“100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed”
by Melissa P.
Stuck in the deprecating limbo between Barbies and womanhood, teenage girls find themselves faced with new sexual feelings and suddenly exploited bodies. Their world is one of self hatred, often times guiding them into a dense jungle of poor decisions and out-of-control feelings. Their ladylike figures begin to represent sex both in the physical form and in their desires, yet they search for the kind of love and understanding they will one day learn can not come from a man but from themselves.
100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed by Melissa P. is the articulate and passionate diary of a teenage Italian girl who confronts her sexuality head on in, what may seem to be, a painful and abusive way. It is a fictionalized memoir starting with the late stages of Melissa’s virginity and ending in the aftermath of multiple sexual conquests. She writes like an experienced woman, describing feelings and images with detail and precision. Free from the standard high school monotony of friends, family, and classes, this short collection of journal entries focuses almost entirely on sex. This leaves the reader asking important questions about the substance of the main character who becomes a robot-like person, seemingly programmed to seek out interested partners.
It is never made clear as to why Melissa mutates into the promiscuous woman portrayed in the pages of this book. There are samples of her erotic yearnings and her outlook on the men she encounters but her mood, in most cases, is one of steady indifference. When confronted with invitations for sexual “parties” with groups of men she does not know and who are sometimes twice her age, she does not appear to hesitate when accepting the offers. Though Melissa speaks of her aching for pleasure, the actual incidents described in most situations are cold. She enters a hypnotic, emotionless trance while with these men; cranking out sex like a machine. In the same breath, Melissa presents a lot of power over her partners but the strange twist is she never objects to their hormonal demands. It is a rare occurrence to have the sense she is being forced or coerced in any of these situations.
There are definite questions left unanswered by 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed but an inquisitive reader would use their uncertainties to benefit their whole experience with this book. Other than the simple showing of a girl broken from her low self-esteem and taken advantage of by the sexual aggression of men, one is faced with a different type of female. Why did a strong woman like Melissa give in to a lifestyle where she was treated like an object? Why did she consciously choose to be used time and time again? It is difficult to come to an answer when there is little information given about the other aspects of her life. Was she abused at home? A small glimpse of interactions with her parents is presented in certain scenarios but no more than a handful of examples of lies she tells her mother when she leaves the house on her mysterious rendezvous. Does she feel alienated by her peers? There are one or two instances in which she mentions classmates in passing but does not go beyond that.
At one point, Melissa has a one-time sexual relationship with a woman and it comes off as being loving and intimate, but she writes it off and tells the woman she should never see her again. In any piece of literature similar in topic to this, one might expect a lesbian relationship, laden with understanding sympathy from another woman, to be the turning point–a climax where the main character realizes the evil of her heterosexual indulgences. What makes 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed oddly interesting is this is a very minor part of the book.
Even after taking into consideration that the reader is left to make up some of their own numbers in the overall equation of the life of Melissa P., it would be hasty to say this was a result of something lacking from the author. What any thorough observer would guess is that Melissa wrote on certain topics and included limited, specific facts because she wanted to show a certain picture of a girl, and she did not want the idea to get lost in useless prose. The life of the main character is portrayed through sex and only sex. Not a woman as a daughter or a friend or a student but a teenage girl and her extreme journey through desire and intercourse. The lover, the mistress, the slut, and the temptress all rolled into the psyche of a 15 year-old child. Melissa, uncaring of how her body is being ravaged, cries at night for the actual love of a man. This is her incredible sexual voyage to find tenderness from virgin to whore to healed.