MEN ON MY MIND… (2009)

“Lately you have men on your mind….”  That’s how my brother’s letter started out. I read the sentence several times and then asked myself: “Is that true?”  I could answer yes or no. Am I thinking about men more than before? Before when?  If I say 5 years ago, the answer is “yes”. If I say 17 years ago, the answer is “no”, definitely not: at that time I was just divorced and one of the top –if not the top-top- items on my mind’s list was A MAN, any man from the creeps to the crawlies. I dated a scrawny, gaunt cocaine addict who was out of his mind and proud of it; another one night stand had a wandering eye (physically, not figuratively), looked like Topo Gigio[1] and passed his ABC[2] gum into my mouth the first time he kissed me; I kissed a man 15 years younger than I was and married, and then believed that the reason we couldn’t do it again was because he was so much younger (my therapist was kind enough to point out that perhaps his being married with children might be the problem more than the years); I flirted with my spiritual teacher and was promptly informed it wouldn’t work, etc.

And if we go back even further, into the Dark Ages of my life I would have to answer that question with: “it depends”, because there were days, even weeks when “no” would have been correct (after all, I was married) and then periods when a “yes” would have fit better (after all, I was married), and the fact is “I can’t remember that much”.

            So lately I have had men on my mind… well, to a certain extent. Not so long ago, around August of last year, I remember saying to the Powers That Be that I was ready to have more masculine energy in my life. I didn’t specifically say A MAN, nor did I limit that kind of energy to a romantic relationship. Life, of course, set about arranging for me to get what I wanted; it always does when that is convenient. A couple of male patients (I call them clients because I don’t do therapy) showed up at my consultation and I immediately practiced a well-learned counter transference with them without even waiting to see if they were going into transference. There was no harm in it, no acting out, no wild fantasies at night, no flirting, no suggestions. Two men showed up for the Chi Kung session in the morning (both married and definitely uninteresting) and the teacher is a man; I began going to a homeopath whom I found attractive (also married); the maitre-de at my favorite restaurant definitely flirted with me a couple of times; I made friends with a man in France who drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney and had a charming mother with whom I struck up a relationship; I hired a personal trainer, a young fellow from whom I get all the touchy-feely and squeezes (stretches too) I need with no sexual overtones; my one gay friend began to call me more often; and I actually had a cyber romance with a long lost school buddy from way back, who 52 years ago gave me a lift home after a party and for no reason I can figure out, suddenly called me one day on my cell phone,  after which we spent almost two months talking, laughing and flirting on internet.  Just a couple of weeks ago I went to a wedding (first time since in Spain that I have dressed up) and actually was attracted by the divorced cousin of the mother (my friend) of the groom. I found him quite attractive, something that hadn’t happened to me for a long time, if we remove the counter transferences and the way I just love looking at handsome young guys with no ulterior motive. However, after dancing with him once and later watching him dance with every young thing in the room, I realized how much like my first ex he was. The attraction was explained and voluntarily discarded. I even started to receive the magazine “Gentlemen” (with oodles of pictures of gorgeous men) without having subscribed to it.

            So now I have a date with The Greek (Rony Abagi Christofides) and my brother’s opinion is that “What’s one Greek when at least half of the world population is men?”  Well, One Greek is the one who invited me to a Gala Dinner this Friday so at least One Greek is a good dinner and an excuse to dress up (the second time this year, I am doing better). One Greek can also be a doorway to meeting other men, especially as this Greek has money and can invite a girl out. And, that does not mean I want to meet “other men” as my brother suggests: “Perhaps you ought to make a project of meeting men, lots of different ones just for the fun of meeting them and seeing what they are about?”  Oh God, it sounds horrendous: make a project of meeting men and who says that meeting men is “fun”. I think I would prefer to open a brothel and be the madam and have my choice of clients; that would leave my days free to do what I damn please; no project, men come to you.

            I am beginning to understand why in some countries men have to enslave their women, surround them with ignorance, cover them up with burkas or veils and forbid them to lift their eyes from the pavement when they walk in the street. When we –women I mean- discover freedom, I mean real-inner-I-lead-my-own-life-and-screw-the-rules type, the need for a man not only disappears it becomes an oxymoron like the term “married-freedom” for example. So when my brother suggests I make a project of meeting men, the hair on my neck stands up and my skin cringes. When he elaborates more and throws in a few ‘helpful’ suggestions on how to go about this, like joining clubs, or going to group thingies, getting your friends (which ones?) to introduce you… I become so bored in advance that I have to go back to bed.  Didn’t he ever understand why I had to get absolutely stoned at parties? I know it is prejudice, but I have this ‘thing’ about clubs, groups and social life in general.

