Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Paradise Seekers

I don't know if you can spread the truism to all women, but a bunch of my female relatives do want paradise. Paradise here on earth, starting with blue dishes. Moving on to new curtains, which eventually become window treatments, new kitchen counters, pull-out racks in their kitchen cabinets, the side-by-side with the ice dispenser. They have a picture in their heads of their ideal home, and they have been ameliorating the premises continually, repainting the dining room, putting a door where the window used to be, glassing in the screen porch. A house to them is Play-doh waiting for the hand of the Master Decorator.
Hotel rooms, too, need their furniture rearranged, that table over by the window instead, one chair facing the other so you can sit with your feet up. Nature must be tamed as well and forced into this aesthetic, beautiful to look at from the windows, but you mustn't touch it. Green lawns, trimmed trees, groomed beaches, sunsets admired from deck chairs along same. It's not that this vision is not beautiful: it is. But it is also sterilized, requires someone's maintenance (not mine, I won't do it!), and somehow still needs airbrushing in the photographs. In fact, it needs photographs. Its beauty must be framed and mounted, taken out of context and repositioned over the sofa. Scrimmed, screened, cut down, managed.
Bird-watching is the perfect sport for these paradise seekers. If you put out feeders, the birds come to you and display themselves right in front of your picture window. No need to clomp around in the muck looking for them. The only drawback is the greedy squirrels come to gobble up the seed. A bit like the hungry 12-year-old boy who cuts a hunk out of their cake before they've had a chance to frost it. So the women who desire paradise bang on that window to chase the squirrels away, although it sorely grieves them to have to do so, and shoo those boys away from their lovely cakes: "Here now! Get away out of there! That's not for you!" When, of course, it is.
They want paradise. They want someone to make paradise for. They want that someone to appreciate the paradise made for them. They want that someone to deny and alter and reverse his very nature--his testosterone-produced aggression, his hormonal competition, his desire to take a hunk and bite into it. The very desire that brought him to the woman in the first place.
This tension--women who want to be desired, but also want to remake the boudoir into a place that must never get dirty; men who want the soft compliant nature of woman, but want her to resist other men with tooth and claw--is human culture. This border between competing desires which must be continually renegotiated results in culture. It will never be resolved, solved. If it could be, we would reach stasis and die.
Next up--what many men want. They have their own idea of paradise.

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