I was talking to my brother about women’s attitudes towards their bodies, especially regarding weight/fat, and when he said “most guys don’t notice/care about that kind of thing,” I tried to explain why it was a lot more complicated than that. I ended up telling this story.
Body image is something that’s so hard to talk about, and it’s hard to express body positivity without sounding cheesy, false, or overly simplistic. But I’m gonna try. This is only my own experience, and it didn’t magically cure me of all my body image issues - but it was a major turning point for me nonetheless.
I like Rilke’s definition of love. He said that love is not the merging of two people, especially not the merging of two ‘unclarified’ and uncertain beings. It is a sharing between two persons with well-defined borders. Basically, he is saying that in love, the goal is not to be consumed by someone(as i mistakenly thought so before, when i was a romantic) but to be separate and complete in yourself and to share that completeness with someone else without melting into each other and losing your selves in the process. He is also saying that we should not look for others to fill the void which will always be there if we do not love ourselves first.
And by that definition: no, I have never been in love.
By the popular definition of being in love: I have been in love twice.
In the fall of 1973 I was studying as a freshman at NYU, and after failing to make my initial train home to Maine, I was rushing through Grand Central on the evening before Thanksgiving 1973 when I spotted you, emerging from one of the railways, with a look of utter confusion on your face. You had the blondest hair I had ever seen, and a plaid dress. I had never seen a plaid dress before.
I was, in those days, terribly shy, and if I am honest with myself, I’ve never shook that stubborn sense of timidity or loneliness in crowds. To this day, trying to explain the uncharacteristic courageousness that seized me in that moment, and inspired me to walk up to you and say “are you lost?” is almost completely beyond me.
You were studying at Olberlin, and on your way to spend Thanksgiving with your aunt in Jersey City. After explaining to you where you could get a bus, I asked, in spite of knowing it would mean sacrificing my last chance to spend the holiday with my family (and likely infuriate my over-protective mother), if you wanted to get a drink and you said yes.
We walked out into a rainy Manhattan street and ducked into the first (cheap) bar we saw, where I ordered us two bottles of beer. Now in my 50’s, when with any luck a man might finally begin to acquire that elusive thing called wisdom, I know that there is nothing more exciting yet rare in life than making a true connection with someone. I have always been too sentimental for my own good, but in all honesty, I have never felt more at ease with anyone than I did laughing and talking to you that dimly lit midtown bar.
When I confessed that I purposefully missed my train to keep talking to you, you smiled slyly and said “well I guess it’s only fair that I miss my bus.” With no money for a cab, we walked to my Lower East Side dorm room, which was deserted aside from my German classmate Franklin, who kindly gave us a half-finished bottle of red wine.
We made love that night, and in the morning coached one another through shaky phone calls to our angry relatives back home. With the November cold turning the night’s rain into a dreary wintery mix, we stayed in bed all day, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes, discussing politics and philosophy. You told me you had never felt “so New York before.”
That evening, you took a bus to Jersey City. A few weeks later I received a letter from California. You sent no return address, and I never saw you again.
I have been married twice since then - once divorced, and once widowed. I have had a successful career as an English professor, and am a proud father. My life has known its share of triumphs and heartaches, of love and loss. Against my better judgement, I haven’t forgotten that day - and, at least once a year, while mowing the lawn, or reading a newspaper, the details come back to me.
Perhaps, if life’s strange circumstances can permit it, we can have a second drink."
Woooh thanks for this question! A little heads up: I have very narrow taste in things, like I listen to a handful of artists and read maybe two authors per year and stick to my favorite directors and movements when it comes to film so yeah i should widen my range and i will but i’m lazy.
A short rant about feminism for the woman at work yesterday who said she believed in “equality” but hated feminism.
I know life isn’t perfect for dudes, that they have to deal with assault and harassment and oppressive gender roles, but I also know that women carry their keys…