Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Praise of Women II: The Feast of Valentine

Back in January I posted a brief discursion on the subject of women as they appear to me speaking both as a man in general and this man in particular. I wanted to talk about how I perceive the differences - and similarities - of the genders, starting with the notion that we are somehow fundamentally more different than similar.Because this seems to be a very common male assumption, the notion that we're some sort of raging red Martian, all hair and tumescence, and they are some sort of silky Venusian, wanting us to use a napkin and put the seat down afterwards. Or, more simply, that there IS an "us" and a "them", and (since we're male and something like 6,000 years of Western civilization has told us that we are the lords of creation and masters of all we survey) "our" way must and always shall be better.Hell, some jackhole even made an expensive commercial about it:But I cannot find in my personal experience any real systematic evidence that women and men are somehow different at the cerebral level. For every stereotypical "manly" man I have known men with a surfeit of the "womanly" virtues: talkative, intuitive, emotionally open and sensitive to nuance, romantic to the point of foolishness. And for every "womanly" woman I have met another who is shrewd, calculating, opportunist, direct, rude, callous, efficient or gruff.

I find that women's minds are interesting as the people within them are interesting. I find female fools no more bearable than the ones with chest hair; I find smart, witty, gifted women interesting and likable for reasons having nothing to do with their reproductive capacity or their silhouette.

But...this is where the difference creeps in.

I have many men friends whose company I find entertaining, enjoyable, stimulating. And while I enjoy spending time with them, that's as far as it goes.But a woman whose company is enjoyable also has the ability to make me desire a more intimate companionship, and therein lies the mystery.

Because, while I can appreciate the beauty and grace of a man's body it does not bring about anything more. But I find the simplest things about the physicality of women delightful.It may be the strength of her fingers, or in the shining fall of her hair. It may be in the way she laughs, or the play of expression on her face. Many women are more gracile and finely made than we males are, and I have always enjoyed the more gently rounded point of shoulder and fullness of hip, the slimness of ankle and wrist. The lush curve from ribcage through the hollow of waist into the rich embonpoint of thigh and buttocks is heartbreakingly beautiful; the soft swell of bosom and belly is an ancient fertility made flesh.(I should add here that I have been...I have to use the word "accused", although I don't really get it as an accusation...accused of liking a certain fullness to a woman's appearance. Well. I'm not the product of a culture that finds obesity alluring, but I will simply reply that I revel in a woman that looks like a woman. After all,Women come in many shapes, sizes, hues and dispositions. If you treasure women, I insist that there is nothing intrinsically unpleasant about any one of them.)

A woman, just like a man, can make herself unpleasant with anger, pettiness, or greed. Of course she can. Gluttony can bury her in grossness; vanity or social fear can waste her away to a frightful and ugly thinness. But from the time the menarche has ripened her into woman's estate until senescence shrivels her sexual appeal into barrenness, I find that there is something I find winsome, something appealing in every woman who combines a heart, a soul and a wit.

And I find it a little sad and a lot more enraging that we - particularly here in the industrial West - have made a fetish of some sort of skinny but buxom, depilated, glossy, mindlessly available sexbot. As if the physical appear of a woman should be restricted to and aroused only by some anorexic swimsuit model's silicon-inflated frontispiece.

How petty! How truly, grimly, limply unimaginitively small! To - not just forget but actively deny - that the magic is not in some sort of perfect pink-tipped parabola of some laboratory-crafted, airbrushed idealized paradigm of a breast, but in the glance from under her jumble of dark bangs, in the imagined tang of the sweat of hard work you know you'll taste when you press your lips to her temple and feel the fast, hard pulse beneath that tells you her heart has sped to match the rhythm of your own.That the magic isn't in the touch of some flawless expanse of marble thigh or arch of fatless back, but in the play of the light upon the imperfect skin of the one whose intimacy makes you gasp and shudder, whose nearness only makes you burn with the need to extinguish the last atom of distance between you, to be around and within and encompassed by the scent, the touch, the rough, smooth, cool, lambent heat of the woman whose simple existence sets you alight as balefire in the night.There IS a difference between men and women. And the difference IS primarily physical, and the sad thing is that we men, generations of us, have spent those generations building ourselves idols to a rag and a bone and a hank of hair and worshiping it without a hell of a lot of us ever remotely understanding what it is about that woman that seduces us.

Or being too simple to ever get past the obvious...

Sometimes I wonder how we ever manage to succeed in finding women to spend any real time with us at all.

And on the feast of St. Valentine I should add to my own love:"'TIS true, 'tis day; what though it be?
O, wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because 'tis light?
Did we lie down because 'twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together."

J. Donne

Da mi basia mille, amadis, da mi basia mille.


Lisa said...

What a man.

I may take exception to your assertion that our primary difference is a physical one. I am not sure if it is primarily due to socialization, but I do feel we are different on more than a constitutional level, and I celebrate that difference, though I cannot put it into words.

Ideally we should both love/care/nurture and all of it, but men bring something else ineffable that complements us. My female friends, much as I love them, cannot complete me in this way.

