August 31, 2012

One fish two fish


Hook line with finger. Flip bail. Loosen finger. Watch the sinker plop into the water and feel it reach the bottom. I am told that we are anchored over a lump of no more than eight feet deep [I had been hoping for fathoms]. Beyond our lump, it could be up to twenty.

 

In front of me is the open mouth of the Chesapeake. The one that eventually reaches the Atlantic. Now I understand why he always says “across the black water.” It is hard to believe that somewhere halfway between our worlds, in the middle of an ocean, his black water and my Mediterranean are one and the same.

 

To my north-by-northeast, there is the coal mill. North-by-northwest, the steel mill and shipyard that once employed 30,000 people, I am told. As all industrial complexes, it might as well be covered with gauze: rust, fade, wear and tear have wrapped it in pastel. A single navy ship is dry-docked and fettered for breaking, as lonely as a solitary lion in a zoo.

 

The speed metal that we are listening to seems to have stolen the heaviness from the Key Bridge, leaving it to loom lightly above us like a delicate tapestry. Airplanes growl above us in the same single precise corridor, their wings blinking in that solipsistic steadiness that serves as its own beacon in the midst of a chaotic universe.

 

Directly behind my back is a skyline that I am not looking at, but am aware of its every breath, moan and cry, every window, streetlight and lamp glowing against the background of sheer darkness. The harbor, the park, and the avenues he has told me of; people that have been his confidants and those who betrayed him; arenas where he earned his rank and his scars. The city that was his playground and his boot camp before he was mine.

 

When I pick up the sinker which I have just reeled in from the bottom of the Bay, it is warm. The breeze is chilly and giving me goosebumps, but I leave my sweater in the backpack and take the elements in. I do not cast, but simply let the line drop.

 

I catch the first fish of the night and he catches the trophy fish. That’s about right because we are winners like that. A photograph is taken of me holding my catch, and it looks decent-sized in my tiny hands. The offended perch is trying its best to prick up its dorsal fin and maim me, but the goofy smile on my face could care less. In the background of the picture, as I will find out later, he glows with pride of his fisherwoman lady, brighter than the apricot sun setting behind his shoulder. He counts my fish without my knowledge, and will later inform me that I caught seventeen. That makes me happy because I like prime numbers.

 

He asks me repeatedly if I am having a good time, lovingly concerned because I am wearing what appears to be a poker face. What he doesn’t know is that I am setting my coordinates and taking it all in. Our friend on the boat refers to the lump as one of her happy places, and I can see why, even if it means something different to me. I might as well have discovered the new bellybutton of the world, you see, for we are anchored at a spot below an infinite Kantian sky, where the ocean was so anxious to shake hands with the river that it bored its way as far into land as it would go. We are floating at the spot where air corridors and man-made bridges intersect with the migration paths of monarch butterflies and grey-winged herons.

 

I take it all in and understand that this place, where nature meets engineering, where swamps border heavy industry, where fishing with friends offsets the roaring city in the background – this place is everything he stands for. It is also everything that I stand for, for I am the daughter of an engineer and a hopeless romantic. That is what the poker face thinks of as she casts her cosmic vectors instead of her line. I wait for him to lift his eyes from the peeler he has been butchering into bait and look at me. I mouth ‘I love you’ and see him for who he is.







August 20, 2012

Welcome


When thinking about the title of my new blog, I was lovingly told that Dr. Faustus was a rather obvious reference and might be considered trite or just plain big-headed. I was glad of that challenge, because it made me reconsider. And the more I thought, the more I was certain that I made the right choice. Yes, it is an obvious reference, and yes, there are millions of blogs out there with pompous titles. But I have shared this ethos for a number of years now, and I simply figured I would let you be the judge of whether I can back it up.



As announced, all posts published before this one are actually an archive of my best posts from the old blog, Chaos and Kairos. There is a full list of links in the menu above as well. I didn't want you guys to show up to a party at an apartment that had no sofa to sit on or blinds to close when things got interesting, so I tried to make things cozy.



I am still fiddling around with the design and gadgets, so feel free to look around and tell me what you think. Maybe I missed a spot dusting, or spilled some coffee on the carpet, or left some silverware at my old place.



Other than that, I am absolutely over-the-Moon excited to start this new chapter. Who's in?




August 8, 2012

ARCHIVE POST: Foreigners and transplants: revisiting language, inspired by Ernest Hemingway



(originally published on August 6, 2012)


"All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time." - Ernest Hemingway, Letter dated April 9, 1945.



