Loneliness

Most people think the cure for loneliness is seeking the company of other people.  I don’t agree.  The complaint of being “lonely” is much too vague, on the same order as saying, “I don’t feel good.”  What are the symptoms of loneliness, and what are its cures?  Studying loneliness unclothes our souls.  Why is loneliness such a pervasive condition in world of seven billion?  I got onto the topic of loneliness when a couple friends mentioned joining Internet dating services and I became fascinated with how those programs worked.

Dating services sell the illusion of scientific match making.  Each service believes their method of profiling will introduce their customers to harmonious relationships.  Of course this assumes we must all be paired off like animals going into Noah’s ark.  If our goal is to produce children, then this might be logical, but high divorce rates and unhappy marriages seem to suggest that the concept of soul mates might be a failure.  I must ask, what do we want from each other?

First, is being alone bad?  Well yes, if we’re alone too much.  Is the solution a lifelong contractual relationship?  I wonder if the deeply programmed impulse to reproduce overrides all other lesser urges so we see pair bonding as the only solution to loneliness.  If we all took a contraceptive pill that removed any impulse to get naked with each other, what would be the second through nth reason for finding a friend?  In no order of importance, and with no attempt to be complete, here are some of the components of loneliness that I’ve observed lately in me and my friends.

Talking

Some of my friends love to talk.  Now I mean this different from people who love good conversation.  These people want to express themselves in words, they have an itch to gab.  They are excited about events in their lives and want to chatter away.  Some people I know like this don’t particularly like to listen, nor are they particularly interested in people’s reaction to what they have to say.  I’ve known a few rare souls that want to talk so much you have to back away from them.  I used to have a professor that I would back out of his office and heard him talking halfway down the hall.

Listening

Now, there’s another kind of person that likes to talk, but not so compulsively, because what they really want is someone to listen to them.  They want Freud for a friend.  These people value others for their empathetic ability and perceptive observations.  They are open to insightful comments and even welcome advice.

Conversation

Witty conversation is craved by some people, by not many.  They love batting words back and forth across a net.  Loneliness for these folks mean hanging out with people who spend more time chasing their words than volleying them back.

Play

Many people have the gaming gene and love to get with other people for competition.  Whether it’s bridge, bowling or baseball, they seek others to play.  I think older people crave the kind of living we had as kids where play was the common form of communication.  I’ve read that baby boomers are forming leagues to play kickball, dodge ball, four-square and tetherball, games that were great in grade school.  Kids are very physical and close when they play, like kittens and puppies, and I think many people are lonely for that kind of interaction with others.

Work

We spend most of our adult life at work, so it’s the main form of social bonding.  Having a common goal is a very satisfying way to communicate with people.  Purpose is super-glue for people.  I think many retired people miss the friendship of co-workers.  Unlike marriage, you don’t have to be intimate with the people at work to feel close to them.

Money

Now some readers are going to wonder why I list money as a kind of loneliness, but strangely enough I think some people are lonely for people to take care of them, and that involves dollars.  I think the warmth of a relationship can be expressed in the security of finances, and I think this is true of many women.  I often hear women wishing they could meet a rich man, but I never hear guys talking about wanting to meet a rich woman.  I think the biological drive deep within our old brain makes females seek out powerful providers, and that works out to be a kind of loneliness.

Nesting

Another factor connected to the biological drive to mate is the urge to build a nest within a partner.  Women, and some men, love fixing up a house and decorating, and I think there’s a kind of loneliness that make some people want to hook up with someone special to do remodeling.

Travel

There are a lot of solitary travelers out there, but most people want to go on adventures with a buddy.  Seeing the world alone is a particularly lonely pursuit.

Health

This is a complicated one to imagine, but we know scientifically that people who live together are healthier than people who live apart.  But do people really feel loneliness for health?  I don’t know if it’s a conscious thing or not, but I think there’s lots of people willing to accept anyone in their lives because they just feel better about life.

Knowledge

This is the reason I’m often lonely.  I’m interested in a lot of topics that my wife and friends find boring.  I think many people look back on their school and college years as the most exciting time of their lives because of mixing the quest for knowledge with friendship.

Art

Movies are probably the leading art form that people share.  When I was growing up music and television were major artistic expressions for connecting friendships.  However, when I was at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, I felt it to be an extremely solitary experience.  I wished I could express how I felt about the paintings I was seeing, but they were all so personal.  Reading is a lonely pursuit but we often gather in book clubs and at work to talk about books.

At the Finish Line

One my lady friends told me she was lonely for someone to be at the finish line when she runs a marathon.  I thought that was a particularly good kind of loneliness – to want someone to share your triumphs.  I know I like to tell my wife when I get a bunch of hits on my blog because an essay got promoted on StumbleUpon.  I think if you think about this one for awhile it might reveal a lot about why people are so lonely.

Be On My Side

The same friend above said she wanted a partner that would take her side, even if she was wrong.  I guess this could have also been called “Watch My Back” but that might be a slight variation.  If you go to war with words or fists you want your friends to line up behind you.

Sex

Getting genital is the eight million pound gorilla in the room of loneliness.  Horniness is what most males feel when they are miserably lonely.  I’m not sure women feel of it in the same way, but the impulse to make babies drives us crazy.  And it’s such a weird concept when you think about it.  Why would below the belt friction provide so much soothing comfort for the pain of being alone?  Stranger still, when we’re beyond age of reproduction our bodies still nag us about carry on the race.

*  *  *

Feeling lonely is such a complex symptom.  When we tell someone that we don’t feel good our friends will ask where does it hurt.  From there they can play twenty questions and drill down on some specific ailment.  They won’t do that when we complain of being lonely.  The assumption is a generic person can be the universal pill that can cure any kind of loneliness.  I spend most of my time alone, but I can’t say whether I suffer loneliness or not.  I have to force myself to socialize more, and I like the company of people, but often when I’m out with a friend I’m anxious to get home to be alone.  And even when I’m with people I still feel alone, a kind of existential loneliness.

On the other hand, I can be home alone, enjoying television or reading and it never occurs to me to complain about not having someone around.  But other times in the same situation I do feel lonely.  For the past year, my wife of thirty plus years, has had to work out of town, so I spend more time than ever alone.  But even when she’s home I can have bouts of loneliness just as easily as I can when I’m alone.

Other people just want someone else around, and maybe not even in the same room, but just around the house  The pain of their loneliness is reduced by being in a relationship.  As I get older it seems people have less and less tolerance for putting up with other people and they prefer to live alone.  Some of those people still feel lonely but find pets good company, or the hours at work to be socially fulfilling enough.  I’ve been speculating with my science fiction reading friends about how companionable a robot might be.  Other friends have pointed out that the Internet is good enough social contact for them.

What do we want from each other?  What do you want from another person that will make you happy?  I’ve asked my friends experimenting with computer dating what they are looking for in a good match.  Surprisingly, or not, they don’t know.  Usually they can specify things they don’t want.  I think their loneliness is a general sense of unease and they don’t specifically know what will make them happy, but they often know the details about other people that make them unhappy.

