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Lies

10 Jan

This was your heart
This swarm of flies
This was once your mouth
This bowl of lies… Leonard Cohen, “Nevermind”

For weeks now, months even, I’ve been thinking about lies.

My childhood was steeped in the lies of the adults closest to me, and I think this has left me with a visceral horror, even terror, of being lied to and/or about.

The worst lies are the ones intended to eradicate  your history, to rewrite events as you’ve known them, the lies that deny your experience and leave you shaken, uncertain of the trustworthiness of your own perceptions. These lies can be personal, and they can be political. They can be lies of omission and commission, they can be half-truths, or they can contain just enough of the truth to be almost incontestable. Perhaps these last lies are the worst of all.

I don’t know if lies, lying, and being lied to and about is as important in our culture as it once was, or if it has always been as unremarkable as it seems to be now. Was there ever really a time when a person’s word was all that was required, and if that word was broken the offender was ostracised? Or did such an idealised moral code of an individual’s responsibility to speak the truth exist only in romantic novels?

And when someone lies about you or about events you have shared, the sense of helplessness and rage at the injustice of such lying can mess with your head for quite a long time. Personally and politically, individually and collectively, lies are at the root of all injustice.

I would rather know the worst truth than be told a lie. Fighting my way out of a childhood that consisted almost entirely of lies has left me with a hunger for truth that is quite likely excessive. It’s made me forensic. But I do believe lies have the power to destroy the liar and the lied to, whether the lies are personal or political. Lies erode trust, and without trust we are nothing to one another, we live as empty shells, bereft of intimacy, lonely and alone.

I always thought the Rolling Stones song was about the loneliness and lovelessness of lies:

And you can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won’t forget to put roses on your grave

 

 

dead flowers

Missing Big Dog.

2 Jan

Big Dog

This is the first time we’ve been in the Snowy Mountains without our Big Dog, who died a few weeks ago after fourteen years with us.

On the drive down we reminisced and cried a bit at all the places we drove through where we used to stop to let him run and pee and drink, before loading him back in the car and continuing further south. Here, in the house where we always stay, there’s an empty space where his bed used to be and his absence is so strong it’s a presence.

Big Dog loved the mountain air, especially as he got older and his lungs packed up. The only thing I miss about home just now is looking out the kitchen window at his grave under the mango tree. Home is hot, wet, humid, and there are mosquitos so there’s not a lot to miss compared to this:

Cascades Track

Whenever I came home Big Dog would take my forearm gently in his mouth between his great big teeth and softly gnaw me. That was him saying hello! I’m so glad you’re back! It’s wonderful to see you! I’ve missed you so much!

I can honestly say I’ve never known a human who’d do that for me.

The mountains are for me a place of reflection, self-accounting and deep contemplation. Each time I come here I never want to leave. I think it was Seneca who recommended that we take time every night to recall the events of the day and fall asleep at peace with them. This, he claimed, is our preparation for death, so that we leave the world as we’ve left each day, as settled as possible with the events of our lives.

In a small way I understood this with Big Dog’s death. We had a few days to prepare ourselves, to make it the best death possible for him after a long, honourable life filled with love and affection. We know he did his best with his life and that we did our best with his life and death as well. I don’t know if this counts for much in the scheme of things, but it seems significant.

We don’t have anything of value other than our lives. The rest is dross. Know thyself, says Plato through Socrates, and what that means, I think, is that the more knowledge I have of myself, the less likely I am to do harm to others, and the more willing and able  I am to make amends for the harm I inevitably do.

But anyway. Look at this and lift your eyes unto the hills, and good wishes for this brand new year.

Cascades Track Two

On being irresistible

31 Dec

Perhaps I’m contrary and ungrateful but I never felt good about being told by a lover  “You are irresistible.” I’d much rather he or she said something like  “I can’t resist you” and in that utterance, joyfully assumed the burden of supernatural compulsion instead of burdening me with it.

It would also be much more honest if things went wrong and my lover said “I now can/must resist you because my wife caught me, or I found someone else, or I’ve changed my mind” or whatever event provoked a change in his or her assessment of the situation. Instead of undermining my sense of myself with their change of heart, the responsibility then properly rests with the one whose desires, for whatever reason, have shifted.

I’ve never in my life found anyone to be irresistible. I’ve been overwhelmed by desire, overwhelmed by love, overwhelmed by seriously significant stupidity, but overwhelmed by my own sensations, the agent of my own downfall, not a victim subjected to another’s supernatural powers. In the end this matters, this sense that if I am drowning in love and desire, however recklessly, I am doing my own drowning the other isn’t bewitching me into it.

