A Single woman on the outskirts of Boston, incidentally, quite near where I started my blog.
I knew Harvard Square very well, although the Harvard bookstore wasn't my favourite. There were other good bookstores near it; there was at least one great used bookstore and a foreign-language bookstore. (Gosh, all of a sudden I wish I had a transporter and could check the latter's Polish selection. Back then I was all about German.)
I loved Cambridge, MA. I really loved it. Actually, I loved almost everything about Boston-and-Cambridge except B.C. Volker, my last ex-boyfriend, loved Boston too, but he was doing work at another, more upmarket, institution. He was happy there.
The story of Volker and me, which you can read about in My Book, is nothing like the story I linked to yesterday, THANK GOD. I feel badly mentioning them in the same sentence.
But I suppose there are some parallels. First of all, there is the religious dimension. The author is at a Passover supper and "feels relieved" when a NJB walks in. And I would be delighted when I would go to Coffee Hour after Mass in Boston and see Single, unattached, well-educated Catholic men there.
And, um, that's it. Except that I also wrote about my relationship. But it didn't involve sex, pregnancy, doctors, blood, blame, or troubling white sweatshirts. It was about a NCB and a NCG in their thirties who liked each other very much and had a lot of values in common, but were ultimately not that into each other. I am very grateful now that Volker was not that into me, but on the other hand, I still think he is a marvelous person. The time I visited him in Germany he bought front row DFB (German football) tickets. That's the kind of man he is: generous, thoughtful and kind. He thought I'd like to see my football heroes, and so made it happen.
To repeat what I wrote after British midnight, I am seriously troubled by the narrator's attitude towards her boyfriend Josh. The I-knew-it-was-my-baby-and-I-did-the-loving-thing-by-killing-him/her meme is one with which I am depressingly familiar, thanks to membership in the third-wave-feminist, Baby Bust generation. But the author's attitude towards her lover really blew my mind.
On the one hand, he is a status symbol, a desirable object to the author because he is Jewish, Single, and has a nice Jewish family.
On the other hand, he is supremely disappointing because on their first date he is clumsy, awkward, nervous and tripping over his dress shoes. When they go into a book shop he doesn't leave her alone; he looks at the books she looks at. (I would assume this was because he was trying to learn something about her.) And then she is mad because he asks his sister to join them. She finds this unmanly. Hello?
When she sees him again, she decides he might be better than she thought because he has thicker facial hair and clothes she likes. This is an example of not being rooted in reality.
She supposes that she was lonely. She had been through an "emotional hell" and been abandoned by a man with whom she had been "blissfully in love with." (Supposes? Raise your hands all Single girls who are not abjectly lonely after a break-up with someone you really loved.) And she supposes she was hopeful, remembering her "relief" when a NJB walked into the---. Hold on a minute.
Why relief? Pleasure, okay. It's nice when you are at a dinner party with friends and family and a cute boy walks in. But relief?
At their next date, and she is careful to mention he didn't spring for the bill, he wears more clothes she doesn't like. "His clothes, his choice" is not the drum she's beating here.
His sweatshirt and shoes are not just clothes, though. No. They point to "a conventional, conservative, unrefined" way of seeing the world. Really? And, oh, by the way, he's of a LOWER SOCIAL CLASS, which she illustrates by the food he grew up eating. Ah, hello. Even in Britain, land of the class system, it takes a little more than tofu and brown rice to raise you above your fellow human beings to the heights of higherclassness.
Her therapist, apparently, tells her to give the
"So I gave up." Gave up what? I think she means that she settled. She invites him into her bedroom and they sit on her bed. To her surprise, he kisses her. (To her surprise? They're ON HER BED.) She keeps talking; he keeps kissing. Eventually she shuts up. ("I'll give it [IT, not him] five minutes and see what happens.") Sex happens.
There is no love in this story. Like the floor of her bedroom, I am struck by the coins that fall out of her lover's pockets. They remind me of her abject consumerism, the importance she puts on food, sex, clothing and "class." The story is one of lust and greed. A man is judged unworthy by his shy demeanour on a first date, his clothes, what the author thinks of as his social class. What redeems him is that he is really good in bed.
But then she gets naggy. In fact, from the words "my boy" she sounds more like his mother than his lover. He's always late. He leaves half-drunk glasses of milk around. He doesn't do laundry often or well enough. He was always late. He wasn't as ambitious as she thought he should be.
When she gets pregnant, he brings her a lot of carbs. He encourages her to eat. She thus puts on ten pounds. She says she loved being "unattractive." Uh huh. Tell me another one.
After several paragraphs of underscoring to us that this man is actually a child, the author tells us she asks him about his feelings like a child hearing a bedtime story.
She says she became "sharp and mean." I don't doubt that. But it is Josh who is made to say that he doesn't love her. His declaration is immediately followed by "the river of blood."
I am sick at heart because I keep thinking about Josh, and about all the men who are utterly messed up by women who treat them like semi-attractive, gift-bearing sub-humans--like genies, perhaps--using them and judging them and blaming them for being who they are instead of who the women want them to be.
Men are just as human as we are. Honestly. They have different problems, they have different weaknesses, they even have some different sins. But male friends deserve the same respect as female friends. We need to be gentle with them. We need to be careful of their feelings. The chattering classes have granted women the permission to use men for sex, to judge them constantly, to blame them constantly for non-sins. We should tell the chattering classes to go to hell.
Poor Josh. I hope the author has finished punishing him for being himself as he is and not who she wanted him to be.
Update: For the sake of completeness, I will also point out that she uses food to hint that Josh is not a "real" Jew. She associates him with milk, cereal, mac-and-cheese, baked potatoes and toast. She associates herself with matzos and good old Eastern European Jewish cooking. Boy, does she hate him.