearly remember, though, was the part about prostitution.

There were brothels in most port towns during the Age of Sail, from about 1570-1860. At those brothels, sailors often had “wives”. A lonely sailor would pick a prostitute to stay with for the days or weeks he was ashore, expecting her fidelity for as long as he could afford her. When he left, she’d take on a new sailor and be just as loyal and genuine to her next temporary “husband.” When the previous sailor came back, he’d visit that same special lady – “Hi honey; I’m home!”

These guys wanted the whole package – someone who listened, gave them undivided attention, and (acted like she) missed them, in addition to the basic services. They wanted that personal touch. The fact that their “wives” did the same for other fellas didn’t really bother them. The illusion was enough.

Sorry, insurance salespeople, but I think you know what I’m saying here.

My brother calls these “soft skills” – the ability to handle others so that they like it, control your emotions and reactions – interpersonal skills. They are the most valuable asset in business and the hardest to teach. Only pirates get to forgo them completely.

So which are ye, matey? Pirate or sailor’s wife? Yo ho ho and a bottle of moonshine; it’s a pirate’s life for me!