21 questions

Former Dominatrix Melissa Febos Can’t Drive Without Compulsively Imagining Her Own Bloody Dismemberment

Name: Melissa Febos
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Occupation: Writer. Writing teacher. Her memoir, Whip Smart , about her four-year tenure as a dominatrix in NYC, is out next week on St. Martin’s Press. You can catch her reading from it Wednesday, March 3 at the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series at Joe’s Pub.

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
My tiny Abuelita (11/12/32–8/13/07), who was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx. She taught me to stuff my cash in my shoe or my bra, and how to ride the subway.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
The one I scarfed after completing the master cleanse. It was gone too fast for me to recognize what it consisted of. Hopefully, it was vegetarian, since I’ve been one my whole life.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I write stories, mostly true, and then talk about writing stories, and stories other people have written, and how to employ the correct usage of a semicolon.

Would you live here on a $35,000 salary?
I have done so for over a decade. It’s not preferable.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Hair? Snoozefest.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Usually not. Didn’t I mention that I’d lived here for over a decade? If they make me laugh, maybe. I give money to street dancers, and singers who pierce my heart, either with beauty or utter lack of talent.

What’s your drink?
In total defiance of my upbringing, Diet Coke.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
If you can call what I do before I eat “preparing a meal,” then frequently. If you call what I do “standing before the open refrigerator and deciding what to dip my fingers into,” then infrequently.

What’s your favorite medication?

What’s hanging above your sofa?
A whirling cloud of dust motes and dog hair.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
It’s hard for me to justify not simply taking the kitchen shears and trimming over the trash can, which is my usual routine. I recently got my first professional haircut in years at Johanna Fateman’s salon, Seagull, which is totally worth the reasonable price, and makes a good argument for not doing it yourself. For those who indulge in such things as super-pricey professional haircuts, well, maybe $500? I don’t know. It ain’t plastic surgery, people. You can’t change a picture by changing its frame.

When’s bedtime?
11 p.m.? Whenever I have e-mailed myself into a state of exhaustion.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
I barely knew the old one, so it’s easier to romanticize. They kind of represent two poles of nastiness: STDs and capitalism run amuck. I’ll stick with Brooklyn, thanks.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
I think he looks like one of my old clients when I was a professional dominatrix. All of them, in fact.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
How much people complain about living in New York. The way it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine living anywhere else.

Who is your mortal enemy?
Anyone who pushes his way onto the subway before the exiting passengers can exit.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
I can’t remember, but I’m sure I did so in a good impression of Quasimodo: brow furrowed, with my shoulders hunched around my ears, chin hovering over the steering wheel, and somehow also fiddling with the radio. I used to love driving, but New York — as well as a growing awareness of my own mortality — has handicapped me in this regard. I can’t drive without compulsively imagining my own bloody dismemberment, the horrifying shriek of metal folding like an accordion. My imagination is often my greatest enemy.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
It hasn’t. That’s one of the few advantages of being poor.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
I get most of my news via Facebook status updates and NPR, so I’m not really qualified to say.

Where do you go to be alone?
Oh, I just dissociate from whatever is going on. Especially if it’s uncomfortable. My therapist and I are working on that, though it can be a useful skill in this city.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
When you stop flinching at the cost of, well, anything. When you complain about living here on a regular basis, but can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Former Dominatrix Melissa Febos Can’t Drive Without Compulsively Imagining Her Own Bloody Dismemberment