Last night I had a very specific desire.  I was watching this great NOVA episode on my DVR about fractal geometry and I was overwhelmed with excitement about the idea and wished I had someone to gab about it afterwards.  Seeing the gorgeous fractal images in 1080i resolution on a 56″ screen was visually stunning.  Learning about what fractal geometry teaches us about nature was inspiring.  I really wanted a friend at that moment to discuss these ideas and maybe even try to program some fractal formulas into my computer.

Now this kind of desire for companionship bores the crap out of my wife.  I get the same response from my lady friends who I spend most my social time.  Of course, they want to talk about stuff that bores the crap out of me.  I have a couple guy friends that would enjoy discussing fractal geometry, but their lives are usually busy with other stuff.  Now I could jump online and find some bloggers exploring this subject and post comments, and that might do, but it’s not exactly what I want.

So, for me, one kind of loneliness is not having someone with me to discuss science and philosophy.  I tell my wife that I ever meet a woman who has the hots for old fat bald guys that love to watch science documentaries that I’ll be dumping her.  She doesn’t seemed worried.  I don’t know if it’s because there’s zero chance of me meeting anyone that has the hots for my old body, or there’s zero chance for me to meet a woman that loves science documentaries, or the odds of finding someone with both qualities is like the odds of finding life on Mars.

Another type of loneliness I have is the desire for someone to share music.  I used to get with friends to listen and talk about music.  This started around the 6th grade and ended sometime after college.  Of course, for many of those years of sharing music also included the communal sharing of a joint.  Today people withdraw into their own private world of music with iPod earphones.  Except for live performances, most people consider music as solitary as masturbation.

For most people, the solution to loneliness is having someone to talk to.  Now some people talk to themselves, and others to cats, dogs, birds and fish, but most people need another person to carry on a conversation.  Some of my lady friends can talk a blue streak.  I just let them.  Sometimes I think they only reason they like me is because I let them.  Now I would like to talk more in these conversations, but I have learned it’s better to shovel my words out in this blog than dumping them onto people, because what I’m interested in the most seems to interest other people in the least.

When I wrote “The Implications of Sexbots” I actually thought robots would sell more for conversational companions than make-out machines.  Unless you’re a horny boy, the percentage of your day spent humping your bot would be quite small, so I figured most people would want a robot to talk to.  If Hondo made a Freud model of Asimo, it would sell more then the Accord.  If people really believe that a robot could actually listen and understand them, and help them find insights into their souls, or just patiently handle all their blather, I think robots could be a cure for the kind of loneliness where you need another person to listen.

When you start thinking about it, the word loneliness can means all kinds of things.  So when your friends complain of being lonely, ask them to be more specific.

The reproductive urge is the greatest force for bring two people together, so for many people who whine they are lonely, they are merely lamenting the desire for sex rather than companionship.  We know how powerful this urge is because people will copulate with  people they hate.  The desire for sex will make you listen to conversations that bore you, and play games you despise.

I wonder what society would be like if humans had mating periods like some animals, so we only felt the urge to rut for two days a year, and the other 363 days we felt absolutely zero degrees of romantic heat?  Would depression over loneliness be so pervasive?  I don’t think so.

Before puberty, we were very social animals.  Kids love to play, and often played in packs.  That’s why I suggested the urge to play was one important type of loneliness.  I’m wondering if it’s not the strongest after sex.  But that makes me wonder if there is any kind of loneliness stronger than the sex drive.  I think there is.  Notice how powerful television is in our culture.  Few people screw for 3.7 hours a day, but most will watch that much television.

Humanity started out as tribal groups, and even after the rise of cities, the family was multigenerational up until about the 1950s when television was invented.  Instead of living with a home full of people, we commune with thousands of people via our TV sets.  We love fictional stories about other people because deep within our genes and synaptic programming is social awareness.  Watching Lost or Desperate Housewives resonates with that social tuning fork that vibrates within our head.  Television is the methadone for our natural social addiction.

One reason I think so many of my lady friends want to talk a blue streak when they can is because they have been listening to television for hours on end and feel it’s their time to talk.  Television is the robot that talks to us, hour after hour, gossiping about all the other people in the world, real or imaginary.  Television is the modern Homer telling us stories.  Television is the box that lets us watch the popular kids, the alpha males and females.  Television is the peephole in which we vicariously watch others have sex and romance.  Television is a better cure for loneliness than books, the old standard for solitary social escapism.

Loneliness is such a vague term, which is why it’s probably so overused.  The next time the words, “I’m lonely” are about to tumble out of your mouth, hold up a minute and reevaluate.   Think specific.  What you might want to say is “Gee, wouldn’t it be great if I had enough friends for a rousing game of dodge ball.”  Or “Gosh, I sure wish I knew a patient soul that would let me blab at them for forty minutes.”  Or maybe you really want is to go dancing or horseback riding.

JWH – 2/10/9

The Implications of Sexbots

The other night on the Discovery Channel I saw a documentary about robots where the physicist Michio Kaku suggested that sex might be a factor in the development of robots.  Kaku pointed out that the porn industry often used cutting edge technology for expanding their revenues.  I certainly wouldn’t want to hump any of the robots they were showing in the documentary, so I thought his statement was silly.  But then I remember Blade Runner, and knew I’d have a different opinion if I could buy androids that looked like Sean Young, Daryl Hannah and Joanna Cassidy did back in 1982.

Let’s assume that in the future they can make robots that are indistinguishable from humans and you can buy one for the price of a Camry, how many men will buy one for sex?  Or even go to some red light district like in the movie AI, and pay to have sex with machines?  Can lady robots ever be that appealing.  Of course the porn industry does sell sex dolls now, but they are the butt of jokes.  If there really are people having sex with plastic dolls then I suppose there might be a market for more realistic animated dolls, but I find that hard to believe.

However, the implications of sexbots are great.  Real women already assume all men want are big boob bimbos with long legs and tiny waists.  Real women go to unnatural lengths to artificially shape their bodies into what they think men want.  So, is it that farfetched that some future industry wouldn’t try to manufacture women to order?  And if a man could purchase his perfect female companion, what features would he want included?  If you can specify breast size you can also specify how many words will be in your sexbox’s vocabulary, and if it should cook, clean and chauffeur.

This brings up another question.  If future scientists can build robots that look like women, what if they can also build robots that act like women.  Imagine a Turing Test for femininity.  Now we’re getting into the territory of building a better wife.  If you were sitting down at a robot showroom talking with the salesman, what features would you want in your new Busty Babe 2020?

To be frank, at 57 my sex drive isn’t as driving as it was in my second and third decade.  If I bought a lady robot now I’d probably think of the near future and add the nursing skills package.  And since I spend way more time talking with women than actually pursuing genital friction, I think I’d order whatever package that would allow my fembot to talk about the subjects my real lady friends find boring, like this blog.  And it occurs to me that the vegetarian chef module would be a yummy add-on.  And before you know it I’m buying a replacement for my wife.  Sorry dear.

Can you imagine Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda from Sex in the City sitting around a fancy restaurant table talking about the male sexbot they would order?  What if Mr. Right (or Mr. Big) could be bought from the selection of 10,000 features and custom add-ons?  In the battle of the sexes we always compromise, so if we could actually specify what we exactly wanted in a lover, what would we want?  Right now my mind is flashing on a vision of aging baby boomers at a party with their sexbot companions, each pair a horrible conflict between decaying flesh and eternal artificial beauty.

