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

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Part-time Lover–Who Said That A Man Can’t Love Three Women?

Paul Hardy loved his wife of thirty-five years.  If the blush had gone from the bloom of the rose, no matter.  Longevity counted for something but not everything; and there was no dismissing the comfortable, convenient, secure and sure love of marriage.  At the same time, as Hardy well knew, there were all kinds of love in the world.  From incidental, happy, passing affairs after late night rum punches on the verandah of the Oloffson, to something more serious – a young girl taken with an older man’s savoir faire, experience, and patience; an older woman delighted to have attention after the long indifference of a vacant husband; and the chance coincidence of two very like travelers from different parts of the world, as like as Abelard and Heloise – the permutations of love were infinite.

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Hardy had had all kinds of such affairs – sudden, unexpected, and all with possibilities – but he never, until now, had ever thought that there was room in his life for a wife and two others.  For years dalliances were extra-curricular liaisons which were never intended to amount to much, to be led, ended, and remembered fondly but never to last, and here he found himself in a strange triad, one only possible by dint of distance and circumstance.  Usha, an Indian Muslim accountant whom he had met at the Oberoi Hotel in Delhi on one of his World Bank missions was a beautiful, spiritual, and infinitely demanding lover; and Birgit, a Danish mathematician who, after years in the straits of a prosaic marriage and laboratory job in Copenhagen, had moved to Port-au-Prince, to follow a young Haitian lover but who had tired quickly of his machismo coverup and African superstitions.

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Foreign travel, the necessity and obligation of everyone working for the World Bank, was seen by those who travelled to unpleasant places in the Third World for over fifty-percent of their time as an ugly but inescapable part of the job.  Only by tending to loans in the worst shitholes of the world and by suffering the fly-specked, malarial, pestilential, unholy places of Africa would Project Officers have any chance of rising to executive rank.  Yet for Hardy, it was an opportunity, a convenient, acceptable, and justifiable cover for his infidelity; and he made the most of it.  Four and five week missions to Angola, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea could only be regarded as penitential service; and no one, let alone Hardy’s wife would ever expect anything untoward or questionable.  Yet the opposite was true.  Both countries had oil and oil, and while drawing Texas dummies and Exxon Mobil suits, also brought bright young accountants, marketing interns, and public relations impresarios – women for the most part who, like Hardy had signed up for promotion but also for adventure.

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And so it was that Hardy met Usha Ismail, a CPA from the London School of Economics, an adviser to British Petroleum and recently repatriated to India from Africa after a series of coups had forced her parent company to rethink energy investments and to plow profits into Canadian oil shale and fracking-enabled gas exploitation in the American Gulf.  The relationship was quickly made, consensual, and exciting.  For all of Usha’s international savvy and experience, her sexual relations had been few but selective with subcontinental Khans and Kashmiri Brahmans.  She was delighted at Hardy’s white skin, his light eyes and hair, and his cultural difference.  There was nothing subcontinentally traditional or historical about his past – no funeral pyres, no pujas, no hajj, no Mecca, no recitations of sacred texts – and this beautiful Sunni Muslim, herself free from cant and untethered from obligation, was as happy as could be with this lovely, beautiful, American man.

Birgit had labored long and hard at the Danish Institute of Higher Mathematics (Det Danske Institut for Højere Matematik) in Copenhagen; and despite particularly unique and insightful proofs of heretofore unproved theorems,  had never managed to rise higher than Associate Professor, a frustration which had led her to give it all up, if only temporarily, and travel.  She met Claude, a Haitian mulatto, son of one the most important families of Petionville, proud of his African origins but a lay- about living off his family’s trans-America illicit trade.  The affair was quick and exciting but after only a few months she left him on the curb, bored with his African pretentions and bourgeois aspirations.

She met Hardy on the verandah of the Oloffson, the redoubt of sophisticated Americans where Petit Pierre still plied those expatriates who braved Haiti during the end-game of the Duvaliers with strong rum punches and stories of the Tonton Macoutes.  It is not hard to meet people on the verandah, and easy sexual camaraderie is the stock-in-trade of international consultants, but the connection between Hardy and Birgit was special. He had never met a ‘real’ intellectual – a woman who had not just dabbled in math and science but was a luminary – and she had never met an American so sure of himself sexually and so blissfully confident; and so their liaison was indeed the best of all possible worlds. 

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Neither of these affairs was remarkable in and of themselves.  This kind of serendipitous love happens all the time, everywhere, and on all circuits.  The only thing to note was the fact that Hardy maintained his love for both of them…and his wife… for years.  What he had with each of them was singular, irreplaceable, and unique.  He and Birgit never talked about number theory or trans-logical equations; nor did he discuss energy, geo-politics, or post-colonialism with Usha.  A combined sexual world is possible and desirable exactly because of an intellectual-emotional truce.  Hardy could not have been attracted to Birgit if it had not been for her sense of abstraction; nor to Usha if not for her practical worldliness; but the heady mix of their insistent purpose and his philosophical diffidence set off fireworks.  Not only do opposites attract, but diametric opposites attract irresistibly.