This may seem like unimportant hair-splitting carping, but it’s actually about taking responsibility, and empowerment. The statement “You are irresistible” gives the other all the power, and denies me the opportunity to take responsibility for my own actions. “I can’t resist you” takes all responsibility, and taking honest responsibility always empowers. The inability to resist is not in itself a negative thing. Denying it as part of one’s character might well be.

And there is something endearing about a human being who can admit an inability to resist as an aspect of his or her own self, rather than it being the fault of an irresistible other.

For women, being thought irresistible has caused and continues to cause us no end of grief, abuse, and in some instances, death. If we are credited with supernatural powers, we will also be made to pay for them. Excessive restrictions are placed on our freedoms in an effort to contain and control our perceived potentially uncontrollable natures. Those who abuse us may be leniently viewed in the light of our magically seductive powers. At its crudest, the irresistibility narrative says wearing short skirts will make men rape us, and there is a continuum from there. Telling a woman she’s irresistible is always an abdication of responsibility. You can’t resist her. It’s your thing, not hers. Own it.

End of rant.

Happy New Year.

 

irresistible

 

 

 

Flanagan. Rachmaninoff. The Dog.

22 Nov

Richard Flanagan may well be the only writer in the history of the prestigious prize to win the Man Booker, and be nominated for the worst sex scene in fiction in the same book by the London Literary Review, in the same week. The scene is in The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and involves “circumnavigating” lovers being interrupted in their coitus by a dog with a dead fairy penguin in its mouth. I have to agree, it isn’t one of the book’s best bits.

Flanagan is interested in desire, the myriad ways in which it might manifest, the unforeseen consequences when it is lost, repressed or denied, and when it is fulfilled. I first felt the impact of the author’s reflections on this topic when I read his 2008 novel Wanting in which he dissects the complex desires of Lady Jane Franklin and her explorer husband Sir John, as well as those of Charles Dickens for his mistress, Ellen Ternan. I thought the link between Dickens and the Franklins a tenuous one on which to hang the novel, but Flanagan has such insight into the human condition I can forgive him almost anything.

In The Narrow Road, protagonist Dorrigo Evans enters into what is to become a long, unsatisfactory but absolutely binding marriage that creates in him “the most complete and unassailable loneliness, so loud a solitude that he sought to crack its ringing silence again and again with yet another woman.” The presence of the absent woman he deeply loved and lost has shaped his life and his marriage: “As a meteorite strike long ago explains the large lake now, so Amy’s absence shaped everything, even when – and sometimes particularly when – he wasn’t thinking of her.”  Yes.

It takes determination to stay with the descriptions of life in the Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma railway, and yet it would be cowardly to turn away from knowledge of what humans perpetrate on one another, what can be survived, and how desperate the desire for survival can become in conditions where one would imagine death to be a better option. Oh, he is a fine, fine writer is Flanagan.

Narrow Road to the Deep North

 

It’s been about ten years since I last listened to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. I came across the CD this morning, put it in the player and lay down on the floor to listen. It’s a big, dramatic concerto with surging melodies, rhapsodic in nature, and has at times been dismissed by critics because of its “gushing” romanticism and alleged lack of subtlety. It’s been used in a remarkable variety of films, including David Lean’s Brief Encounter, Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, and Japanese anime. I don’t know how it became so familiar to me, but when I listened again after so long, I knew it as well as if I’d been listening to it every day. It is, I think, quite beautiful. There was a tosser in the seventies who used one of the themes for his popular song, All By Myself, for which he should have been hung.

 

Rachmaninoff

 

And finally, today has been a very sad day. Our vet Terry, Mrs Chook and I decided it’s time to say goodbye to our old Big Dog. He’s fourteen, almost blind, full of arthritis, deaf as a post and Terry says his lungs are fucked. I did tell him to stop smoking but would he listen? We have him till Wednesday, and after that he’ll be under the mango tree in the back yard. He’s a ripper dog, Terry always says. I don’t quite know how we’ll get used to being without him.

The smiling dog.

How to say I lub you

21 Nov

If you want to read these posts in order start at the last one in the category Adultery titled: Certain Dark Things. Or “Infidelity” at the top of the home page.