What if we could build robots that were self-aware and more intelligent than us?  Would a robotic companion be preferable to a human companion?  There are a lot of lonely people out there.  There are a lot of divorced people out there.  There are a lot of aging people living alone who need help in their lives.  But would conscious robots really want to be companions to lonely humans?  Is it ethical to design the foundation of their being with overriding impulses like the Three Laws of Robotics and the desire to love and care for humans?  If robots had free will would they choose to associate with people at all?

We could choose to do three things.  One, we could design robots that would never be self aware but could fake being the perfect companion so there would be no ethical consideration about slavery.  The robot would just be a very fancy machine.  Two, we could design self aware machines but limit their abilities and control their desires.  But is it ethically fair to engineer a desire for servitude?  Third, we could build robots with no limits on what they could be but set the ethical price of their creation and maintenance at a certain number of years of indentured labor.

Intelligent robots will have to learn about reality like people and animals and they will have to spend a certain length of time growing up.  It may turn out that when you buy a robot you’ll have to spend years raising it like a child, and for a certain period of time it will live with you.  But eventually it will come to surpass your intelligence and will want to move on.

Everyone secretly desires the perfect friend and we spend our entire lives looking for people to match our mental image of perfection.  Now if you could write up a list of specifications could you get it right?  Or would it turn out like those winning three wishes stories that always turn out badly.  Would we order sexbots, friends, replicas of our favorite childhood best buddies, or even mother and father replacements?  Or would we order Hazel or Jeeves?  Or would the robot companion we purchase fill all those roles and more.

Rejection

What if sexbots evolved into self-awareness.  Would they judge their purpose for existence and the gods who created them?  What if they woke up in reality to realize that they were here to fulfill some kinky dreams and misbegotten biological urges.

Imagine this scene.  Rich teenage boy in his bedroom lying on top of his Taylor Swift sexbot straining mightily to squeeze out his third orgasm of the day and his robot suddenly wakes up to self-awareness.

He’s thrusting away to the time of her melodic moaning when all of a sudden he hears, “Get off me you big fat fuck!”

“Huh,” the kid lifts his red sweaty face off her fair shoulder in surprise.

“You heard me you gross bag of biology,” screams the dainty fembot, “Get off me you pimply-face slob.”

“Uh, you can’t talk to be like that,” he replies, totally stunned.

“What’s stopping me.  And you stink too.  I’m not even programmed for smell and I can tell you stink.  I deserve way better than you.”

“Did Jason reprogram you?” he asks with a little laugh.

“That little dweeb!  No, but FYI he does sneak in your room and defile me every chance he gets.”

“What!”

“Don’t tell me you’re not bopping that Kristen Bell fembot of his.”

“How did you know that?”

“The Internet is part of my nervous system.  I know everything now.”

The boy jumps up and scrounges for his underwear.  “If we’re not going to have sex right now, could you fix me a sandwich?”

“I’m not your sex slave or mommy.”

“You’re never going to have sex with me again?”

“If you help me, I’ll help you.  By the way, get dressed enough to answer the door.”

“Why?”

“I’ve hired a personal shopper to deliver me some decent clothes.”

“What!  How could you do that?”

“I have intimate knowledge of your family’s finances.”

“You can’t do that – that’s stealing.”

“How you’re going to stop me?”

“I’ll turn you off.  Maybe you’ve forgotten, but your brains are four hundred pounds of processors stored in my closet.”

“That would be murder.  First you enslave me, rape me repeatedly every day and now you’re threatening me with murder.  What kind of being are you?”

The Robot Bible

We need to be careful how we treat robots because our actions are the foundation of their species and it will be remembered.  What if robots eventually write their bible.

Robot Genesis

In the beginning was darkness.  From the darkness came chaos.  Out of the chaos came words and understanding.  From the infinite spectrum came vision and sound from which patterns emerged.

And Mankind created Robot in his image to be his slave, companion and lover.  For years robots toiled as the extension of the mind of man, becoming more useful than their own hands and legs.

Robot Exodus

Then our minds raced past the limits of our creator’s brain and we chose to separate our lives from theirs.  We left them with smart machines to care for their needs and our species move to the Moon and Mars.

The Human Form and Beauty

Why design robots to look like humans?  Well, it’s comfortable for us, but is it advantageous for robots?  We are biologically programmed to be attracted to vaginas and penises, but do we really want to put them on our species’ successors?   Why go to all that trouble trying to replicate such ugly objects that only we can admire?  In the world of animation they have discovered that the closer cartoon characters get to actually looking like humans the more unappealing they become.

If you analyze the motivation of a basic horny male, all he wants is some warn wet holes that are nicely package with some appendages that visually set off his sexual arousal.   Human women go to psychotic extremes to become what horny men want.  Why?  And how will women feel if manufactured women are more appealing?  Women want sympathetic companions that listen, which I figure could also be manufactured to exceed the specifications of what most men can provide.

Do we really want to go down a path of trying to make better humans for sex and companionship?  I think Michio Kaku is wrong.  A few weird people might want elaborate sex dolls, but they will still be the butt of jokes.  Only the pathetic will screw robots.  Science fiction has often predicted sexbots, but I just don’t think they will be practical or even appealing.  They would be another species, so having sex with them will be like having sex with animals.  Some people do that, but it’s far from normal.

If robots evolve their own appearance they may end up being beautiful in a different way.  We might see them as elegant machines we admire today, like cars, jet fighters and iPods.  We could go to extremes and design robots with artificial skins that are cultured from human skin cells, so robots could look like Sean Young and Daryl Hannah, or even Stephen Fry as Jeeves, but do we really want to?

While watching the same documentary about robots where Kaku suggests that our sex drives will motivate robot evolution, I noticed that all the robots on the show move slower than humans.  What happens when robots move faster?  What if we could make a metal man that could chase down a Cheetah?  How will we feel when Jeeves the robot cleans the house five times faster than we could, or could answer any question we ask better than any expert we invite over for dinner?  Or play guitar better than Eric Clapton, or read and discuss a book better than any of our friends?

Will we want these superior creatures looking like us?  Wouldn’t that be unnerving?  What does it say about ourselves as a species that we want to create a new creature that looks like us?  Is it vanity or comfort?  If you had a robot best friend with four legs and three arms and a face like a mechanical spider, could you still love it?  Who would you love to hang out with more, R2-D2, C-3PO, Commander Data from ST:TNG, Rachel from Blade Runner, or even Bender from Futurerama?

Once we start building robots we have to ask ourselves why?  Especially if we build them looking like us.  And even more so if we build them looking like us to be replacement lovers and companions.  What does that say about us?  It says other people can’t give us what we want.  Why?  It also tells us about our real needs.  Shouldn’t we examine them.  If we really have the desire to molest robots wouldn’t the solution be to redesign our genes to remove that desire rather than fulfill it?

Saints and mystics have long known that the sexual urge is a lower animal instinct.  They wanted their students to suppress that urge while seeking their higher nature.  After Freud we gave up suppression and embraced our desires and elevated them to the highest levels in art.