A woman's heart, a soul and a wit enchant, though not all are endowed with the trinity. Yet for many men, they just need the pinup version to have their shallow needs met. To each his own.

This is a provocative question: How do women to spend any real time with us at all? Again, what is real? For many men, it is intromission. That'll do. Likewise, some women do not celebrate the totality of men, and trade or tolerate to get what they need. I wonder that men do not feel like cash machines after bumping up against these sorts.

So, it is a miracle when both can retain their wonderment and reverence. Reverence is the word I'd like to emphasize. An open heart is a miracle in this cynical and harsh world, and when those two can meet, then there is the potential for something transcendent.

I'll take reverence over chandelier-swinging any day, though I do not know how it is for a man.

You say, "I find female fools no more bearable than the ones with chest hair" -- and I would add, they are often one and the same. Electrolysis does such wonders today, and some women are close to XXY. Not that they're not very capable, but like Temple Grandin, probably shouldn't mate.

I know of such couplings which could not possibly work out (though I s'pose if the male was very feminine ...)

FDChief said...

Lisa: In order of your comment, then:

1. I'm not sure if the chromosomal difference expresses itself in an emotional and intellectual way, but my experience is that the variation within the genders is at least as great as between them; i.e. the effect may be an artifact of nurture more than nature. It's hard to separate the two. As I said in the post, while I enjoy the company of my men friends, my wife provides the same level of intellectual engagement while bringing a broader horizon of emotional depth.

2. Of course there are an almost infinite spectrum of male-female combinations, from casual friendship through mere genital stimulation to an almost impossibly complex degree of "relationship" that involve Gordian tangles of love, lust, and liking. And then add the socialization of what we expect from men and women. Do the women who trade their venereal favors for gifts and lucre do so because its in their nature, or because we expect men to provide financial gain in return for conjugal pleasure?

3. It never fails to amaze me, the complex workings of the human heart and mind, and that's what I was trying to get at with these two posts. The reverence and the chandelier-swinging are related and knotted up in an amazingly complicated and interconnected way. Someone, I forget who, probably Balzac or someone similar, writes about the man who is tired and gray at the end of a hard day and yet happens, purely by chance, to glimpse his wife of many years taking a sponge-bath. The sight of her bare breast, probably vaunting a little less proudly from age and hard work, bearing the gentle marks of tome and the life they've lived together, awakes in him a fierce love and longing, not just the passion of desire but the loving encompass of everything her breast symbolizes; passion and physical intimacy, the tender pillow for his head, their love and a life built together, their children...

In the same way a shared moment, some sweetly familiar everyday gesture, word or action, can summon up thoughts of passionate desire.

The desire fuels the love and respect - the love and respect fuels the desire...

Can you have one without the other? Sure. Lots of people do, and it suits them just fine. In fact, the combination can be utterly shattering. There's a wonderful line from the movie Moonstruck where Nick Cage as the passionate baker says to his accountant love: "I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die."


4. Again, the truly amazing thing about people is the sheer multiplicity of combinations that will work for people. Would I want to be married or love some bruiser of a woman who felt like she had to tussle with me all the time to prove who was boss? No. But I'm not everyone, and I suspect there's someone(s) that would want that and be happy with it...

Anyway, call me foolish - and I am the biggest fool imaginable - but I think women are, by and large, delightful. And I think I am lucky enough to have married one of the delightfullest - but just in general my world would be a sadder, dimmer, smaller place without the magnificent 51% of us humans with the double-X genetics.

Lisa said...

Yes, how to know if the mental/emotional differences originate on the chromosomal level? I can think like a man, but my predilection is to feel like a woman. Probably our differences have been honed over the millennia due to divergent functions.

While I adore science, I think there is something more than our genome.

"Do the women who trade their venereal favors for gifts and lucre do so because its in their nature, or because we expect men to provide financial gain in return for conjugal pleasure?"

--Both. Science tells us that serotonin and oxytocin and other feel-good chemicals stay around long enough for men to make the mistake of marrying the woman (usually) who fucks them best. Then she drops a baby and he's stuck, depending on how good his religious indoctrination and morality is.

It is an old game, and things can only be better when people can step out of the game. I do not know many women who have, nor men. These poor beasts tell me that women "confound them"! Blather -- nothing is more predictable than your average woman. It seems to me it would take a bear of very little brains past 21 who doesn't know this yet.

I contend that men love to abdicate their power, as most don't know what being a real man would look like. Again, that's because they've been surrounded by women who are on the same level. Mediocrity reigns.

A true meeting of minds is rare, and I blame women no more than men. It is a Hobbesian battle all are content to play.

The Moonstruck quote is heartbreakingly beautiful. I thought that was an excellent performance by both Cage and Cher.

[4] Yes, I know someone who was married to an ursine woman of indiscriminate sexuality for over a decade. It seemed to work for him, as he didn't need the intimacy which she did not give.

Until she left for more fertile fields, that is. The truth shall always out, if death doesn't precede it.

I am glad that you are delighted by the members of the fairer sex. Some of us are delightful, and do harbor a world worth exploration :) It takes a good man to go there.

Thank you for being a good man.