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

Friday, June 14, 2024

Sexual Obsession - God's Dogged, Unholy Irony

Bob Phillips thought of women all the time and had since he first had a look down Nancy Barber's sleeveless blouse in Latin class one late Spring day.  Konstantin Levin, a protagonist in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina reflects on God's ultimate irony, having created Man as an intelligent, insightful, creative, spiritual figure with a great sense of humor, giving him a few decades to express this marvelous package of divinity, then consigned him for all eternity in the cold, hard ground of the steppes. 

Bob thought Tolstoy was on to something, but never mentioned the more obvious, more real, and far more painful irony of life.  God created men with a lifelong, ineluctable, persistent and unavoidable sexual interest in women, but granted them but a few scant years to do something about it.  Bob's daydreams and nightdreams of beautiful young women, all the most succulent, warm and willing incarnations of Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansson, and Taylor Swift all amalgamated, sourced, and AI generated into one woman who wanted him never ended.  While only add-ons to his actual escapades in his younger years, they were now his only sustenance - or his early Purgatory. 

The Coleman Silk character in Phillip Roth's The Human Stain had it exactly right when he was telling his colleague and friend about his young mistress - a woman far from his intelligence, pedigree, education, and social status but willing to take him to bed.  'She is not my first love, Nathan', Coleman says, 'and not my best love, but she most certainly is my last love. Doesn’t that count for something?’ And so it was with Phillips who had had his December-May affair with Laura from Accounting, one with the same disparities in class, culture, and intelligence as the Roth character but fortunately disengaged before an unfortunate end.

'Have you thought of a prostitute?' his doctor asked him when he shared his existential troubles with him.  Phillips was nonplussed, taken aback by the suggestion, but on reflection it made perfect sense.  At his age any hopes for a non-commercial liaison were nil, trolling for fifty- and sixty-year old divorcees held no interest whatsoever, and only a young, soft, supple, wet, and willing girl would do, paid or not. 

Of course this idea took some time to formulate and mature. He had never resorted to prostitutes in his long life nor ever had to. Sexual adventure and conquest came easily and naturally, but then he hit the wall.  Women were simply no longer interested.  He neither had the good looks of an elderly Mafia don nor the wealth of a retired investment banker to attract arm candy, so the physician's suggestion had to be considered. 


At his age AIDS, given its long incubation period, was irrelevant, and he certainly could afford the highest-paid call girls in Washington, so what was he waiting for? 

Ah, yes, that indecipherable love thing.  Even with the most fleeting, random sexual connections, there was at least some empathy, some twinge of more than just physical desire; so having sex with a poseur, a tummler, a fake would take all the anticipation, hope, and excitement out of it.  It would be rutting, nothing more, nothing less.  Is this all there is? he asked. 

He looked around him and wondered.  All these alte kockers had to be in the same soup, all searching for answers in the last decades of their lives but still in the thrall of that goddam thing, that irritatingly persistent sexual obsession; but what he thought was a universal hell was not so.  There was a spectrum in sexual interest, a bell curve, just like for everything else.  There were men who drew down on their children's inheritance with hookers galore and never gave it a second thought; and men who practiced the same abstemious fidelity they had their whole lives.  There was more to life than just the temporary, temporal adjustments that Bob was seeking. 

'All is Maya, illusion', said one classmate, reciting the words of the Bhagavad Gita, 'and you, Bob, can't see the difference'; but so what if la poupée from Ghislaine's stable was a fiction, a misleading temptress? Life might be an illusion, but born we were in it, so why climb Mount Kailash when there was still fruits to be picked on earth?

'Speaking of illusion', another friend noted, 'virtual reality trumps the real thing any day of the week', referring in academic-ese to self-pleasuring; and like Bob's other friend and his doctor, he had a point. We were headed for complete virtuality anyway, so what was  the problem with a thunderbolt orgasm just imagining Nancy Barber loving him?

It was so unseemly for a man of his age to look up the skirts of attractive young women on K Street.  It was the prurience of it that bothered him - sniffing at the hems of these ladies and doing nothing whatsoever about it.  Of course he was not like Henry Dolphin who came home from the World Bank and watched streaming Sissy Lorton take off her undies.  Bob had never and would never sink that low. 

Maybe Konstantin Levin had it wrong in the first place, pushing the blame onto God.  Man up! Figure out what's what before it's too late, 'When I was child...', etc. etc. And above all, quit this nonsense about sex. Not worth it, never was, never will be. 


Of course this train of thought did nothing for Bob's nightdreams or daydreams, and until his dying day, he kept seeing Nancy Barber's sweet young breasts. 

'I wonder if women suffer the same fate', he asked a woman friend he had known forever. 'Of course not, you idiot', she said. 'Haven't you learned anything?'; and with that he swallowed the last bite of chicken on his plate, and went to bed. 

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