Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fifty-Three: Essentials

A young friend has fallen foul of the gatekeepers at her university.  She was heard to say (or seen to write) that she intended to frequent lesbian dance clubs this semester to see if she could find a few lovely admirers. She offhandedly remarked in print that having a few girl-girl encounters was something she'd been planning since arriving on campus. A little gender experimentation, she wrote, was a key part of the undergraduate experience,  and especially so at the university she attends. She was under attack from the arbiters of neo-puritan Social Justice morality within hours. The attack was based on the simple assertion that she had no right to experiment with lesbian affairs, or to go to lesbian clubs in search of new experiences. The usual cries of "privilege" were raised, of course, but the gatekeepers also asserted that she couldn't search out sexual delights in lesbian clubs because she wasn't authentic. She had, they said, no right to sex that wasn't part of her "true nature". Girls who were straight and cis and "cis-presenting" should stay with "their own kind" and not somehow devalue the gay world. My friend has taken it all well enough. She thinks so little of the gatekeepers and arbiters that nothing they can say means anything to her. I of course agree with her.

It's easy enough for me to dislike the gatekeepers and arbiters. After all, they despise everything that I am. It's easy enough to mock them, too. One need only imagine the looks on the faces of the lipstick dance club girls I've known when told that there were people trying to tell beautiful undergraduate girls that they were morally forbidden from coming to dance and flirt and be seduced.

The argument that most baffles me here is that argument that "experimentation" is somehow morally wrong, and that one is entitled only to experiences that are "authentic".  Had my young friend announced that she was coming out as lesbian, the gatekeepers would've cheered her discovering her "authentic" self. The experiences--- the physical experiences ---are somehow only valid or moral if they express an "authentic" inner essence. It's the seeking out of new experiences for their own sake, for the pleasure they can convey or purely to see what they might be like that's regarded as someone immoral and false.

Of all things ask, Marcus Aurelius wrote, what are they in their essence? It's a very good quote, and one I've tried to take to heart in many ways.  But the idea that only things that express some fixed inner essence are valid or moral in human life isn't something I can accept.

The gatekeepers denigrate pleasure as merely instrumental, as something valuable only as a way to express some fixed set of essential truths. They denigrate experimentation, too. They have no use for curiosity and play, or for trying on and trying out new faces and new sensations just to see what they're like.  Experience must be reserved for the expression of clear truths and clear identities.

I've been the older lover for Young Companions. I've been an experience and an experiment. In my turn, I've sought out experiences I haven't had before, sought to find out what new or unfamiliar things might be like.  Experiments and bricolage have always been part of my life, and they've been what I've had to offer the girls in my life.

Experiment. Explore. Try parts of the world on for size, try new faces and new outlooks and new experiences. See how it's all different, see what you like. Try, play, enjoy, move along. I never think of the "authentic" as some moral imperative, or as a fixed center.

My young friend arrived at campus planning to explore things she'd read about or seen in films, and she intended to use her undergraduate years to launch out into lives and poses and adventures that made her feel like she was living inside books and stories. I could only encourage her to ignore the gatekeepers and to remember that the world is a stage for stories, a stage filled with props. I hope she will find out what it's like to have affairs with other lovely girls, just as I hope she'll get to do a semester in London or Paris and that she'll read all of "Wings of the Dove" and learn about Indian cuisine.

We are never held to only do things that express some essence, some fixed and "true" self. I've lived through books, through different worlds and characters. I've tried on different faces down the years, and I've sought out worlds as new stage sets. I told my lovely young friend to try everything, to try on new thoughts and new poses and new faces. Don't try to discover a true self--- try to discover all the new worlds and new characters you can be.

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