Lub you

Speech Acts: verbal assurances and promises which seem not only to refer to a speaking relationship but constitute a moral bond between speakers.  Judith Butler

 

 The three-year-old sat on her lap and said he was going to teach her how to say “I lub you” without using her words. He pointed to his eyes. He folded his small hands across his heart. He took one hand from his heart and held it palm up towards her. See, he said. Now do it to me. She pointed to her eyes. She folded her hands across her heart. And then she handed him her heart in the palms of her hands. Do it again, he said. Lub me again. Pease.

Her lover has said I love you more times than she could ever count. Oh, Lordy yes I love you, he says if she needs reassurance. Sometimes he writes ditto when she tells him she loves him, but he stopped that when she told him it wasn’t very appealing. Instead he wrote, and I you. I adore you, she wrote and he always replied, and I you. Every bit of me loves every bit of you, she told him. Aaaah, he sighed. And I you. You know I love you, he says. I told you. She has to explain to him that although she knows, she likes to hear it because they aren’t physically together and can’t show their love. They have to say it. Ah, he says. I see what you mean. Sometimes she thinks he is a little slow in these matters. Though willing.

Her husband told her he loved her about ten times a day. And every single time it had meaning. How did he manage that, she wonders.

I love you is a speech act. It constitutes a moral bond between speakers.

 

 It is September. She’s in the pool. It takes perhaps fifteen minutes of swimming laps before she feels completely at one with the water. This is why she does it, for the sensation of pushing effortlessly through aquamarine liquid velvet. Lifting her head to see the thick bush surrounding the pool, the blue sky streaked with high white cloud. The weightlessness and grace of the human body in the foreign, watery element. The aquamarine is her birthstone. She has a ring she can no longer find, a pale blue gem with a small diamond either side of it, set in white gold.

As she swims she thinks of her lover, he has written to her that morning telling her he has begun the process of encouraging his wife to go away on trips without him. They usually do everything together, he’s told her, like everyone else they know. His wife is reluctant, he says, and he has faced much opposition, but he needs this to happen so that it will not seem strange to the family when he wants to go away alone to be with his lover. What a pity the timing doesn’t work for his lover, they could have spent the days his wife is absent together without fear of arousing suspicion, but it was such short notice, and she has already arranged to be with her family and their babies.

“This was a sudden thing,” he writes. “It only happened at all because I strongly encouraged it over opposition and great reluctance, thinking that it was a first step to establishing the idea of doing things alone. At least,” he writes, “we can have phone calls at nice and unusual times like early morning and bedtime, while my wife is gone.”

He has recently persuaded her to be sexual with him on the phone. She’s not at all sure about it. It’s exciting at the time but when the call ends she feels an aching loneliness and a sense of having done something she didn’t really want to do. Not long after they’ve begun this experiment she stops it. It would be different, she tells him, if they were living together and separated for a while and the phone was an interim measure. But they are separate most of the time. Being separated from the man she loves more than she is with him is an entirely new experience. She is used to being a wife.

He can feel her, he tells her. It is her hand holding his cock, not his. Her hand stroking his nipples, her finger tracing the ridge between his balls. She is his first thought when he wakes, he tells her, his last before he falls asleep, and when he wakes in the night she is there.

You say you’ve gone away from me but I can feel you, feel you when you breathe…

As she swims she thinks two things. She thinks how glad she is that he wants to be with her so badly he will instigate long-term plans to change the whole pattern of his married life. The other thing she thinks is how manipulative he must be to be able to convince his wife it will be good for her to go away without him, when his real motive is to re-educate her so he can take time away to be with his mistress. She allows the first thought to push the second off the edge of an escarpment, into a bottomless abyss.

 

 Once she knew a man who taught her to use all her senses from her heart. She learned to see with her heart, feel, taste, smell, and hear with her heart. It’s not always safe, he warned her. There are circumstances in which the heart ought to be left out of things. While she can tell if a situation is obviously not one she wants to experience so fully, she’s not very good at judging the more subtle scenes.

When she first met her lover her heart was feeding all her senses, and she thought nothing of it. The sight of him leaning against the wall waiting for her, the shape of his body, the height of him, the pull of him, were all noted by senses rich with her heart’s energy. Long before she knew anything with her mind, her heart and all her senses whispered, I lub you. She handed him her heart in the palm of her hands, and she didn’t even know she’d done it. A moral bond. I lub you.

 

 For months, a year, and for more months, she protects him. She does without most of what she would really like to have, in order to protect him. She has no idea why she has entered into this agreement to protect him. Sometimes, she loses patience and threatens to tell his wife. She knows she never will. He knows she never will. He trusts her absolutely to protect him. She gives him the great gift of absolute trust in her. Because I love you is a moral bond.

