I find the number 46 just fine, but I start to be seriously worried about the cultural significance of my age. Certainly, in my old country, it marginalises me into a zone of invisibility and non-existence; the West invented other margins to put women like me, such as sex paradises of Kenya and other parts of the world, for instance. As I go on researching various aspects of late female libido, I've just seen a documentary about English women on their holidays, and it makes cold sweat run along my backbone. Although obviously there is nothing in it I didn't know or even seen with my own eyes before. And also, although I'm not entirely sure if it's exactly late female libido that is in the focus in that movie. Rather the devastating results of accumulated frustrations and betrayals suffered along their lives, or inherited, as in the case of a teenage girl portrayed in her role of a sex tourist as well. Perhaps there is no age to transform into a nightmare the blessing of being able to enjoy one's sexuality. So easy to spend it on sheer stupidity, desperation and dissipation. Even if till the end I stay with my doubt if female sex tourism is really about sex, or it is rather about trying to make one's emotional life a bit more bearable. Perhaps it is precisely the strength of one's libido that forces us to make order in this sphere of life, and to keep it that way. That's a hypothesis.
In the Starbucks's at the Sloterdijk Station, a young Syrian refugee, not yet at his twentieth birthday, told me I was beautiful and asked my age, with the same innocence children ask each other's age at their first meeting. Obviously, he was making his first, tentative steps on the path of maleness, and my response covered him with ridicule in front of two other youngsters, following his endeavour with the greatest attention. I shouldn't have told I was 46, I should have told I was 30. There was no need to humiliate the poor child.
A Dutch online dating service also asked my age, and I introduced the correct data. But what the internet regurgitated on my lap as the response was a collection of men in their fifties, not only unattractive as for me and unfitting my purpose, but first of all, as cheating as a false coin. In my perception, a singular and striking falseness of their intentions was the most repugnant trait, more than any feature of their decadent physique. Since the very first glance, there was something mendacious and something unrevealed about all those profiles, although of course I couldn't say with any amount of certitude what it was precisely. Perhaps a malicious and spiteful intention of betraying their old, faithful and resigned spouses, perhaps the wish of procuring themselves for free exactly the same kind of service that usually comes remunerated. Perhaps the very shameful and guilty coloration of their sexuality as something they would never assume openly. I felt exactly the same about all those professors in Poland who never assumed they would have any specific sort of interest in me; they always claimed they merely wished to "discuss" some unspecified, abstract but undoubtedly fascinating topic. While at least some of them were knowingly in a relationship that they treated as an obvious - thus unmentioned - nihil obstat.
There are also lonely men in their fifties, divorced or even never married before. Those are the falsest of all coins. I met one in the bus from Kraków to Amsterdam, enough distance to give me an insight into his life, as well as past and present matrimonial projects. For many years, he was looking for a sufficiently submissive spouse, even as far as Morocco; yet not even a Maghrebian brebis was accommodating enough to correspond to his ideal profile. There was nothing particularly shocking behind, as far as I could understand. He was simply looking for a female non-entity that would listen to his torrential discourse, a flow of nonsense requiring no sensible answer. A woman as transparent as air.
It is all in Koterski's movies, it is all resumed in his paradigmatic hero Adaś Miauczyński, a lonely man in his fifties masturbating into "Gazeta Wyborcza" just as some men Ibn Hazm mentions in his treatise used to masturbate into love letters, in a wistful longing for his Elżunia, an ideal woman that would not interfere with his multiple compulsions.
Oh, Stella splendens, the ideal woman! Most obviously, I'm not of that kind. Not transparent, not submissive (whatever I might have said about serving the tomato soup to my husband), not a great beauty (whatever might be a 20-years-old Syrian refugee's opinion in the matter), not even elegant or particularly presentable in social terms. To my considerable surprise, I discovered my splendour the other day, when I was in the university library in Leiden. Not doing any serious research for the moment, I resolved at least to leaf through the specialised resources, that basically consisted in long, dusty rows of tafsirs, quranic concordances, collections of hadith according to different authors, and theological treatises. I took from the shelf a volume of al-Ghazali, and opened it at random on a chapter dedicated to marriage. Certainly not a pleasant reading for a feminist; as a good Aristotelian, he justified the need of exercising patience and tenderness toward women by their lesser intellective capacities. But somehow I recognised on that brittle, yellowed page the very image of my own marriage. A zero-violence perfection fifteen centuries in the making. And of myself as an ideal woman, free from malice, jealousy and greed, never asking for anything beyond her needs, acting with reserve and moderation. Whatever the impression the reader might get from this blog, I do not remember to have committed, these last twelve years, any major contravention against anything that millennium old sexual ethics might contain, leaving my house exclusively for grave reasons such as acquiring food, going to a library or travelling in search of knowledge. Oh, Stella splendens!
It helps me to think about myself in these terms.