Monday, March 14, 2005

EOTM: Road Trip '97

Prologue -

My "somewhat" Significant Other (sSO) had made a very, *very*, big deal over how threatened she had felt by the images of other women "in" our relationship. There was something very subtly shaming in the way she approached sex which manifested itself in many ways. In bed she was a master of the go-stiff-as-a-board "don't touch me there. no, not there either" erotic technique. She didn't like receiving oral sex, and giving it was *entirely* out of the question. After she had voice the first "you might be a serial rapist" fear, I had stopped sleeping with her until we could get the whole mess sorted out. It really is not a very good idea to sleep with a woman who harbors the suspicion that you "might" be a rapist.

I attempted to convey the resentments that men feel over being required to jump through hoops in order to "try" to have a sexually intimate relationship with a woman. Clearly, when it comes to sex it is most men's perception that women do indeed "make the rules." Like so many women, Ms Playboy as I have come to call her, was conditioned in childhood to withhold sexual and emotional intimacy until her demands were met. It is fascinating, sad, and somewhat frightening to watch a middle-aged woman continue to try to use this strategy even after it has gone bankrupt. I attempted to bridge the chasm between us when it came to sexual intimacy; by trying to get her to understand that the key element of the appeal of men's magazines is not the beauty of the models, but rather the elements of willingness and availability. The imagery that sells these magazines has far less to do with perfect faces and figures than it has to do with stimulating erotic interest and imagination that the women might actually *like* to have sex with you and be willing to do so without presenting a list of pre-requisite conditions as long as your arm and considering that once she has done so that you have incurred a debt toward her.

This strategy of demands and conditions is quite effective from puberty through middle-age, but after age 40 men slow down a lot and the urgency of their sex drive diminshes significantly. Up until that point they are fairly self-starting and often will do or agree to almost anything in order to have an outlet for their drive to engage in the act that continues the species. However, about the same time that women start facing menopause, men also contend with changes in their reproductive (sexual) drives. They begin to need significantly more participation on the part of the woman to develop an interest, and an erection. This is completely antithetical to having the woman be too excessive in her demands.

Of course, it turned out that I might as well have been talking to a stone wall. Not only did she never get any of it; she persisted in the rigidity of her conditions, even escalated them despite the fact that I had already chosen not to sleep with her based on the conditions already on the table. In one of the most surreal conversations I have ever had, she tried to entice me to begin sleeping with her again; as long as it was "nothing but 'straight' sex." I didn't even bother to ask her to define what that meant because it was obvious that whatever she did mean was going to be so confined, restricted, and devoid of excitement that wicked willie was not likely to be interested in coming out to play. She, of course, attempted to shame me for this but I didn't fall for it.

The relationship was quite dead by this point: we were just waiting for the coroner to pronounce it so. Two weeks after I got fired we went for a scenic drive up the Missouri river valley. Somewhere mid-drive she popped out the news that there was "this other guy" she wanted to "check out".


She had met him twice, and the second time they met he started talking about where they were going to live when they got married and how many kids they were going to have. "He's lying", I told her. Men simply do not say such things the second time they meet a woman. "He's just trying to be what he thinks you want him to be."

Her ex-husband had done the same thing. After 17 years of "pretending" to be exactly as she wanted, because that is what men of that age were conditioned and trained to do, he lost the ability to keep up the pretense and began to resent it and to hate her for demanding that he do so. He began to fantasize that she was dead. This was where her pathological fear of magazines featuring female nudity came from. Her ex-husband had read such magazines and she was sure that his emotional bail-out came from the fact that she just didn't measure up to the airbrushed perfection portrayed there.

"Didn't you fall for this once before?" I asked. "Didn't your marriage fall apart because your husband could no longer keep up the facade of the 'perfect husband' and begin to hate you because everything about the marriage was dictated by your needs and desires?" She replied: "No! This is different. This guy is going to give me everything I want and I am not going to have to leave my comfort zone in order to get it. I just can't change enough to deal with you."

At that moment all the frustration I had been feeling, and all the conflict between acting ethically or selfishly, transformed into a single, clear, and unconflicted emotion: hate. I have always detested and held in utter contempt any person who expects or even tries to get something for nothing. I have always believed that the most fundamental rule of life is TJANSTAAFL: There Just Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

I was struck absolutely speechless. It took several years for me to get over the monumental self-obsession of that statement and identify the visage of the evil behind the depths of the horror that I felt. In one of the many email "arguments/discussions" on the topics of gender relations, sexual relationships, and male/female roles in which I engage, a delightful Australian woman gave me the simple phrase that summed it all up: "She was REFUSING to be human." Not just choosing not to, not just failing in a good faith attempt: but being given the opportunity and flatly refusing.

