THE FIRST DANCE OF SEDUCTION
"If you keep talking about men like that, you're going to talk yourself into a lesbian separatist position. And that's going to mean if you want sex and aren't weird enough to want it with an enemy, you'll love a woman," I say to her.
You laugh. Your laughter is only a little bit nervous. Mostly it's the kind of laugh that goes with understanding that the outrageous thing your friend has just said is a joke.
you want to keep talking that way?" I ask in my psychotherapist's voice,
the one that says I have no personal stake in her answer. "I hope you do,"
I add, but this time, to myself. And I follow your lead when you change the subject.
THE SECOND DANCE OF SEDUCTION
You call again, still complaining about the men in your life, past and present. You expect a response. Am I supposed to comfort you? Tell you it isn't as bad as you think? Tell you your pain is normal? Tell you that boys will be boys?
I say, "You make me remember the early days of feminism, back in the late sixties, before some of us knew about lesbianism. Before we knew, at least theoretically, that it was a choice we could make."
"I can't imagine making that choice."
"That's part of what was so exciting then. Learning a new way to use your imagination. Imagine not knowing how to imagine making love to a woman...when you are one."
I continue, "I've been a feminist so long that I remember when we said, `What can two women do together?'"
I stop. There is dead space on the line, costing you dollars by the minutes. The rules of conversation being what they are, you speak. "I know what they can do. I masturbate."
I return to my history lesson. "I started trying to imagine it -- with women, I mean -- and I couldn't. If I had any imagination about it, it was dormant.
"We learned to be heterosexual from public information campaigns -- how to do it, how to think about it, when to want it, how to act like you want it, when to close your eyes, which parts count... All those movies and songs and books and commercials sort of jump-start our imaginations. But make love with a woman? How, without a rule book?
"Being a scholar, of course I researched it. I read Betty Dodson and learned about my own body. Thank God for Betty Dodson! I read Naiad books. Thank God for Naiad! I learned to imagine making love with a woman. It made me feel free like nothing else ever had."
Your response is dry: "What would make me feel really free is winning the lottery."
that's a whole other subject, a different kind of freedom, I ignore the remark.
But I do not ignore you: "There was a time when I couldn't imagine making
love with a woman. But who says you're anything like me? Our imaginations work
differently... You've always had a better imagination than I have."
THE THIRD DANCE OF SEDUCTION
This time it's my dime. I know what I want to talk about, but it takes a while to get there. Finally I say, "It has been a long time since a woman has been as important to me as you are becoming. I have been in love with women a few times in my life, but most of the time I didn't know until long afterwards. The one time I really knew it while it was happening, it was as painful as loving a man used to be. She turned out to be mean and crazy. When she ended it, I was mostly relieved."
"Are you talking about Elaine?"
"Sounds to me like it still hurts."
"I don't think so. There's a difference between regretting what might have been -- had things been different -- and remembering heartbreak.
"The first one, the girl I didn't know I loved till years later -- she broke my heart. I suffered about her going away for a long time. I was devastated when she moved in with her boyfriend; I couldn't imagine how to live the rest of my life. So I got married. I didn't stop grieving for her for ten years." And I let a silence build that you fill.
"And now it's happening again?"
I can't think what to say. You continue as if I had said something. "I can't imagine myself as a lesbian."
I laugh at you. "I've never before heard you talk about your imagination being limited." We both know that it isn't.
you laugh. The understanding of me I hear in that laugh is why I love you.
THE FOURTH DANCE OF SEDUCTION
You call me. You tell me you lust after a woman. She is there. She is not me. I congratulate you on your functional imagination.
All you tell me about her is what she does. What she does is a kind of art different from yours and different from mine. You tell me what it is. But it's all you tell me about her. And it's all I need to know. It's all that matters.
As you tell me about her, I hear the sculptor in you running your hands over this new woman's contours, the dancer in you imagining her in motion under your hands. Do you imagine your mouth on hers?
Your confession of lust delights me. Now we are closer together. Now I know we can dare anything.
As important as your lust for her is what you have imagined about our collaboration. Lately you have been bursting with ideas for new work, your imagination in spring, germinating. It's too early to cull; you delight in all the richness and variety, basking in how all the ideas are yours, equally promising for now.
will do a book together -- both do the words, both do the images, encounter the
terrain together. I won't have to say what your art makes happen in me. You won't
have to tell me what my writing makes you think. We'll just do it. Together.
THE FIFTH DANCE OF SEDUCTION
You call me. You say you are calling to see how my trip was, how the home-coming was. I am too tired to tell you about it. I want to be distracted. So you tell me about a man you have seen several times. You tell me he is a perfectly nice man. I think about Jane Rule's story by that title and know he doesn't matter. You rattle off a list of characteristics that make him sound like a lovely combination of Mr. Old Fashioned Nice Guy and The New Liberated Man (Soft Macho).
"He pays for my dinners," you say, letting your voice drop as if the sentence is ending...and then you add, "and he thinks it's fair because he makes so much more money than I do." You say, "He seems to be smart and he's interesting to talk to. And he actually listens to what I have to say. We agree about a lot of important things."
"But?" I ask.
"But when he touches me something in me backs away. I have to stop myself from snatching away the part of my body he has touched. I don't want it to look as if I am..."
