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

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Champagne And Sex Before Breakfast–An American Idyll

The French are known for their cinq-a-septs – amorous liaisons after work and before dinner.  Metro, Boulot, Dodo  might well have  characterized the world of the  bourgeois Frenchman, hurrying home to a dutiful wife and children, but it did not capture the adventurous adventures of the sophisticated, young cadres of the upper middle class.  A liaison in a quiet apartment in the 7th with a woman not one’s wife was as much a sine qua non of Parisian life as were the right place settings. Marriage was for convenience, not love or passion; and the afternoon dalliance was as much a part of a man’s life as wine.

Image result for images lovers in Paris fifties

The lovers of former President of France, Francois Mitterrand, were well-known and admired; and they, his illegitimate children, and his official wife mourned at his funeral.  There was nothing unusual, immoral, or questionable about anyone’s romantic interludes or life, especially that of a president of France.

Nicolas Sarkozy, a former President of France installed his lover in the Elysees, and few objected. Why should Presidential sexual preferences be of any concern to the electorate? As a matter of fact, such sexual independence should be a qualification for office.  Why on earth, wondered tens of millions of men, should Bill Clinton have to apologize for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky?  Rather, he should have to explain why he  preferred not to sleep with her– or more pertinently, why would he choose sex with an intern when he could – like Jack Kennedy before him – have had starlets, stars, and international beauties.  The question is never why would a President – or any man for that matter – have sex with a woman other than his wife; but why Would he not?

Image result for sarkozy and actress wife

Men are hardwired to spread their seed and women as equally programmed to be careful who implants it in them.  A man can conclude his sexual affair with an orgasm and a goodbye; but a woman has to live with the consequences.  Things have changed in the post-feminist era.  Men are more sensitive to women’s needs, more respectful of their bodies, their reproductive cycles, and their equality – or so the meme goes.  

In reality, despite the harangues about women’s rights and gender neutrality, men are still obsessed by women’s looks, their bodies, their allure, and their femininity.  God’s greatest irony was to have created men with an irrepressible, permanent desire for women, but to have granted them but a few short decades of sexual satisfaction. Men on their deathbeds and facing eternity do not regret so much leaving their wives of decades but the women they could have loved - regrets of missed opportunities. Such is a man’s life, as much lived in the world of possibility as in the real one.  A man’s sexual destiny is more in charge of women who were supposed to be maiden princesses but who turned out to be anything but.

Except for the men who have been able to slip their harnesses.  Bob Marley, musical icon and Jamaican hero, had eleven children by seven women and all loved him.  Of course there were jealousies among the women but Marley was eclectic in his tastes, and far from parochial in his choices.  His women were different enough and far enough away from each other to have only the odd Issues.

What man would not like to be Bob Marley, the lover of the former Miss Jamaica and runner up for Miss World? The lover of black, white, mulatto, and Asian women.  The one-night lover, the stay-over lover, the longtime lover and common law husband? Marley died at the young age of thirty-six, but he led enough lives for double that time.  He was all men’s idol.

Image result for cindy makepeace bob marley lover

It is easy enough for a Frenchman, heir to a culture of sexual independence, to have his paramours, occasional lovers, and afternoon trysts.  There are generations of sexual tolerance, male patriarchy, and female complaisance behind him.  Women in such liberated cultures are no dupes, no housewives waiting for the meal ticket to come home.  They are out and about on their own.  Their sexual freedom did not have to wait for the feminist revolution of the 70s.  Savvy women knew that there were always ways around men and their sexual pettiness.  Henrik Ibsen’s strong, determined characters – Hedda Gabler, Hilda Wangel, and Rebekka West – knew precisely how to work men’s fragile sexual egos to their advantage.  All the heroines of Shakespeare’s Comedies ran rings around the men who pursued them.  Women who wanted sexual liberation and were smart enough to figure out men’s obsessiveness, could have whatever and whomever they wanted.

