How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘relationship’

Second Caveat: No Bastard Children

There is no word equivalent to “cuckold” for women.
—Joseph Epstein

In medieval times, a man whose wife deceived him with another man was called a cuckold, a pejorative term which fortunately isn’t used much anymore. The origin of the term “cuckold” is revealing. If you are interested in ornithology, the study of birds, you may have come across accounts of the habits of the cuckoo bird. Cuckoos solve the problem of the perpetuation of their species by the simple expedient of laying eggs in other bird’s nests and departing, leaving other birds of another species to raise the young cuckoos.

Once upon a time, observers might signal the approach of a man who was committing adultery with someone’s wife, or who had designs in that direction, by warning the husband with a whispered “cuckoo, cuckoo.” Eventually, the term got changed around to refer to the betrayed not the betrayer and became “cuckold.”

Calling All Cuckoos

Calling All Cuckoos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shakespeare and other authors perpetuated the literary myth that such a man was burdened with a set of horns on his head, which others could see, but of which he was blissfully unaware. It was another version of the truism that the husband, or the wife, is often the last to know. In Italy, one of the most unforgivable insults still is to make the sign of the “cornu” at someone: taking your index and pinkie and putting them on top of your head to resemble horns.

On the issue of bastard children, there are some real legal and moral differences in the situation of single women compared with married ones. If you are single, you might decide to have a child but choose not to get married. You have a right to become a mother without becoming a wife. It’s the contention of many that, as long as you expect nothing of the father, you don’t need to have his consent or, indeed, don’t even need to inform him. It would seem that, if such is your intent, having a child through artificial insemination would be a better alternative, but there is nothing to stop you using the old-fashioned way if this is your decision.

However, if you’re married, any child you have is legally the child of your husband and is assumed to be so socially and emotionally. A husband has the right to certainty of the parenthood of “his” own children. As the lyrics from The King and I caution, “But blossom never ever float from bee to bee to bee.” A basic assumption is that the married woman having an affair has no right to get pregnant by another man. Her body is her own, as is her sexuality; but her children are to be shared for as long as she stays married, and usually after that.

The married woman must be especially scrupulous and fastidious not to let herself get pregnant by her lover rather than by her husband.

 

 

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Rule Six: Do Your Part To Make The Affair Successful

Women claim that they want equal rights, equal respect . . . You don’t get respect because you want it; you get respect because you earn it; by being competent, intelligent, trustworthy, flexible, and generous.
—Marion A. Asnes

Women, especially young women and especially attractive ones, are used to being courted. They’ve often been encouraged to sit back and be entertained, to sit back and evaluate various offers from various men, and to take their time weighting one offer against the next. They expect to bring to the relationship first of all their beauty and then, if the price is
right emotionally or otherwise, the gift of their sexuality. They expect men to make the effort to amuse and to entertain; they expect to let themselves be won and not much more.

If women are going to move beyond a role in which sexuality is exchanged for many other things to a situation where sexuality is mutual and where they are allowed to court as well as to be courted, then they must also take responsibility for making the resulting love affair successful and satisfactory. Throughout this blog, I’ve been listing and describing the various things that make a man attractive. I’ve outlined the intrinsic attributes that he should have and have suggested many nice things which he could do. Now for the surprise: let the woman do the same.

Love & Respect

Love & Respect (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you like to hear him say your name, learn to say his as well. If you like clever, funny little love gifts, think of some to give him. If you like a man as well-groomed as possible and wearing some exotic scent, then come to him as well-groomed as possible, with an exotic scent of your own.

If you hate unilateral decisions on matters of joint interest, make sure you don’t make such decisions for him. If you rage at inaccurate generalizations about women, be sure you don’t make equally inaccurate generalizations about men.

If you hate the feeling of being pressured into having sex when you don’t really feel like it, be sure you don’t try to pressure him into it when he doesn’t really feel like it. If you need someone to understand the cross-pressures inherent in trying to juggle a marriage and a career and children and a love affair, then take note of the fact that he may have the same sort of juggling act to perform.

The golden rule isn’t news and it’s not perfect, but it’s still the best guideline there is. If you treat your man the way you would like to be treated, most of the time, he will be delighted. And most of the time, it will come back to you many times over.

Begin As You Mean To Continue

Meet the first beginnings; look to the budding mischief before it has time to ripen to maturity.
—Shakespeare

Each new relationship makes its own rules, its own interpretation of the ageless game of man and maid. In effect, by the time you can begin to talk of a relationship rather than merely an acquaintanceship, the rules have already begun. For all the abstract talk about the role of women and the role of men, in real life, all that really exists is the role of a woman as defined by her interaction with one man: her expectations of him, his expectations of her.