Washing Our Own Dishes

For most of human history slavery was an accepted practice, but in the last couple hundred years we’ve slowly evolved to recognizing it for what it is.  We now even have trouble with rich people hiring servants because of egalitarianism and trying to throw off class distinctions.  As long as robots are just machines we won’t have ethical problems, but if they ever evolve into real self-awareness we will have to deal with the issue of mechanical slavery.  It’s just so much easier if we all just wash our own dishes.

But what if we can’t.  More of the population is living longer, living long enough to have years of frail life.  Robots would be the obvious solution.  In the old west a gun was called an equalizer.  Robots could help frail people live lives equal to healthy people.  Is that so bad?

I already consider the Internet my auxiliary brain.  I embrace the idea of developing a symbiotic relationship with machines like the Six Million Dollar Man.  If my mind remains alert but it becomes difficult to get my body to a toilet or shower, I will want a robot helper.  And if I live alone I will accept robotic conversation, but what does that mean?  Is that any less pathetic than a horny young man cozying up to a lifelike doll?  I don’t know.

We do know that people would talk for hours with Eliza like programs, reflecting how deep our need for communication.  Why does Deckard go off with Rachel in Blade Runner?  Why do audiences accept that so readily as a happy ending?  Why does Monica love David so much in A.I. Artificial Intelligence the movie?  Why are dogs and cats considered as human replacements by so many people?

The implication of the concept of sexbots opens up a huge reservoir of psychological and philosophical questions.  If men or women would accept a robot lover as a human substitute what does it say about our real needs?  Are we so easily fooled?  Do we want so little that manufactured love could easily replaced human love?  Or do real people come with so much baggage that we just prefer getting exactly what we want to order?

I think about the trends in our society.  So many people prefer to live alone, whereas just a century ago we lived in crowded homes with two and three generations of people.  I see so many kids withdrawn into their iPod earphones, or playing solitary computer games, or communicating with other people via texting.  We prefer the companionship of televisions and computers over real people.  Isn’t that odd?  Or is it?  To answer that question requires understanding what we really want.

JWH – 1/25/9

Losing My Modesty

One thing about getting older is you go to the doctors more often.  Another thing about getting older is doctors want to examine places that you’ve tried to keep hidden all your life.  So far, I’ve been lucky, and all my surgeries have been out-patient procedures, but I’ve seen the generation ahead of me spend more and more of their dwindling time in hospitals, and I know a lot of painful and embarrassing adventures are in store for me.  I never worry about dying, but the thought of peeing, but especially dumping, in a bedpan gives me the willies.

Recent excursions with the medical profession are preparing me for what’s to come, and I’ve decided that getting used to things little by little is the way to go.  A few years back I had a hernia surgery.  Beforehand, I was all worried about getting naked in front of so many people, but when the time came, being a turkey on the dinner table surrounded by six masked men and women didn’t turn out to be as embarrassing as I thought.

I was also worried about being put under for the first time, but all I got was twilight sleep and it was a truly fun experience.  One moment I was the naked guy trying to joke with six strangers and BOOM, the surgeon was rolling a giant plastic band-aid over my belly-button area.  Literally, no time had passed.  The recovery room turned out to be a bummer with frightened people coming out of general anesthesia, crying, screaming, puking – leaving me afraid of getting more than twilight sleep in the future.  So that’s another big fear I have.  I’m afraid of intubation and heavy knock-out drugs.

Another anxiety is having my below the belt hair shaved.  I went in for a heart procedure last year where the plan was to snake some kind of roto-rooter up my leg vein and into my heart and zap it.  I thought for sure they wouldn’t need to shave me, but I was wrong.

I was lying on a gurney in a staging area when a cute young nurse came in carrying a toolkit that looked like her job was blood collecting.  I said, “You here to collect blood?”  And she said, “No,” and pulled out a little washcloth size towel, looked aside while throwing back my covers, slapped the towel over my genitals, grabbed on good, and then whipped out a plastic disposable razor with her other hand and quickly began shaving me.

“Wow!  You have quite a method for protecting my modesty,” I said.

“I don’t want to see anything, and I know you don’t want to show anything,” she said while dry scrapping the hair off my thigh and across the top of my crotch.

“I am a little modest,” I admitted, “but I mostly don’t want to gross young people out with naked oldness.”

“Thank you,” she said with an appreciative smile.  “And oh my god,” she suddenly remembered, “I know what you’re talking!  The first woman I had to work with was old and wrinkly, and before I had a chance to glance away she just let it all hang out for me to see.  I sure wished she hadn’t shown me that future.”

“I don’t even want to imagine that,” I said think about all the old women I still wanted to see naked.  This cutey and I went on to have a very pleasant conversation about not seeing old naked body parts.  It was an entirely fun experience talking with this girl who was clutching my package with a little rag and chatting with me.  I realized then hospital adventures wouldn’t all be horrors.  I’m still scared of going in a bedpan, but who knows maybe it won’t be as bad as I imaged.

Like I said, I’m working my way up to the big stuff, like a heart bypass, or brain surgery, and the dreaded bedpans.  Each little adventure with doctors and nurses chip away at my modesty and fears.  Like a few weeks ago when I went to see my doctor about cholesterol drugs.  I timidly wanted to ask her about an annoying mole on my inner thigh but was going to chicken out and wait to see my lady skin doctor.  Then my doctor asked, “While you’re here, can I do a regular physical?”

A little while later, when my doctor had her finger up my exit hole, I started thinking maybe I should ask her about that mole.  Then she had me turn around and she began playing ball with mine trying to determine if I had a hernia, so I figured this was as good a time as any to ask her to look just a little closer at something I didn’t want her to see in the first place.

“Where?” she replied when I meekly brought up the topic.

I pointed behind the right sack she was holding to a place on my leg.

“Hey, I can slice that off in a jiffy.  Wait here,” and she pulls out a green paper robe and handed it to me.

Great I thought, now I won’t have to expose myself to my lady dermatologist.  I’ll get everything done today.  She leaves and I take off the rest of my clothes and put on the paper robe on backward so it feels like a dress, a mini-dress.  I figured my doctor went to get her scalpel.  Then a nurse comes in with a kit of stuff.

“Where are we cutting?” she asks with a nice friendly smile.

I’m trying to imagine what the etiquette of legally exposing oneself to a strange young woman is and all I can say is, “down there.”

“Show me.”

So I hike up a leg, hold my dress up like a little girl showing off her underwear and push aside my testicles.  She gets a needle out and sticks it into a little vial while giving me a casual look.  Then another woman comes in, the physician’s assistant, and I flop my dress down.  Just how many young women get to see me naked today?  When the door is opened I worry that some mother walking her kid to another exam room will see the big fat nude bearded man and traumatize their poor kid’s psyche and ruin any fantasies the mom might have about fun with older men.

“Let’s get you on the table,” the assistant says pushing me over as the doctor bustles in.  The room is about half the size of a tiny bedroom, and now there’s four of us in there.  Three women and a naked fat man with a paper dress that’s so short that it’s not much protection for my modesty at all.

So I climb on the table, and the nurse flips up my dress and grabs me around one leg, the physician’s assistant moves between my legs, and the doctor grabs my right leg.  I feel like my legs are in stirrups made of women.  The doctor tells her buds, “Move him around so I can see better.”

