Unassuming English students, at least in Philadelphia public high schools, are charged with the study of Greek Mythology.
The boys romanticize Odysseus’ sirens. I, the parable of Tiresias.
This one time at band camp, Tiresias frolicked in the meadow kicking rocks at snakes. Hera, the original Bellatrix Lestrange, loved dearly her serpentine playthings. Tiresias’ actions angered her. As the Regina George of Olympus, she punished Tiresias by transforming him into a woman for a long while.
Okay so here’s the part I enjoyed. I was twelve.
In some other tale of antiquity, maybe Oedipus, Zeus and Hera argue who derives more pleasure from sex - men or women. The usual debates. The Goddesses of Mt. Olympus placatingly profess men the ultimate beneficiaries, not wanting them to know their truth. Zeus humors little patience for subjectivity and conjures Tiresias, now in his umpteenth year as a diva priestess. Tiresas explains, having engaged intimately as both a man and woman, women enjoy sex three times more than men.
Ninth grade me envisioned my wedding night and smiled.
Fast-forward some millenia.
A research team led by Gert Holstege at the University of Groningen scientifically confirm the notion. Though during heterosexual sex the male orgasm is assured and the female orgasm elusive, when the “g-spot” and/or clitoris are aroused, females experience overwhelming ecstasy. This is science.
The neurologists scanned the brain activity of both male and female participants before, during, and after orgasm. The results demonstrate that in anticipation, dopamine is released in large quantities. This is the case for both sexes. In men, parts of the brain shut down during orgasm, but not all.
In women… in women.
In women, the brain nearly planks on comatose. Utter deactivation. Even the parts of the brain controlling motor skills. Thus, any movement experienced during orgasm is physiologically performed in an unconscious state. One of the Groningen scientists mused on History Channel’s The Brain, “Women just… let go.”
The ancient Greeks
knew be knowing.
My mom jokes that my group of friends enjoy going there… for the simplest of correspondence. I show her emails we shoot back and forth and she’s amused. And I agree with her. We’ll grow old of it soon enough and relish the day to day. No fuss about existentialism nor philosophy nor T.S. Eliot. But mama! It’s nice to see Obama’s juvenilia. Pretty cool to view our young selves so plainly in young him. Can’t deliver succinct messages to the public, if one never learned to think.
Little Barack d’Anconia.
The long-distance relationship with Alex McNear after that summer—they would drift apart as time wore on—was conducted mostly through a series of passionate letters sent between his apartment (he was then living at 339 East 94th, in Manhattan) and hers, at 2210 Ridgeview Avenue, in Eagle Rock, California. By her account, the passion was as much about ideas and words as about their romance—what she later called “that dance of closeness through language.” Alex was interested in postmodern literary criticism, and her arguments brimmed with the deconstructionist ideas of Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher. In one letter she told Obama that she was writing a paper in her modern-poetry class at Occidental about T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” His reply wove its way through literature, politics, and personal philosophy:
I haven’t read “The Waste Land” for a year, and I never did bother to check all the footnotes. But I will hazard these statements—Eliot contains the same ecstatic vision which runs from Münzer to Yeats. However, he retains a grounding in the social reality/order of his time. Facing what he perceives as a choice between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order, he accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality. And he wears a stoical face before this. Read his essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe, to catch a sense of what I speak. Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism—Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.) And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter—life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot’s irreconcilable ambivalence; don’t you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex? -Barack
Journal entries from prior girlfriend, Genevieve Cook:
Friday, March 9, 1984 But I feel that you carefully filter everything in your mind and heart—legitimate, admirable, really—a strength, a necessity in terms of some kind of integrity. But there’s something also there of smoothed veneer, of guardedness … but I’m still left with this feeling of … a bit of a wall—the veil. Barack—still intrigues me, but so much going on beneath the surface, out of reach. Guarded, controlled.
Thursday, May 23, 1985 Barack leaving my life—at least as far as being lovers goes. In the same way that the relationship was founded on calculated boundaries and carefully, rationally considered developments, it seems to be ending along coolly considered lines. I read back over the past year in my journals, and see and feel several themes in it all … how from the beginning what I have been most concerned with has been my sense of Barack’s withholding the kind of emotional involvement I was seeking. I guess I hoped time would change things and he’d let go and “fall in love” with me. Now, at this point, I’m left wondering if Barack’s reserve, etc. is not just the time in his life, but, after all, emotional scarring that will make it difficult for him to get involved even after he’s sorted his life through with age and experience. Hard to say, as obviously I was not the person that brought infatuation. (That lithe, bubbly, strong black lady is waiting somewhere!)