Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Myth of the Insidious Marriage Plot

Friday I read this article at The Daily Beast. It's about how Tiger Woods is now seeking treatment for sex addiction after his string of affairs and how sex addiction doesn't really exist. The author, a doctor of psychiatry, says that sex addiction is just society's way of reconciling its uncomfortable feelings about a man's biological imperative to have sex with every woman he possibly can.

To hear this guy tell it, sex addiction is a female conspiracy against men, our attempt to make them into our relationship slaves.

My issue with this article is not that I don't believe in the biological imperative. I know men want to have sex. I know that men look at women and think about sex. I understand that this impulse comes from the need to spread genes. I get all of that. I am also unsure how I feel about the diagnosis of sex addiction and, in this specific Tiger Woods case, can see how he may only be entering sex addiction treatment to cover his tracks and make up with the rest of the world. I don't believe he owes the world that kind of--or any--apology, but the guy does have to make a living. What I take great issue with is the tone of the article, the sweeping generality that every man wants to cheat on his woman, and the fact that even though the author is a doctor, he sure does sound awfully defensive.

Me thinks he doth protest too much.

First of all, explaining sex addiction as another name for the male biological imperative ignores all the women who identify themselves as sex addicts. While I find the diagnosis of sex addiction dubious at best, I think it's ridiculous for a doctor to talk about sex addiction as the male sex drive. I won't go into details as to how I know this, but there are as many women at meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous as there are men. I also watched Celebrity Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew, and there were more women there than men. So, what, they're just there husband-hunting? I'm not even going to be-leaguer this point as I think it speaks for itself.

Second, this idea that all men are miserable in their marriages because marriage hems in their ability to have sex with all the other women of the world. "But in between these two extremes reside garden-variety marriages wherein the wife may complain about the husband’s sexual demand, and the man may seek lovers and/or prostitutes." He's supposedly talking about the marriages of sex addicts, but he's already established that sex addiction is the way that women reconcile the normal male sex drive. So you're telling me that all men seek lovers and prostitutes outside of their marriages or, at least, want to? He also refers to the "typical" female complaint about how often husbands want to have sex.

Honestly, at this point I started thinking maybe this guy based his research on the average American sit-com.

I have no doubt, again, that this is true in some cases. I heard about a book a female psychologist wrote in which she implicates wives in their cheating husbands activities. She says that women who figure that once they're married the man should stay faithful out of obligation even if the women don't want to give it up are delusional. She says that women should take one for the team--it's all part of the give-and-take of a relationship. And, honestly, I agree with her on some level. There's never an excuse for cheating. If you're planning on having sex with someone other than your wife, dump your wife first. I do believe, however, that which ever partner has the lower sex drive should sometimes have sex despite his or her lack of desire if he or she is really interested in making the overall relationship work.

I say "he or she" because it's been my general experience that I'm always the one in my relationships who wants to have sex more often than my partner. This is part of my argument against this article. Who says women always complain about their husbands' sexual appetites?

This idea that all men feel oppressed by marriage ignores all the ones who don't. I was talking to a man on Friday night who married his girlfriend of 13 years. He said he loves being married. He said he feels we have an innate need to partner up. He feels that partnering--long-term relationships, marriage, co-habitation--is instinctual. But what about his supposed sex addiction? If he's feeling his wings have been clipped and he wishes he was able to go out and fuck everything that moves, I couldn't find that feeling anywhere in his overabundance of enthusiasm for his marriage.

Marriage isn't a plot perpetrated upon men by women. I never buy the "societal pressures" argument when people are talking about marriage and family. I know there may be perceived societal pressures. If you're that weak that you can't resist the nagging parents, the friends who look at you like a loser or a leper, or the movies and TV shows that show having a family as the norm, than that's your problem. Don't come crying to me about it. Life is about making choices, and there may be no perfect choice, but if a man has decided he really wants to be married and have children for whatever reason, he needs to suck it up and deal with whatever feelings of ambivalence may be left over on any issue within that construct. "I want children, so I'm going to give up having sex with other women."

What really struck me was that this article was written by a psychiatrist. That lends an air of credibility. But the tone of voice is so over-the-top and one-sided that it can't possibly hold water.

Personally, I'm guessing he likes to have sex with prostitutes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

On Fish and Bicycles Revisited

I am convinced that, even without restrictions, there still would have been no female Pascal, Milton, or Kant. Genius is not checked by social obstacles: it will overcome. Men's egotism, so disgusting in the talentless, is the source of their greatness as a sex. Women have a more accurate sense of reality; they are physically and spiritually more complete. Culture, I said, was invented by men, because it is by culture that they make themselves whole.