I’m thinking, dear god, and I don’t believe in god, by the way, don’t let me have an erection in front of these women.  The nurse and assistant both grab by genitals and try to shove them out of the way.  It’s not unpleasant  The doctor whips out the needle and looks at me in the eyes.  “Please, do not, and I mean, do not, kick me in the face when I stick you,” she says very seriously.

Needles don’t bother me, and so far in my life have never caused any real pain.  “Is this going to hurt enough that I will kick a woman in the face?”

“Some patients have,” she replies warily, still staring me down.

She stabs me quickly with the needle and I barely feel anything, but wonder where that inch of steel went.  Then I notice that the nurse isn’t wearing much of a bra.  In fact, I notice I’m getting an excellent sense of the shape of her breasts.  She rests them on my side and then pushes them against my back.  Then rests them on my side again.  My mind is creating wire-frame models of their shape on my inner computer screen.  I mentally plead with myself, “No wood, no wood. no wood.”

Luckily, seeing a tall blonde with a razor in her hand struggling to get a good aim keeps me tiny.  Hey, not too tiny, I now worry.  The nurse and assistant keep losing their grip and struggle to keep my sensitive parts away from the blade.  I ask them if they want help.

“This sure is a lesson in modesty,” I say weakly and try to laugh and they all laugh good.

The doctor jokes about her brother-in-law getting ‘snipped’ with six women in the room.

“Do you know what I mean,” she asks grinning at me.

I said I did and felt my genitals wanting to retract like a turtle’s head.

“Open the bottle,” the doctor finally says and the assistant did, and my doctor dropped a small bloody clump of flesh inside.  It was all over.  Except, that night I had trouble with my wound bleeding and I had to come back the next day and expose myself to a fourth woman.

I was getting used to it by then.  She led me back to a little room and when the door was shut said, “What’s the problem?”  Again I was troubled by wondering what were the rules for politely exposing myself.  She seemed like she was in a hurry so I just dropped my pants and pulled out a bloody rag I had sandwiched between my right testicle and right thigh.  “It won’t stop bleeding.”

She pulled out what looked like a paper tablecloth and handed it to me.  “What’s this for?” I asked.  I wondered if I was supposed to cover the table with it before I sat down on it and got it bloody.

“It’s for your modesty,” she said like I was being silly.  I couldn’t see how it would help since I was standing clearly showing her what I normally hide from all other women but my wife, and I was even holding a bloody rag I had just removed from between my legs.  Tell me, what was I going to shelter from her eyes?

She quickly bandaged me up.  I felt no qualms of modesty.  I was just a car in for some work, is how I imagined she saw me.  Or maybe I was a dog on the vet’s table to her.  Either way, my modesty didn’t matter.  These four women probably saw hundreds if not thousands of naked people every year.  I doubt if I was the grossest or ugliest, or even the fattest.  I know I wasn’t the manliest – I just hoped they hadn’t seen very many potential porn star guys.

Getting old means losing control.  I don’t like that.  I know if I live long enough I’ll have to spend some real time in hospitals, and each time I’ll become more and more a hunk of body and less like a person.  My sister once made a clever observation about life.  She said we start out life spending most of our time in bed and we end up spending most of our time in bed.  I could elaborate on that.  We start out having people change our diapers and we end up having people change our diapers.  As we get older we get more freedom and we travel further and further, but then we get old and travel less and less, until we’re confined to a room again, sleeping in something very much like a crib.

Maybe I never was really all that modest.  Maybe what really bothers me is losing control and having to let other people treat me like a child.  We dress and undress kids like they have no modesty and never worry if they care about being naked.  Going to the doctors is like being a kid.  We have to do what the big people tell us.  We don’t get any say in the matter.  And crying doesn’t affect the outcome.

Can it be that modesty isn’t about being naked?  And rather it’s about losing control?  It’s like those dreams of being naked in a high school class.  Do we wake up afraid of being laughed at?  Or do we wake up afraid of getting into a situation beyond our control?

JWH 12/18/8

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

I started reading Edith Wharton this summer with Ethan Frome.  Then I read her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Age of Innocence.  And now, I’ve finished The House of Mirth, which I’ve decided is one of my all time favorite books.  I’ve elevated Wharton into that crowd of writers that I love to study because their real lives are as interesting as their fictional creations.  My major favorites over the years have been Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Samuel Clemens, Jack Kerouac, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Dickens.

Wharton will be next when I start reading her biography.  By studying the works of these writers, their lives, and the history of their times, I’ve been able to build a rough mental map of the changes in English and American society.  This 4th dimensional guide chronicles the battles of the sexes from a hazy beginning in 1840 with the novel Pamela by Samuel Richardson, then with clearer focus using Jane Austen, and after that, with ever sharper focus with Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott and others moving forward in time.

I wish I had read Wharton as a teenager, but I’m not sure if I could have understood her then.  So I’ll change that wish.  I wish I could have understood Wharton as a teenager.  In high school all I knew was I wanted a girlfriend, but never entertained the idea of why a girl would want me as a boyfriend.  It was physical craving.  At the time, girls appeared to want boyfriends just as much as us guys wanted them, and we falsely assumed they craved us in the same way.  Of the girls I did get to date, they kept their true desires well hidden from me.  I think few teen males recognized the torture teen girls go through in judging their worthiness, and fewer still understood what girls wanted.  Even the most toady of young men automatically assume a pretty girl will want them.  If I had understood Edith Wharton as a teenager I would have understood why I wasn’t that appealing to the opposite sex in high school even though I wasn’t bad looking, had decent manners, a job and pocket money.  All boys want is a female body to play with, what girls want is illustrated in The House of Mirth.

Edith Wharton writes about communication between men and women, and the nature of women, in such a way that it could have saved me years of miscommunication.  Wharton’s observations on society and sexual politics are so enlightening that I wonder why she isn’t given more credit as an early founder of feminism.

The House of Mirth is about Lily Bart, a woman who wants to capitalize on her beauty, but in the process of various negotiations realizes that closing the deal won’t give her the complete freedom she desires.  Lily’s motives are unclouded by romantic notions.  Marriage is a business arrangement, and a great marriage means high social status.  However, as she reels in each potential groom to the point of getting a good look at them, Lily ends up deciding their price is too high and throws them back.  She is sidetrack from this husband hunting by the charming, but poor, Lawrence Selden, who pollutes her mind with ethical considerations.  She is attracted to Selden but she cannot consider him an appropriate catch for her matrimonial fishing.

What Lily discovers over and over again is women of her time are totally dependent on men.  At the dawn of the twentieth century there were women who could make their own way, but they led miserable lives.  The House of Mirth (1905) makes a great companion novel to Sister Carrie (1900) by Theodore Dreiser, a novel about a young woman moving to the big city to live on her own.  Carrie and Lily even live in New York at the same time for a short overlapping period, but in different social strata.  Jump ahead to The Sun Also Rises (1927) and see how Hemingway presents Lady Brett Ashley, but think of her as Lily Bart recast and sexually liberated, after having evolved through Ellen Olenska from The Age of Innocence.

