Saturday, April 29, 2006

Canines in the feeding trough

As well-traveled, richly experienced, and psychologically perspicacious as Pretty Lady may be, there is still one thing she hasn't figured out. Perhaps the gentlemen among her readership can enlighten her, although she suspects that few of them are the type which perplex her. Feel free to offer an opinion; ladies too.

Why, then, are the most openly non-monagamous, self-righteously philandering, womanizing rat-bastards of the male species the ones who throw the MOST petulant jealous tantrums?

Pretty Lady can't figure it out. She was thinking, today, of her old friend the Cuban Expressionist. (Poor Cuban painters. Pretty Lady knew most of the representative ones in New York at one point, and none of them seemed to have realized that Abstract Expressionism was over, say, fifty years ago.) She was pondering again the sad fact that he never did get the bee out of his bonnet, and she has no idea where he is today because of it.

The Cuban Expressionist was the closest thing Pretty Lady has ever known to a professional gigolo. He charmed his way out of Cuba, across Russia, France and Mexico, scattering illegitimate offspring like manna. Drifting along behind him was his common-law spouse, a little engineer named Maria, adoring the ground upon which he tread. He was careful to keep her mostly under wraps, leeching quietly off her steady income while he played the role of unattached swashbuckler in public.

Pretty Lady met him when he fetched up against a friend of hers in Mexico. She avoided him at first, because his accent made her nervous; he talked too fast and swallowed all his consonants. Also, Pretty Lady's friend was a domineering and territorial personality. It was wise not to get in her way.

However, New York City is the Holy Grail for any serious artist, and eventually both Pretty Lady and the Cuban ended up there. The Cuban arrived about six months before she did, but it frankly did not occur to her to call him. When at last the mutual friend came to visit, and he discovered she'd been in town for three whole months, he was monstrously aggrieved.

"Why you no call me?" he demanded.

"I can't understand your accent," Pretty Lady replied, honestly. "It's worse over the telephone." (This is true. The prospect of having a conversation on the phone in a foreign language with a virtual stranger always makes Pretty Lady break out in a cold sweat. Much is communicated with facial expression and hand gesture; the naked phone is a formidable instrument.)

"Okay," said the Cuban, and proceeded to pester her forthwith.

Those were interesting days. The economy was beyond dreadful, and both Pretty Lady and the Cuban were in the position of having to cadge odd jobs at every turn. The Cuban was both a spiritually generous individual, and had no sense of shame; he dragged Pretty Lady all over town, in pursuit of any tenuous opportunity to sell a painting or earn a buck. The 'friends' he introduced her to were all ladies of semi-elevated social status, who all squealed "Mario!" and looked narrowly at Pretty Lady as though she were an adder in the thicket. Pretty Lady was careful to present a buddy-like and non-territorial aspect.

Eventually, Pretty Lady and the Cuban developed the notion of starting a small joint enterprise, selling original erotic artwork on the sidewalk in Soho. Pretty Lady provided transportation, the Cuban supplied carpentry and engineering, and both of them spent their days drawing like fiends. On weekends, they met on the pavement before dawn to stake out territory, then took turns defrosting in the café until the tourists arrived, around eleven.

Watching the Cuban in action was an ever-enlightening experience. He flowed with a steady stream of patter that, by rights, ought to have got him arrested, but instead brought him an onslaught of business. "Hey lady, lady, lady, come buy. Oooo, erotica, yes? La, la, hey lady." And the ladies would giggle and come over for a look.

Now, whenever engaging upon a career of seduction, it is paramount to understand one thing; affection is mandatory. Nothing is ever accomplished, nothing is ever communicated, without a genuine appreciation for the object of one's predations. Mario appreciated women, all women. The women sensed this, and responded to it. The trouble was, once they realized the appreciation was universal, they tended to get testy.

Mario told me that once, when he had an opening in Mexico City, he invited all five of his girlfriends, because he didn't want any of them to hear about it later and get their feelings hurt. When one of them noticed just how many other women were casually grinding up against him as they passed, however, she got jealous and threw a glass of red wine all over the exhibit. "It was my mistake," he said. "I shouldn't have invited them."

Pretty Lady, meanwhile, was largely immune to Mario's coarser charms. This was partly due to the fact of having recently emerged from a 'relationship' with one of Mexico's more notorious operators, and not wanting to go through that ever again. Also, her good friend was a member of Mario's harem, and there is a strict code of non-interference with previously established social groupings, among honorable Latino womanizers. Also, Mario's common-law spouse rather attached herself. It would have taken a spawn of Satan to knowingly make that lady's life more miserable than it was already.