 

 She tucks the three-year-old into his bed. Giddy, he says, that’s what he calls her, Giddy, will you sleep in my bed for a little while? He scoots over to make room. She lies down, and curves her body around his. In moments he’s asleep. She lies with him for a long time, listening to the night birds, watching the full moon rise over the mountains, hoping his small, strong body can help her heal herself. In her worst moments, when she wakes into terror, she thinks of her lover and then she thinks of this little boy. He has her smile. He has her scowl. He has their hearts in the palm of his hand. Lub me again, Giddy, he says. Pease.

Remember that words, the right and true words, have the power of deeds. Raymond Carver.

Betrayal

18 Nov

There was a message for her when she arrived home from her swim. The sea that day was Caribbean blue with indigo blooms. It reminded her of Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Before she met him she was a woman who travelled alone to Mexico even though her oncologist advised against it, a woman who took the ferry to Isla Mujeres without having booked accommodation in advance, a woman who when she arrived at the island of women strolled through the hot midday streets looking for a place she might stay and found one, as she knew she would, an apartment above a shop that sold beaten tin images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and postcards of women who fought with the Zapatistas. She had a life before him. A big, rich beautiful life, full of the love of her family and its babies, and her husband before he was stricken with illness.

Hey, lovely lady.
Hey, my love. I’ve been swimming in the sea.
Have you showered?
Not yet.
Good. I want to lick the salt from all your secret places. I want to taste your salty juices. I want my tongue in you. I want you to come on my lips… 

 

Early in their relationship he said, we mustn’t make comparisons. He surprised her. She didn’t want to know anything about his sexual life before her, and had no intention of sharing hers. It would be odious, she agreed, to compare.

But then he wanted them to have their list of “firsts.” And it didn’t occur to her immediately that anything either of them claimed as a first revealed some of their history. When she realised this, she felt guilty. Her ill husband would never again be her lover but still she felt guilty, that she was betraying him, that she was perhaps indicating he had not been satisfactory, which was far from the truth. She wrote to her lover, saying that she had not meant to imply that her sexual life with her husband had been lacking or unsatisfactory because that would be dishonest, and he replied that he understood.

Likewise, when he told her he had not experienced this or that, she knew his history and wondered how he could reveal such things while still in his marriage, even if they no longer shared a bed and sexual intimacy. Her inside voice set up a minor clamour. Don’t trust him, it said, look how he is betraying his wife, don’t be so foolish as to think he wouldn’t betray you too. She knows he will. She has written to him, you will leave me if your wife finds out, won’t you, and he replies, you can’t know that. You can’t know that. His reply feels like both a rebuke, and an appeal that she not make assumptions about how he will behave.

Then he tells her he is working out how they can be together, he’s making a concrete plan he’s doing all the financials and she is startled, and says, you are thinking like this? I’m not thinking like this. I haven’t even considered this. She doesn’t know him, she hasn’t even spent a night with him, this isn’t like any other relationship she’s had when people have time to know one another, to fall asleep and wake up together, they haven’t done that and she’s not ready to leave her life for him and besides, her husband is still breathing and there is no way on this earth she will throw in her lot with another man as long as there’s breath in her husband’s body.

He is with his wife as he works out the financials and plans a new life with his lover, and his wife is with him, in complete ignorance of the future he envisages without her. How, she wonders, is it possible to plan a new life with another woman when you haven’t made any mention of it to your wife? What will he do? Walk out one day? Leave a note? She imagines doing the same thing when she lived with her husband, when he was well. She imagines an abyss separating them that never existed in reality, but would have to be there for her to secretly plan to leave him for somebody else.

Again and again it will come between the lovers, the difference between her knowledge of marriage and his. She thinks they would not do well together, that she would expect the intimacy that is marriage to her, and he would expect the distance that is apparently marriage to him. He tells her that he is not allowed to close his study door when he works because that hurts his wife’s feelings, and she marvels that he cannot close his study door but he can plan a new life with another woman, won’t that hurt his wife’s feelings? She asks him how he works if he can’t close out distraction and interruption. He says he’s learned to work around it. When she works she needs solitude it was the same for her husband, they always closed their doors. Would you object to me closing the door when I wanted to work, she asks him, and he laughs and tells her of course he wouldn’t, but she is unconvinced.