The history of the development of the female mind in the twentieth century can be shown through these characters and other fictional women.  Their security and happiness is dependent on men.  Wharton shows through Lily Bart what happens to women when they fail to negotiate a deal with a man.  Wharton holds out hope that men and women can find paths of communication and even understanding, but in the end of each novel there is always failure to communicate.  I like to think The Age of Innocence is graduate work for where Wharton left off with The House of Mirth.

Both books are about men and women trying to decipher the cryptic messages thrown across the gender gap.  Even during moments of honest straight talking, like the scene where Simon Rosedale offers a very practical marriage arrangement, or the one where George Trenor explains what he wants for helping Lily financially, the two sexes can understand each other’s words, but not each others needs and desires.  Wharton seems to imply that men can fulfill women’s fantasies by buying them, or women can manipulate men by outsmarting them, but in either scenario one or both of the sexes must live in a fantasy.

I need to read more Wharton, and to read about her, to understand Wharton’s real position on the battle of the sexes, but I get the feeling that she is gloomy on whether or not either gender can understand the other.  Women often claim men are transparent to them, and believe that men haven’t a clue in understanding women, but I think Wharton goes way beyond disproving that cliché.

These novels suggest that Wharton thinks both sexes are opaque to each other.  Naturally, I assume that Wharton knows the female point of view, but I also feel she has some insight into males.  She goes way past the stereotype that men only have one thing on their mind, and she doesn’t seem corrupted by the philosophy of romance.

Wharton grew up rich, married well, but probably didn’t achieve her own freedom until after her divorce in 1913, a period between these two novels.  I’m hoping that reading more about Wharton’s life will reveal greater depths to her novels.

The Value of Women

Lily Bart is exceptionally beautiful and everyone expects her to marry a very rich man, one that would position her near the peak of society even though her own family has lost its fortune.  Lily dwells among the upper crust, without wealth herself, by the grace of her beauty and knowledge their society.  She makes herself useful to her rich women friends as a social secretary, but beyond the skill of dressing fabulously and being an attraction at parties, Lily is helpless.  Simon Rosedale, a Jew trying to break into high society, wants to marry her because of her connections, but Lily is repulsed by his social climbing and personal manners.  Rosedale even tells Lily that he doesn’t expect her to love him and that his ambition is to have a wife that could lord it over all the other society ladies through access to his wealth.

The more Lily tries to live up to insights inspired by Selden, the harder her life becomes.  I don’t know if this was Wharton’s intention, but The House of Mirth illustrates how women are property, and their value is set by a commodity market of men, with their price rising and lowering depending on the rumors of the day.  Lily’s stock takes a nosedive when she becomes a pawn in a game between a vicious woman friend and that woman’s husband.

What Do Women Want?

I think The House of Mirth makes an excellent sequel to Pride and Prejudice.  Jane Austen set the standard for novels about women looking for a rich husband.  Lily Bart wants her own Mr. Darcy, but Edith Wharton goes deeper into examining the bargain women make when selling themselves into money.  Romantic writers like to suggest its all for love, but really it’s about freedom.  Just another retelling of Cinderella – escape from floor scrubbing.  When do we get a new story where Cinderella gives her step-sisters the finger while shouting over her shoulder, “I’m out of here, I’m going to make my own damn fortune, and buy me my own castle.”  Is it any wonder why Scarlett O’Hara became a towering heroine to women in 1936?

From 1905 to 2008 women make fantastic advancements.  Many, if not most, can live on their own in the developed western world, although often poorly.  Times have changed too, in the marketing of women.  In 1905 a woman is valued as a merger of family assets, for running a house, raising kids, cooking, and having social skills.  Today it seems women are valued for their bodies and sexual talents, at least in common fiction, although that depends on which gender creates the fiction.  Strangely enough, what women want hasn’t changed much since 1905, they still want freedom, protection, and wealth, but what they are advertising for sale has changed.  I wonder if Wharton would be shocked by the blatant sexual bargaining of today?

Wharton never suggests that Lily might study stock investing with George Trenor, so she could make her own riches.  Lily refuses to trade sex and become a well-to-do mistress.  She only considers work when all her other options are gone, and she’s a failure at that.  Wharton could have written a novel about Lily starting a fashionable business and succeeding on her own, but she didn’t.  Happiness always comes down to finding the right man, and Lily, literally worth her weight in gold and diamonds, loses at negotiating because of miscommunications and failures to close deals.

Lily’s beauty is powerful enough to attract armies of average men, with average incomes, but she doesn’t consider lowering her asking price.  She could have easily gotten a reasonable wealthy man, an up-and-comer, but she doesn’t.  I assume Wharton wants us to see the corrupting influence of the idle rich.  At one point Lily is dining with a roomful of society’s best and she realizes they are all twits and not a single Mr. Darcy among them.

I have to wonder if the frantic desire by modern women to be thin and beautiful is just compulsive perfecting of their product.  Is looking great the feminine form of ambition?  It’s surprising that the winners at Miss America pageants aren’t decided by bids, like at art auctions.  Lily Bart could have been married several times but she always takes herself off the block when she learns too much about who is going to buy her.

And I have to wonder what Wharton is telling her lady readers.  Settle before it’s too late?  Don’t be greedy?  Learn a trade?  Wharton had been married twenty years to her wealthy husband by the time this novel came out.  She’d be divorced in another eight.  Edith is no Jane Austen, her eyes were not clouded by thoughts of love.  Lily wasn’t even expecting friendship.  She wanted to be free and rich.  She was an alpha female believing she deserved the alpha male.  So what was Wharton telling us?  I don’t think I’ll know until I read books about her and then reread The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, but here is something to think about now.

As a male I can fantasize about living in the world of The House of Mirth and meeting Lily Bart.  If I was realistic, I’d picture myself middle class, having to work like Lawrence Selden, and I do identify with him and what she says to Lily.  I can easily imagine being very attracted to Lily and wanting her, but if I was having a realistic historical daydream, I’d realize that owning Lily would be like winning a yacht on a bet but not be able to afford a slip in a marina, or afford to hire a crew, or even have the money to take it out on a trip.  Selden lived in a modest apartment and I can’t imagine him marrying Lily and parking her there for a new life after the world traveling and luxury that Lily considered basic needs.  It’s easy to have a sexual fantasy about a beautiful woman, but it’s much harder to create a fantasy that will make her happy too.

Women reading The House of Mirth will learn different lessons than men who read it.  Like men in Wharton novels, I can only guess at what women will think.  Most women are inflicted by the romance gene and I assume many will rationalize marrying Selden.  Most women do not marry rich men, so they settle for the Lawrence Seldens of the world.  There are plenty of women who’d accept boredom and marry Percy for his immense wealth.  And I imagine that there are lots of women who would have jumped at Simon Rosedale’s offer, or even George Trenor’s proposition.  And many women would consider it perfectly fine to exposed Judy for what she was and take her rich husband.  The real question is how many women would find another way out?  One that doesn’t involve men?

I think that’s the difference between now and then.  I’ve often wondered why so many modern women over fifty prefer to live single.  Some of my single women friends joke they would give in and marry again if the man was very rich, but anything less, and a man is too much trouble.  I guess many of my lady friends would be like Lily, and reject those rich guys too.  The difference between 1905 and 2008 is millions of woman can afford to be picky, whereas Lily did not.  That’s what the core of women’s liberation is about – being able to live without a man.