The same woman may play several different versions of the so-called role of women with different men or with the same man at different stages in their lives. The tricky part has to do with inertia. Whatever the script that a couple writes for each other or accepts as having been written for them, it very soon comes to be written in indelible ink rather than sketched out in pencil. Once a habit or an expectation is allowed to develop, then whether or not it is fun or fair or practical, it tends to persist.

SOPHIE'S CHOICE ...

SOPHIE’S CHOICE … (Photo credit: mrbill78636)

It is easy to look at past relationships and see the scripts that you have allowed yourself to play and to wish them in some ways different. Such an insight does not necessarily make it easier for you to change, or easier for you to change him, although that won’t stop you from trying.

But—and here is the magic part—with a new man, you get to begin to write a new script for your lives together. You can create habits and expectations which, although probably similar to your scripted scenarios with other men, can be slightly different in ways that are important to you.

How do you go about creating new scripts? For a start, you don’t let the old and undesirable habits from old and undesirable relationships repeat themselves. Suppose, for example, that one of your perennial laments with your high school steady was that he always decided where you would go and when so that you never got a vote or participated in planning things. If you later married that high school steady, as an amazing number of heads-up women seem to do, is it surprising that twenty years later, he is still automatically taking charge even though you are now thirty-six instead of  sixteen? With a twenty-year habit, he’s not now going to change. Attempts to take control may make him angry or confused or amused, but it will not change him.

A new lover, however, doesn’t know that men always make the plans. If you don’t want to get into that pattern again, you must begin immediately in the relationship to show initiative. If he makes the first invitation (and in changing times or not, this is usually the case), then you make the second. If he suggests one alternative, suggest a modification. “Yes, I’d love to go to a movie, but I always go to the gym to exercise on Tuesday nights. Would Wednesday be OK?” Or “It’s nice of you to offer to pick me up, but I’d rather go right from work and meet you there.”

These little modifications are polite, reasonable, and trivial. They do, however, make an important point in the politics of everyday life: events are something that we plan together, not something organized and structured by only one person.

On a more important level, consider the issue of initiation in lovemaking. If you have slept for ten years with a man who always made the sexual advances and if you now begin to come on to him, if the man in question is your very own husband, then he may react with startled embarrassment. However, your new lover doesn’t have that response set. If you want sex to be more mutual then, from the beginning, be sure that while you are sometimes responsive to his approaches, you also expect him to be responsive to yours. Many women who think they are assertive or even aggressive in bed don’t notice that they take on this role only after the man in question has said, by word or action, “Hey, how about it?”

The same principle applies in all other areas. It is difficult to change established habits, but it is not so difficult to establish new ones in a new relationship.

Rule Five: Accept the Inevitability of Chauvinism

There are three choices: to be a celibate, be a lesbian, or love a chauvinist.
—Jayson VanVerten

It would be a pleasant change if one could select as lovers only men who were free of chauvinism. Alas, since it’s the culture as well as individuals who are androcentric (man centered), there are still relatively few such creatures around. Although they are becoming less rare with each passing generation.

The misogynist is a man who hates women. The chauvinist isn’t necessarily full of hate: he simply has a fundamental sense of man’s superiority to women and, therefore, a fundamental belief in the intrinsic rightness of existing traditional sex roles. He views the exchange relationship of man the provider versus woman the nurturer as a satisfactory one, perhaps even an exemplary one. If you disagree, spend some time chatting to a conservative who champions “family values.” Although he may mutter compliance when challenged about equal pay for equal work, he usually doesn’t believe that work done by women is equal to the work done by men.

Gender equality poster

Gender equality poster (Photo credit: leitza*)

What are the signs of chauvinism in everyday life? In the early days of consciousness-raising in the women’s movement, they used to talk about the click, which was a sudden aha insight into a daily event symbolic of the arrangement between the sexes. Once you start to think in these terms, the clicks are everywhere.

A chauvinist is likely to expect personal services which he doesn’t reciprocate. He tends to make unilateral decisions that should be made jointly; he controls the content of conversations by refusing to participate on topics which don’t concern him directly. He seeks emotional support without returning it, he gives unnecessary directions, he assumes that his opinion is more valid and more accurate than a woman’s regardless of his expertise or lack of it on a particular issue. Etcetera. The analogy is that a chauvinist tends to treat women in the same way as an adult treats a child: he may be affectionate and even benevolent, but he isn’t an egalitarian.

