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Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Dressing up what's essentially pathetic

In today's edition of Salon's ongoing attempts to dress up the Penthouse Forum with a little poignancy, we have a rather sad account of a woman's two-year (!) stint as a married man's piece on the side. I imagine sleeping with a married man is a tricky proposition. Even if you can get over the silly cultural message that the Other Woman is more responsible for the act of adultery than the man breaking his vows, it must still be difficult to pile on enough delusion to get excited over someone pathetic enough to cheat on his wife in a weak attempt to feel virile. Luckily, this woman's willingness to fool herself is evident up front.

He made the first move. Which was ballsy, considering we worked for the same company and he was my superior. It was the 1980s and a putative politically correct culture was blooming in companies all over America. He could have easily gotten fired or sued. But he wasn't American. He wasn't hostage to the rules of a Puritanical culture so foreign to his own.

God knows most of us women long for the days when men were men and could use their authority over you to make you go to bed with them and then fire you anyway after they got tired of sleeping with you and wanted to move onto the next secretary.

It started this way: We were working late at the office one night. Leaning over a stack of files I said, I'll be in big trouble if I don't finish this project on time. And he said, Not if you're my lover. How impertinent of him, I thought in the moment.

Or illegal, but I guess it depends on your interpretation.

Until that moment I was unaware of any sexual interest on his part, though perhaps I was simply too young to interpret the subtle innuendos of a man who'd lived and loved a lot longer than myself.

That or he didn't notice you until he realized that you might be willing to have sex with him without making demands or telling his wife for the next two years.

And now for the most unerotic paragraph ever written:

What a body. I reveled. For underneath the ungainly padding of the three-piece suite the man was all raw muscle and animal. He was Harvey Keitel in "The Piano," Charles Atlas without the camp; unfazed and at home in his own nakedness. He was also the first uncircumcised man I'd seen, and his genitals hung there like an exotic fruit, with the startling full-bodied dangle of a horse dick. I was absolutely not ready for this.

After reading that, I am going to have trouble not laughing next time I see a naked man, which could conceivably cause me some problems.

It wasn't until I had seen him in his own domestic habitat for the first time -- an immaculate place filled with big windows, matching furniture, photos of wistful family moments -- that I felt the pull of marriage. While I couldn't articulate it at the moment I realized that in anchoring him to its comforts and constraints, his domestic life gave him the very energy he needed to defy it... And so when he led me outside to a lounge chair in his backyard and unbuckled his belt, I felt bereft. Of what? Years later I understood that I felt bereft of the very hearth and sense of home he seemed to have here; of this place he disappeared to on weekends while I wandered in my apartment, trying to have a life without him.

That, or you realized that you were having sex with a pathetic, middle-aged man who was using you, most likely to extract revenge on his wife for his own aging.

I shouldn't pick. What would be the state of American letters if stories designed to flatter pathetic adulterous losers in midst of middle life crisises were to just disappear? How could we, as a country, carry on if we started denying balding men who don't respect their own wives the right to reimagine themselves as romantic heroes, who sleep with younger, subordinate women not because they are louts but because they are trying to find the Meaning of Life?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would feel sorry for this woman if she wasn't discrediting other women, who generally do benefit from "putative political correctness" and who might have experienced coercive sexual behavior from their employers.



Blogger sofie said...

Exotic fruit? Dear God...


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Blogger Hugo said...

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Blogger Trish said...

Harvey Keitel in "The Piano"? How nauseating. Genitals hanging like an exotic fruit? All I can think of is two stretched-out, dried figs dangling in a sack. Yuck!


Blogger mythago said...

Granted this story is full of the breathless, weird prose of which Salon is so fond. But I believe the writer made a lot of other points--that she was young and naive, and it took her a long time to really consider what she was doing and how 'sexy' her boss really was. That what she initially saw as a voracious, manly appetite was really more like 'bathing in the blood of virgins' (as one writer has so well put it) and about power, not about love or neediness.


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