Sunday, December 6, 2009

Love the One You’re With, or, The Song is You

It’s 4:30 in the morning, and I’m suddenly, without warning, thinking obsessively about Woody Allen quoting Groucho Marx on not wanting to belong to any club that would have him as a member. This is a painful thing to be thinking of at 4:30 in the morning.

It brings back, perhaps inevitably, the discussion I had yesterday with L and G about sex. Well, maybe it was really a conversation about sex and love. I’m not really sure. I find it really difficult to identify the latter. I’m bad with love, a beautiful mess with desire.

A friend has said, on numerous occasions, that he sees me as the hysteric par excellance. Until yesterday I think I didn’t really know what he meant. Now that I’m closer to getting his point, I’m not sure how to feel about it. I wrestle, perhaps more than I ought, with my desire—for independence, and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, for power and control. I wonder: does this make me a bad woman? Even more to the point, is a bad woman precisely the thing I want to be?

Why so much consternation over the question? Well, it’s a problem of belonging. Where, pray tell, does the bad woman belong? With whom? Does she belong only in and to herself? If so, will she be lonely? I really want to believe that the answer to that question is no. That the bad woman can find other bad women, or men who appreciate bad women, and have a sense of community, of belonging. However, she’ll have to work much harder at it than the good woman. The world doesn’t address itself to the bad woman. After all, to the meek go the Earth. Hell, let ‘em have it. As it stands, I want little to do with the place.

Somerset Maugham said: A woman may be as wicked as she likes, but if she isn’t pretty it won’t do her much good. This brings to mind a conversation I had with L about passing. Because I look the way the world wants me to look, at least for now, I can get away with being the bad woman—up to a point. Because let’s face it, the world at large punishes the bad woman. Most femmes fatale, those breakers of hearts, get their necks broken for their pains. The woman who kills is a monster, a demon; the woman who seeks her own desire a slut. The world is not safe for the bad woman.

I’m happy, and safe, only with those people who get me, who get the desire to reject the role I’ve been assigned. Which brings me back to Woody Allen and Groucho Marx. I need the people in my life desperately, but sometimes I worry, altogether too humanly, that I’m missing out on something out there in the world. That life for the good woman is better, happier. Of course, deep down I know that I can’t have it any other way—I am, at the very core of me, a bad woman, however hard it is to be one. And as one, I’m lucky to have a community of—let’s call ourselves feminists—who love and support me the way I am. I only wish there were more of us. That’s why this conversation, the one we almost never have, is so important.

To be a feminist in today’s world is every bit as difficult as it was at the outset of the movement—it’s just that the tactics used to keep us in check have changed. If we can’t talk about what feminism means today, and what we’re really up against, too many of us will suffer needlessly alone. We owe it to ourselves to be a better community.