There’s a cause and effect, she thinks, between the distance in his marriage that allows him to plan a new life under his wife’s unsuspecting nose, and the fact that he can’t hurt her feelings by closing his study door. I have no privacy, he tells her, only in my thoughts. I will always have my secret thoughts, he says. She tries to imagine what it would be to live without privacy, and knows she would go mad.

She talks to her friend about her marriage. You know it was very unusual, don’t you, her friend tells her. No. How could I know that? You two, the way you loved each other was extraordinary. Don’t ever expect to find anything like that again. And anyway, lots of couples live without privacy, you know.

Ugh, she says, I never want to know everything about anybody. How boring. And she remembers how she loved the ultimate unknowableness of her husband, of any human being but especially him, the impossibility of possessing him, his otherness, his alterity, the absolute not-me-ness of him. The delight when he emerged from his study or she emerged from hers, and he took her in his arms as if they’d been behind closed doors for days. Oh, you, he’d say. You.

I don’t understand him, she thinks of her lover, I don’t understand what he means by love. She struggles to grasp how he does what he does, her, his wife, the secret life, the power of his desire, if she felt like he does about someone else she could no more be in the same house as her husband than fly to the moon. She couldn’t hurt her husband like that, even when, especially when, he didn’t know the damage that was being done to him, the denial of him, of the life they’d had together. Her lover seems to be of the “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her” school, but she’s never believed that, people know stuff, even if they don’t know they know, and it wreaks damage and havoc and they can’t understand why.

 

Bluff Beach

 

Every day while the weather held, she swam in the warm sea, usually naked unless strangers wandered onto her deserted beach. She was golden brown all over.

Send me photos of your golden breasts.
Aaaaah, he writes when she does. When I look at you the juice from my cock flows down my thigh, like it does when I hear your voice, or read what you’ve written. When you come for me, strong and long, I feel such joy that I have touched you so deeply. I want to suckle from your salty nipples, let me lick up your juices then kiss you so you taste them like the sea on my tongue. Oh Lordy, yes, I love you. You know I do.

 

When she was alone on Isla Mujeres she was happy, and occasionally lonely. She’d left her husband behind, much to his annoyance, but she knew it was essential for her to do this without him. He’d cried at the airport and she almost gave in, but her family in Mexico were expecting her so she boarded her flight and forgot about him almost immediately. She did this again when she went alone to Stockholm, and he was savage about her intending to fuck some Lars or Sven. That’s projection, she told him. You’re imposing on me what you are likely to do. I hate it when you talk psycho babble, he’d told her, and walked off. She wonders what he would think of her lover and the relationship she has with him. Apart from being insanely jealous that she had a lover at all. Fuck him if you must, he’d say, but don’t love him. I never loved anyone but you. Don’t you love anyone but me. Anyway, he’d conclude, he’ll never know you like I do. Then he’d sing something, like, I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know about her.

 

The island of women is where Caribbean pirates kept their mistresses, imprisoned by the turquoise sea, unable to leave. The pirates took whichever woman they fancied at any particular time, but the women had no say in who they would lie with. When the pirates left for work, away for weeks, months at a time, the women were free to be with themselves, each other, and their children. She lay on the white sand of Isla Mujeres, her feet in the shallows where tiny striped fish nibbled her toes, and thought about the pirate women, and about love and because she has a cancer that will only ever be in remission, death. When she returned to her apartment above the shop she wrote to her husband. I’ll be home soon, she told him. Keep a candle in the window.

 

Her lover writes to her, several times a day for months and months and months. All the while his wife is there and he may not close his study door. When his wife goes out, they speak on the phone. His thigh is wet from the juice of his cock that leaks as soon as he hears her voice. They are perfectly matched and they should have met decades ago, he tells her from the house, the rooms, the home he shares with his wife.

There is one thing, and one thing she knows for certain about him. That he is capable of the most awful betrayal. Not only will he desire her, he will love her and want her in his life forever, and tell her, you are my second wife. And in spite of that love he will leave her, in the most cruel of ways, without a goodbye.

He was living a life that was unknown to his wife. Why is she shocked when he does this thing to her?

“The end is in the beginning, and yet you go on.” *

 

Isla Mujeres One

 

 

*Samuel Beckett

Desire, and good men

17 Nov

wings-of-desire-title

 

My lover writes to me: So, we discover another everyday thing that we charge with sexuality. I would love to soap you all over in the shower. Your back, your legs, your arse, your cunt, your belly, and linger long over your breasts…

There is an erotic book by Cameron S. Redfern titled “Landscape with Animals,” that tells of her affair with a married man. Redfern is the pseudonym of Sonya Hartnett, author of novels classified quite wrongly in my opinion as young adult fiction.

