Between Men and Women

By Mamet, David | The Nation, January 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

Between Men and Women


Mamet, David, The Nation


When all is said and done it is, of course, always about sex. What else could it be about? And if it is constantly changing, what else could it do?

Cheap entertainments record or counterfeit the sexual act, but that does not get to it, or it only satisfies us to the extent that we deem sex entertainment.

The lawyers say it starts in bed and ends in court; and, indeed, the contemporary barrage of pornography is counterbalanced by our brave litigiousness.

Dramaormusic canprovoke anear-sexual appreciation in exciting a love of death. Many seek and live to sustain this feeling, as if one could live in abandonment forever--it is the adolescent equivalent to the search for perpetual motion.

The child tries to square the circle, thinking, "Many have failed, but I am blessed"; men of more advanced age set out to conquer the world, the land, a skill, one or some women.

And women, for their part, what would they be painting and primping for if not to conquer that same man?

Where, in this seamlessness, is there room for misery?

In the yearning for romance, in the man's Mariolatry and in the woman's hero-worship, is the urge to conquer and the urge to subdue in the ironic operations of chance upon the enthusiastic, in the bitter and protracted conversation of remorse.

We are crazed to get into it and crazed to get out of it.

We are unbalanced by passion or by the hatred of the passionate.

The only control seems a dry unregarding philosophy, practicable only by those pitifully devoid of such gifts of spirit as our own.

We find our misplaced passions ludicrous, but not our hatred; and our new painful wisdom, in the termination of the marriage, the affair, the pact or the illusion, frequently finds that new partner of such proverbial unworthiness as to send our friends scurrying for the telephone.

Through it all, as audience or actor, we nod ourheads sagely, or shake them in sorrow, and know that in spite we are fated to square the circle, come at the Hesperides, and live both happily and forever.

But who would want it if it came to us?

In both demands we are as the infant-center of its world--who requires that the world conform to both and each of its two modes: furious, and satiated.

And, of course, at the same time, we call it grand.

The chance discovery of the old love letter, the personal erotic code, three words or symbols on a florist's card, the note found in a coat unworn these years since the end of the affair that came to a bad end; the anger, the self-loathing, the embarrassment, are confusingly sharp, as are the souvenirs and memories of more successful love--both relics of decision and folly proved by time to've been operating in service not of our own personal dreams but of the mating instinct. There is its stamp, even in the curses of the divorce court, the sex slanders of the popular press, the lawsuits and totalitarian sexual proclamations of freedom: "You have disappointed me. I demand you, your sex, someone, be all-in-all to me, and you have failed. …

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