We tend to be multilingual here in Europe. We study abroad and follow our bellies when survival lies beyond our hometown. Our children are often born on opposite sides of borders than their grandparents were.


I am of a voraciously linguistic mind. The world is language, and language is the world as far as I am concerned. Hopscotching between six languages on top of my native one, I have been lovingly sand-papered with dictations, cozily drilled with irregular verbs and participles, fiberglassed with declensions and subjunctives and pluralia tantum, and I have rolled in the Great Vowel Shift like a dog. I have paid my dues to the Sapir-Whorfs of this world, read my Rousseau and his critique by Derrida, passed my exams in the difference between language learning and language acquisition, communicative competence and performance. And loved every second of it all.


I am a foreigner, in English. I blog in a language that is not mine. The fact-sheet of our love affair goes like this: I have written in this language since I was thirteen. I started learning it when I was seven. I have degrees in it, and have lived in countries of its provenance twice. But that is not all. Beyond the science of language, beyond translation and teaching, what does it mean to be living in a language that is not your own? I can only speak for myself, but here goes.


Like Poe’s Ligeia, there is ‘strangeness in my proportion,’ an anomaly in my speech. If you heard me speak, you might think I am an American expat, or not even notice the foreignness until I have had a few beers [always a popular choice], or notice it instantly but not be able to pin down the awkwardness. Either way, there is something off. An apparent authenticity that makes you do a double take and you don’t really know why.


I am a continual asymptote. My English, the English of me, is a permanent close, but no cigar. Not that anyone has ever gotten anywhere with language, because language is not a state or a reachable goal. You never really learn a language, not even your own. But think vectors, and forces pulling in different directions, and running into glass doors you did not know were there, when you least expect them. Sometimes you break right through. Other times you boing back, wondering what the hell happened.


A self-appointed court jester. Of course I am allowed to speak, everyone is. English is so deliciously malleable and forgiving and inclusive, both as a lingua franca and in its Paradise Lost, in its pidgins as much as its great while whales. But every time I open my mouth, I commit a sanctioned transgression. My privileges are at one and the same time richer and scantier than your native speaker’s. I am the misshapen little creature at the King’s feet, condemned to never be part of the official court, but authorized to projectile vomit things that others would hang for.


A most understated Polly-want-a-cracker. Beneath the seamlessness of my grammar and the apparent flawlessness of my speech lies an intricate mechanism of carefully pulled strings. Like a dancer who has rehearsed herself into a trance-like routine, I give dazzling performances at times but never forget the sprained ankles, swollen knees, aubergine-hued bruises and faceplants in front of the most critical audiences. All of my sentences were first observed somewhere else, made note of, archived, and then pulled out to be placed in new combinations as I make my utterance.


But beyond all this, beyond the obvious foreignness of functioning in a language you were not born into, there is that essential feeling of foreignness in any language, foreignness in language itself, the foreignness of language as such as it exists apart from and in parallel with our ‘real’ life, yet somehow influencing it, shaping it, giving it permission and denying it at times. Which brings me to why this Hemingway quote felt like a hornet’s sting when I read it, and why I wrote this blog post.


In a famous, often quoted and very much worn-out commentary, Marcel Proust said that “Great literature is written in a sort of foreign language. To each sentence we attach a meaning, or at any rate a mental image, which is often a mistranslation. But in great literature all our mistranslations result in beauty.”


It isn't really about any concrete language, native or foreign, but about attitude towards language. It is about the fact that the best writing is an out-of-body experience, a thief that picks us up by our boots and shakes us upside down, robbing us of stale beliefs we did not know were superfluous. It devours the world we live in and spits it back out at us in a form that is always a little, if not a lot, off, but we wonder how we could ever do without the off in the first place.


What if we allowed ourselves the joy of being foreigners in any language, including our own? Can we look at it as if for the first time, tossing functionality out the window and unlearning what we know? Relish the mistranslations and the Ligeias? Bring to the foreground what was long neglected, plot fresh meanders that branch out from the main canyon and lead into nothingness, if need be? This beautiful state of foreignness is available to anyone, in any language. Your Englishman in New York, your Algerian in Paris, your Kafka in Prague, Joseph Conrad in Marseille, and your T.S. Eliot in London are right there for the taking, the only condition being how far your mind is willing to go.






