Dorothy Chan on Dorothy Chan’s “Triple Sonnet for Being Your Own Sugar Daddy”
1) Quarter Pounders and Filet-O-Fish are great
It’s 2:15 AM here. We’re doing this, Russ. It’s the perfect time for stimulating conversation.
You know how we always talk about food? And then I send you pictures of the new matcha Lindor Truffles + other variations of the same situation? I think we can start there. I know your McDonald’s order is the Filet-O-Fish (how very lovely and British) and mine’s the Quarter Pounder (also known as the favorite of frat boys everywhere).
I like to joke that I write about the two greatest things in the universe: food and sex. But then what do we do with that? Well, you know when you like something and you want 20 of it or 100 of it or one million? We make it excess. We make it unlimited. I find excess to be a very interesting concept because with excess we get this discussion of high brow vs. low brow culture. It’s like the opposite of what Coco Chanel said, something along the lines of removing one accessory or article of clothing when you leave the house (to make your look “high brow”). But I don’t agree with that concept—I like to explore what happens when we add more—which is a very drag queen concept—add more—become more powerful—make a bigger statement—even be political about it—it’s the here I am this is me, no one is stopping me concept.
But then this image of excess fast food in particular is very interesting. It’s like a child’s idea of a dream meal: 100 dinners at McDonald’s, so I was first brought back to an image in pop culture: Macaulay Culkin in Richie Rich, and then I thought about the cartoon from the ’80s, and then I remembered that I saw an image of Richie Rich in cartoon form on a slot machine in Vegas. There’s a lot to unravel there with the high vs. low culture / kitsch aspects, and that’s part of the point of the poem, because “that’s too much excess for a little kid / with a McDonald’s in his own mansion—”
Ok, but then here’s another important piece. I thought about another kind of child: Trump, and I thought about another way excess is portrayed, and I was reminded of the Vanity Fair article about Donald Trump’s fake Renoir in his private jet that SPOILER: Trump insists to Tim O’Brien is the real thing but of course it’s not, and O’Brien corrects him and of course Trump doesn’t listen.
So a lot of elements go into each line.
2) fish and chips greasy all over my fingers after a night of clubbing
Yes. Me at 23 not paying for anything in Singapore, hanging out with expats. Maybe THAT was excess. Sometimes, I really miss that time in my life, but when I really examine it closer, I really don’t. But yeah, everyone needs a story or two.
3) why did I even think I needed men for anything
I’m a big intersectional feminist, and that’s why in the poem, when the speaker is looking back at herself at 23 clubbing in Clarke Quay Singapore, she poses, “and why did I even think I needed men / for anything—dating and dining / for the sake of chirashi and unagi / in Asia, where the idea that men / are attracted to beauty and women / are attracted to power is even worse, / and I like my men a little beautiful, / and I like my women a little powerful.”
And no, she doesn’t need men for anything, especially not “dating and dining.”
I also think a lot about attraction, and I love this idea of “my men a little beautiful” and “my women a little powerful.” I fantasize about men who are charismatic but also tender. I fantastic about women who are strong and feminine. There’s so many variations of how we can express and present ourselves. It’s beautiful.
4) What is sex in money?
Really though. What is sex in money. During the writing process I debated this line so many times, but it’s one I just can’t let go. I was flipping through channels one time, and I think it was Blake Lively(?) on a late-night talk show asking the host that very question (I’m not sure how that conversation started). Oh, side note: In a 73 Questions with Vogue video on Youtube, I love how when asked what her favorite food is, Lively answers, “melted cheese.” What a great answer. Anyway, I got stuck on this “What is sex in money” question/image because I then thought back to Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal and how after she and Woody Harrelson win all that casino money (and before Robert Redford, the billionaire shows up), they make love in money.
5) teddy bear paddles
This is an image from the sex shop in Ithaca, NY. My poem then turns into an unabashed study of sexuality, and I love how in an Architectural Digest video, the legendary Blac Chyna requests a sex room. And here’s the quote: “This might sound kind of crazy,” she told Michael Lehrer. “I would also like to have a sex room. So, maybe like in my closet, and it’s, like, a button that I push and you can go in there — like a secret little room.” I love this power. Pow!
Triple Sonnet for Being Your Own Sugar Daddy
Hey girls, be your own sugar daddy,
because I see Richie Rich on a slot
machine in Vegas with a girl his age
fawning over his blond rich boy richness,
and that’s too much excess for a little kid
with a McDonald’s in his own mansion—
and Quarter Pounders and Filet-O-Fish
are great, but how many can you really
eat in a day—excess, like a Renoir
painting on a gold plane, and it scares me
how much I used to hate paying
for my own meals, like fish and chips
greasy all over my fingers after
a night of clubbing—Clarke Quay Singapore,
and why did I even think I needed men
for anything—dating and dining
for the sake of chirashi and unagi
in Asia, where the idea that men
are attracted to beauty and women
are attracted to power is even worse,
and I like my men a little beautiful,
and I like my women a little powerful
and hard to read like femme fatales
of film noir—and What is sex in money?
is the million dollar question an actress
asks on a talk show, confused as to how
anyone could roll around in the nude
with someone else on a bed of bills,
and they snort with joy like pigs in mud,
and What does make us happy in the end?
And girls, be your own sugar daddy,
be your own Richie Rich designing
your dream house, when you ask the architect,
“Hey, this is a little weird,
but can you install a button,
and pow! I have a sex room summoned,”
with whips and chains and teddy bear paddles
and girl on girl, not from the male gaze,
and what about a topiary with my name
right outside, my lover and I look out
from the bed inside a large birdcage—
burgers and fries on their way,
and make it a double.
Poem first published at Cosmonauts Avenue
Dorothy Chan is the author of Chinese Girl Strikes Back (Spork Press, forthcoming), Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, March 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She is a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University, a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, The Cincinnati Review, Quarterly West, The Offing, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Poetry Editor of Hobart.