What was it you said you didn't want to seem to be doing? Rejecting him? Hurting his feelings? Repelled?
You wonder what was going on. "What do you think is going on?", you ask me.
A whole response rises up in me in a flash. Not in words but in the place of about-to-become-words. I can't bring myself to focus, to push it into language. I am exhausted. I say, "Give me till tomorrow night to think about it. I'm too tired to talk. Call me then."
THE SIXTH DANCE OF SEDUCTION
You call. You say, "What's your answer to my question."
I think, "What question?"
I say, "I'm tired. My back is killing me. It's been a hard day. My mother needs so much care. It's scary making life and death decisions for her. But I have to do it. I have to take care of her."
You say, "Of course you do, she's your mother."
I love you for knowing that, not disputing it. Other people urge me to "put her somewhere," tell me that's what nursing homes are for. I can't do that. I don't want to do that. But it's so hard!
The kitchen, pantry, dining room, and sunroom are a complete mess, unusable. My husband hasn't finished the kitchen renovation he began in February. It's May and I'm going crazy. We can't eat meals downstairs. I have to carry all the food up and down. I can't stand cooking in the kitchen. It's filthy and nothing's where it belongs. We can't sit at the dining room table to eat -- the table is covered with all the stuff that's supposed to be in the pantry he didn't finish rebuilding and painting. So I have to carry things up and down all the time.
"There is no place in the house we can sit and rest. Not one room is right. There's no place I can put flowers. There are no vistas to rest my eyes. I should leave... I should move us to Florida. My mother and I in an apartment in Florida. I would write. I could take care of our health. I could be visited by people I love."
"I would visit."
"I am so disappointed by the house not being done. I feel betrayed."
You say, "If you want things like remodeling done, pay strangers to do them. You can fire them when they don't do what you need."
Long silence. And then I say, "I really needed to be told that. Thank you.
"You make me feel I live in a better world than I really do ." I change the subject. Sort of.
"Mmmmm," I say, "I love the environments you create. Your art gives me back my visual life."
It is true. You have given me back my delight in the visual world, reawakened my capacity to be amazed by light and color. "Do you know how important your art is to me?"
"You keep telling me," you answer.
"Do you like to hear me say it?"
"Do you get tired of hearing it?"
"No," you say. "Do you know how important your writing is to me?"
I say, "Tell me."
You do. I become Listening.
Our conversation changes. Now we are talking about what we give each other, what the reciprocities are. I say, "I give you a vision of yourself that is more wonderful than anyone else has ever done. You like that very much."
You are silent for more than a couple of beats -- but the beats are very short, because the tempo has increased -- and then you say, "Yes...I like that."
The foreplay begins. We begin to say things that make each other feel good. We say things that make us feel petted, the hungry-for-love cells in our shoulders relax. We both laugh, softly, a laugh we haven't often, maybe never, shared with a woman. It's the purring of early-on in sex when you know it's going to be good.
Our under-feathers fluff up a little, then settle down, the ruffles rippling out from them, swelling till the circle becomes everything. A kind of orgasm of the feathers. Those little gasps of mutual recognition as we realize what is happening, our not mentioning it, but doing it, going on doing it, without comment.
We start telling each other how we each of us make the other feel good. And how things about the other makes us feel good. "I love to live with your art around me," I say. "I think the reason I can still stay here is that this is where all your paintings are. It's good for my writing. It's good for my soul."
"You are describing things so much more," you say. "Your writing always excites me. It changes my perceptions."
Our minds have become snakes twining around each other. We have a million arms each and are wrapping each other in all of them. We decorate each other with gold stars. We continue. I can't imagine talking like this with a man, or two men talking like this, this returning a caress for a caress, each one taking cues from the other, following one after another as in a ballet, nothing opposes us, nothing separates us.
When it ends -- and we are both kind of breathless -- I say, "Do you know what we've just been doing?" Not challenging you, but rhetorically.
laugh, no irony, no nothing else, just delighted laughter, and you say, "I
THE SEVENTH DANCE OF SEDUCTION
I call her. She has gotten herself ready. She is lying in her bed. I know she's wearing something pretty. She doesn't wear things that she doesn't think are pretty. I know that what she's wearing is pretty because no matter what it is, if she is wearing it, it is pretty.
She smells good. She always has a good smell. It is an absence of other smells. She smells like stillness, like still clear water or white clouds overhead. She is clean. She is always clean.
I say to her over the phone that I want to get in bed with her. I want to hold her. I say, "Which side of the bed should I get in on? Do you want to be held while you lie on your right side or your left side?"
She likes her lovers to be very assured in their approach to her. She likes that Jason does what he wants with her body and she always likes what he does. Other lovers, like Brian, have done what they wanted and she hasn't liked it. And others, Phil and Paris and Greg, have asked her what she wanted them to do and she doesn't like that. She is never, she says, going to teach another man how to make love to her.
But I am a woman.
I ask questions. I don't say, "What should I do?" I say, "When I do this, do you want me to do it like this or like this?" I pretend I am the ophthalmologist and I say, "Is it better this way? or this way? This is position number one and this is position number two. Which feels better, number one? or number two? Number two? or number one? Can't tell the difference? They both feel good? Good. Now let's try position number three."
She finally laughs, and then she begins to relax.
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