This post was inspired by the Studio30 Plus Ernest Hemingway-themed Weekly Writing Prompt. For the record, I have written about my personal experience with foreignness in English before. Oh who am I kidding: it's basically an underlying theme of this blog. Here are links to two posts:

Mad people across the water, part 2: having an affair with America



ARCHIVE POST: Utopia



(originally published on July 21, 2012)


My utopia found me in New York City, in the quietly gregarious circle of two girls and two boys, during three days that I spent visiting a new friend back in April 2011. I arrived from Pennsylvania after a sleepless day that involved going out for dinner and drinks at a local pub and cab-rescuing my Piscean friend who had locked herself out of her house at two in the morning. The cab driver’s name was Mike. He was my father’s age and knew his Chaucer. I could not get past “The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,” but he recited eight more lines of the Prologue with ease.


Upon hearing that I had not slept in twenty-nine hours, my hostess tucked me into bed. New York was crisp and bright that day, and her student apartment sported literature on Vlad Tepes and an amazing sixth-floor view of the Upper East Side. It was a girls-on-a-budget den, with shoes and clothes all over the place, beef marinating in the refrigerator, an over-used rice cooker and the messiest bathroom I had ever seen.


Il Trovatore at the Met was a blur in my drowsy haze that afternoon, but my friend took a picture of me immediately afterwards that always makes me smile. Sitting on a park bench, wide-eyed, goofy and devilish, I have since sent it out to people when I wanted them to have a piece of who I really was. I took one of her at the bus stop. Arms crossed, confident, mysterious and static in the midst of tirelessly scurrying New Yorkers, she looked like the blurb of her newly published self.


It was day two that sent us out into the East Village and prompted the convention of our little group. Between the five of us, we had each lived on at least two continents and spoke at least two languages. Peace Corps missions to Paraguay were paired with accounts of volunteering in Kosovo. The Mediterranean of Barcelona was compared with that of Dubrovnik, ojalá to Insha‘Allah, and A Farewell to Arms with The Sun Also Rises. One of the boys was hopelessly, chivalrically, unrequitedly in love with one of the girls but never said a word. He was talking to me but his eyes were on her with puppy-like devotion.


We made and ate the most unpretentious fusion dinner at one of the boys’apartment. We stepped out for a Yiddish theater show, where I was briefly transposed to the anxieties of Central Europe and Kafka’s museum in Prague, again. I keep re-visiting that place in my head a lot. My friend was cold and I gave her my sweater. An unsuccessful attempt at getting into a speakeasy, which involved the best-dressed of us [read: the Europeans, i.e. my friend and I] getting into a phone booth inside a greasy hot-dog place and whispering a secret code into a rotary-dialed apparatus, sent us off to a bar across the street where we consoled ourselves with gimlets and Mexican beer. Our round was on the house because we agreed to give up our table to a bigger party. As we left the boys, we rounded off the evening by picking up a generously abandoned clothes rack and wheeling it eee-rrr, eee-rrr style all the way back to the Upper East Side, subway included. Who knew that a piece of furniture is like a baby or a puppy - everyone wants to talk to you.


Ikea owes me money for this


I spent day three meeting up with family members on vacation from Europe and walking the walk from about Broadway and 37th back again to East 98th, talking on the phone with my then husband and describing every block, brick and corner shop to him.


After the post-it notes of farewell and the usual post-festum thank-you notes, I have not met or spoken with these four people since. In fact, my hostess has deleted me from Skype for reasons unknown, and I have contentedly not missed her. More than the tall, sleek and voracious New York that weekend, more than its gimleted cool evenings and inspiring loftiness of The High Line, more than the topography of three dislocated days, this was a utopia of sensibility for me.


The nine months I had spent in the States before that had been all work-hard, party-hard. The work portion consisted of meetings and conferences where I had to explain to strangers where I was from and what I was working on, and where by default one encounters a great deal of fakery and forced pleasantry. My overactive social life accounted for the rest of my time. Impressive and impressionable, indulgent and extreme, I drove myself into a frenzy of insatiably heightened senses.


In the middle of this flurry, my weekend in New York was a respite of pure event. There was no utility for our degrees, languages and travels other than diversity of experience. There was no reason for our meeting other than our paths had crossed. No sexual tensions to act upon or dilute, no pissing contests of temper or achievement. We were not there to impress but to share. I left my Aries Moon and Leo ascendant at business meetings and in strange beds, while my humanist, idealist Aquarian sun finally shone through.


It was the epitome of how humans should treat humans outside of their immediate circle of family or friends. Warmly hospitable, subtly accommodating, free of prejudice.