All of which leaves Hardy’s wife, for whom Hardy had a sincere affection.  Gone was the initial flush of sexual attraction and mutual romance and the excitement of first love and optimism, but something more than friendship although less than love remained.  Their marriage was fundamental to them both, without which they would have been ships sailing without a port.  For her it was hearth, home, and tradition.  For him it was the focal point from which he could sally and return.  She knew of his dalliances, but never called him out.  He felt negligent at times, but knew that life was short.

Did Hardy love all three women? Yes.  Did he love them all equally? Yes again, but differently.  Had he lost any one of them, he would have been sad, but not disconsolate.  The enabling factor in loving many women was distance – or selfishness, or arrogance, or male privilege, depending on the observer – but whatever the underlying reason, Hardy’s life was more complete than any of his colleagues or friends.  He had organized and managed his life well, gauging risk and reward like a bookie, extending his allure until the pasture gate was closed, never promising more than he could deliver, and ready for all that might come down the pike.

Granted, none of this would have been possible without the largesse of the World Bank and the need for hands-on supervision of its projects in the Third World; but other colleagues travelled as much as Hardy and were content just with positive loan performance.  He performed well and lived well.  He dined well, slept well, and bedded well.  And none of the three women in his life knew about or wanted to know about the others. They were content with what they had and what they shared, and none wanted to take more than their fair share, their due, or their pound of flesh.  The conditions were right for the the longevity of the triad; but this does not take away the essential point – love can be shared and shared equally.  It takes women for whom exclusivity means little and men for whom control is alien; but most of all beings who understand that love, affection, sexual satisfaction, allure, and desire are what make us human.  Not the Lawrentian epiphanic love, the love that opens spiritual doors, but a love which is indeed at the heart of the matter.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Last Of The Red Hot Lovers–The Good Life On The Gender Spectrum

Randy Belleville grew up in a family with a strict father, a brutal older sister from whom he learned about sexual diversity, and a beautiful mother who would forever be his ideal woman. 

He never realized how lucky he had been and how what he thought was a dysfunctional family provided exactly the kind of formation that would be necessary in a gender fluid age.  His father was a handsome ‘rogue’, as Casanovas of his generation were called, men of an irresistible sex appeal, confidence, and savoir faire.  His mother had been on the cover of Vogue, a protegee and later confidante of Diana Vreeland, and his sister, once she sorted out her confusion, became a stone dyke.

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The transformation had been radical and surprising.  Neither Randy nor his parents expected such a rough coming out, from frilly dresses to shit-kickers, heavy-duty tats, flannel shirts, and a ball-busting claque of tough-girl Bernal Heights bull-daggers – in one fell swoop.  She was nice enough when she came home – she left her hefty black leather and bike chains in San Francisco and wore buckskin and beaded chamois when she came East – but there was no doubt about the sincerity of her change.  She was irretrievably hard core lesbian , and everything in her dress, speech, mannerisms, and attitude left no doubt that this was not some trial run or dress rehearsal.  It was the real thing.

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Randy’s mother and father took it well.  The fashion industry was seriously gay, and some of the hottest models on the runway circuit bent left and right, so her mother, while initially taken aback that her highly heterosexual self and husband could have produced such an anomaly, quickly regained her balance.  “Whatever, honey”, she said when Annette set sail for the Coast.

Her father was somewhat more non-plussed.  He, for all his tolerance and compassion, simply could not imagine two men together.  To be sure, some of the hottest sex scenes on film were in  Blue is the Warmest Color, and no man he knew could resist all that licking and sucking; but men? As much as he tried – for the sake of his daughter whose increasingly pan-sexuality included the chain-and-whip ripped male side of Folsom Street – he simply could not find buggering acceptable – as good and fine as normal sex.  He tried to never let this show when his daughter rode up to New Brighton and chopped and channeled Harleys with a gay ‘boyfriend’ from San Isidro, but when they left, he had to shake his head and, despite himself, admit, “What’s this world coming to?”

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Why Randy was so lucky was thanks to his unusual family triad.  His father was the macho male but with grace, sophistication, and charm.  He had a winning way and a silver tongue and no woman – except for his daughter’s friends – could resist him.  He was for Randy the model of sexual success.  His father could finish his morning coffee and slide into bed with any one of a number of many paramours who were quite happy to see him before work; and slide into a hot liaison with any number of other women who waited for him after the closing bell.   His father had not only been a role model but a generous teacher, unhesitating in talking sex with his young son and encouraging him from a very early age.  “They (women), despite their coyness and demurrals, want it as much as you do, never doubt it”. 