Which leaves the ordinary man born to conservative parents, educated well, trained for reasonableness and longevity; to be a hard-working horse of the bit. He wants to be Bob Marley as much as the next man, but he has had male adventurousness bred or conditioned out of him.  Yet, there are some outliers, men who may have been passed over for promotion and whose names never appear in company reports or glossies; but who defy corporate and community logic and expectations and bed one woman after another. 

Benjy Adams had a nondescript job in a nameless and unremarkable Washington firm.  He was married to an ordinary wife, and to the casual observer was on his way to nowhere.  He punched the clock and paid due respects to his wife and children, but he had another life. 

Usha, the granddaughter of Muslim refugees who came to Karachi from India after Partition and the mutual genocide; a beauty who had been offered starring roles in Pakistani cinema, lured to Bollywood because of her stunning Eurasian looks, but who had remained religious, dutiful and conservative was his lover.  She did not need a Hollywood star to be happy, and so it was that she and Benjy spent many happy hours together without attendants and without notice.

He had a long affair with Birgit, a Danish woman who had been brought up in South Africa, had been the mistress of at least one of P.W., Botha’s inner circle, and had fled the country before black rule.  She was nominally British, but travelled on a United Nations passport.  They were an unlikely couple – a very middle class American and a stateless refugee – but there was something very likely there. She admired  his frank maleness, a sexual confidence and appreciation for women that she rarely found. He loved her unbounded sexual personality.

There were many others, but his dance card became less and less filled the older he got.  He had no less interest in women than he ever did, and women still found his forthrightness and easy confidence attractive; but the opportunities were far fewer than before.  It was therefore a surprise when, well on his way to his seventh decade, he met Laura from Accounting.  Compared to his Palestinian princess and former wife of a democratized Turkish pasha, she was ordinary fare; but at his age, age rules.  As the Coleman Silk character in Phillip Roth’s The Human Stain says to his close friend about his young lover, “She is not my first love, and she is not my best love; but she surely is my last love.  Doesn’t that count for something?”.  Benjy and Laura Parsons met every Saturday in her Adams Morgan walkup and stayed put all day.  They were drunk on Bollinger by 8, in bed until noon, drunk again on Remy Martin until 2, stoned and in bed again until 6 when he finally made his way home. 

Image result for images the human stain

Neither one had any illusions about commitment, love, or fidelity.  She, in her late thirties, had given up on finding the ‘right’ man and was happy to have a patient, older, experienced lover to keep her sexual company. He felt he had been given an early Christmas present, a train set under the tree.  What had he done to deserve this? he asked himself.  Why had he, resigned to approaching old age, on his way to consolidating his family, wealth, and interests, leaving sexual affairs in the rear view mirror only to be glanced while passing, been chosen for this?  Neither of his wives had had this sexual attentiveness or seemingly limitless reserve of sexual energy.   His former lovers had been, by comparison, diffident – beautiful and one-of-a-kind, but never ones to root forever in the woods.

All of which makes the story of Benjy Adams more interesting.  Somehow he had resisted the claims of feminism.  While never an abusive husband, he was an unfaithful one.  He took his wife and children for granted, assumed a certain patriarchy – never the unquestioned Victorian kind but a definitively masculine one.  Women, despite their new political consciousness, had never changed; and the sexual dynamics of D.H. Lawrence were still operative.  Benjy, like Lawrence, knew that women wanted uninhibited sexual liaisons as much as men did, and the most savvy suitors did the pas-de-deux preliminaries and gave them what they wanted.

Woke women and men looked at Benjy’s dalliances censoriously.  The days of Casanova, Lothario, and Don Juan were over.  Women were no longer sexual objects to be desired, bedded, and left.  Men’s value stopped at the rooster’s contribution, and then they were the ones left on the curb, like The Captain, Laura’s husband in Strindberg’s The Father.

Image result for images casanova

Yet these days were not over for Benjy Adams and for the women who were quite happy to spend drunken Saturdays with him.  Life and love go on as they always have, and savvy men benefit.  On his deathbed, Benjy would be one man who would not be thinking of sexual opportunities lost, but sexual adventures taken.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.