Comfortably disinterested.


Detached.


Apollonian.


Vestal.


This is how I imagine heaven after intellect is spent and passions satisfied. A sanctuary of human spirit serving nothing but itself.




Disagree sans jugement.




ARCHIVE POST: Worthy of what happens



(originally published on December 19, 2011)




Love is in the depth of bodies, but also on that incorporeal surface which engenders it. So that, agents or patients, when we act or undergo, we must always be worthy of what happens to us. Stoic morality is undoubtedly this: not being inferior to the event, becoming the child of one’s own events. The wound is something that I receive in my body, in a particular place, at a particular moment, but there is also an eternal truth of the world as impassive, incorporeal event. ‘My wound existed before me, I was born to embody it!’ […] Between the cries of physical pain and the songs of metaphysical suffering, how is one to trace out one’s narrow, Stoical way, which consists in being worthy of what happens, extracting something gay and loving in what happens, a light, an encounter, an event, a speed, a becoming? ‘For my taste for death, which was bankruptcy of the will, I will substitute a death-wish which will be the apotheosis of the will.’ For my pathetic wish to be loved I will substitute a power to love: not an absurd will to love anyone or anything, not identifying myself with the universe, but extracting the pure event which unites me with those whom I love, who await me no more than I await them, since the event alone awaits us, Eventum tantum. Making an event – however small – is the most delicate thing in the world: the opposite of making a drama or making a story. Loving those who are like this: when they enter a room they are not persons, characters or subjects, but an atmospheric variation, a change of hue, an imperceptible molecule, a discrete population, a fog or a cloud of droplets. Everything has really changed.

(G. Deleuze & C. Parnet, Dialogues II, p 65-66)


Thirty-one going on thirty-two. Three decades of becoming-woman, three decades of female-in-the-making, as she proceeds to unthink herself, to think her own unthought.


“Danger! Deep water” yellow sign in Leith in the fall of 2006. Brunch in Karlsplatz in the summer of 2011. She falls off a horse and almost breaks her arm in 1990 as her hand gets caught in the reins; Dad drops her off and mysteriously disappears, because she was supposed to be under his watch, and she wonders how to show the injury to her Mom without breaking her heart. Her first memory of a family Christmas, just short of three years old: holding a ballpoint pen like a big girl, pretending to write a note to Santa on top of a wooden chair. She still remembers the texture of the wooden surface underneath the pen and paper. The Space Needle in 2005 was much scarier than the Eiffel Tower in 2009.


The cobbled stones of her city keep evoking memories of a PA café where she did her reading day after day, and the heart-rending loneliness of a Pennsylvania winter.


How many parakeets and cats has she had as pets over the years? Ten? Twenty?


A pair of size six Skechers keep walking in place in her mind’s eye, like a wind-up toy. Having seen the business, pleasure, work and leisure legs of her journeys in two continents, they were finally left in a dumpster in rural PA on the last day of May, just hours before her plane would take off. Not thrown away, left. Gently placed inside a freshly emptied dumpster, glaring back in disbelief: Really? After all those years, all those miles together, this is how you leave us? We aren’t even worn out, or ragged, or tattered, because you take such good care of your things. Are you telling us that those four suitcases hold no place for us?


A stack of papers with printed-out poetry found in a box containing her journals 1996-2000. She thought she had expunged that mofos presence from her life? The emotional terrorist ex, under whose thumb she felt smaller than a parasite, who would drug her drink one day and write her an epic in celebration of his love for her the next… Still here?! Sweet mother of God, get that disease away from me…


The double yellow line in the middle of a road with an unpronounceable name, crossed in a purposefully mismanaged right turn of a Springer Softail. The closest she ever came to living in the moment and having the deepest foresight imaginable, at one and the same instant: time slowed down as the double yellow line was crossed, and her mind acknowledged the crossing, the participants, and the imminent final curtain in the offing, before the event proper began to unfurl.


A university campus in the Indian summer of long-ago; students celebrating the beginning of a new academic year. Beer pouring in gallons, the lawn tired from absorbing the music that is blaring out of the speakers. She still remembers the plum-colored shirt and cargo pants she wore that day, still remembers the energy and love she felt with the sunset, with the crowd and music, and with her new lover. He stood still, because he disliked dancing, but followed her every move with his eyes and smile, and she didn’t mind dancing for two. She thought that she always would, and she didn’t mind.


Everything has really changed.