Also, good heavens. By virtue of her 'buddy' status, Pretty Lady was privy to more of the sordid details of Mario's life than anybody. This man was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Good Catch. He was entertaining, darling, sweet, adorable. But gracious. Pretty Lady would have to be a much bigger fool than she is. She was about ready to settle down, and not with anyone remotely resembling Mario. She believed that Mario understood this implicitly.

But then she met the Angry Atheist.

Mario was invited to the fateful weekend upstate, which shifted everything. It was quite a houseparty, jammed with bohemian artist types, and fraught with subtext. Surprisingly, the common-law spouse decided to come, and was miserable. Mario flirted outrageously with every female on the property, except his spouse. This was duly noted and excoriated by present company. It was to Mario's extreme detriment that he had yet to understand the niceties of American Puritan moral heritage. In all of his previous countries of residence, such behavior is noted as a sign of virility and elevated social class; in America it is frowned upon.

Pretty Lady, meanwhile, was stalking the man who seemed, at the time, to be her dream come true. (More fool she.) She challenged the Angry Atheist to a left-handed arm-wrestling match. Not intending to humiliate him; she is wiser than that. But Pretty Lady can give a fellow a run for his money, with her left hand.

The arm-wrestling match turned out to be one of the highlights of Thanksgiving weekend. This being a bohemian houseparty, there was more than one video camera in circulation. All of them emerged, once Pretty Lady got the Atheist in an arm lock and he realized his victory was by no means assured. People were circling; people were shouting. When Pretty Lady finally conceded defeat, the Angry Atheist was hurting.

"Woman!" he exclaimed.

Mario was Not Happy.

Pretty Lady did not think to wonder, at the time, why Mario was suddenly swarming all over her, asking for a backrub. Nor did she particularly think about it when he stole someone's camera and trained it on her for much too long a time, when she got dreamy and started spinning to some excellent trance music. But she was a bit perturbed when, for no apparent reason, the Angry Atheist suddenly stormed off to his private room and didn't come out for the rest of the weekend. She thought things were going so well.

On the way home, after Mario and a subdued spouse were dropped off in West New York, Pretty Lady's best friend offered an observation. "Mario sure was running interference, there."


After about two months' more of stop-and-go, Pretty Lady and the Atheist, were, regrettably, an established item. When she called Mario to give him the news, buddy-to-buddy, he sounded a little chokey. She joshed him about it. "Jealous? You? Come on. Get over it." Really, she thought he was joking.

Evidently not. The lady at the Cuban center (Mario only screwed her once; it was brief and he didn't even kiss her, she complained) reported that Mario was in a state of the sulks. "Pretty Lady has a boyfriend," he announced, gratuitously. Pretty Lady still figured he'd get over it. After all, sex is sex; Mario had sex with everybody. What matters one lady more or less? And the friendship was the same as ever.

Only not. Not by Pretty Lady's choice, of course; when she opened a little gallery in the Atheist's building, naturally she offered Mario a show. He accepted with a minimal amount of grace, and tried her patience sorely with his uncharacteristic reticence and irresponsibility. By the time his show came down, Pretty Lady honestly didn't care if she never saw him again.

Many months later, she ran into him downtown. "Maria had a baby," he reported, gloomily. "Es un poco dificil, la vida." Hmph. As if he'd had nothing to do with it. Pretty Lady applauded Maria's resourcefulness, particularly in getting her mother imported from Cuba and installed in their basement apartment. Mario, pushed to the wall, dumped her at last and moved out. Pretty Lady's friend reported that he'd been through a depression and lost a lot of weight, but seemed to be coming out of it.

So, insightful gentlemen all, what is this about? Pretty Lady is not so narcissistic that she thinks it was Love. She knew a passel of the Cuban's mistresses, and a lot of them are just as awesome as she; he left them all without a trace of regret. She doesn't think it was Ego, completely--any man who hits on every woman he meets, must get turned down more often than not. Another Cuban artist thought it might be 'celos de cariño,' jealousy of friendship; this could be the case, but why, then, would he eradicate the friendship?

Pretty Lady confesses herself stumped.


Anonymous said...

