Seule une repue, qui s'était payé son étalon comme son dernier sac Prada et le tenait fermement par la bride, pouvait dégoiser pareilles sornettes. [...] « La polygamie n'est pas si terrible que ça ! » C'était la pire insulte jamais faite aux martyres de cette pratique d'un autre age.
A Senegalese writer Fatou Diome, Celles qui attendent (2013)
I'm in Amsterdam, on heavy duty during the coming two weeks, but right now I've resolved to enjoy my Friday night as a European woman. In an Irish pub in the immediate vicinity of the Red Light district.
The idea could not possibly be more unerotical, not to say asexual one. When I entered the premises about 11 pm, I found the pub full of desperately looking people, including many haunting (rather than actually hunting) females. Typically English kind of females, some of those who some years ago used to advertise "free hugs" on their T-shirts, and sometimes to live up to their promise. When I returned half an hour later, I could sit down quietly over my pint of Amstel, nearly alone among males. Only a few females remained, in pairs, talking between themselves. I have no idea if they actually came here to meet any of those males; clearly they had no strategy of seduction whatsoever, I didn't see any of them attempting whatsoever. Any woman could hardly do, against those men confronting each his own pint of some kind of beer or another. Those few ladies who were still there, were doing so by some sort of desperate, residual companionship, as if keeping faith to their males throughout a final ordeal.
The females were young, but many of them obese; I don't consider them as automatically discarded or unattractive for this reason, I've seen obese prostitutes doing good business in the District. But visibly there was something between them (females) and them (males). Something like a glass wall across an aquarium.
I write about all this, because it is perhaps time to become more balanced in my extreme criticism of Polish males. There was no Pole in that bar, but many of the clients actually looked like Poles; I think about their general expression that only the French term abruti can render. Even if they seemed to me bigger, heavier than a majority of men in my old country. Heavily built and overgrown with fat at the same time.
I've had many theories about what happened with males in diverse countries; one of those theories, that I shared with Ewa Thompson, was about devastating effects of past recruitment to colonial armies. In Poland as well as Morocco. But the English, apparently coming to Amsterdam for the sake of slightly cheaper beer, were the colonisers, not the colonised, all along their history. Isn't it so?
As I looked at them (none of them returned my glance as any God-fearing Muslim guy would do), a new theory got conceived in my brain. What if it is all about calories?
I've had it clearer in my mind how obesity is destructive of female sexuality; I even saw it somewhere in scientific materials, explaining how the fat accumulating around the clitoris hinders its proper functioning. But perhaps I've never cared to muse on the effects of caloric excess on the male body.
We might be too well fed in Europe to have an intimate life to speak of. In my previous post on religion, it didn't occur to me to comment on the possible importance of fasting as a factor in those equations. But in fact I've always resented the cumulative difficulty of abstaining simultaneously of food and of any intimate activities...
Nous autres les Européennes, repues, nous nous payons des étalons en Afrique comme des sacs Prada. This is what the Senegalese writer criticises. But we are also celles qui attendent. Desperate to get love at any price, unconditionally, even with a male to share, to hire, anywhere in the world that we manage to find it. And it is curious to observe that we do find our stallions in those parts of the world where people still fast, by necessity or by choice. Sex is still a luxury, tel un sac Prada. Why, even in this City of Men, there is not enough for everyone? Clearly, there are crowds of men, none of them fitting our purpose. None of them hungry.
And at the very bottom of all these musings, what I discover is once again the necessity of frontiers, of narrow boundaries. The interdependence of eroticism and ἄσκησις. Of hunger and fulfilment. Of the luxurious, elitist aspect of all this. Perhaps otherwise the game wouldn't even been so attractive to play.
I'm coming to this wisdom so late; that's a pity. But even at my 46 years of age, I am increasingly determined not to let it go, to stick to this lifestyle of ἄσκησις, and narrow boundaries, and fulfilment.
Still lost in my desert. But I slowly start to see a way in front of me, how can I move beyond this point. What do I want to achieve, now, when the old objectives have already been achieved and are no more.
So obvious that it is, must be the moment of asking myself what I do not regret, what really does matter for me. What has not been enough in my life. It becomes more and more clear that I do not regret adventure, I don't have it enough in my life. What I still want is dynamism, richness of new and exciting things.
And definitely, there is this passage from part-per-cent into the domain of part-per-thousand. It is very clear to me that I managed to get things that few women can enjoy, or few people in general. But there is still a way beyond the normalcy of my success. At least partially determined by the mediocrity of my origin. I'm still very much attached, for example, to my tiny flat in Kraków. I still find it impossible to let it go. Yet just like my Polish professorship, it is something very normal. A great achievement for a lowly, hard working girl, fighting against her family and social context just to keep her head above the water. Progressively, I get ready to let go the memory of my origins.
Hopefully, on 28th December I will be back in Leiden, ready to put my academic work at a completely new level. Letting go everything I've done or achieved till now. The cause of my hesitation and confusion is perhaps the necessity of finding a balance between continuity and breakthrough.
And yes, there is a dream of a great love story, no matter how good my marriage might become. That is another unsolvable conundrum. Marriage, especially this religious concept of marriage to which I'm so strongly attached, is a book to be read slowly, chapter by chapter. It does surprise me in every new episode. But be that as it may, reading slow books is a quiet kind of pleasure, falling apart from my love of adventure, greatness, things that are novel and exciting.