She stands in the presence of greatness, facing something bigger than herself, that is summoning her do to her part. It is happening regardless of her will, and yet her participation is somehow crucial.

'My wound existed before me, I was born to embody it.’
 


She is not a person, character or subject, but a fog or a cloud of droplets.
 


Her life would have had just as much meaning in any other course of events, and yet she chooses the wound.
 


She is worthy of whatever happens.





ARCHIVE POST: The dark matter of desire



(originally published on December 13, 2011)



On Sunday I stumbled across an old issue of The Atlantic. It was not mine, and I had not read it before. I dropped out of the family conversation for a full hour and read “The Hazards of Duke” by Caitlin Flanagan and “Hard Core” by Natasha Vargas-Cooper. The first discussed the now notorious case of Karen Owen, whose PowerPoint presentation about her sexual pursuits at Duke University went viral in the fall of 2010, crosschecked with contemporary feminism and gender equality issues. The second article was a fairly vanilla overview of the forms and distribution of [mostly] heterosexual pornography in the past few decades, but with an incisive look into the nature and history of male and female desire. Both articles engaged with the place of aggression in heterosexual male desire, and the looming conclusion that sexual equality seems to be a utopia.


I have my agreements and disagreements with their arguments. I have provided the links and anyone is free to go over and leave their comments on the websites. What I want to write about is what these articles did to me. Because while I was reading them, page by page I felt that they were changing me, taking me from the phenomena in question to my own thoughts on love and sex and the beautiful mess that surrounds them. This is probably the most explicit and abstract, personal and political that I have ever been on this blog. As you read, please bear in mind that I dislike and avoid essentialism and generalizations: if any of my thoughts sound like either, the reason is probably that I was veering between social realities and anthropological observation, but that I finally descended into archetype. Also, I beg of my male readers to leave their egos aside, because I am not out to get them. I love men and I love talking about men, which I think I have made clear multiple times, but I need you to forget that you are men as you read this. Even if you do not agree with me, all I ask is a tiny leap of faith into a minoritarian point of view. Think yin and yang with me, please?


To cut straight to the chase, I choose to have no opinion about Karen Owen and her life. Who the fuck am I to say whether she should or should not have screwed thirteen boys and talked about it? I refuse to judge her either way, and I do not understand people who think they know better. But the one question that “The Hazards of Duke” left me with was, did she ever stand a chance?


Was there ever a way for her to have a sex life and not be considered to have been used, given the context and rules of discourse at hand? Was there ever room for her own excitement and pleasure, for the freedom of hitting sexual jackpots as well as making mistakes, that would have rendered her impervious to tongues like Caitlin Flanagan’s, who seems to think she is one of those people who know better, and who can see Karen Owen as nothing but an attention whore? Even if she enjoyed the sex, Flanagan [and a great many other people, too] thinks that the lacrosse boys still “used” her. Even if she says she had fun, she still did it on boys’ terms, it seems. Or, to use the example from Vargas-Cooper’s article, even if Jenna Jameson now holds the money, power and glory of the enterprise that is she, she is still serving male heterosexual desire.


You see where I am going with this? The argument very quickly becomes that of if you have sex at all, you play by the rules of male desire. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.


Did female desire ever really stand a chance? Does it?


For a minute, I was mentally transported into the sex and gender identities course that I assisted in teaching to two generations at a university a few years ago. The prof was a feminist and LGBTQ rights activist, and probably the best pedagogue those little ingrates could have wished for. As her TA, she entrusted me with designing a seminar that would get the kids to think about masculinity. Easy-peasy, no?


Not by a long shot. Because like any dominant, masculinity bears no questioning, no defining or God forbid, re-defining. The students were able to deconstruct the binary opposition of man-woman [male-female] by realizing that ‘woman’ was defined as ‘the opposite/negative of man,’ which in turn meant that, even though it is considered primary in this opposition, ‘man’ could only be defined through ‘woman.’ But they stopped short of the remaining gesture of Derrida’s double écriture, that of dispensing with the oppositional logic and moving beyond it. They remained huddled like puppies beneath the silent monolith of masculinity, that construct that took on the role of law, the legitimizing act that could anoint, but bore no questioning. The rules of its own discourse could not be applied to it. Derrida 101.


Their puppy eyes widened a little when I showed them The Men’s Story Project. They saw stories, interviews, performances by fathers, artists, public office holders, BFFs who happened to be gay men, cross-dressers, victims of abuse, FTMs… and they realized that these men were no less men than the monolithic construct that had been governing their perception of gender identities thusfar. Without the threat of the castrating father, we could finally begin to speak of masculinity.


