Tag Archives: Sexism

Seeking approval (or something like it)

I just finished reading In the Land of Men: A Memoir by Adrienne Miller, an account of the writer’s time as the very young literary fiction editor at Esquire, which coincided with her professional and intimate relationship with writer David Foster Wallace. “DFW” was ten years her senior and already famous, and Miller’s account paints him as brilliant, deeply troubled and misogynistic, even if she doesn’t use those exact words.

Although it isn’t framed that way, I came away believing that Miller wanted both Foster Wallace’s desire and his approval. She doesn’t reveal much about their sexual relationship but I got the idea his desire was more readily available than was his approval. While a ten year age difference isn’t always germaine to power dynamics, it usually is when one is in their twenties and the other in their thirties. I think Miller wanted David Foster Wallace, the famous, genius writer – who people were falling over themselves to “court” – to validate her intellect, to find her, a woman, worthy. (That she was young, tall, slim, and attractive, she never addresses as undoubtedly being of significant interest to him, certainly as much as her considerable intellect and conversational skills, which seems either short-sighted or deliberately obtuse on her part. The man comes across as an admitted horn-dog, despite the author’s efforts to share his sweet, vulnerable side.)

Quite awhile ago I knew a man whose approval I wanted. It was only after I got it that I realized it wasn’t worth having. It was a lesson I won’t forget quickly.  I do not believe, as some say, that only our own approval is necessary in this life, but I damn sure believe if you want approval, you best do everything you can to first learn if it’s worth having. 

 

 

 

 

 

A phrase best left in the movies

In his late twenties my older brother went on a solo journey across the country, an adventure trip that took place over the course of about a year. He met a woman and after they’d been together awhile, she agreed to leave her home and come back with him to live in our town. We were all quite curious about who this woman was, leaving her life and job behind to make such a drastic move for a man, and one she hadn’t known terribly long at that. In her car no less!

On the night they returned the family gathered to see him and meet his new lady. I don’t remember much about that evening except that my brother asked our mother rather grandiosely to “rustle up some grub” for his new girlfriend. Rustle up some grub??! Had my brother really said that?! The only place I’d heard the phrase before was on TV, on Westerns. Our suburban family didn’t talk like that. Also, why the hell couldn’t he get up and fix some food or order a pizza or something? As it was he didn’t have to; our mother did indeed go to the kitchen to “rustle up some grub” for my brother’s girlfriend.

The relationship didn’t last – she returned to her home after about a year – and if you ask me there was a major hint in how it would devolve in my brother’s words and attitude that first night. Perhaps he started demanding his girlfriend, a modern, independent woman with her own career to “rustle up some grub” and so on.