His mother was the sexual woman of his dreams.  The toughness of the fashion industry never toughened her. Despite her classic looks, marginally anorexic figure, and stern, totally posed runway demeanor, she was sensuous, sensual, and becoming off duty.  She was the perfect combination of glamour, allure, and feminine sexuality.  All women, advised his father, wanted to be like her; so, if you treat them accordingly, they are yours.

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His sister Annette had introduced him to a new sexual twist.  The gender spectrum, she explained, was a blended scale of sexual identity and preference.  In San Francisco, she had met grey-asexual, peri-oriented, erasure, and demi-sexual men and women among others.  There were simply not enough cognitive categories to account for the almost infinite number of sexual possibilities on the spectrum.  If one was adventurous, one could invite anyone to bed and find out later where the experience fit.   Sex was a journey, his sister said, not a destination.

In one way Randy wished that he could be untethered from traditional sexuality.  Given his sex drive, union with demi-women, polymorphous females, and whip-and-traces mistresses, should in principle appeal.  There was only so much that one could milk from one cow, and limitless sexual combinations and permutations were attractive indeed; but in another way, the whole idea of a sexual side show – hairy, bearded women; three-titted dwarves; and divas with two heads…or rather their modern sexual equivalents …- was distasteful.  This smorgasbord, this kaleidoscope of sexual freaks, couldn’t possibly equal the infinitude of heterosexual cultural diversity.

Usha, only child of wealthy Sindhi Pakistani Muslims, for example, had dark beauty, desire, and the infinitely complex and unknowable family calculus of Lahori father, Goan Christian mother, childhood in Karachi and young adulthood in Jaipur.  Who could predict what unique, marvelous, sexual potency would result from that heady mix?  What more diversity, unexplored nests, and dark alleys than that?

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Or the Pedersen woman, Danish ice queen with sexual wanderlust who lured Randy to bed in Rawalpindi after a dinner of kebabs and brick-oven baked Afghan tandoori naan.  Or the Haitian princess, black as coal, one of Duvalier’s former mistresses, now a follower of Senghor and Negritude who seduced him and took him home to her Petionville mansion?  Or the waitress at Salty Dog, single mother of a 3-year old, living in Gaithersburg on a three dollar above minimum wage salary plus tips, who took a shine to him and his silvering hair?

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In other words, what was the point? There was an inexhaustible source of women within one category of the gender spectrum alone.  Why, given the infinite, marvelous range of behavior, personality, character, and physical beauty, would anyone be tempted to edge on a few notches and try something else? When the resources of the spectrum’s largest profile – heterosexuality – were limitless, why would anyone even bother to change sides?

The received wisdom is that while most everyone is born of one of two genetic/physical sexes, biology does not rule.  Cognitive choice – the ability to self-identify sexual character and the will to express it – is more human than DNA.   This however denies millennia of two-sex polarity, and the innate, hardwired, ineluctable drive to mate with the opposite sex.  The gender spectrum, viewed from a historical perspective – not to say a mythological, Biblical, storied one – seems politically correct, logically suspect, and fanciful at best.  More importantly, while there may be a few aberrations from the norm (estimates of LGBTQ incidence are lower than three percent of any population) there is no reason to promote these aberrations as normal and desirable.  While one should be tolerant and accepting of those on the socio-genetic margins, advocacy for a new norm seems counter-historical and certainly counter-productive.

“I don’t have a problem with that”, said Randy when presented with radical Genderism by his sister, an anything-goes, pan-sexual, free-for-all, Rubik Cube of sexual desire.  “Whatever”.

Not so many people outside of the Coastal sexual elites would agree with Randy’s laissez-faire attitude.  The Bible for one thing has to be reckoned with; and verse after verse in both Old Testament and New categorically condemn homosexuality, a practice against God’s creation.  While Coastal progressives insist that the Bible’s words are not absolute and must be read only in light of a socio-economic and cultural contexts, it is hard for most Americans  to dismiss what has been sacred for millennia.  What would Biblical scholars think of the pan-sexual gender spectrum?

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So Randy, partially woke thanks to his sister, was aware of the fire sale of sexual oddities going on in progressive corners of America; and realized that thanks to this juggernaut of idealistic reformism, he would have the 97 percent heterosexual field to himself. “Let the b-ggers have at it”, he said,” and leave the rest to me”.

Women who for so long had been taught that maleness was toxic, and that male pursuit was anachronistic and ignorant, were delighted to be noticed by a man who cared little for these nostrums of sexuality; and Randy was delighted that an already abundant field had become now his alone for the picking.

There is always room for all in the big tent, but the choice seats are always reserved.