            And as far as “seeing what men are about”, I do believe I have found out how to do that much better since I stopped being romantically inclined towards them, which only led to fantasy and projection. As far as I am concerned, the comedian who explains the difference between a man’s brain (made up of little boxes with one subject in each box, never to be mixed with the subject in another box) and a woman’s brain (an internet super highway) was right on. As I observe I notice that a man, when he is thinking about his business, he is thinking about his business; his car can occupy his whole mind for an unlimited period of time; the family never gets mixed in with the business or the car, and so on. One thing was very clear to me even before I heard the comedian’s explanation: in a man the part of the brain that occupies itself with the wife has no connection whatsoever with the part of the brain that occupies itself with the self. For instance: my husband of 30 years could sit there and look at me shaking his head nostalgically and say: “When I met you your hair was soooo blond,” even though my hair –while now a bit darker- is still blond, while at the same time not realizing that when I met him HE HAD HAIR!!! Along the same line, I have heard men with tremendous paunches criticize a slightly heavy woman’s weight; short men speak disparagingly of “small women”; older men think that anything over 30 is not worth looking at, and men whose cultural level is around minus 4, refer to women’s conversation as “senseless babble”. I mean, when was the last time these male specimens looked at themselves with any degree of honesty? And it’s not that women’s brains are more intelligent, they are just different and the description “internet super highway” is perfect. Everything is connected to everything. A husband can’t come home and mention the fact that he might like to buy a new car, without his wife dragging his mother-in-law into it (“My mother will turn over in her grave at such an unnecessary expense”), pointing out the incipient economic crisis in China, complaining that last year he didn’t take her on the usual vacation, mentioning that she really needs to renew her wardrobe, reminding him that the college fund must be paid, remembering that last year his earnings were not up to snuff, needling him about his losses at the poker game on Friday night, and informing him that the manager of the Super Market had looked askance at her during her last shopping day as if to say her consumption had gone down, before she even asks what kind of car he is thinking of buying.

            The letter continues:  “I bet if you thought about it and set your mind to it you would meet all kinds of men and then, who knows, perhaps you would find a decent “partner” with whom to share in your mutual enjoyment of life.”  There are ambiguous undertones to this sentence that puzzle me. By “decent ‘partner’” does he suggest that my partners have not been decent, or that the two decent men in my life have not been partners? Or is he just talking off the cuff? And then, I really have to ask myself if I want to “meet all kinds of men” or even if I have not in my 67 years of living already “met all kinds of men” beginning, of course, with my grandfather and father and continuing on to my son and grandsons. If I contemplate everything in between, from my husband’s colleague who one drunk New Year’s Eve put his hand on my ass while dancing with me and murmured: “I so admire your brain”, to the photographer on the trip I took to write my book on the Río Grande (Bravo in Mexico) who slept next to me for 19 nights and never once touched me sexually (and he wasn’t gay), I think I have about run the gamut of “all kinds of men”. The strange thing is that my brother thinks I don’t meet men. I meet men all the time, every day I meet men; they come into my life in thousands of ways, knocking on my door, sitting at the table next to me in the restaurant, standing at the counter for coffee in the morning. I meet waiters and newspaper salesmen; there are veterinarians and dentists, internists and dog owners who stop to ask me about Salomé –my miniature schnauzer. There is my male accountant and the men I run into on internet (Swami Beyondananda being one of my favorites) and through e-mail (my brother among others); there are men in my workshops and in the restaurant where I have lunch, runners in the park young, middle-aged and elderly; fathers pushing baby carriages; youngsters necking with their girlfriends, drunks playing cards and arguing. Men come to fix my washing machine and to register the numbers on the water meter; my trainer comes twice a week and the bank man once a month and they are both darlings; there are the diverse postmen who come to leave packages, and men sit next to me in the movies and of course male actors in the film; my doorman is a very good looking man and the owner of the restaurant across the street always tries to flirt with me; there is Kingsley, the Nigerian who waits for handouts in front of the supermarket and every day greets me and Salomé with the same wide smile and “buenos días”. There are men on the street and in the bars, men hurrying to the Wednesday football match or coming home from the office. Men… all over the place. Since I have asked for male energy in my life, men are everywhere, there is no possibility of avoiding them and I take note, watch them, observe, register their facial expressions, listen to their voices and their words as they address another or me. I see their faces twist when they are afraid, or tighten up with courage; I watch their insecurities and their strength; I see their aggressiveness and the tender way they handle their small children; they show me passion or indifference or bitterness; I have listened to their sexual problems, their addictions to internet porn or prostitutes, or their fear that they will no longer be able to ‘measure up’. I can see their humanity or their lack of it, just as I can find all that in myself, and yet we are so different.

But looking AT men is not really the same as looking FOR a man, is it?

            “If you ‘mind your own business’ and make no strategy then the odds are very low that you will find the person when you only end up having a couple or three contacts a year by some chance encounter or introduction. If you make a game out of increasing the contacts through friends, places, groups, whatever way you think of then the odds can be greatly increased.”  

