Thursday, May 15, 2014

One Zero Three: Psychopomps

A lovely friend of mine used to tell me that she was given to wearing cropped baby-tees that she'd had silk-screened to say "Proud To Be A Manic Pixie Dream Girl".  That was her skill, she'd say: introducing shy boys to new and quirky and fun things, drawing the reclusive out of their rooms and onto dance floors and out into the world. She was good at it, she always said. She'd laugh on the phone and tell me that I had a male version of the same skill. I could tempt bookish undergraduate girls into the wickedness they'd been hoping for, provide an avenue for adventures.

She was irritated and annoyed at the gender warriors' efforts to turn Manic Pixie Dream Girl into something that oppressed or exploited women. This was her skill, after all--- giving shy and awkward boys the prompting they needed. The returns, she'd say, were the same as ones I'd get from young companions who needed an excuse to step into what their reading told them would be a new world. We provided adventures, she'd say. We knew how to offer up temptation and seduction as a gift. We exchanged new worlds for sex, which was a very straightforward exchange. I always agreed with her on that.

I remain disdainful of the way Manic Pixie Dream Girl as a concept has been treated by the gender warriors. I'm as contemptuous of the way the gender warriors have ranted about the MPDG concept as I am of the way they regard roué-hood and the idea of seduction. I still don't understand where their anger comes from.  Some of it seems to be based on the idea that a MPDG is "one-dimensional" in films or novels, but some of it seems to be based on the idea that looking to a romantic partner to be in any way mentoring is exploitative or reductive. Needless to say, though, I'm all-too-aware of where their anger at the idea of the roué, the Older Admirer, comes from. But there is an underlying assumption here--- the MPDG is being reduced to a character in someone else's Bildungsroman; the Older Admirer is obviously manipulating and degrading his young companion. Male evil is simply assumed.

We're all characters in someone's Bildungsroman--- if we're lucky. I want to be very clear about that. It's no small thing to be someone who can offer up new worlds and adventures to someone else. I've spent half my life trying to be someone who can provide the kind of literary experiences that a certain kind of bookish girl longs for.  Yes, my bookshelves lead inevitably to my bedroom, but the exchange has always been straightforward. My friend saw her own exchanges as being very much the same: she'd lead shy or inexperienced boys out into the social world, and they'd be terribly grateful in bed. She played a role in their inner films, the novels-in-the-head that her boys were living out, but they were playing a role in hers as well. That holds true for me as well, and I've always been deeply honoured whenever a young companion has told me in later years that I'd been a story she still enjoys telling.

I suppose that this evening I'm thinking of writers like the so-called "Dr. NerdLove", who has a column at Good Men Project.  He disdains anyone male who would hope that a lovely girl would provide the excuse and the occasion to go out into the social world, and of course he deeply dislikes any male of a certain age who prefers young companions and seduction games.  I read his Good Men Project columns or his own website and just smile a thin, cold smile. Well, the back of my hand to him. Dr. NerdLove is not, as I always remind myself, a doctor of anything. I at least have the right to put Dr. in front of my name--- the academic if not the medical title. Beyond that, though, I look at his columns and think how deceptive he is. He promises to help "nerds" find true love or at least sex and romance, but I've yet to see any of his columns that actually urge the solitary to have sex. He seems mostly to offer up reasons why males shouldn't approach girls at bars or parties and to devote himself to telling his male readers why they aren't sufficiently advanced or valuable enough to have sex. I expect that he'd say that he's providing "tough love", but there's always a point where "tough love" shows itself as contempt and hostility and derision. He has, needless to say, nothing good to say about the idea of sex (or youth and beauty) exchanged for knowledge and a passion for knowledge, and he has nothing good to say about the idea of any kind of mentoring as a dynamic in affairs.

I've played the guide for lovely, bookish undergraduate girls. I've sat in bed and handed them books and told them about ideas and places and events and novels. I have shown them how to pick a good single-malt or a good wine.  I've played the other role, too. I have been the one pulled up from his armchair or from his office desk and taken out to events and places I'd never had gone to without urging--- without a lovely young companion. I am proud to have been the occasion for adventures and wickedness, and I'm no less thrilled to have had someone be willing to take me out as part of her own adventures.

The world is full of unopened rooms and shadowed galleries. Take that as a given, and as something that should provide hope for the future. And take it as a given that guides are needed, and should be valuable and valued. Despite Dr. NerdLove and his kind, there's nothing wrong with finding a guide and a mentor to take you into the dreamlands, and the skills needed to be a guide--- a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, an older seducer, an Occasion of Sin ---are valuable and admirable. Remember that.

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