Lately my life seems to be reviving. It’s subtly revving up again, like it once was a long time ago, when I was a child. It’s been that long since I really felt, not the spark of ambition — of achieving, but the joy of actually living. The mystery of what could happen. (Anything).
No one is more surprised by this than me. Particularly since it seems to be the result of not trying at all anymore. I’ve stopped worrying about making things happen, particularly at speeds faster than light. Instead, I find myself curiously led by what I might like, love, or what seems most interesting in the moment.
This sounds delightfully easy. It’s not. To let yourself be drawn by “the strange pull of what you really love,” as the poet Rumi calls it, is a tough call for our modern minds to make. What we love rarely makes sense, it’s often bewildering, inexplicable even. It’s irrational, and following it rarely makes good sense.
So instead of reading books on how to do less with more, or more with less, or how to catch up at work, or declutter… or anything else that might promise me a better tomorrow, I’ve been reading books of fiction.
I’ve stopped analyzing every man I flirt with for long-term likelihood of success or for potential pitfalls to my daily routine (if I flirt with my barista and encouraged, he asks me out, but it doesn’t work out, does that mean I will have to ditch my favorite coffee shop?). Instead, I’ve just been having a helluva good time with them.
And men seem like fun again. They are partners in crime, co-conspirators of pleasure. They also seem far more innocent than I ever imagined them to be. Men get pinned for a lot of the craziness our culture keeps perpetuating — they seem a bit “framed” for the crimes of culture, when I suspect they are actually just victims of it, too.
A book I was reading seems to perfectly illustrate this. In it the author was talking about how French women view men. They like them a lot, all parts of them. Their mystery, their constancy, their sexuality, and even that one part that makes all the difference, which they seem to view with a mixture of awe and mysticism.
It’s the organ that not only allows “both sexes to fit so snuggly together,” but is also able to sense, like a divining rod exactly what the female wants. The penis is perceptive. It can “tell when you are genuinely interested in conversation… when you think it would be nice to be kissed, or when you wish the evening would never end.”
How different from our own culture which paints a picture of men and their penis’ as highly problematic. Penis’ aren’t mystical or divinely attuned here, instead they are blunt weapons of penetration that only have one thing their minds. Wether you want it or not. Penis’ aren’t perceptive, they are senselessly, witlessly driven.
Perhaps given this sentiment, it’s easier to understand why women here seem hellbent on whacking them off, literally and figuratively, for the greater good. We think if we can remake men in our image, they will be incapable of hurting us anymore (and we’re not just talking about the physical here, but emotionally, as well). Never mind, that we lose the ability to be touched by men in the deepest, most intimate, and most pleasurable ways in the process.
Do we really want to live in a sterile world without the ability to be touched and to touch men, even if it means safety? Do we really want to do away with the physical bridge between us and them, when it means giving up on pleasure? As Americans, we seem to view the world in terms of fear and safety.
But the French see life differently, as a place of contact, both in terms of pleasure and of sport. They seem ready to accept that life is a full contact sport, not flag football, it’s rough and tumble, wild and unpredictable, but redeemed by pleasure. The bumps and bruises are inevitable, but so is the tantalizing gifts of connection and pleasure.
What we need to ask ourselves is how do we measure a life well lived? Is the good life a life of safety and security, shaped by fear? Or is it possibly shaped by pleasure, and measured by connections and meaningfulness, even within the inevitable pitfalls of life?
Are men the problem here, or is it the way we insist, as a culture, on viewing them?
*the book is Debra Ollivier’s “What French Women Know.”