Dear Stumped in NYC:

Why, then, are the most openly non-monagamous, self-righteously philandering, womanizing rat-bastards of the male species the ones who throw the MOST petulant jealous tantrums?

Being non-monogamous is a one-way right, theirs, as they not surprisingly expect monogamous behavior towards themselves from others. Hence the tantrums when they're on the receiving end of what they manifest.

I daresay this is normal survival-of-the-species pro-creative male subconscious behavior; to seek out as many female partners as possible expecting them to remain in the fold (harem?) in exchange for status and security.

Nevermind that the status and security are rarely forthcoming. You may encounter this in more frequent extremes as you seem to circulate amongst the artistically tempermental crowd - extreme (immature, unchecked) temperments perhaps being more the norm?

Pretty Lady said...

I daresay you are spang-on with your assessment, Starwind. Pretty Lady's expectations of people tend to be unrealistically high--she consistently imagines, that after a month or two of tantrums inflicted by the subconscious brain, the rational brain might eventually kick in and say, "you know, maybe I'm NOT such a great deal, from the female point of view." But it never seems to.

Anonymous said...

he consistently imagines, that after a month or two of tantrums inflicted by the subconscious brain, the rational brain might eventually kick in and say, "you know, maybe I'm NOT such a great deal, from the female point of view

The rational brain would only "kick in" if that were a valuable survival or competitive trait.

As long as there is a ready supply of willing "enablers", survival is not threatened, and the irrational brain is content to do what it does best.

Pretty Lady said...

The rational brain would only "kick in" if that were a valuable survival or competitive trait.

Pretty Lady has long held that Misery is an excellent, and sometimes the only, trigger for the kicking in of the rational brain. It surprises her that so many people's tolerance for it far exceeds hers. One would think, judging by the extremity of Mario's tantrums and the subsequent extreme depression, that this would have pressed him to think.

Anonymous said...

One would think, judging by the extremity of Mario's tantrums and the subsequent extreme depression, that this would have pressed him to think.

No doubt he was pressed to think about it: "Why did she make me miserable?"

Recognition of a problem and identification of the solution are entirely different skills, especially when honest self-examination is a prerequiste.

Pretty Lady said...

Recognition of a problem and identification of the solution are entirely different skills, especially when honest self-examination is a prerequiste.

No kidding! People really have to hit rock bottom, having bitten every hand that could possibly have fed them, before they're willing to do that. This is why I have vowed to curb my tendency to keep dragging people away from cliffs. The only way up is usually down, down, down, down.

Anonymous said...

People really have to hit rock bottom, having bitten every hand that could possibly have fed them, before they're willing to do that.

It is a fairly well known business statistic that 9 out 10 new businesses fail in their first year, 9 out of 10 survivors fail in the next year, etc...

The primary cause is management's failure to adapt/correct quick enough to marketplace realities. This failure is largely due to management's refusal to critically examine cherished beliefs about its "vision" and prospects for success. Management believes the best about itself until there is nothing left to manage.

Similarly, traders/investors sustain an irrational belief they have picked "a winning stock" and they will ride it into the ground, and their fortunes along with it, refusing to reassess their motivations and choices in light of reality.

I've had to hit rock bottom myself a couple times before I realized it wasn't an intellectual mistake so much as a subconscious emotional obscurring of the intellect - base emotions we all have, though the costs of our mistakes vary from circumstance to circumstance.

It's easy to make rational assessments when one is on the outside - without emotional attachment or baggage. This is the advantage consultants, laywers, doctors, etc (even close friends) have when evaluating someone's circumstances.

But from the inside, emotionally, it's hard to recognize you've lost your judgement when you've already lost your judgement.

Anonymous said...

Uh....about referring to yourself in the 3rd's a little precious, isn't it?

Pretty Lady said...

about referring to yourself in the 3rd person

We've had that discussion already. You're fired.

Anonymous said...

I think Bane hit the flower right on the stem....I didn't dare say hit the nail on the head.

I always perplex about how women...who I hold in high esteem in general....could possibly have all this todo about men. Then it hits me that maybe I hold them in too high esteem relative to those men....since they fall for the men (generalization).

BUt happily, all the geniuses before us since the beginning of writing have written much and still....we are not very far ahead in understanding.....anything.
Although we have developed observation....which is a some direction.

Pretty Lady said...

