WRITING SHORT: 27/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

The difference between Bill and me in what you might call our erotic dotage is that he comforts himself for having got old by reviewing, often aloud, how attractive he was to women in days gone by, whereas I comfort myself by reviewing — usually to myself but if retaliation is in order, not always — the things men have said to me about what was in their hearts.

Thus, I’ve heard from him about L., who kept staring at him from the bar as he sat, age 40, having dinner at the Casablanca in Cambridge, until he had to ask if they knew each other, which they didn’t, but which led that very night to the biblical kind of knowing. I’ve heard about S., briefly a patient, who said to him, age 50, “You’re not hard to look at, Dr. Bill.” And I’ve heard, more times than you can count, about the wealthy woman at a Swiss hospital where he was doing his residency at the age of 32, who passed him the address of her hotel when the medical part of her visit was done, with the smiling remark: “Je suis a votre disposition, M. le Docteur.” (“I’m at your disposition, Mr. Doctor.”)

By contrast, I don’t really care about who came on to me and who didn’t. I count the words that came from deep inside: “You were my heart’s desire.”  While having dinner with an old beau: “You’re an enchantress.” From a letter two years after a breakup, telling me of an impending marriage to another: “But old loves never die, and I still think of you very tenderly.”

Is this just the quantity versus quality thing continuing to resonate in aging bodies? Or does it mean that despite all the therapy we each have had, we’ve both stayed insecure and neurotic?

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18 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 27/50

  1. Our dotage, erotic or otherwise, is more geared towards the future than the past, and often involves fantasising about who we would still fancy amongst our few friends, just in case!
    We are both very fussy, which is strange because we got together on the fleetest and flimsiest of experiences or conditions. I told H she had the loveliest eyes and she said ‘ Yes,I know’ which really floored me. She reckoned I made her laugh.

    But going back to future possible loves. We generally can’t seem to find anyone anymore. My suggestions of males for H are met by ‘oh no, or a lukewarm response at best. Sometimes there might be a strongly chinned man on TV which I suggest to her, but it rarely meets much enthusiasm.

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    • I suspect Bill and I both do so much reviewing because we’ve each concluded there probably is no “future.” Not finding anyone anymore hits the nail right on the head! Actually, it doesn’t sound as if you and Helvi are doing much better.

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  2. Venus and Mars..indeed, we are governed by different planets. My husband and I saved letters we sent during the summers in college that we were separated. My letters spoke of depth of feelings, his talked about what he did that day, car problems, etc. We’re still here, 45 years later. ☺

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    • 45 years is quite an accomplishment! Congratulations from a nearly washed-out player with two strikes against her. I saved over 140 letters from my first serious boyfriend, although he didn’t save mine. He wrote almost every other day while we were apart in separate colleges, but I remember being annoyed that there wasn’t more about love in his letters until the last couple of lines. Mine must have been full of it.

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  3. I think it is amazing that you can discuss these issues together! My thoughts remain in my head, as I’m sure my dear one’s are, both afraid of hurting the other’s feelings. As for finding another partner, that would be far and beyond my imagination. ❤

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    • You are apparently the perfect wife, Barbara — tactful, discreet, and so dedicated heart, body and soul to your partner that you cannot find it in yourself ever to imagine a parallel life. Or perhaps you and your dear one are simply quite a bit younger than Bill and I. We tell these stories (not “discuss issues”) to amuse (or impress) each other, now that we seem to be coming to the end of the line. How can anything so long in the past be hurtful when most of the other participants in the stories are dead?

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  4. Rita Stewart

    M seems to delight in telling the stories of his past assignations in great detail over the years we have been together! As we probably head for the finish line–its
    warming to hear how lucky he was (he says) that he
    “found” me and finally could stop all that tiresome looking!
    Fortunately for me, his eyes have gotten poorer and his
    hearing is problematic–so I still remain that” beauty he
    found with the really lovely voice” LOL

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  5. This would seem to be in the “men want to have sex, women want to be desired” category, no? One of my precious “collections” is of odd, sexy surprises, let’s call them. A classic: decades ago, I was sitting having lunch next to a large picture window at a Boston Chicken in downtown Philadelphia. Two young felmale office workers (people I did not know) came sauntering down the street, and one paused in front of me, on the other side of the window, and raised the skirt of her red dress to show me her underwear (simple, white). A more recent event, from France of course: fording a stream in the woods, a girl and I took off our shoes, and when we got to the other side our feet were wet and we wanted to put our shoes back on. The girl’s solution: taking off her T-shirt so she could wipe her feet with it. My solution: watching her admiringly. Best, Wm.