Now the epilogue is what makes the whole story read like a tragedy from the "victim's" point of view, and like poetic justice from mine. About 2 years later I ran into her again. She had let the guy move into her house from Arizona. When I asked her how things were going, she got this pathetic look on her face and began a tale of woe about how things had gone fine for a couple of months then he "began to exhibit about 87 different personalities." She was so "traumatized" by the whole ordeal that she was still on Prozac 18 months later. "You told me so" she said. "Yes, I did." I replied then let it go at that and turned my attention elsewhere.

When she got up to leave, as she walked away she said "I'll give you a call." "Don't bother" I said. Either she heard or was at least smart enough to know that she would get no receptive ear to bend with her "Victim's Lament": she never called.

Now, was this one of those "Smart women who make foolish choices" as the title of the ultimate women-cannot-be-responsible book puts it? Or was this was an incredibly stupid woman who kept making the same incredibly stupid choices, was insensitive and exploitive to a degree impossible to imagine, had no regard for the feelings of others, and was so immature that she not see her hypocrisy in having two such monumentally disparate standards of behaviour for herself and for others.

Having found all these characteristics present to a lesser degree in virtually all the women I had met over the past 20 years, this overload on my "ability to give a shit about women and their concerns" circuit blew out my "relationship" fuse and left me in the state of mind where given a choice between a "relationship" and a root canal without anesthetic, I would choose the root canal.

Ms Playboy did not do it alone. She simply inherited and capitalized on years of history of finding it impossible to get either respect or reciprocity in my relationships with women: even women friends. The vast disparity between the public relations notions of relationships and the experiences of myself and virtually all my male friends make it seem that for years all of us have been taken in by a vast hoax.

There is a persistent cultural fictionalizing and idealization of women. Just a few days ago I heard a man mindlessly spout the old cliche that women were the "fairer" sex. I'm not sure what definition of "fairness" he was using, since the notion of "fairness" has vanished under the myth of male power and "patriarchy." Most women seem to subscribe to the methods advocated by Nora Fox in her editorial piece on fair fighting.

Certainly this is nothing like most men have in mind when they try to wade through that quagmire called today by the interesting euphemism "a relationship." Increasingly, "a relationship" seems to have become an ordeal to be endured more than a potential source of anything positive in a man's life. So why do we seek them so persistently? One answer, of course is sex. Sexuality to a man is in many respects the sole purpose of a man's life from the time puberty hits until "middle" age, and throughout history few men have lived much longer than that. The highly-paid advertising gurus would have us believe that the real reason we are alive is to see how many sport-utility vehicles we can buy. But deep within us lies the knowledge that the only reason we are alive is to carry on the species: the human race. Everything else is means, methods, and trappings.

About 90% of the reason than most men get up and go to work in the morning is so they can provide for their wives and children if they have them, or to make themselves attractive to a woman as a potential mate if they don't. With the divorce rate over 2/3, and with 40% of the current generation in the schools cut off from contact with their fathers, we have experienced an odd sort of cultural inversion of means and ends. The seeking of material wealth has become an end in itself rather than the means by which a man is able to provide comfortably with his family. And the pair-bonded relationship of marriage has become and end itself, with women becoming obsessed with getting on the fast track to wifehood. They seek sex with men they wouldn't marry as those men are, relying on the age-old principle that sex is the best way to jumpstart "romance". In the aftermath of the "sexual revolution" the essential process of courtship - getting to know one another and grow comfortable with the idea of spending the rest of one's life with that person - gets bypassed in the rush to get through the preliminaries without getting derailed. As a result, people who barely know each other end up in bed together and lock both of themselves into a set of vaguely defined and unrealistic expectations.

With the failure rate for first marriages at 68%, and with 3/4 of the divorces intiated by women; it turns out that slightly over half, 51%, of all women who get married will find the reality of the result so distasteful that they will endure the legal carnage of a divorce in order to end it. Clearly the reason that women find it so much easier than men to "make a commitment", is that women in general find it 3 times easier to break a commitment once made. The seeds of the permission that women need to give themselves to do so are seen in the attitude of Nora Fox: “Why be fair?” The answer, of course, is that a "relationship" cannot survive without essential fairness. Without it, all you have is a power game. The old so-called "battle of the sexes" has taken a very ugly turn and escalated into the ”Gender War”.

Like the Wopper computer learned in the old movie "War Games" by playing tic-tac-toe, the old children's game which cannot be won and always ends in a draw or stalemate unless one player makes a really stupid mistake, the only winning move is NOT to play. Having encountered no other kind of woman in the past 30 years than the kind who wants/expects to get everything she wants "without having to leave her comfort zone", having been ruthlessly exploited by a long string of money obsessed employers in my attempts to make the "good living" which would make me attractive as a potential mate to women whom I no longer had any faith that I would find attractive as a mate, there didn't seem to be any point to any of it anymore.

So, I went for a long motorcycle ride.