-Camille Paglia

Le Petit Mort

I am no longer charming,
for, if I am to be evil, I will
have to be evil all the way.
I have retired my cold external
disregard; it stirs too many feelings
I am unwilling to cut free.
To be evil woman must forget,
cut herself off from even herself
as she serves herself, for
everyone feels a tug of doubt,
remorse for the small child
left dying in the gutter out of
neglect. I once read that even
women who do not want children
must prepare themselves
for the inevitable sting of guilt.
Unless completely severed,
our minds cannot forget our biology,
our cells crying out with primordial
messages that call us to act.
So I have left my charm behind
because to feed it I must have
others to sacrifice. I recognize
I am less charming without it.
It is, after all, charm. But I walk
a sharp edge between dark and light;
one cannot be whole any other way.
I hear my charm calling to me
from the closet. I don't console it--
I must treat it like it is dead.
I cannot forget things I still finger,
even listlessly. I make my mind
a blank slate. I stare hopefully
out the car window, hoping
to see it pass me in another car,
to simply catch a glimpse of my
oldest love and my old enemy.
I cannot bury her because she
will not appear--she stays hidden,
avoids the shovel like a knife
that would make her disappear
completely. I let her stir, clamor
in her little box, keep her like a
pair of baby shoes behind
the door.

I am through with her, but she
is not through with me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Transmission Ran Round the Sun and Came Back to Me

I decided to peek into my saved e-mails. I found a couple from around 2003 between me and someone who then dropped completely off the cliff. In these e-mails I found this poem. I remember this poem. I remember how the themes of heat burning ran like a conjoining ribbon through everything I wrote then. I forgot, however, about my "no capitalization ever" period. It had no title on it, and I'm going to leave it that way.

white light for children,
for the hot water warming pink
skin, stocking cotton putting them down,
doughy. white light for the soft,
locked away in piles of pillows,
kept keeping dreams, the feel of mink
for hair and empty towns,
carless. like a time before cars.

yellow light for flies and sweat.
poker chips and palmettos reclining,
referencing ancestors, loosening laughs,
thighs. yellow light whirrs fans with jagged blades,
blowing on wet skin, blowing on each other,
but still kept in heat, the shining
dull and drowsy eyed, but fired,
thoughtless. like moon songs and minutes.

yellow light is for fever;
a slow burn, a dripping heat.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Lost Blog, or On Fish and Bicycles Revised

I wrote an entire essay entitled, "On Fish and Bicycles". It was about the difference between men and women. Then I found this quote, and it pretty much said everything I wanted to say in three sentences.

Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. This is the difference between the sexes.

-Oscar Wilde

Damn you and thank you, Mr. Wilde.

Friday, February 19, 2010


The snow here has disappeared
so quietly, exactly as it fell.
I hardly heard it leaving; simply
turned and it was gone. The thickest,
greatest snow since forty years ago
is gone, and I can hardly tell
that it ever even happened. The hush
is still with us, a silent reverence
settled into our chests. I see
the occasional hard mound of a
memory of a man, perhaps his hand
or foot, and then I believe
in everything only dead people know--

soon there will be flowers where bare
but snow-flowered trees once stood.

Monday, February 15, 2010


According to elementary school science teachers the world over (and, by the "world" I mean America, and by "America" I mean at my elementary school in Dallas, TX), entropy is what makes a top slowly decrease in speed and eventually come to a rest after it's been set spinning. It's the desire of all things to reach a homogeneous state of death.

Everything is trying to die, all the time.

Today I learned that one of my coworkers has flesh-eating bacteria. When I heard the news, I felt as though I was going to vomit. I'm not being overdramatic when I say that my three biggest health-related fears are aneurisms, brain cancer, and flesh-eating bacteria. What scares me so much about flesh-eating bacteria is that it might appear to the less-knowledgeable observer at first as just a skin irritation or rash. Not wanting to appear hyper-vigilant, the sufferer might not go to the doctor. Next thing the sufferer knows, they're dying of flesh-eating bacteria.

It's a reminder that for all that we know, so much is out of our hands. It's also a reminder that no matter how smart we think we are, we're really not any more ahead of the game than we ever were. Nature always wins, and nature wants us dead.