The affair is initiated by the single woman who is described as unashamedly predatory, and utterly determined to have him. This is both a subversion of the heterosexual dance of infidelity in which the woman is pursued by the married man, and a repetition of the myth of woman as sexual temptress who, like Eve in the garden, brings the man to ruin by offering him knowledge neither of them, according to the rules of the culture in which they live, ought to have.

The married lover in the book is portrayed as a good, gentle, honourable man, who loves his wife and children. He succumbs, but not before he announces to his mistress and to himself, “I am doomed.”

When I read those words I remembered how my married lover (who pursued me, then accused me of the crime of “irresistibility” thereby having it both ways) told me, “I am ruined,” referring to the effects of our affair. And yet, torn, he writes:

Being with you gives me pleasure, gratitude, happiness, amazement, delight, wonder, excitement. It gives me succour and strength and a new lease on life. I need to see you. I need to be in bed with you on a Sunday morning…

The doom and ruin are offset by the extraordinary knowledge found in the discovery and exploration of sexuality and sensuality that at the same time seriously threaten the established order of marriage and family life. Freud was onto this in his “Civilisation and its Discontents” in which he explores the conflict between what he calls the pleasure principle and the reality principle. It is necessary, he argues, for the desire for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, to be repressed in order for civilisation as we have constructed it to survive. Desire realised for anyone other than the partner will cause destruction to varying degrees, threatening the foundations of monogamous relationship on which our culture rests.

Is it morally wrong for an individual to desire the expression of sexual and sensual aspects of him or herself that have been repressed and unrealised?

I’ve long held a theory that the rule of monogamy, as with many other societal restrictions, is enacted in an effort to bypass difficult emotions, in this case jealousy and deep hurt. Morality is merely the sign language of the emotions, Nietzsche argued. That is, we construct our moral codes not from our rational mind but from our feelings, reactively. I do not like the way this makes me feel therefore it is morally wrong. Infidelity may bring pain, discord and even destruction, but why do we declare all of these uncomfortable experiences to be morally wrong?

He writes before we meet: I want to fuck you physically so badly it hurts…

The fear of doom and ruin expressed by both men is complex. Goodness, gentleness and honour are qualities both identify and value in themselves. The deceit and betrayal of an extra marital affair will make it difficult to maintain that self-image. “I was a good person,” my lover told me, “I want to go back to being that good person.” But of course it was much too late, and one can never go back to the person one was before significant events. The whole point of significant events, it could be argued, is to move one along and if one stays stuck, the universe has done its best.

Both men fear the doom and ruin of their marriages and their families, as well as of themselves, as if their personal ruin must terminally ruin the lives of those who are close to them. Yet none of this prevents them pursuing their goal, so powerful is their desire to experience themselves, to discover who they are in the bed of the other woman.

We are so deep in such complexities, he writes. I could (and do) desire you an infinite amount but still be mentally ravaged by guilt feelings about my wife and family. You are my second wife. That sums it up. I so loved hearing your voice. Don’t have any idea how to deal with this terrible tangle we are in…

Whenever my lover spoke to me of his distress at having ceased to be a good man as a consequence of his love for me, I would tell him that none of us is entirely good or bad, that we find a temporary point on a continuum, move further towards one end or the other, then back again, and again, and this is how we live out our lives on earth. I had no interest or belief in his self-described goodness. If we are indeed “good,” we will never deny the capacity for “badness” that resides within every one of us and may emerge at any time, given the right circumstances. To define myself as “good” limits my human potential. Inside me, there is the possibility of everything.

I would rather you were real than good, I told him.

Then I thought of Freud. Sexuality unconfined by monogamy is bad because it risks the destruction of civilisation. Reality, which demands repression and denial, is good and will enable civilisation as we have constructed it to continue. I don’t think Freud was necessarily in agreement with the way society is constructed, given how he laboured to uncover and defang repression, but I think his observations are accurate. Desire is the most powerful of all the transgressors. It will not be denied without inflicting terrible individual and collective suffering, and it may not be expressed in our monogamous culture without risking the infliction of terrible suffering. I was his second wife, he said, but there is no place for a second wife in a monogamous society.

Do you love me? I ask

Oh, Lordy, yes, I love you. You know I do. I told you.

DCF 1.0

 

 

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