It all started innocently enough: a beautiful Sunday morning with the sun streaming through the windows of a country cottage - my sanctuary from the chaos of modern life; Bach's Brandenburg concertos playing softly on the stereo; freshly-brewed coffee; comfortable conversation with a friend I had known for many years.
She asked if I was still seeing the woman that I had been seeing for the last while. After my affirmative, she asked how she was doing. "Fine" was my reply. So far, we had both been obeying the rules for comfortable Sunday morning conversation.
"I hear that Cecile has gone back to university."
"Yes," I said, taken a little aback at the mention of a previous girlfriend. I took a big sip of coffee, wondering if this was going somewhere.
"And, how is Cecile?"
My mind racing from the unexpected direction of the conversation, I came up with the perfect answer.
"Fine," I said.
"Let's see," my friend continued. "In the 6 years I've known you, you've gone out with the Salvadoran woman who spoke hardly any English. There was the French Canadian that could stop any conversation in its tracks with the mention of Quebec separatism. And now, there's Marie. She's from France, isn't she? Well, her English is quite good; considering..."
Oblivious to the 'Cliff Ahead' sign that I had just rocketed past, I continued on. "Yes," I said, unaware that my fate had just been handed over to gravity.
"Interesting . . ." she said. "Interesting how you seem to go out with women that you can't talk to."
"Hmmm" I said, finally recognizing the danger that lay ahead. "Hmm, interesting..."
You know that moment when the cartoon character Wile. E. Coyote realizes that he is well past the cliff edge? When he looks down, then back from where he came? When he knows that no matter how much he scrambles, going back just isn't an option? It's too late; all that's left is down - again.
At this moment, I take on Wile E. Coyote as my totem. After years of cheering for the roadrunner, I finally understand his predicament. What I want to say is, "My Spanish got to be quite good, you know " I want to say, "My Quebecois girl friend spoke English better than some of my Anglo friends." I want to say, "I also went out with the university-educated, English as mother tongue, feminist. For two years, no less." But, it's too late for any of these responses. At this point, the only question yet to be answered is whether it will be the anvil, the piano or the safe that lands on my head once I finally hit bottom.
"You'd make an interesting case study for a psychologist." (It's the anvil - definitely the anvil.) Not yet ready to leave me to my misery, she continues, "If l didn't know you better, I'd think that you were a male, chauvinist pig."
In the silence, I can hear the Allegro of Concerto #6 playing in the background. The sun reflects in my l cup of coffee. But, there is no safety in this sanctuary.
In high school, my Biology teacher taught me that the Latin name for the human species is Homo Sapiens. Much to my surprise however, I had just been told that I am not actually a member of this advanced and noble species but am, rather, mired in the gene pool of a much more humble species.
l am a pig. It's not that I'm a member of the genus baconus sogoodforbreakfastus. Actually, I am from that far less respected genus malus insensitivus.
What bothers me about all this is that at this point there was just no way to defend myself as a human being with any morality. I already had been classified and judged. No amount of thoughtful or insightful commentary could lift me from the sty.
My friend is, of course, a feminist. Feminism in this century has accomplished many things. Politically, it has changed the legal status of women from property to voting citizens. Economically, it has brought to public attention the discrepancies in pay and promotions. Sociologically, it has forced the examination of gender roles. I believe these to be valuable accomplishments and agree that further change is necessary.
Unfortunately, just like every other 'ism', feminism carries with it the implicit belief that no other point of view has any moral value. As long as I stay within the guidelines set out for me, I am accepted - although that damn Y chromosome remains problematic. But, anytime that I deviate from the role of sensitive, new-age guy, I wallow in the moral muck hole and am susceptible to that most horrible of feminist epithets - male, chauvinist pig.
Sensitive, new-age guys like to talk to their significant others about their relationships. They like to berate themselves about their 'problems with intimacy'. They even like to be told how close they are to being pork chops, so that they have the opportunity to reform themselves. Sensitive, new-age guys believe that there is no greater joy than nurturing intimacy with their partner and thrill at the knowledge that this is a lifelong prospect. For them, gender differences are the spice that make this such a delicious challenge.
l, however, am of the opinion that men and women don't have problems because we are different genders. Although I disagree with my friends classification, there is some truth to her comment. I believe that we have problems because we are different species.
But, I can't say that without suffering moral condemnation. I can't say that I think the best resolution to all the gender problems is to put all the men on the continents of North and South America, all the women on Africa and Asia, and leave Australia for procreation and recreation.
I can't say this even as a joke. If I challenge the notion that there is a sacred and immutable connection between sex and intimacy, I am just a pig. If I point out that the majority of examples of the fools who have reached for this romantic ideal end up not with intimacy but with anger, resentment, bitterness, and sometimes abuse, I am somehow morally inferior. If I suggest that intimacy and honesty should be reserved for your friends rather than your lover; if l suggest that the quickest way to have a good relationship founder on the rocks is to listen to the siren song of hormones, I risk being skewered on a spit, hung over glowing coals and served to voracious cannibalesses with applesauce and mashed potatoes.
Not wanting to make things worse, I kept all these thoughts to myself. But, perhaps out of a morbid sense of curiosity (or was it a death wish?), I decided to continue the conversation.
"Why is it," I asked my friend, "that women think that men telling them what they think, being honest with them, telling them the truth somehow makes the relationship better? Truth and honesty don't necessarily facilitate intimacy."
Big gulp of coffee, and then, "I think that if men really told the truth, there wouldn't be enough pig farms on the planet to house us all."
"Oh? And what is the truth?" she asked.
As my fate had already been determined, I decided to finally tell a woman the truth. "The truth is," I continue with bravery that comes only with fatalism, "that men wish all women looked like Pamela Anderson or Bo Derek and were available at their beck and call. The truth is that men wish that they had been Gilligan-stranded on that tropical isle with Ginger and Marianne. And, that wish is not just the function of socialization. That is a biological truth - that's how we're built." Something else that I Iearned in Biology. "And why haven't any of your boyfriends ever told you this? It was shortly after the first time a Neanderthal woman asked her Neanderthal mate 'Does this zebra skin make me look fat?' that honesty was deselected as a survival strategy.'
The truth was out; there was no turning back now. Risking a piano on my head, I continued. "What's worse is that, even though I recognize that this is just my opinion, I can't say it out loud. Nowadays, men no longer have reasoned beliefs; we have fascist outbursts designed to bring a return to the days of domination and exploitation. Men no longer have well-considered opinions; we have reactionary diatribes motivated from bitterness and nostalgia for the days of the smoking room with its leather armchairs, cigars and cognac. Any opinion that does not conform to the Sensitive Male Handbook of Politicall Correct Thought is judged hostile and heaped with moral approbation."
"Hmmm. I hadn't really thought about it like that," she said. "I guess there's some truth to what you say."
Then, she paused and I knew what was coming next.
"You have been very honest with me. I feel as if I know you much better. I guess you're not a pig after all."
"Of course l'm not," I said, as I tried to look down her top.
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