Why is it that we still have a dominant discourse at all, and one that does not allow for female desire? Or let me put the question differently: why is it that any emergence of emancipatory female desire needs to be immediately wrapped up in the discourse of male desire, before its lungs have even inhaled its first independent breath? Why do we still need to desire in accordance with the law? Control comes to mind, of course, but I am no longer happy with that response, because it is fucking boring. Mainstream desire, the way it is constructed, reproduced and perpetuated at the moment, is just mothereffing boring. Yawn.


So you can imagine what this thinking did to me personally, in the light of my marriage, as well as my other liaisons. No longer a scholar or a reader, I looked into each of these men’s eyes and asked again, Did my desire ever stand a chance? And I do not mean Did I matter to you? Did you love me? Did you care?, but Was there ever a way that my desire could have existed apart from being defined by yours?


All I got were empty stares.


I am not talking about the criminals, abusers, emotional vampires or cripples, socio- or psycho-paths here. Or about the men that were simply raised not to know better and cannot help it. I am talking about the good ones, the enlightened ones. Those who possess the freedom of mind [perhaps even education, but that is less important], the sensitivity, and even the willingness to see women as their partners, who are committed to fulfilling relationships, the sexually generous ones, the emotionally available ones… When push comes to shove, and I am adding family, friends, and a lot of reading to my personal experience here, chances are they will choose their desire over their woman’s. In a way so archetypal that it borders on stereotype.


When pushed into a corner, when faced with a decision, when challenged to a risk – and I am talking about the absolutely deepest areas and aspects of relationships here, not your everyday life choices – men have the right to simply slip into the privilege given them by the monolithic discourse. If they choose themselves, they do not have to account for it. Whether they choose to avail themselves of this privilege is another matter, and while not all men will do this, I am stunned by the number, as well as the character, of those who do.


As I read on, I was somehow divested of my self, too. “The manner in which one physically, and emotionally, contorts oneself for sex simply takes sex outside the realm of ordinary human experiences and places it in the extreme, often beyond our control,” says Vargas-Cooper. Digging deeper into the archetypes, all of a sudden I was Lilith, a naked hour-glass figure with a tattoo of a cat on her ass, taken back to her first home in the Garden of Eden, looking at the joke of my first husband, Adam, with my arms crossed and a fish-hook in my eyebrow.


Do you really understand desire, Adam? Do you?


Empty stare from a pre-pubescent boy. He is fiddling with his fig-leaf. Fuck, I'm so glad I was expelled from this shit-hole.


Because you see, Adam, desire is really darkness. You, as well as Eve, might think that darkness only resides in casual encounters, those raw and dirty states of existence where we do not even look for love, but that is not true. True love is darkness. Beneath the ‘I love yous,’ beneath your deepest communication, your warmest hearts, beneath the most profound human connection, there is darkness. Not evil, not bad, not destructive [I am trying to dispense with oppositions here], not at all. Just. Dark. Mind-bogglingly beautiful. And supposed to be there.


Why darkness? Because there is nothing pretty in I would die for you. Because ultimate devotion is a threat to the self. Because sharing yourself is disintegration, solemn, serious, and demonic. How far are you willing to go? Any level is legitimate, and acceptable, as long as you and your partner are compatible. But this is where men decide to use their jail-free card and bail out. This is where desire stops for them.


I am not saying all women share this view of desire, or that all of them want to go deeper than their men. You know me better than that. What I am saying is that, if the archetypal male has the privilege of dominant discourse on his side, the archetypal female has the experience of the minoritarian point of view. And I say ‘point of view’ rather than discourse precisely to point out the difference between them – the minoritarian sphere is not codified; it is open to whatever one makes of it.


And the minoritarian sexual experience of the archetypal heterosexual woman includes precisely the physical and emotional contortions that Vargas-Cooper mentions. Your average heterosexual act of love-making demands adjustments of the female body in a way your average heterosexual male never gets to experience. The simple physicality of this gorgeously pleasurable act involves discomfort, and a situation of a very elementary… well, danger. Of course there are exceptions, but just have a look at the physics of it, the impersonal relation of two bodies in space engaging in some kind of contact: one of them is [usually] bigger, and stronger, and carries the potential energy of destruction. Why would the smaller, weaker, potentially breakable one even want to render itself permeable to the first one? And yet it does. And yet we enjoy it immensely.