I was thinking about all of this while doing dishes. I was thinking about how we all try so hard to fight the mundane nature of life. And I was thinking about how this is fine, of course, and even probably necessary. Can you imagine how horrible life would be if we weren't struck down with aneurisms or flesh-eating bacteria or brain cancer for 97 years and hadn't once tried to fight the mundane nature of life? The problem arises, though, when we fight so hard we actually come to believe we can do anything about it. People have become so consumed at times by this obsession to get beyond the mundane nature of life that they've left behind dear, precious, wonderful things and destroyed themselves on the altar of excitement. They've been cruel to others. They've been cruel to themselves. They've done too many drugs, had too much booze, and had fleeting affairs based on even more fleeting attraction to the superficial. They drive recklessly for no reason other than to feel the thrill of what they consciously deny as possible death. This has been presented as nobel by some, and, I have to admit, it's one way to go. A death is a death is a death. It's funny that I'm so freaked out by aneurisms, flesh-eating bacteria and brain cancer. In fact, I should welcome an aneurism. It's quick and, from what I understand about aneurisms, painless.

What struck me about this while doing the dishes wasn't that there is some great argument to be made in favor of a particular way to go. I stopped debating that with myself a while back and am not particularly interested in convincing anyone either way. To some degree it's simply a matter of picking one's poison. I would prefer to have people in my life who want something good to come from all of this, but even that is simply my own judgment about what's good in the first place. I want to be a person who wants the best for others. I want to be a person who doesn't actively disregard the impact I might have on another. I want to be honest, whatever that means. I want people like this in my life. I tried things the other way, and the truth is that it just wasn't killing me fast enough. I figured I might as well try to do it a different way while I'm here.

But I don't believe I'm beating entropy either way.

What really struck me while doing dishes, though, was that I was enjoying doing the dishes. I wasn't enjoying it in that it was like doing a bunch of cocaine or driving recklessly. I was enjoying it as a feeling of being one with the inevitable fact of my death. It felt like an acceptance. It felt like a sacred act of reverence for nature and her dictates. I could hear my love's footsteps in the other room as he prepared to run an errand. We'd just finished dinner he'd cooked. This is what we do. I wash the dishes. So many might find it boring, but those people are in denial of what is an ever-present fact of our lives. There will be time enough for distractions--novels, movies, dancing, painting. Playing. Making.

But one day all that making will slowly revert back into being unmade.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Exploring the Ocean

I wonder, if I know you for the rest of my life,
will I ever be able to touch all of you?
I've been trying for over a year, and I'm sure
there are spots that I've missed.
Perhaps a small scrap of skin on your shin
has gone unnoticed, or a single string of hair?
Maybe a place at the nape of your neck,
a crease in the crease in your elbow?
I've wandered around the inside of your thigh,
but have I gone far enough up?
I stick my fingers on your back, draw lines slowly
down--sometimes furiously with fingernails dug--
and I question whether I'm getting it all in
or simply retracing patterns, getting stuck in ruts.

I know that your skin is falling off,
being replaced with new skin to touch.
I'm always falling behind.

They say we've only explored one-onemillionth
of the ocean, this vast body that makes up
most everything. We don't pay close enough
attention to less-traveled routes; we stick
to the most convenient courses. So much lies
underneath the surface; we rarely dive
far enough down.

If I could sink my fingers beneath your flesh,
what would I find besides meat and bone,
dripping sinew, bubbling hot blood? This vast
body that makes up most everything?
I hope that I am not forgetful of such rarely
traveled routes.

And even if I only explore one-onemillionth
of your skin in the time that I know you,
I know you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nobody Lives in Novels

I used to have this nasty little habit.

I would kinda date (read: make out with a few times and lead on) my male friends. Then I would just disappear, turn cold, or generally treat them badly and make it clear it was never going to work. Then, as soon as they got a new girlfriend, I would suddenly be overcome with a sense that I'd messed up the best thing that had ever happened to me, lost out at my one shot at love, and go to them, telling them how wrong I'd been and secretly hoping that this information would make them turn around, dump the new girl, and take me back.

The truth was that my fragile and all-encompassing ego couldn't take it that they had moved on. I'd treated these men as if they were beneath me, and here they were, falling in love with someone else seemingly so easily that I had to try to prove that I could turn them around once more. It never worked. Solid and sane people do not fall easily for the bullshit of the self-centered, boundaryless and emotionally immature.

I was the only person at the time who was unnaware that I was self-centered, boundaryless and emotionally immature.

And then there was Nathan, who tried so hard but could not handle all the poison seething through my body and brain. For a couple of years after we broke up, I would occasionally try to contact him to find out what he was up to, again secretly hoping that my newfound sense of what I'd done would cause him to recognize that we really did belong together and take me back. I was never overt. In situations where my pride has been hurt, I've always found it most natural to approach with a calm, self-possessed and interested-yet-indifferent air. I am not a lady who enjoys looking stupid, so overt displays of, "Please, take me back!" begging were never my style.