You will have noticed that my brother is a businessman: his suggestions sound like a Pharmaceutical Company’s project to build their client base, or a hunter’s program for his next Safari. Well, my brother has been both: hunter and businessman; he goes after the prey (clients or water buffaloes)  with an organized plan, sets up a strategy, increases the odds and understands perfectly well that whether business or hunting it is all a gambling game that must be played in order to have the chance of winning. Unfortunately, I am not a gambler. The only time I gambled,  I was in my late 30’s and had innocently gone up to one of the Blackjack tables and asked the dealer if he would show me how to play. It took exactly 2 minutes for him to show me how to lose $250. The only other time I was in a Casino was when I was 11 and in Puerto Rico with my parents. My father gave me $5 to gamble. I pocketed the loot and spent it the following day on a present for my mother, perhaps on the gamble that I would get more out of my mother if I buttered her up, than out of a smartass dealer at a blackjack table. I guess I was wiser at 11 than at 30.

However, something in the phrase trying to “make a game of it” makes me feel terribly sad; it seems to turn love into a challenge and meeting someone into a gambling game. Frankly I prefer the part of “minding my own business” which is what I have been doing for the last 6 or 7 years and enjoying it immensely. Whose else business am I to mind? If I am snooping in your business, there is no one over here to run mine. That can feel lonely. And when I mind my own business, I discover that Life minds its business AND mine better than I could ever do. Most of the wonderful things that have come into my life, I wouldn’t even have thought to ask for (had no idea that that was what I wanted). I actually met my first husband (with whom I lasted all of 30 years) on a blind date and the second one when I had given up looking and was learning how to be very happy without a man. I wonder if my brother met his three wives with the strategy he suggested to me, or don’t men need a strategy to meet women?

And, I suddenly asked myself, why has my brother decided that I need “to find the person”? Yes, I have men on my mind because for the first time in my life I am realizing how very different in so many ways they are from women; for the first time I am curious to see how they function (out of boxes? Could the comedian be right?). What will come of it, I have no idea. I can’t even honestly say that I want to meet someone. In the meantime, life is doing a marvelous job of keeping me busy and, after all, I did say that if the Powers That Be wanted me to write again, they would have to sit me down to do it and that seems to be what is happening independently of whether The Greek is a door or a bore.


[1] A puppet Mouse from Argentina well known in Latin America.

[2] ABC = Already been chewed

3 thoughts on “MEN ON MY MIND… (2009)

  1. I suppose you would scoff at the notion that to love a man and live with him faithfully is the most challenging, mind expanding, soul satisfying, character building, meaningful, purposeful, agonizing, ecstatic experience one can have as a woman. An animal, onanism, fame, fortune are no substitutes for the time tested and time valued getting together of the male and female. It is the yin and yang united that make the universe whole. The lonely yin will not make it to higher ground. It takes two ya know.

    • Why, my dear cousin, would you suppose I would scoff at anything? What I write is not religion, is only one opinion in one moment and certainly not to be believed. Life is what life is and everyone gets to where they are supposed to get. The growth one gets in a marriage is incredible and soul building (I was in one for 30 years, and then 8 more), and the growth one gets in direct contact with the universe is also soul building, it all depends what you do with each. So don’t you scoff or preach either to those of us whom the Universe has chosen to live in direct contact with whatever IS. Thank you for reading me and for your stimulating comments that make me answer you.

    • Dear Arden:
      Having gotten out my somewhat defensive reaction to your comment, which seemed to me to suggest that only a lifetime commitment to a man could transport a woman to spiritual heights (poor Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Saint Therese of Avila among others), I have to admire the beauty of your praise of the committed relationship between two people and the shared life. It was poetic to read “to love a man and live with him faithfully is the most challenging, mind expanding, soul satisfying, character building, meaningful, purposeful, agonizing, ecstatic experience one can have as a woman” (although, I would have personalized it, because you cannot know the experiences of other women at all, so perhaps “I could have had as a woman” would have sounded less preachy). I truly believe that for you to have found and loved Kip, to have both shared a life project of such transcendence, to have given birth and raised together … is it 5? children, to have contributed in such a meaningful and shared way to the well being of less fortunate persons is in truth something for which you must feel profound gratitude. Life has undoubtedly blessed you in this way and I can understand that you would sing the praises (and admit the difficulties) of such a path.
      However, I must disagree with you when you affirm that “The lonely yin will not make it to higher ground” because the yin is never alone. We are all yin and yang, and some of us may not be committed to another yang-yin in quite the same way as you are, but the yin-yang in me will join with every yin-yang it meets to keep creating a more expansive and loving world. It would truly have to be an unfair Universe-Cosmos-God or whatever that would create only one path and then make sure that so few found it. No, my dear cousin, I am afraid I must disagree most deeply with you: I truly believe that the paths to the Divine are incommensurable and infinite and I am so glad that you found yours. Remember that marriage, the joining eternally of one man and one woman is neither a Universal nor a Historical absolute, and has never been considered a prerequisite for spiritual growth. And that in no way demerits your own beautiful path, it just means that it was yours.

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