Now, boys, this is why we need each other. Each gender has a very good bullshit detector--for bullshit engendered by one's OWN gender. Next time you gentlemen are considering dating a whiny, stupid, overtly manipulative trollop, please run her by Pretty Lady for inspection, BEFORE she makes your life a living hell and you can't figure out why.

Anonymous said...

Very well. I believe I can help. But you need to tell me a lot more about this Cuban. Age, race, family background, education, when he left Cuba, father and mother's social standing and occupation, did he have a "great love" that was somehow truncated, etc.

Pending that, I can tell you this for starters: A Cuban man has the unique and quite sincere ability of putting a woman up on a pedestal, and at the same time loving her like a pal the rest of his life.

In fact, being selected for this niche in his life is the highest compliment a Cuban can make to a woman.

Men of all cultures put some women up on pedestals to some extent or another, but there's a tongue-tied formality to it that often doesn't allow them to be comfortable with it.

Cubans do it in a very unusual way.
It's a peculiarity all their own and it comes from a culture that is possessed of Spain's fire and pride on the one hand, and that quintessential, co-conspiratorial informality that is so very Cuban, but doubly so in the Havanan, and is very attractive to women, who somehow intue something special is going on, but damned if they can put their finger on it. It's more complex than this, and it is more or less refined as you go up and down the social ladder, but it is there in some measure, in all of them.

Dies Irae

PS: Te puedo decir, es mas, te puedo garantizar que tu orgullo personal/amor propio, que es una de tus cualidades mas atractivas, es (o fue) una de las razones mas importantes por la cual Mario te tiene o tenia en un pedestal.
Otra razon, mucho mas obvia, es tu inteligencia y facilidad y elegancia de expresion, y muchas otras cosas que el espacio y la decencia (acuerdate que soy hombre casado) no me permiten discutir. (sonrisa)

Pretty Lady said...

Dies Irae, I knew there was a reason I liked you so much. You have actually supplied me with some information I didn't know, and a perspective I hadn't thought of.

Very well. Age: Around 43 now, around 40 at the time.

Social station: ambiguous. I know he grew up on a rather isolated farm somewhere; there were no girls nearby, so...well, best not to dwell on that.

Race: Mostly Caucasian, with rather more conquistador heritage than cute little swarthy Indian.

Parents' occupations: no idea. Presumably farmer and farm wife.

Education: Advanced degree in archeology, and possibly civil engineering. I believe he went off to Havana as soon as physically possible, probably at 18, and went to university in Russia soon after that. I believe he worked in Havana after getting his degrees. He escaped to France by meeting some Parisian girls on vacation, getting them to buy him a plane ticket to visit them, and never getting on the return plane home. After about five years he was found out and deported, but he got around that by talking the French authorities into letting him have a one-day layover to see the Anthropology Museum in D.F., and never getting back on the plane. Again.

"Great love"? Not that I ever heard of. As I said, scattering illegitimate offspring and abandoning clever, nurturing, smitten ladies was his modus aparandi. I know he felt bad about the children and would have liked to do something for them, pending a change in financial fortunes.

That is about all I can tell you, except that--did you see that recent Almodovar film? The one where some weirdo falls in love with a girl in a coma and impregnates her, thus bringing her out of the coma at the same time he lands himself in jail? We saw that together. The girl's name was Alicia. As I was waiting for my train afterward, I heard someone yell "Alicia!" from the opposite platform. It was Mario, of course, waiting for the train to Jersey.

Pues, muchas gracias por tus palabras hermosas sobre mi caracter, etc. Pero dudo, en serio, que tengo algo de elegancia de expresion en español. Casi no puedo comunicar lo básico, particularmente con acento cubano.

Come to think of it, there may be a reason why my Canadian friend, Mario's especial other buddy, got cold and distant and passive-aggressive with me soon after Mario did. Sigh. Jealousy is such an ugly thing.

Pretty Lady said...

Ah. Found it. Excerpt from press release from Mario's exhibition:

The artist ********* has been roaming the world since he left Cuba to study engineering at Polytechnic University in Russia in 1981. He returned in 1990 to study archeology in Havana, decamped for Paris to pursue his art in 1994, was deported in 1996, jumped ship in Mexico City, worked as an archeologist in Guanajuato, Mexico, and emigrated to the U.S. in 2000. The fearlessness and exploratory nature of his personal career is reflected in his artwork, by his use of bold, vibrant color, line separated from form, and an insouciant energy which engages the viewer and lifts the spirit.

There you go. Socio-psycho-analyze away.