Except that one time, and I was furiously drunk.

I was a very troubled young adult, and our relationship was ridiculous for so many reasons. We both did a lot of drugs together on a regular basis. He was 18, and I was 20. There were a whole set of factors at play that spelled disaster or, at the very least, inevitable breakup. And did I mention I was a very troubled young adult?

During the course of our relationship, I developed another nasty habit. Unable to express in words the kind of internal torture I was feeling on an almost constant basis at that point, I started cutting. And while it felt to me as a release, I realized later after the dust had cleared and I'd worked through a lot of stuff that it had also been about manipulation. I remember slicing my entire arm from wrist to shoulder. That night several of us were going somewhere, and I ended up in the passenger seat while Nathan ended up in the back. It was winter, and I was wearing long sleeves. Nathan hadn't seen the cuts yet. Slowly and dramatically I lifted my arm so my sleeve pulled back and set it down on the back of the driver's seat. My cuts were right in Nathan's face. And we all rode in relative silence, no one else aware that I was making Nathan stare for the first time at the horror that was going on inside of me. I do not belittle my feelings from that time period, although some may think me flip when I toss it off as "crazy" and even label it now as "bullshit." It was all valid from my limited perspective at the time. I had no control.

But that still doesn't make it okay.

I could go on about the episodes from that relationship. Suffice to say I was hell on him. Eventually--not very long after the whole thing began--he came to me and informed me that he'd been down that road once already with another girl and he could not handle it again. He was very sorry. I knew that was sincere. Still at first I was incredulous. How could he leave me in that state? I might commit suicide!

But I knew I wasn't going to commit suicide.

When I couldn't get Nathan to love me in the way that I demanded--although he loved me as much as he could and I wasn't even sure what exactly I was demanding--I turned to self-torture as a manipulation. I got drunk, did drugs, and cried incessantly. I acted as if the whole world was against me, as if the tiniest slight were proof that I was unloved. It wasn't just love I wanted, either, but adoration, and looking back I don't even think that all the adoration in the world would've helped me in my sorry state. I was a bottomless pit of sucking need.

Bottomless pits can never be filled.

In fact, it was Nathan's leaving that probably helped save my life. Who knows if another event would've come along eventually to help me, and it was still a few years before I truly got to the bottom of that previously bottomless pit. But had Nathan stayed, he only would've reenforced my self-destruction. My game would've worked. And I never would've felt all of the regrets that finally forced me to take responsibility for myself.

True regret isn't the same as self-pity. Self-pity is self-centeredness at its most disgusting. Some people admire it as beautiful tragedy, but no tragedy of one's own making can be beautiful. It is useless, a waste. We all die in some way, and all deaths are pretty much the same. But self-pity is a living death, an internal hanging, and it produces nothing. Until it does. Sometimes very lucky people are able to awaken to their own self-centered degradation and feel true regret. True regret takes into account the other. There is compassion mixed in. It is not feeling sorry; it is feeling that you have wronged another as well as yourself.

It is being willing to let that thing go out of love.

Looking back, what I wanted when I tried to contact Nathan all those times and secretly hoped I'd win him back wasn't love. It wasn't love because it wasn't loving. What I wanted was absolution. But I have found those things elsewhere by getting beyond all the things inside of myself that caused me to act the way I did in the first place. I had to go back, way back before Nathan or the cutting or all of the self-pity, and then go forward with a resolution to be different. I still fail. But I forgive myself these failings because it is through the discipline of regret that I am able to live more openly, little by little, every day.

I'd wanted to be a saint and, when I couldn't, I'd tried to be a martyr.

But I am neither.

Monday, February 1, 2010

you being in love...

you being in love
will tell who softly asks in love,

am i separated from your body smile brain hands merely
to become the jumping puppets of a dream? oh i mean:
entirely having in my careful how
careful arms created this at length
inexcusable, this inexplicable pleasure-you go from several
persons: believe me that strangers arrive
when i have kissed you into a memory
slowly, oh seriously
-that since and if you disappear

ask "life, the question how do i drink dream smile

and how do i prefer this face to another and
why do i weep eat sleep-what does the whole intend"

they wonder. oh and they cry "to be, being, that i am alive
this absurd fraction in its lowest terms
with everything cancelled
but shadows
-what does it all come down to? love? Love
if you like and i like,for the reason that i
hate people and lean out of this window is love,love
and the reason that i laugh and breathe is oh love and the reason
that i do not fall into this street is love."

E. E. Cummings