If your consciousness is sufficiently raised to be aware of the chauvinism around you, what are you to do about it? You can opt for celibacy and try as much as possible to avoid the company of men. You can opt for lesbianism and the “lavender culture.” (Alas, you will find that some lesbian women are sexist as well, but that is another story.) Or you can resign yourself to the fact that chauvinism is endemic and simply try to minimize its effects. If you decide to become an active feminist and dedicate yourself to reforming and revamping the social system, that’s a fine political decision. It is, however, frequently a precursor of disaster in one’s personal life. You can end up defining almost everything as a political issue, which isn’t only exhausting and inefficient but also chips away destructively at even the most affectionate bond.

If you decide to go with the traditional role and model yourself on “total womanhood,” you must deny a large part of your selfhood and your intelligence. Total women are the scabs of sisterhood. In the women’s movement, they are the equivalent of Uncle Toms in the black movement. We call them Doris Days. Playing this part, even if you were willing to do so, would make you feel most of the time like an actress and a rather miscast actress at that. You might do it but would resent it, and that resentment would eventually sour your love affair.

There is a third alternative. You can learn to live with chauvinism, at least mild-mannered chauvinism, without  sacrificing your independence and self-respect. You’ll not be viewed as acceptable by some chauvinistic men. But you will be increasingly acceptable to enlighten men whose own consciousness has been raised and who, if not exactly feminists themselves, are at least sympathetic to the feminist cause.

Don’t Have An Affair To Get Even

Revenge is like a boomerang. Although for a time it flies in the direction in which it is hurled, it takes a sudden curve, and, returning, hits your own head the heaviest blow of all.
—J. M. Mason

One of the most usual circumstances that propel women into an affair is the discovery that their lover or their husband has been playing around. Sometimes, they learn only in midlife that while they have been being faithful, their partners have been playing around for years.

It’s commonplace to observe that women have the gift of expressing themselves and their emotions whereas men have no such gift and are emotionally inarticulate. While this is often true, there’s one major exception: anger. Women who feel sad or hurt can cry more readily than men; however, women who feel rage have fewer outlets for it than do men. After-all, ladies aren’t supposed to feel rage, and when training little girls to be ladylike, we also train them to deny their anger and to suppress it or turn it inward.

The trusting girlfriend or wife who discovers her man’s infidelity is usually enraged as well as hurt. Even people who don’t know much Shakespeare are familiar with the idea that “hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” However, the woman scorned has few ways of expressing her anger. Lord Byron, in Don Juan, contends that “revenge is sweet—especially to women.” The sweetness comes in part because of her relative powerlessness.

A woman may be unable to demand justice from her man for real or imagined wrongs. One way she can get revenge, however, is through her sexuality. If her man has a double standard as most men do, then doing the same thing herself will hurt him and will hurt him where he lives. Making him a cuckold gives her a weapon to be used or to be saved and used sometime later.

Revenge can take many forms. Taking a new lover in order to punish the old one may work as an effective punishment, but it’s not likely to work as a basis for a satisfactory love affair. The man involved was selected, not for his intrinsic charm but to make a political point in another relationship. The decision process is likely to be one of expedience. The woman may even select someone she does not particularly like because she knows that choice would be particularly galling to her philandering lover or husband.

English: Photograph of Sophie Tucker

English: Photograph of Sophie Tucker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The popular burlesque performer, Sophie Tucker, had a number of stock comic routines about a boyfriend named Ernie. One of them went something like this: On the occasion of his eightieth birthday, Ernie called and announced, “Soph! Soph! I took myself a twenty-year-old girl. What do you think of that?” “Ernie,” Sophie countered, “when I am eighty, I shall take a twenty year-old boy. And let me tell you something, Ernie, twenty goes into eighty a helluva lot more than eighty goes into twenty! So think about that, Ernie!”

The woman who has an affair out of revenge is, in fact, prostituting herself. She’s doing sexual things for nonsexual reasons and isn’t likely to enjoy them very much. The man involved is being used. He may be quite willing to be used, but if he does not understand his role as supporting actor until later, he has a legitimate right to feel resentful.

If you discover that the man you thought was monogamous is, in fact, playing around, you may feel justified in playing the field as well. If and when you do, be sure you do so in order to give yourself the pleasure you deserve, not in order to punish him.

Having an affair out of vengeance may work in that it may inflict reciprocal pain, but it’s likely to increase your own disquietude rather than appease it.