The leaps from the laws of the universe to what goes on in the bodies and minds of humans are staggering. Again, not all women [perhaps not even many] happen to introduce this level of self-consciousness into the bedroom [which makes me a weirdo once again but who’s counting], but awareness has nothing to do with it. Through no fault, or accomplishment, of their own, women’s experience renders them closer to the darkness of desire. The connection between pleasure and pain, negotiating discomfort with ecstasy – these are a given in the female experience. Without willingness to take on the minoritarian point of view, your average heterosexual male will not know the pleasure that comes from pain, or the pain that comes from pleasure. The archetypal male does not experience discomfort. He inflicts it. Men let go, but do not give in.


And this is why your married heterosexual women watch gay porn. Because these men understand the darkness of desire better than their husbands do. Because they are familiar with the physical contortions, the leaps of faith, the game of trust and surrender, and the risk of getting hurt… and the overwhelming pleasure that can be derived from it all. This is also where the heterosexual male privilege raises its ugly head again in the form of misogyny and homophobia, exemplified by that overused line from the Bible, Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination.” As I once heard in a documentary I wish I could remember and quote, but unfortunately have to paraphrase, could the ‘abomination’ lie in this simple fact that there are men out there that do not mind being treated as women are treated? And that being treated as a woman is apparently something abominable? Why would you not want to treat your men as you treat your women, unless women were seen as subhuman? Could homophobia really stem from misogyny?


And I will tell you, Adam, why your girls fall for bad guys. Because bad boys know darkness. And it is easy to mistake their darkness for familiarity with the nature of desire. Because we hope that their sexual prowess, the excitement they bring, the extremes they are willing to go to are not destructive but somehow, pretty please, conducive to love. We hope that they might also know how to love. Usually, they don't.


And I will tell you why good guys finish last. Because they know love, but are afraid of the dark. They will give their all and do anything, they will pour their hearts out in affection and attention, and they will be truly willing to lose themselves in their love, honestly and unconditionally, until they reach that wall of darkness. It will break their hearts, and ours, that their devotion is not capable of more, but their journey finishes just within sight of the Promise Land.


What might redeem these poorly targeted forms of desire? Warriors, both male and female, however you imagine them, whatever you want them to look like or act like. It isn’t about what you do, really, it’s about what’s in your mind. Those willing to relinquish the blindness of privilege and take a long hard look at the scary of love and desire. Those that relinquish the blindness of the subaltern and dare to dream beyond the borderlines of discourse. Those willing to step outside of themselves and become the other. Fortunately for me personally, and I dare say for this world – with a elvish grin on my face, I happen to know they exist.


ARCHIVE POST: Dear sweet hopefully benevolent although sometimes annoying universe…



(originally written in June 2011, published on November 6, 2011)




 
When I was seventeen, I had a vision of my soul mate. I put it in a poem called “The Man I Will Love.” Wrapped up in one of my self-centered reveries recently, I re-read the poem and discovered that my vision does not seem to have changed in the past 14 years, but gotten deeper and more vivid. And I have decided that it is time for me to look for him again. Even if I am more inclined towards serial monogamy than soul-mateyness now.

This is not a statement of “things my husband lacks.” Neither is it “things I found in other men,” or making Mr. Right out of bits and pieces of boys that I encountered on the way to where I am. I understand how it might be read like something similar to Oprah’s Secret, or Eat Pray Love bumper-sticker talk, or Alanis Morissette’s “21 Things I Want In a Lover.” Only it isn’t.

It’s a letter of intent to whatever lines of force or flight exist out there, to a person I have yet to meet. It is a vocalization of a personal archetype, which will serve as a reminder at times when I feel faint-hearted. I have worked long and hard on this letter, and must have read it a hundred times before publishing it. Again, I feel dangerously insecure in dishing it out like this, because you never know what’s in your cards, and I might just fail famously. At times when I feel like I am failing, I will need the people on this blog to remind me of my quest.


John Everett Millais, 'Love'


He will be an old soul. With feet of Methuselah, legs of a grasshopper, and volcanic rock residing in his eyes. A Renaissance man, his mind as big as the universe. [if you laugh at the word homo in homo universalis, you’re probably not him. No hard feelings]


He will be no stranger to pain, physical or emotional. He will smile all the time, and I will love him the more for it.


Touch will come naturally to him. Warm. Gentle. Instinctive. Measured. Abundant.


There will be a promptness to him, a sense of purpose, loyalty and dedication to service.


