Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Theories of Marriage

An extravagantly wealthy woman began to grow old and feared the loss of her charms. Her husband, who was somewhat younger, might soon begin to seek out other women.

(Men, she believed, did not become old. There was no transition, no 'becoming'. One day a man was old. Before that day a man was not old, no matter how many years had passed.)

And so, after doing all she could with creams, sit-ups, and delicate lighting, she went out into the city and found the very most beautiful young woman. The older woman thought, she looks as I did years ago -- or else I am just flattering myself.

She made arrangements with this young woman, who accepted the situation matter-of-factly, as if it were routine.

The older woman took the young woman to her husband and said, "Consider this woman, henceforth, to be myself and take her for your passion." The husband voiced objections. Admittedly they were only perfunctory. He loved his wife all the more. She had such a brilliant practical mind. And also such a lovely figure.

Although the old wife missed the urgency of passion, the feel of skin, she also felt light-hearted and relieved, like a dancer permitted at last to take off her too tight shoes. To take them off and throw them away!

For a long time the husband vigorously enjoyed his young and nubile wife, but eventually he found that he missed his wife's older body, its familiar and agreeable softness. He asked his wife's older body to come with him for awhile into his chamber.

She was horrified. "You have a lovely wife and still you can't keep yourself from going after some haggard slut! Faithless husband! Pervert!"

His wife did not speak to him for a month. In either of her bodies.

After that, the man did his best to be faithful. He admitted that fidelity did not make much sense to him, intellectually, but still he did his best to live within its confines.

Eventually the husband began to feel ashamed. His gnarled old arm beside his wife's smooth skin seemed horrible to him. Also, he was having significant problems with certain departments related to satisfaction and performance.

(Women, he believed, did not grow old. They did not grow old and stay that way, as men do. A woman could be old at 36 and young at 45, old at 50 and young at 64. It was a kind of spiral, which continued until death. He'd seen it so many times he was no longer surprised: an old man laid out in his casket, his wife standing alongside -- abruptly young again and fresh.)

And so, after he'd done what he could with weights and push-ups and potions involving the intimate regions of tigers and bison, he went out into the city, found the very best looking young buck and explained the situation to him.

The young man was a young man and eager to cooperate. He took the young man to his wife and said, "Consider him henceforth to be myself." His wife voiced objections, only perfunctory ones, and soon enough she was taking her pleasure from this fine young man who appeared to be nearly insatiable.

Although the old husband missed the hunger and the feel of skin, he also felt relieved and at ease, like a stage actor who is permitted at last to take off his mask, to take it off forever.

The young woman meanwhile was not so young anymore, although she had grown wealthy. And so she went out into the city . . .

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