“Marriage Reminds Me of Death”

I never will marry,
I’ll be no man’s wife.
I expect to live single
All the rest of my life.
—Fred Brooks, “I Will Never Marry”

In the old days, when a man came a-courtin’, a young girl’s father might take him aside in the parlor and inquire, “Are your intentions honorable? Are you seriously considering my daughter as a wife, or are you wasting her time?”

In the new courtship, which doesn’t necessarily lead to marriage, the question is still relevant. While you may harbor no intent to commit matrimony, it doesn’t mean that your lover harbors no such intent. If it so happens that your lover is in serious pursuit of a wife, he has a right to know if you would ever consider getting married, and if so, if you would ever consider getting married to him.

The cultural stereotype in our society affirms that, generally, it’s the woman who wants to get married and it’s the man who must be coaxed or snagged or snaffled into making that commitment. If that was the case in the past, it’s not necessarily so today when unmarried women can lead quite different lifestyles than did the spinsters of the past.

Cover of "The Marrying Kind"

Cover of The Marrying Kind

Some women don’t want to marry ever. They concur with the spinster aunt in Somerset Maugham’s Mrs. Craddock who exclaims, “Marriage is always a hopeless idiocy for a woman who has enough of her own to live upon.”

Other women, once burned, never want to marry again. Yet despite being misogamists—one who hates marriage—they sometimes find themselves succumbing to social pressures to marry again. Such women should belong to Divorcees Anonymous, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. When they feel the urge to get married again, they could call an emergency number, and Divorcees Anonymous would immediately send over a fat man in a T-shirt, with a six-pack of beer, who settles down in the living room to watch football on the tube.

Women who are ideologically opposed to marriage would go along with Gloria Steinem’s commonly quoted maxim: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” If, whatever your reasons, you are adamantly not the marrying kind, then it’s important for you to make that clear to any man who becomes involved with you. The folk wisdom has been justly critical of the man who seems to court a woman but whose intentions are not honorable—that is, he has no intention of marrying her. A woman is equally at fault if she lets a man hope to marry her when she knows from the start that marriage to anyone—or at least marriage to him—isn’t for her.

Passive Resistance: Go Away Closer

Men do not understand, as a rule, that women like to get used to them by degrees.
—John Oliver Holmes

In traditional courtship, a man not only made the first move but also set the pace of the courtship. The onus of acting rested with him.

If a man was enthusiastic about a woman, he might give her the rush and try to instigate a whirlwind courtship; if he was less enthusiastic or simply shy, he might move hesitantly. With each gesture that he offered in order to accelerate the development of the relationship, the woman in question had a choice of responses: she could accede to his wishes, or she could demur. This dance could continue for some time, depending mostly upon the man’s feelings and his willingness to press his case or not.

Courtship

Courtship (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eventually, the courtship dance would lead either to a proposal, to be accepted or rejected, or to the woman’s decision that since the man wasn’t going to propose, she should let herself be courted elsewhere by someone with more serious intentions.

In the new courtship that has been the focus of my recent posts, the initiative is more reciprocal, and the timetable can reflect his escalations or hers. The decision in question isn’t whether or not to marry but only whether or not to have an affair. It’s a less serious decision, and a more reversible one, but it’s still an important decision. Making an important decision requires information and thought. To consider what you are getting into, and whether you really want to get into it at all, takes time—time to interview, to test, to reflect. And all too often, the average man is not at all interested in taking time.

The solution to this problem is simple: stall. Stall, stall, stall. If you go with him to his hotel room to have a drink and talk things over, you lose a lot of credibility no matter how straightforward your intentions. You can say, “Lie down, I want to talk to you,” but at your own peril. How do you make a man stand still or sit still or even lie still to be interviewed when he has something else entirely on his mind? Long ago, the Spaniards invented a way. The young and virginal were courted at some length but always in the presence of a “duenna,” an older woman who trailed along out of earshot but not out of sight and certainly not out of mind.

Get yourself a duenna. Make a deal with a girlfriend, take along a child old enough to watch and talk, lie down and talk in sunlight on a public beach. The combination of being accessible, but not completely accessible, is ideal. The pseudo-intimacy which results is a constraint, but it allows for a certain freedom and permissiveness. Having the outer limits defined helps both of you to relax. That is after-all what double dating is all about for teenagers, but it works well for grown-ups as well.

If your message is one of passive resistance and what you want is for him not to go away but only proceed more slowly, then it’s both necessary and fair that you don’t confuse the issue with a double message. Some women say no when what they really mean is “coax me.” Then when the man takes no for an answer, they are vaguely disappointed. You must, in this kind of situation, make your responses both consistent and unambiguous. You can always change your mind at a later date.

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