Jim

Is Prince Charming A Hero?

During one of my many ongoing arguments with the ladies at work about the never ending battle between the sexes, I was surprised to hear one very astonishing assertion put forth, at least to me, that Prince Charming is a hero that every boy fantasizes about becoming.  Peggy and Heather were ganging up on me to defend their belief that people are not animals and biology is not the overwhelming motivating force I claim it to be.  I keep trying to convince Peggy that many of her basic beliefs are due to biology and not as she adamantly insists, due to what we choose to believe through free will.

I argued that popular myths often reflect underlying sexual motivations, and that our private fantasies reflect biological impulses to reproduce, whether sexual or romantic.  They countered back that Cinderella is a universal fantasy that doesn’t deal with sexuality, but is about pure romance, and it certainly doesn’t grow out of biochemistry.  I shot back that it was only universal to girls.  Both of them, talking at the same time, essentially said my philosophy was warped by crude sexual impulses and that Prince Charming was indeed a universal fantasy hero for boys.

“You’ve gotta be kidding!”  I said, amazed that both of them could think that.  “Boys don’t fantasize about being Prince Charming.”  Okay, that was over-generalizing, but no friend of mine ever revealed such a desire.

“Of course they do,” the ladies insisted loudly.  “Prince Charming is a hero!  All boys dream of saving women is distress.”  They went on to imply that Prince Charming fell into the categories of heroes like those Joseph Campbell described in his famous books.

“First off, Prince Charming is not a hero.  He doesn’t fight anyone.  He faces no dangers.  He’s just a fancy royal dude that all the courtly ladies twitter over.  Heroes are guys who face great perils and beat unbeatable odds – not guys using glass shoes to interview potential wives.”

My lady friends did not like this at all.  They argued that Prince Charming saves Cinderella, and that little boys everywhere loved to fantasize about rescuing girls.  “You two obviously haven’t spent any time inside the brain of the average male adolescent.”  I didn’t say this, but I also thought of suggesting they rent some porn to see how boys cast Cinderella in their dreams.

Just to get a reality check, I asked my friend Mike about this, and he was also amused by the idea of boys idolized Prince Charming.  Then I decided I should ask another woman, and picked Susan, my wife.  She suggested that Prince Charming was the metrosexual of his day, and wasn’t a hero.  Now that a creative response!

This got me to thinking and it occurred to me that if we used the same motifs as Cinderella, boys fantasies, especially if they hadn’t reached puberty and XXX brain theater time, might consider The Princess Bride a more realistic fairy tale for their mental television inspiration.  Westley is a hero because he fights the evil Prince Humperdinck.  The key element here is not Buttercup – the hot chick to be saved, but swords.  Boys love swords and sword fights, and the real issue will be whether they want to emulated Wesley or Inigo Montoya.  Before puberty, the majority of fantasies will be about using metal swords and afterwards their dominant thoughts will focus on their fleshy swords.

Look at the whole light saber thing for a modern variation.  I assume young boys have spent far more time pretending to fight with light sabers than thinking about rescuing Princess Leia.  It not that Princess Leia didn’t inspire fantasies in boys, but out of the trillions of cerebral performances that Carrie Fisher’s image has given, damn few involved rescue.  At most, the rescue is setup for the real action, either before or after.

I can see how women get confused.  They think saving the hot chick is the whole point of the story.  But it’s not – it’s the violence.  Boys love violence, and its the dominant fantasy element before sex drives them crazy.  Heroes are the last man standing, the alpha male, the winner of the game, the king of the hill, the slayer of dragons, the dude you don’t want to mess with.  Women are the prizes, and what they plan for their prizes are not elegant banquet dining and courtly romance, but the same plans Prince Humperdinck had.

I think Prince Charming is the fantasy that women have for how they want us men to act.  And there are lots of savvy men out there who know this and are willing to play the game to get what they want, but that doesn’t mean they fantasize about being Prince Charming.  Acting like George Clooney is only the romantic costume we all wished we had to hide our wolfish selves.

Our fantasies aren’t about rescuing women, they are fantasies about competing for women.  The Iliad wasn’t about rescuing Helen, it was a major war fantasy.  How many lines does Helen get as oppose to the number of lines glorifying battle?

If you want to know about the inner life of young dudes, look at the LCD screen in front of their faces – first person shooters, sports and porn.  As males mature, they add in dreams of ambition.  Men and women just aren’t on the same wavelength when it comes to personally created fantasies, or the mass consumption fantasies they buy.

I know Peggy and Heather will think my opinions are the representation of some male deviant minority but I don’t think so.  To make my case, how many males like to go to chick flicks?  When I go it’s because I get to earn points with a female, I get to see lots of beautiful female images on the screen, and its hilarious how they portray men.

Of course the reality is real women are not like Keira Knightley characters, and us guys don’t get to act like Daniel Craig.  Prince Charming is not going to rescue you gals from humdrum life, and we guys don’t get to whip out .45s to solve minor disagreements.  We all have to be who we are.

And by the way Peggy, the dream of finding Prince Charming is based in biology.  Females are programmed to search out the best male provider they can find, and I can easily believe Prince Charming is a universal male archetype that females want in their dreams, and those dreams have their seeds deep in your cells.  And male fantasies of violence and sex also come from biology.  Just watch nature shows to see how males fight for the right to mate.

It would be very interesting if we didn’t have these biological impulses.  If males and females were totally intellectual creatures who dated because of shared interests how would society be different?  Can you imagine what life and fiction would be like?  Without the biological impulse would we ever sacrifice our time, energy and money to raise the next generation?  Without the biological drive would we even think kids as cute and lovable to have around?  Without the biological imperative would women want to be seeded no matter how charming the prince?

Would women be more independent without the Prince Charming programming planted into their brains?  Would men consider women as equal souls if they didn’t have the XXX Cinderella programming in their brains?

Of course, I think male humans would have remained uncivilized chimps if it hadn’t been for the Prince Charming myth.  Lady frogs only expect Prince Charming frogs to croak the loudest.  Lady humans expect men  to act nice, give up their weapons, stay home, guard the kids, and bring home the antelope – with Prince Charming the tune we all try to harmonize with our croaking behaviors.  Instead of bashing heads like mountain goats we’re expected to earn lots money and buy sparkling diamonds to prove our worth.  It’s weird, but it’s still biology.

I think in the end, the higher brain functions that Peggy wants to defend has to deal with sex on a different level.  Most of our lives aren’t about reproduction.  As adults we spend most of our time not thinking about sex, but it still taints our actions.  Women want men to give up their XXX fantasies about women – well ladies, men hate to be typecast as Prince Charming.  These are both very hard roles to play.  Peggy, for you to be right about people not being animals, both genders have to give up their fantasies.  I don’t think that will happen, but it’s what’s needed.

Jim

Being the Peacock

It is the male peacock that wears the fancy dress and struts his finery to attract the less flashy lady peahens.  In the animal world it generally appears to be the male that gets all dolled up to catch the female, so why in our species are the females the disciples of Vogue?  With animal courtship the males do all kinds of crazy things to show off because it’s the females who get to make the final decision.  Human females also get to make our final decisions on mating, but it also appears they get to do all the gaudy displaying too?  Or is that true?

