Monday, November 26, 2007
It's November. Do know where your Chuck Taylors are?
I have been reading a lot lately. A friend of mine suggested I read Jim Harrison and I picked up a copy of The Beast God Forgot to Invent at the library. My most immediate reaction was "Oh no...not again!" I had been sucker punched into reading something that conflicts me. Of late, I've been enjoying a relatively joyful, inspirational and smooth reading experience. Occasionally I will become quixotic and stray to other material. I had a foray into Kerouac awhile back. Well, I thought my latest trend in reading was placing me well on the other side of that tack and now I find I have only taken a brisk sail around the world. I'm back to my port of origin. I'm back into the gnarly carnal woods of Kerouac, Miller and Burroughs in Harrison. I'm reading work that both charms and repulses me simultaneously. "The mating dance of the damned..." (to quote Danny Schmidt) springs to my mind when I find myself in these literary labyrinths. I read a little then stagger around a bit cursing to myself only to sit down and read more. The inner dialogs of these men are bane of my existence. To be fair, I have a few male friends who I adore who allow me the space to take a good look at my OWN suffocating and niggling inner dialog. When it is externalized, it has got to be like dining at the cafe dead to listen to what a woman can dredge up as interesting. Women's thinking is, well, just a given to me, while the inner male voice is quite a shock. It strikes me as strange that I still find it so at my age. My understanding of men's thinking pretty much begins and ends with men like dogs, bacon and, I suspect but don't like to think about, their preference for young sexual partners and what they see as valuable.
Jim Harrison is a brilliant writer. I would never bother picking his work back up to continue reading if there wasn't insight and a stunning turn of phrase or two. It is just that I'm totally uncomfortable with knowing what men are really thinking and I don't want to know - especially when they are looking at a woman. Everything from a desirable point of view to the judgment of appearance seems to ask: "Why isn't she presenting yourself to me as a desirable object? What's the matter with her? She's a dog." (I'm confused...dog?) It is especially difficult knowing that I currently fall into the canine category - worse even - the stripe that reminds men my age of their "ex-wives". Bitchy, dowdy and indulgent...three cats...need I go on?
The first time I heard that I was "ex-wife-fantasy-wipe-A" was on the first and last date I went on in 2002. I'll never forget it. "You remind me of my ex-wife", said he. Gad. It was so huge a cut and it cast such a horrible wallop to my consciousness that I could not even BEGIN to deny its significance. I'm the quintessential ex-wife prototype reminding men over and over again that they are better off alone than with the old cow. I was horribly depressed for a long time about this. Mostly because I had lost my chewy toy of attention that I received for years from men before I lost my looks, as it were. When one is single this is no small loss as it sustains a woman to turn a couple of heads - its like living on dry toast but when its a regular and accepted part of your emotional diet, its hard to loose....even if it IS really bad for you...you know, like bacon.
I've been on the down slide of my looks for awhile now and I've leaned to live on Milk Bones but it is hard sometimes, faced as I am with being perceived as someone who is "unloved" and possibly "unlovable" - which was ALWAYS evident but it was not so bloody obvious. For the record I am not unloved in an real sense but in a social sense only. I am not an island unto my own sea. I have to deal with the "social sense"...it is a reality. I am perceived as a single, middle-aged woman no matter how frisky and interesting I might really be.
On the bright side, I'm the youngest in a family of four and I learned at an early age that what might appear as a mercy seat initially could actually be a boon of good fortune. There is a distinct advantage to being perceived by men as a dog. Certainly, men who are unresolved in their own parts in failed relationships avoid someone like me like the plague whereas I used to be the distraction. Also, I personally no longer have to suffer the confusion of misplaced loyalties spawned by what appear to me to be sincere concerns and interest from men who are really only players. I've always had a problem discerning sincerity from men being raised by women and I had no male example to learn the subtle nuances of their language. Worse, with the women who raised me, there was a sort of screw them and steal their wallet sort of orientation that I had to sort through. This ignorance and misunderstanding paved the way to a world of hurt that I have worked with and recovered from. Still, obviously, a general ignorance regarding males seems hard wired into me so not having to dance through all the ugly bits mano a mano is a definite blessing. Fortunately there is a God and I have the Internet and art and literature that allows me to explore these things and study my reactions in my own way.
It is not like I have never been in love so the issue is not this. The issue is how to be present in who I am in the world, in the community and in my own skin - a group that habitually perceives me as less than I should be. I do not have a lot of defenses for this projection. Certainly a reality check of reading about what men are REALLY thinking, while it might be painful, is actually helpful and I do appreciate that it is there. I don't like facing the music anymore than the next person but I know the disease of denial and the healing power of the truth. There's just no other route out of hell no matter what shoes your wearing or who let your dogs out.
Photo credit thanks to BackInThePack