"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Looking For A Sexual Past –Fantasy, Procreation, And Maleness

Breton Alberts had never gotten over his love affair with Sylvia ____ a September-May relationship that he knew wouldn’t last; a union of impossible possibilities.

She was the daughter of a Midwestern farm family, a child of wheat and animal husbandry; pigs, chickens, and corn.  He was the son of New England patriarchy, descendants of the Third Earl of Marlborough who were among the first families of Massachusetts.  On the other side of the family, he was close in lineage to the Duke of Albemarle and Sir Walter Raleigh.

The affair had cinq-a-sept and K Street assignation written all over it.  A sexual liaison which had begun in the eighth floor lounge of 2230 Pennsylvania Avenue, advanced over martinis in the bar of the Mayflower, and consummated on the floor of a fifth floor walkup in Adams Morgan, had no logical future.  However she, alone and left on the curb at 34; and he, bored, dispirited, but even more sexually ambitious at 65 than he had ever been, were, despite the ragging of his friends and the cattiness of hers, a perfect couple.

The relationship was nothing less than Freudian father-desire in Sylvia’s love of Breton; and a Darwinism in Albert’s last gasp effort to spread his seed, extend himself, his being, far beyond his two legitimate, adult children; but tied up and tangled in philosophical threads as it was, their relationship made it out of the ordinary to the special, unique, and worth having regardless of its final outcome.

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What is wrong with a love affair between a young woman and a stand-in for her quondam, beloved father? Or an aging, but still virile male whose urge to procreate, to leave more behind than two predictable offspring, chips off the old block, social and cultural clones was unstoppable?  In fact, what could be better than the satisfaction of primordial urges after decades of lip service to acceptable bourgeois ones?

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Let the record be set straight and made clear.  The marriage between Breton Alberts and Marguerite Lodge was, despite its fussy arrangements (the Alberts and the Lodges had disagreed on slavery, secession, Reconstruction, the New Deal, and the Great Society; and in families where political philosophy trumped all else, marriages were never simple affairs) a good one.  Their relationship matured into a satisfying marriage, and developed into one of respect and familiarity well into its third decade.

Breton’s straying had nothing to do with any dissatisfaction or disaffection.  He loved his wife in conventional terms (i.e. indistinct from mutual satisfaction, respect, and responsibility), and although never a romantic idyll, the marriage had staying power and longevity.

Nor were his sexual vagaries some kind of retro-machismo cherchez la femme typical of his father’s and grandfather’s generation.  Great wealth was a great enabler, and Breton Pere and Breton Grandpere had had their way with any number of women, almost willy-nilly, with no consequences to bear.  Their lascivity was more of an old entitlement, a class thing relating back to le droit du seigneur, concubinage, and mistresses de rigeur , rather than any real meaningful liaison. Breton, on the other hand, sought younger women as a purposeful anodyne to his age; and the fulfillment of Darwinian determinism.  Older men, despite their failing physical powers, think about sex all the time; but only the few can consummate these desires, feel young again, and dispel the angst of approaching death.  And few men, despite harsh feminist condemnation, can resist the urge to multiply, to have many offspring of many women.  White anxiety is rooted in envy of black promiscuity.

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Never before his marriage to Marguerite had Breton been so careless about ‘protection’.  It was Sylvia who insisted that she was not ready to have a child with him or any married man – the stigma and impossibly complex consequences of childbirth while not those of Hester Prynne, were serious indeed.  But Breton wanted a child with Sylvia; and once she was pregnant would start an equally procreative affair with Lou Ann from Accounting, a girl with a similarly loose moorings, in love with her father and willing to take anyone who fit his modest bill – hardworking, loving, strict, and moral – to bed. 

Breton had no moral compunctions about his sexual intentions.  In fact, in the face of feminist opprobrium, politically correct standards of woke behavior, and the virtual castration of maleness and masculinity, he felt obligated to return to his primordial roots.  And as long as women saw pregnancy and childbirth as a validation of love, desire, and personal worth (“I want to have your baby”), he was ready to accommodate them.   it was time for him – white, upper middle class, respectful, traditional Christian, member and outstanding leader of the community – to let go of his entitlements, embrace his God-given maleness, and procreate.

Shakespeare’s sonnets were odes to procreation – a beautiful man was obligated to populate the earth with his offspring before it was to late .  Procreation was the nature and destiny of human sexuality. 
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
     Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence (Sonnet 12)
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D.H. Lawrence, perhaps the writer who wrote most honestly and frankly about sex, had no particular interest in sex per se but the mutuality of lovers – a physical consummation and a coming together of male and female which could lead to philosophical epiphany.  Sex for Lawrence was never a simply act of desire, but an acting out of the most essential and the most primitive urges of humanity.  It was important, Lawrence said, to find the right complementary lover even if it meant disregarding social convention and traditional morality.  Lady Chatterley and Mellors found that sexual union despite the closures of class.  They were above and beyond common definitions of sexual partnership; and would reach sublimity together irrespective of their social, cultural, responsible selves.

Breton’s relationship with Sylvia went on for two years until she realized that he – quite predictably in retrospect – was never going to leave his wife; and he, equally predictably was not going to be the father of an illegitimate child born into a dysfunctional Iowa farm family.  So much for Hollywood romance and Darwinian progeny.

In his less anxious moments Breton saw that the flimsy, awkward fantasy that he had created. was nothing more than desperate male longevity.   Sylvia was neither procreatress, nor sexual salvator; but only a means to an end.  The Dean Silk character in Phillip Roth’s book, The Human Stain, says about the young woman with whom he is having an affair, “Granted she's not my first love; and granted she's not my great love; but she is sure as hell is my last love.  Doesn't that count for something?”.

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“So, it’s all about the sex”, his friend replies.

Yes and no.  Of course it is about the sex.  There is nothing more revitalizing and rejuvenating than sex with a much younger woman, something far more than youthful allure and sexual enthusiasm, something that is more validating and reassuring than anything else.  Male sexual potency is not a matter of machismo or patriarchy; it is metaphysically important. Any man can, at any moment of his life, produce enough sperm to populate the planet. Too much is made in a world of feminism and political correctness of the supposition that men are defined by their sexual aggressiveness.  Yes, they are aggressive, but for unassailably persistent and hardwired motivations.  Give a man his due.  He is irremediably sexual in his perceptions, desires, and purpose.  He thinks of sex all the time because he wants sex all the time.  Sexual consummation is not sexual satisfaction, release, or enjoyment.  It is existential, undeniable, and essential. Trimming a man’s sails and turning him into a pleasure boat cruising in and out of a safe and comfortable port is death.

By the time Breton’s affair with Sylvia had ended, he was nearing seventy, the average pull-by date for sexual potency but no where near the shelf life of sexual fantasy.  He would continue to dream about his true love to come, the mother of his many children, the aunt to many more, and the continuing concubine to others.  He knew that for the rest of his remaining years,  sex would remain a fantasy, derivative of his youth, shaped by culture, and driven by God’s worst irony.  God created men with a short life of sexual utility, but condemned them to a lifetime of sexual fantasy.

Breton, like most older men, threw in the towel, returned to his wife, home, and grandchildren; and gave in to the loss of sexual intensity.  Yet he would always have one unforgettable and unforgivable regret – only two children by one woman.

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