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

Friday, November 8, 2019

Dreaming Of Marilyn Monroe–God's Greatest Irony

A colleague confided to me that he had dreamt of Marilyn Monroe.  She was in his bed as seductive, alluring, soft, and inviting as he had ever imagined her; and before making love to her, he told her how much he loved her.  The dream sex was the usual unsatisfying dry, frustrated, and disjointed affair as most dreams are; but this one he found impossible to shake.   Looked at dispassionately in the morning, it was a composite of frustrated desires.  At long past the age when sex was an option or even a possibility, and sex with any young woman let alone the likes of Marilyn Monroe was indeed a dream, Laurence woke up full of desire, optimism, and sadness.  Who said that he had passed his sexual pull-by date? Why should he, still virile, interested, and able be consigned to the dustbin of sexual has-beens and wannabees?

The dream left him excited but vacant.  After years of loving Marilyn Monroe, every man’s desire for over five decades, irresistibly and impossibly sensual and alluring, he had dreamed of her, as close as he would ever get to the poor goddess-who-died-young, but as dreams would have it, not even in fantasy could he have her.

The real Marilyn was not classically beautiful, but had an unmatchable sensuousness and sensuality.  She had allure, an immediate, undeniable sexual appeal.  She embodied sexual desire.  Men were drawn to her not to admire her beauty but to make love to her.  It is no surprise that despite the classic, unmatched beauty  Hedy Lamarr, Ava Gardner, and Vivien Leigh, impossibly beautiful women, as classically beautiful as those in Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and as exemplary of the universal standard of feminine beauty as any woman, it is Marilyn Monroe men think of in their most erotic moments and, like Laurence, dream of.

Image result for images ava gardnerImage result for images hedy lamarrImage result for vivien leigh images

The dream was upsetting because of its immediacy.  There was Marilyn in her thirties months before her premature death, looking vulnerable and tired; but all the more seductive and desirable because of it, a dream-generated portrait more lifelike than any painted or photographed.  It was this intimacy that was the most disturbing.  Marilyn was Laurence’s lover, as needy and as desperate as she ever was with Joe or Arthur, looking loving and still hopeful for something that neither of her husbands could provide.

“I love you, Marilyn”, Laurence said to the phantom Marilyn and then woke up.  Freud explained that no dream of impossible desire can ever be realized and would remain recurrent and painful until the dreamer came to grips with the sexual frustration of his own making.

Image result for late photos marilyn monroe in sweater on beach

Laurence was indeed frustrated, not only because after a certain period, all relationships, no matter how passionate their beginnings, lose their sexual juices; but because a few years earlier he had had a relationship with a young woman who, if not as beautiful, sensual, and appealing as Marilyn, was still a sexual goddess simply because she was 30.  At his age, any young woman was a godsend, blemishes, fat, and hairline notwithstanding; not only because they agreed to have sex with him, but because age did not matter.  His patience, attention, experience, and sexual desire did.

Sex with a woman almost forty years his junior was a Christmas gift, as wonderful, unexpected, and happily delightful as any train set or baseball mitt; and when it ended, it marked him forever. He would never be the same  now that he had tasted young love – soft, smooth, wet, aroused love.

Image result for image 50s train set under christmas tree

Laurence had thought he had settled all accounts, and would go uncomplainingly about the kitchen  (“I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled)”, resigned to old age and elder celibacy until he had the dream of Marilyn. She had been so real, so immediate, so responsive, and so giving.  It must have been a sign, a green light, a go-ahead for the most unlikely sexual liaisons.  He was not sexually dead after all, the thought upon waking.  I am still me.

If only he could avoid fact-checking himself and give the hall mirror a bye, he could still be the forty or fifty he felt, within bounds at least for contact and engagement.  The chit-chat at the bar at Salty Dog might not be only tip-invested conversation but sexual interest.  Why wouldn’t she, a single mother with a three-year old, working two jobs, working the bar be interested in him?   Even if money never changed hands, nor any offer made for K Street employment, there would be no ignoring the transactional aspect of the affair; but at this point in his life, what did a few, indirectly paid dollars matter?  December-May affairs were always about the money, after all.

Marilyn never returned.  She was replaced by insufficient avatars – fragments of old girlfriends and lovers who were always impatient and never complaisant and desirous – all of whom made his nights tiring and unrestorative. Better not to dream of Louisa, Karen, Lucy, and Mukta and wake up rested; but they kept up their niggling and suggestiveness. What on earth was he waiting for?

“Why are you setting your sights so high?”, asked a friend. “There are plenty of women in your age group quite anxious for a relationship”.   Of course ‘a relationship’ was not what he was looking for.

In the movie The Human Stain, Nathan Zuckerman, friend of the main character, Coleman Silk, who is involved in a sexual affair with a much younger woman far outside his social class, says to him, “It’s all about the sex, isn’t it?”.

Image result for images The Human Stain film

“Of course it is”, answers Coleman.  “She is not my first love nor my best love; but she is certainly my last love.  That has to count for something, doesn’t it?”  And in such an affair no questions about meaning, involvement, purpose, or depth are at all relevant.

Laurence found himself caught between a rock and a hard place – waiting for a bone thrown to him by a pitying or even half-interested middle aged woman; or failing time after time to lure a young woman to bed in the most impossible of circumstances.  It certainly would be easier to get a good book and lie by the hotel pool in a comfortable lounge chair, never looking up to watch the young women dive and surface, dripping from the water, and climb the ladder out.  Yet he could not.

The greatest irony, to paraphrase Tolstoy’s Konstantin Levin, is that God created man with a lifelong desire for women, but granted him only a few short decades to do anything about it.

I wish that the story of my colleague ended well – that a young woman taken with his patrician looks, intelligence, and youthful enthusiasm overlooked his age, and entered into a long December-May affair with him; an affair to end his days, and make those remaining happy and unremorseful.

The truth is unhappily far different.  Laurence, like most men his age, simply sighed and gave up, looked down at the menu, at the pasta Alfredo cooking in the skillet, or at his grandchildren.  Such was not God’s irony.  It was meant to be.  It was a lesson in resolution and redemption.  Once he got the message, while not completely happy, he was more or less so.

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