I have had more than my just share in everything, including the bodily delights. Great love stories are not a normal part of life, for anybody; and even in this aspect, I cannot complain, I had it bigger and bolder than most women. Even in my essentially solitary life, I suppose I've had more orgasms than most women; and suffered less. Overall, I have been on better terms with my body. With the benefit of tranquillity, independence, the comfort of not having to put up with pleasing anyone.
I used to live my life in the upper one or two or three percents, in every aspect. But there is the question of passing into the domain of parts-per-thousand. Of exceptional destinies.
I suppose it is a great taboo to comment on the relationship between eroticism and religion. Yet obviously there is a relationship, and not only at the archaic level of some sort of primordial lingam that must have existed at the beginning of everything. There is frankincense, in my opinion one of the most powerful boosters that exist, in every church. And that is not to mention the fact that I usually avoid the temples of my own religion as places of temptation that I find truly difficult to bear.
There is a power of libido in direct proportion to the intensity of religious commitment, at least in a sort of men. And I'm not sure what I should do about this, treat it as a proof of an enormous hypocrisy? Or rather as something, at least to a degree, natural, understandable, following a hidden, yet consistent logic?
In my old country, there exists, I believe, a class of women that find Catholic priests highly attractive. The problem appeared, at least as a background, in Kler, the movie that made a great scandal lately. But it is a very old question, treated in extenso in many a naturalist novel in any of the major western literatures. The Portuguese O Crime do Padre Amaro is, to my knowledge, among the best bibles of church eroticism.
It's not exactly the Catholic priests that I personally find attractive, but it results not less disturbing. It happened to me once, in Leiden, to positively run away, I mean gather my stuff in panic and fly as quickly as I could. I was reading Dan Brown's latest novel, just to exercise my Dutch, when suddenly a guy approached me and asked if I had a religion. I did not dare as much as lift up my eyes unto him, it was an instinctive reaction, as if I really expected to see a naked penis in full erection in front of me, and to be raped right there, on the little square in front of the McDonald in the centre of Leiden. I run away, run away, run away, not even knowing how this guy actually looked like or what was exactly the thing that startled me so much in him.
On other occasions, I do know it was something about their smell, since in such cases my instinct alerts me instantly to avoid eye contact. No serious incidents thereupon, but it is nonetheless curious to admit that there exists a kind of men that can put me out of my wits with nothing but their sheer presence. I happen to meet them with a certain frequency, since we roam the same lonely and isolated spots, such as narrow passages between bookshelves containing a specific kind of religious writings.
What I've said may just seem as a kind of residual self-defence strategy, inherited from generations of women who reacted like this throughout both prehistory and historical times, when any confrontation with the power of libido might signify a definite risk of death, injury or serious trouble. But it is clear that none of those encounters I'm thinking about implied objectively any menace of sexual violence. By the way, my personal strategies of defence against such a menace go in a completely opposite direction: stern look, demonstration of contempt and certainly no hint of being alarmed or puzzled in any way whatsoever! Also, it is my inner persuasion that sexually induced violence have nothing to do with the power of libido, rather in the contrary; men who may actually attack you with a hammer are those who know they are absolute zero in those things.
Certainly, I am very much afraid of men belonging to the class I'm speaking about; there is no way of denying it. But it is of their tremendous efficacy in obtaining my consent that I am actually afraid. And what I'm really puzzled about is to know if this instinct of slipping away in confusion, with my eyes riveted to the ground, is not by any chance a sort of residual neolithic strategy of seduction. Seduction that I deny ever to have happened.
It's perhaps time to get a full awareness of such things. I usually carry a pack of condoms in my bag, and it is through awareness this prophylactic is supposed to work against temptation.
And that was merely about a certain class of men. What about a certain class of women? Is there such a thing as sexually induced interest in religion? That is to put it quite bluntly. And I suppose it is not a great novelty to give a positive answer to this question. Various sects and denominations are known to exploit such impulses more or less overtly, usually without acknowledging them. But perhaps what I do care to know is the religiously authentic value of those ecstasies and arousals, their value as something that I would like to see more clearly for my private use. Do they possess a godly or ungodly quality in themselves, or are they valid or invalid only through lawful or unlawful deeds to which they actually lead? Also, apparently, I've suggested that men grow libidinous through their faith, while women grow religious through their libido. Is it just a lapsus generated by the rhetorical flow of my discourse, or is there any deeper thought in this? Or these are simply two sides of the same coin? A sort of feedback loop that leads to escalating levels in both fields of experience?
That's a lot of theological musings. Be that as it may, at each turn, the connection between eroticism and religion in itself results even more difficult and disturbing. In New Age terms, it would be easy to say that it is all about experiencing the sacred. But in reality nothing of this is actually easy.
That's the real crisis. I've got a professorial title in my old country, the best marriage the desert can give, and a sort of second youth by God's personal favour to enjoy it. How can I move beyond this point?
Certainly, there is greater social prominence to which I might aspire, there is more money I might care to have, things like that. Men more handsome and more intelligent with whom I might like to be. But I feel all that would be to repeat, perhaps as a kind of premium version, something that is already with me.
Of course I will move beyond this point when my time comes. I will resume my scholarship, write something again, and in this I still have a long way to go. My marriage grows better every day already. And then there might be new things to come.