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    • I suppose with a “collection” like that, you’ll never be bored. Now let me guess at some back story. The saucy Philadelphia wench in the red dress saw you looking at her (lasciviously?) as she sauntered down the street, and liked what she saw. So she gave as much as she could, under the circumstances. Unfortunately, the French scenario raises questions that preclude drafting a plot. “Recent?” “Girl?” Bra-less girl? All I can conclude was that your admiration was sufficiently warming to dry your feet. Thanks for dropping by, Wm.

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  6. Don’t need to retract my previous comment, but I think I got the opening wrong. That is, your Bill is recalling being desired (carnally), and you are recalling, perhaps, being admired (somewhat erotically). So perhaps the Dr. Dolore dichotomy is not working here. The “orgasm” for the man is “she wants to have sex with me!” The “orgasm” for the woman: “he really likes me!” ??

    As regards your re-reply, my sense of the Philly situation was different. It would be nice to think that the woman was responding to my attentions to her, but, in my memory, I, as usual, was as much involved with a book as with the passing scene. My sense was that the young woman flashed me as part of a dare with her friend. As for France, yes, girl (about 13, I think Humbert Humbert proposed), and yes, of course, bra-less, or there’s not much of a story. Or not in our day and age in which bras are routinely exposed, and not only with all their elegant lace and tender straps, but also with their thick elastic and metal connecting parts.

    Best, Wm.

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    • Ah, Wm, will there never be an end? You get the man’s part right, but not the woman’s (irrespective of Dr. Dolore’s views on the subject, about which I’m not entirely clear). Yes, Bill takes comfort from having being carnally desired. No, I do not find solace in just having been (perhaps carnally) admired. That is, being carnally admired is always gratifying, but my “precious collection?” Expressions of what when young we used to call romantic love, in which (it goes without saying) “making love” played an enormous, if not controlling, part. Of course, in my female experience admiration from men, until one is very old, is always tinged with the carnal. And if a woman “admires” a man, most likely she will also want him to desire her. Can we at least agree that at bottom, beneath the fine words, we’re still primitives? And that all this we’ve been typing back and forth about derives from man’s instinctive urge to perpetuate the species by dispersing his genes as widely and thoroughly as possible, and woman’s instinctive need to ensure faithful devotion (read protection) while she bears and raises her young?

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  7. No. I can’t embrace such sociobiological explanations which seem too reductive. But yes, we’re still animals, let’s call it. I don’t know about the carnal, but certainly the erotic (a binding instinct) is always there, and on both sides (male and female). Chris Brown has a line about how when a man is holding a door for a woman, it’s never just about being polite, and I am sure there is a female equivalent to this (and homosexual variations as well of course).

    But often it is, as Freud noted, our erotic instincts are inhibited in their aims, and often so inhabited as to be disguised from all parties. My son and I walked by one of these contemporary softball games, organized by a company that makes money organizing such games (and giving the players T-shirts advertising the company, etc.). The point, of course, was less to play softball than to be with other people, perhaps to meet someone to love or partner with or have sex with, or at least so as not to have to pay to go to softball games anymore. And yet, as we walked by, we saw players entirely caught up in scoring runs, winning the game! And perhaps these people would turn out to have the most romantic success, being most attractive to people who wanted to be around people who were not too in touch with the erotic? – Wm.

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    • Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more! How, Wm., can I leave your latest rumination unanswered? Perhaps we should put our extended colloquy on number 27 into a pamphlet? (Although I’m not sure who else would read it.)

      Here goes. What you call a “sociobiological explanation” was not in the first instance mine. I found it somewhere in the collected works of Edmund Wilson (as of 1956, when he was still alive) so I can’t put my finger on page and line anymore, but it stuck with me, even though I was only twenty-five at the time. I don’t consider it reductive, any more than the old saw about great oaks from little acorns grow is reductive. The oak is evidently much bigger, more beautiful, and in substance quite different from the acorn, but would we have one without the other?

      Chris Brown is stating what is obvious to women: men don’t hold open doors for women (other than their mothers, aunts and grandmothers — and sometimes not even then) if they don’t find the women attractive. Women who find doors slammed in their faces are also quite aware of why that is. I can’t speak for female equivalents. In my old-fashioned world, men acted, women responded (although they may have first indicated with blush or glance that action would be welcomed). The equivalent would then have been in the woman’s eyes and voice as she thanked the door holder.

      I’m not sure what you mean by distinguishing the carnal from the erotic. Action as compared with desire? In any event, your company-organized game may also have been attended because it would have appeared poor form back at the office not to play, whether one’s enthusiasm was simulated or real. (One more non-billable near-compulsory thing to chew up any remaining personal time.) But non-professional games not organized by one’s employer — such as take place in Hilltop Park near where I live every summer — those certainly bring out the softball enthusiasts, almost always all male, and yes! intent on winning. Do the players have their groupies? Probably. In my experience, men or women who are their own person are far more attractive than the ones who are always on the prowl, whether in slightly inhibited fashion or not. The “prowlee” always recognizes the prowler, irrespective of the disguise.

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