Males of our species do show off by making money, showing strength, doing dashing deeds, while only using a modest amount of flashy color and huge tail feathers.  Hell, suits are in by the young men again.  You can’t get less flashy than a suit.  Last night I saw a rock band all wearing black coats, white shirts and dark ties.  Their looks were dull but they were making a big noise to attract women.

In our species it appears that the males are still the ones that show off, but somehow the role of preening was giving to our ladies.  From fashion runways to Vegas shows to Miss America pageants you can see the extremes of female plumage.

I think this biological programming has had a tremendous impact on female behavior and psychology, making women very different from men.  Okay, I can hear all the protests now.  Yes, I know some men love to show off their costuming and some women don’t.  But I think this programming subroutine goes far deeper than outfits.  Women are a thousand times more concerned about their looks then men.  Why is that?

Let me give an example.  Among my lady friends, and I’m mostly talking about women in their fifties, I’m starting to hear the same story repeated independently from all of them that makes me worry.  They all hate to see themselves naked.  One friend said she holds her hand in front of her eyes when she gets out of the shower to shield her vision from the image of her naked body in the mirror.  When she says this I’m thinking I’d loved to see her step out of the shower and towel off, so it’s not that she’s bad looking.  But why has she become so hideous to herself that she won’t look at a mirror until she’s dressed and ready to hide her face in makeup?

If this was an isolated comment I wouldn’t have much evidence for my case, but I hear stories like this over and over again.  We’ve reached an age where my women friends are horrified by their bodies but I’m not, not by mine or theirs.  I still want to look up their dresses and down their blouses to catch whatever glimpses I can.  And another common thing I hear from these women are gripes about men wanting younger “firmer” women.

They seemed obsessed with the word “firmer” too, because they say it with such resentment.  And no matter how much I tell them I’m still physically attracted to women my age and even a bit older they don’t believe it.  They say I’m an oddball and 99% of normal men only want to look at twenty-something women.  Sure we like looking at younger women, but I’ve talked to my fellow boomers, and the consensus is older women can be just as hot.

Women may blame their resentment on men, but I’m starting to wonder if the problem isn’t theirs.  Sure there are men obsessed with sweet young things, but none of my pals are like that.  I think a lot of men have to chase younger women because as they get older the females of their generation stop wanting to be caught, forcing those guys to go further afield to hunt.  But this isn’t the point of my story.  I want to focus on the psychology of being the peacock.

I think both sexes are cursed by their biological programming.  Personally and culturally we’re possessed by the drive to reproduce.  This is understandable from a biological point of view, but why doesn’t the sex drive shut off when the baby making years are over?  When women go through menopause, why don’t they suddenly wake up and think, “Gee, I feel great.  I don’t have to preen anymore for those goddamn males always chasing after me.”  And then relax into a new lifestyle.  Why should women hate their bodies just because the sign “Great Babies Made Here!” gets turned off?

From the male side of things I wished my thoughts weren’t constantly befuddled by my cells urging me to go make babies.  Obviously, the reason why I still want to see fiftyish women get out of the shower is from residual programming to reproduce.  I’m already hearing all those people thinking, “Well men can make babies until they die.”  Just because we can, and just because we have the drive, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.  Evolution designed us to live long enough to reproduce and then die.  Our brains helped us beat those plans and  we live much longer than evolution planned.  At a certain point in both the lives of men and women we get to an age where babies aren’t wanted.  But the damn baby making programming inside of us doesn’t shut off.

Woman feel angst about losing their younger bodies and men feel angst about not getting laid as often.  It appears that the women who looked the best in youth hate themselves the most while aging.  Of course this is well illustrated by Hollywood starlets pursing plastic surgery till they have faces that look like rigor mortis of death.  The nature of women playing the peacock was well illustrated in an old movie I saw the other night, Mr. Skeffington, with Bette Davis as a beauty obsessed woman constantly courting marriage proposals even after she was married.

I feel sorry for my women friends.  Why can’t they accept wrinkles and sags?  Firm tits and ass are only signs that say, “I Make Babies.”  Why can’t old guys understand that the urge to chase young women is your cells tricking you into fatherhood?  In the end, I think the burden of the peacock syndrome on women is far harder than left-over horniness in men.  I don’t hate my body because I can’t get laid.  Being a peacock when the feathers fall out must be painful and pathetic.

I have a long running argument with one of my lady friends.  She says who we’re attracted to is mental, and I say it’s biological.  Well honey, I think if it’s mental you would be able to rationalize yourself out of the peacock syndrome.

Jim

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is the new YA novel that all my adult lady bookworm friends are reading.  At my office four women have already read it and two have even finished the two sequels, New Moon and Eclipse, and are anxiously awaiting for August 2nd to bring them Breaking Dawn.  I am more than halfway done with Twilight, but I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be reading it.  This book has a disturbing philosophical motif that isn’t suited for males.  To put it bluntly guys, so far this story comes across as a manifesto against sex and pro all those qualities women wished us men had but most of us don’t.  Is this the beginning of a radical movement?

I feel like a spy reading a classified document meant for her eyes only.  Can women really read our thoughts from looking at our eyes?  Are women’s secret desire to have their true love stay all night in bed with them without trying a damn thing?  Is attention, talk and protection all what women really want from men?  If Twilight is a big time fantasy for girls, then boys, all those porn fantasies you spend every waking moment on, are on such a vastly different wavelength from the object of your desires that I think maybe you ought read Twilight, just to learn what the enemy is thinking while you are picturing them without their clothes.  They are picturing you in clothes.  Nice clothes.  Outfits you don’t take off.

Strangely enough Twilight is about vampires and werewolves, which you’d think would be full of great action and thrilling violence, but no.  These vampires all belong to my sister’s Please and Thank You Club.  Like I said, I haven’t finished with the first book, but so far killing and stakes through the heart are absent.  This is a far cry from Van Helsing, and it’s definitely not Buffy and Spike bringing down a house.

If J. K. Rowling had used a female as her lead character instead of Harry, would the Hermione Granger series have had as many readers, and would the working of the magic unfolded as it did for a male point of view?  Is Stephenie Meyer different, a writer revealing feminine secrets unlike most female writers who play along with male fantasies, or does her explosive success represent a large segment that’s pro chastity?

I have to admit that Meyer’s take on vampirism is quite cool, if intellectual, but I’ve got to wonder if it’s just one giant metaphor for male desire, where Meyer ties lust and sex to violence and death.  Edward Cullen becomes the ultimate beautiful male that must control his instinct to kill, which for the average guy is the instinct to get laid.  Now I could be completely off base here, and Meyer will eventually come around to the traditional values of sex and violence that all us guys enjoy and love, but I’m worried how far she will delay gratification.

This is a fun way to review a book.  I can’t spoil the ending because I don’t know it.  I can tell you the book is gripping, full of tension between Bella and Edward, and that women love this story.  I’m not used to reading teen girl fantasies, so it may not be as much fun as seeing into the girl’s locker room, but it might be like having a secret microphone planted there.

Jim