Friday, June 25, 2010
If I had my way, I’d make “Free Fall” assigned reading for every man interested in or currently engaged in a relationship with a woman. In other words, I’d like you men to read a book about a woman in the throes of passion.
After, I’d demand (since I’m in control of this fantasy, I can demand) an essay. The essay question: What scares you most about what you’ve read?
I know, it sounds like torture. Perhaps an exercise like this is torture because no one, especially men, want to admit to fear. And anyone reading this can guess where I’m going: Men, some anyway, fear certain things about women. It may look like disdain or discomfort or anger or dread or impatience, but I’m saying fear plays a role in the man/woman dynamic. I’m saying something else, too. We fear what we don’t fully understand.
Here’s how I see my fantasy assignment working: I’d lock each male into his own little room. Men, you’d have all the comforts: a couch to stretch out on, a good reading lamp, lots of munchies, a couple of bottles of wine, and a sock. A sock? One thing you may not know is that “Free Fall” is hot.
Want some music? Sure. A bag of chips? Fine. A little break for a televised baseball game? All right. But you can’t leave till you’ve read “Free Fall” and written your essay. An honest essay.
Here’s what I think the essays would suggest, not in these words exactly, but the message would be clear:
Before I read “Free Fall,” I could feel myself growing anxious when my wife spoke because her language contains words that reveal emotional content.
I don’t want the bother of a woman’s emotions because it makes me nervous.
I’m uncomfortable knowing what my girlfriend feels. I don’t know what to do!
I fear that what she’s saying is going to require that I do something.
I fear that I won’t be able to meet expectations.
I fear I won’t be able to understand what is needed.
I’m afraid of complications. I want out of here.
Or: Damn it. Why can’t we just keep it simple?
Believe me, I’m not finger pointing. I’m trying to understand.
The difference between “Free Fall” and “Deep Throat,” between erotica written by me, a woman, and a pornographic movie is that in “Free Fall” I please Jim and Jim pleases me but … I allow access not just to my body but to what’s going on in my head. In “Deep Throat,” one of the few porn movies I’ve seen, it’s sex minus thought or feeling.
My last book-related event took place at the Rockport Public Library on Wednesday evening. It was a panel discussion I organized and the topic was writing memoir. One of the panelists I invited was Amy Ferris, a fellow Seal Press author, with her own new book out titled “Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis.”
Amy is a soul mate, as I see it. She’s taken on menopause the way I’ve taken on passion, and she’s dug into the weeds on it. Attendance that evening was excellent and people were very interested in Amy and what she had to say. Men, too, asked lots of questions but I am sure they will not buy and read her book. It’s about women. It’s about menopause.
And here’s the thing: The book is a delight. It’s entertaining. It involves men, in particular her wonderful husband Ken. Men, if you read “Marrying George Clooney,” think how much better prepared you’d be when your own mother or wife experiences menopause. I’m here to tell you, menopause is a group experience. Why not get a jump on it?
So I’m rethinking my fantasy. It now goes like this: You men must go into that room, not just for the 8 hours or so it takes to read my book, but for a week. Inside the room is a bookcase filled with “women’s” literature. You must read our literature just as we have read your literature. Your literature, in fact, has been assigned to us over the many years of our education and beyond, by our teachers and professors and Publishers Weekly (last December, their top books of 2009 contained not a single book written by a woman) and the New York Times book reviews and on and on.
All right. All right. I’ll allow conjugal visits.
But before I do, I’d like to see a rough draft of your essay. It will be a much more equitable world when men read women the way women have always read men.