Wednesday, November 2, 2016

So Not a 10

If you’re of my generation, you almost certainly remember Dudley Moore in “10,” playing the middle-aged guy who’s convinced he’ll find every fulfilment life has to offer if can only get into bed with Bo Derek. The funniest scene in the movie, and the one nearly everyone vividly remembers (how could you not?) is the two of them alone at last as the fantasy dissolves into contretemps while they negotiate positions around the clattering beads of her hair extensions and continuous interruptions to restart the stereo, because she can only climax to Ravel’s “Bolero.”

The craziness of our erotic fantasies lies at least partly in that we imagine they’re about connecting with other people. Then we connect, and realize that on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is a perfect fit between what we’d dreamed about and what’s happening, being face to face with this man/with these men is, like, so not a 10. It’s not at all what we imagined. Instead, it’s real, waking life, in the presence of someone else whose inner world and whose fantasies are as complex as our own, and as unfamiliar as another country. Therapist Hedy Schleifer talks about crossing the bridge to the world of the other, “carrying only my passport in a clear plastic bag.”
The moments of disillusionment that ensue are critical, and precious. They’re a wakeup call from self-absorbed (and self-deluding) slumber. We can slap the alarm off and go back to sleep--or in this case, back off in disappointment and go on dreaming the impossible wet dream. We can go on sleeping our way through a dozen more sexual encounters, or a hundred, or a thousand, thinking the next one will offer it all, whatever the fuck “it” is.
Or else, we can begin to recognize that all longing is only imperfectly answerable, and the real magic starts when we fall more deeply into the encounter that’s here before us, now.
In the light of another’s difference, paradoxically we come to know ourselves better. We can start to look at our fantasies themselves to ask what they mean, where they come from, why we find them so compelling. And in the eyes and arms of one who isn’t ourselves, we can come to feel the presence of One who isn’t ourselves.

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