Saturday, November 10, 2012

Shining like copper

I posted a little item to MilPub this morning about the Petraeus Scandal.

I don't want to recount it here; the issue isn't one that I'm much wrapped around personally. But one of the things I mentioned as part of my lack of understanding over the whole business was how we the People don't seem to bother wondering whether the sex lives of strangers are our business especially since we haven't the faintest idea of what those sex lives might be.
The crux of the Petraeus biscuit is the presumption that David and Holly Petraeus are a white-bread monogamous couple and that what Petraeus did with his lover was censurable because of the betrayal, since we most of us have long since moved on past the notion of adultery as criminal act in itself.

But we honestly have no idea. For all we know Dave and Holly are paired in some sort of insanely lusty marriage-of-convenience to enable them to meet other hot swingers.
Bizarre? Not as bizarre as assuming without any proof whatsoever that there was a betrayal or adultery on anyone's part.

Anyway, that's not my point here.

Sadly, what this one is about is my own reaction to seeing what Holly Petraeus looks like.
That's her, on the left. When I looked at the picture my first thought was "Gee, how nice that Dave had his mom hold the book for him..."

But this is not Mrs. Petraeus Sr.; it is the man's wife of 37 years.

And my next - thoroughly uncharitable - thought was "Hmmm...well, I can kinda see why he was out roaming..."

That's where I caught myself and was ashamed.

Because I was acting like an idiot, and a young American man, but I repeat myself.

I like to think that I am no longer young, and both a little more intelligent and a little more cultured than the average "Maxim" reader. But here I was, judging Holly Petraeus' physical appeal by what seemed to me to be her grandmotherly appearance. And that is as shallow and as foolish as the least sophisticated porn-peeper who ever skipped a 10th Grade study hall.

I should know - I DO know, when I'm taking the time to think and not acting like a shallow jerk - that sleek limbs and taut skin haven't the slightest real connection with beauty, desirability, or attraction either emotional or sexual. A man or woman may be as slender and uncreased as a blank sheet of foolscap and about as interesting. That true desire and delight come from those most inventive of erogenous zones, the mind and heart.

And that having lived long enough to fill that mind and deepen the well of loveingkindness in that heart is a crucial part of being a woman instead of a girl, of being a true heart's desire rather than a casual lover.

In fact, I would say now that time has given me the tainted gift of creases and scars of my own that one would be a great fool to trade those and the experience they signify for the flawless ruddy vigor of youth.
But that's how we roll here in the USA, circa 2012.
"Because a funny thing happens to women as they age: how we should be looked at stops being an issue at all. If you don't look young, you don't look sexually attractive, so you're not worth looking at. It's ridiculous. It's reductive. It's shallow. It's stupid. But it's something women live with and dread."
It's ridiculous.

And the really irritating thing is that we men KNOW it's ridiculous.

Would we trade our maturity - with it's decline in rude vigor and strength - for the callow inexperienced fumblings of youth again? Who among us would want to be that terrified, uncertain, unformed young man or woman again, desperately trying to look and seem more confident and more experienced than we were, fearfully clueless of what would make us genuinely happier, kinder, more whole, more human?

Who would want to exchange the languid caresses of a grown woman who knows her own mind and takes her pleasures with deliberation, grace, and humor for a girl whose primary asset is her unripe smoothness?

And yet...we, many of us, snort and pant after women much younger than we simply because they are young, and in that youth they draw us back from the cold grave where no lovers can embrace.

But do they? We are born owing God or Nature our death, and that day will come in its own season, no matter how many young bodies we fondle or how many young lips we kiss...

I don't think so, and neither do many other men I know.

The secret, I think, is finding the grace that a wise and tender woman carries with her, to see the rich bounty in the curve of a fuller hip, and the weight of a satin breast that no longer rides as high as it once did. To kiss a throat that is still warm and scented even as the that skin covers it is no longer taut.
If we are fortunate, love, and are loved in return the shir of soft hair we bury our face in is now shot with silver and enfolds a head that carries within it a lifetime of learning the hard lessons that only joy and grief, love and loss and teach.

So I am ashamed, and should be ashamed, of my reaction to Holly Petraeus' looks. She is a grown woman as I am a grown man, no longer young, but with - one hopes - the gains of a life well lived to balance the fleeing years.

So let me lie down with you, my dear, in our gray and aging bodies, and let us remind ourselves that while youth and glory are fleeting that tenderness is lasting and evergreen, that wisdom is hard-won and the scars of that winning are dearer under the press of lips that open in love's knowing kiss.
Come lie upon my heart, cruel and insensible soul,
Adored tiger, monster of indolent airs;
I wish to plunge my trembling fingers a long while
Into the thickness of your heavy mane;

To bury my aching head
In your skirts, replete with your perfume,
And breathe in, like a faded flower,
The sweet mustiness of my defunct love.

I want to sleep! to sleep rather than live!
In a sleep as sweet as death,
I will spread my kisses without remorse
On your beautiful body, shining like copper.

To swallow up my becalmed sobbing,
Nothing can equal, for me, the abyss of your bed;
Powerful forgetfulness resides upon your lips,
And Lethe flows in your kisses.

I will obey my destiny, henceforth my delight,
As one predestined to it;
Docile martyr, innocent convict,
Whose fervor stirs his own torment,

I will suck, in order to drown my rancor,
Nepenthes and kind hemlock
From the charming tips of that narrow chest
Which has never imprisoned any heart.

~ Baudelaire "Lethe" Fleurs du mal


Lisa said...

What a powerful post borne of great tenderness and understanding ... extremely moving and likely to be the rare response to this event.

Thank you.

syrbal/Labrys said...

Thank you. I find it absurd and sad that youth is so disproportionately worshiped. There is actually an attitude that if a man hangs out with women his own age he is doing something WRONG to not be attracting young nubile twits!

I had not use for youth and callowness when I WAS young; never dated men my own age, always at least six years older.

basilbeast said...

Excellent post Chief, and wise. For the men, you see clarified the fears we males have in the ads in our media. Hair loss treatments, hair tinters, viagra, and all the things that help up to look successful and attractive and powerful.

Which is the point you missed I think.

When DP hooked up with his missus, was it love or was it the way to the ladder up the military track?

I don't know, but in their worlds, such things do matter.

There's a scifi/fantasy series by Piers Anthony "Xanth". In one book of the series, the hero has a woman who cycles monthly between the hag but very intelligent and wise and the beautiful ravishing girl who is as dumb as a box of rocks.

Just thought you'd like to know. :)


basilbeast said...

ahem . . . "to help US look"


FDChief said...

Basil: you raise the point that I've discussed in my posts about this affair elsewhere; we truly have NO idea what the relationships between the Petraeuses and Broadhouse were. This might have been straight-up "older-guy-nails-younger-woman-because-he-can" adultery deal. But there might have been some sort of quid pro quo. Holly might have been his meal ticket and the couple quietly agreed to take their pleasures elsewhere. This might have been a threesome!

Who the hell knows?

But We the People seem to feel qualified to pass judgement on them without knowing any of this. Which reflects as poorly on us as Dave's judgment - assuming he DID just run off to philander with Another Woman - does on him...