Friday, March 26, 2021

One has no rights as a lover

Some ways of seeing women and their sexuality and way of being in the world, as expressed by John Berger in his novel G. ...

On physical sensitivity:

When Laura was a small child she realized, through her own observation and by way of remarks made by her mother, that there were certain secret aspects of a woman's body which might be prized above all others and which could equally well be more shameful than anything else in the world. As she grew up, she became convinced that in everything which related to these aspects she was peculiarly sensitive. She had only to be frightened (or so she believed) for her fear to bring on menstruation. If a man touched her in a certain way on her shoulder, she would feel a convulsion in her womb. Ordinary brassieres would chafe her nipples. She used to be ashamed of this sensitively because it made her awkward and irritable. But she also used to be glad of it because she believed that one day she would be able to share her secret with a man who would become as infinitely curious about it as she was herself.

On feelings:

What separated her from the British wives with whom she was obliged to pass most of her time, was her lack of opinions. She had come to hate the sound of talking. She trusted certain feelings in herself precisely because they did not lead to conclusions.

On love:

Being in love is an elaborate state of anticipation for the continual exchanging of certain kinds of gifts. The gifts can range from a glance to the offering of the entire self. But the gifts must be gifts: they cannot be claimed. One has no rights as a lover — except the right to anticipate what the other wishes to give.

On widowhood:

A widow, by contrast, embraces the inexorable. She recognizes her husband's absence as final. She returns to the past. She pretends that time is repetitive. If she thinks of the future at all, she thinks of it as eventless. Her refusal to consider any possibility of remarrying, her insistence on having ceased to be, in a sexual sense, a woman, are not so much an expression of a permanent and absurd fidelity as of her conviction that no important event can ever occur again in her life. She believes that her life will always be full with the event of her husband's absence: an event which can be endlessly reproduced so long as she lives with her memories in the past. She tries to make her own life timeless. She considers the passing of time a trivial affair. Her husband has entered eternity. (This is an accurate formulation even if she is without religious belief.)

Despite finding G. to be pretentious and (gasp) boring, there are moments of beauty, moments where I wish to be seen by a lover with such clarity. 

[I lack opinions. My feelings are many and contradictory and do not lead to conclusions. I have sometimes believed that I lack the confidence to have opinions, but it also grants extraordinary freedom.]

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