His spirituality will be sexual, and his sexuality spiritual. And aesthetic. The line in the right corner of my mouth will match the crow’s feet around his eyes. He will bury his face in my hair, and I will trace the line of his neck with my teeth. Our bodies will be worshiped.

Making out will be his favorite sport, and sleeping in on a Saturday morning, curled up in a ball of tangled limbs while torrential rain beats against the windows, his favorite pastime.


A badass goofball, he will embarrass himself completely for a good prank.


He will be the César Millán to my excited-dominant sprees [sans the electric shocker collars, although I might be into those, too. Ahem]. I will be his big spoon and stick to his back like a slug while we sleep.


I see animals accepting him as one of their own.


I see South Pacific islands, using sea-shells as bugles, coconut-eating crabs strutting sideways as if in a silent pasodoble, and leggy horses tiptoeing the border between sand and sea.


I see speed, and engines, and voyages to far sides of the world.


I will teach him words in different languages and he will repeat them in the most ridiculous American accent. There should be music, too, an Elizabethan dance of the spheres: an impromptu choreography of two celestial bodies that were somehow always orbiting around each other, waiting for the eclipse to ebb.


He will choose to dive deep, even when it’s scary, even when it hurts.


I think I would like to be surprised by what he does for a living. I only want him to be passionate about it, because I will want to feed his passion and let my passion feed off of him.


He won’t take life too seriously. I will take care of that. We will laugh our heads off every single day.


He will be tactile, and verbal, and subtle, and intuitive. We will take turns being student and teacher.


He will aim for absolutes.


It will be an all-consuming, steam-rolling, juggernaut romance that will set the world spinning in the opposite direction. We will go to extremes.





I think I just envisioned the Second Coming. Or Lucifer. Well, Dr. Faustus was always one of my favorite characters, and I never said I wasn’t demanding. And I’m totally worth it, I promise.






ARCHIVE POST: A reverse Marcel Proust moment… Remembrance of things future



(originally posted on October 27, 2011)



Hubby was out for a beer with his buddies the other night, and I was typing away at my computer.


It was after 11 pm and I was already yawning and rubbing my eyes like a big baby, wondering if I should go to bed or take some more advantage of the precious time I had to myself. I heard the key in the lock downstairs. Oh good, I thought. Dilemma solved. I’m going to bed.


I heard the door close, then the familiar shuffle of his feet, followed by the eight thumps that it takes to climb the first flight of stairs.


And then an unfamiliar female voice. Sweet. Giggling. Of the lightest hue. Acting as if she felt at home. In my house.


I stopped typing, feeling disoriented.


It took me about thirty seconds to realize it was my husband’s business partner, who had obviously stopped by the office downstairs to pick up some documents, and his wife happened to be with him. Why he would stop by after 11 pm was beyond me, but people who live in nocturnal houses should not throw stones.


I felt disembodied. In a nanosecond, I was sucked into a microcosmic shrinkerator and spewed out at the speed of light as a future fly on the walls of my own home.


This is what it will be like after I am gone.


A Friday night, perhaps warm, perhaps cool. The key will turn in the lock, perhaps once, perhaps twice. There will be a shuffle of feet after the door is closed, perhaps the sound of high heels on the tiles. A gentle female voice will be heard, followed by the warm low mumblings of a male response. They will take turns murmuring softly while the feet that carry them climb upstairs. Eight steps. Sixteen. Twenty-four. The second door will open, and close again.


The fly on the wall will start to squirm.


They will have a glass of wine, probably red, dry. Jewelry will be removed from hands and arms, and go clinkety-clink as it is put down. A tie will be left on the arm of the sofa in the living room, and shoes kicked off carelessly in the hallway. The soft murmurs will continue in the dimmed light, as two bodies do a silent dance undressing, their mouths finishing off the wine, one of them leaving a trace of lipstick on the long-stemmed glass. Lights in the hallway, the kitchen, and the living room will be switched off, and the bedroom door will close for the night with a single squeak of finality.


The fly on the wall will be left outside, having given it all up. Her wings will have taken her elsewhere, probably straight into the mouth of chaos that she craved so badly. Her insect feet will be sticky from jumping around dung heaps and honey pots, like she wanted, and she will have developed the compound eyes of a visionary, just the way she planned. Her flight will have explored new paths, and her buzzing mouth spun multiple new yarns. This one narrative, this abandoned thread of her life, will remain behind a closed bedroom door, forever hidden from her view.