Robert Nason's Culture Café

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Steve Barber
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Steve Barber » Sun Sep 21, 2014 9:45 pm

A commentary I heard while on vacation: "A stripper who has had 'augmentation' surgery" -- ie, a boob job -- "ought not to object if her tip is in Monopoly money!"

True dat.
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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:13 pm

Steve -- Very funny!

Mark, the better part of my nature agrees wholeheartedly with what you wrote; but the realist (or cyncial, if you prefer) part of me knows that men with wealth and power will continue to seek out younger female companions, and those younger women will continue to seek out them. Both groups may be shallow, but it may also be hard-wired into our genes. (In fact, it is.) Certainly Darwin is no excuse -- men are also hard-wired to be aggrressive, but that doesn't mean a civilized society can tolerate violent behavior. But I've lived long enough to see what society considers the most physically "attractive" women having a much larger pool of men to choose from, while the less sterortypically attractive women have a smaller pool of choice. Same, too, with men: Success opens doors to meeting many more "desirable" women than failure (i.e., financial, which is the only kind of success and failure our society truly cares about). There are writers and artists and thinkers of real substance who have abandoned their aging wives for younger women -- were those men afraid of real intimacy with a woman? Perhalps. Or perhaps they were able to rekindle their creative juices with a new partner, someone who also admired their accomplishments without having seen them through the long hard slog up to the top that their now-abandoned wives suffered through with them. It's not a pretty situation, and it's hard on those wives who are cast aside. But it's hard on the men who never had many opportunities to have a partner, too -- I know plenty of those, and they can be every bit as bitter as women are. I can't change the world, I( can only try to be the most decent person I can be. I know that the shallowness we're talking about here is not going away any time soon; if anything, it's getting worse. It's tragic all around, though as someone who's unmarried and little luck with the opposite sex, I find it hard to shed tears for them at this point, for very obvious personal reasons. The dumb jock in high school got the girl who would talk to me about books and ideas in the hallway; she'd say "Bye!" and off they'd go. It made high school something of an ordeal for me (we won't even talk about college). Sure, she liked me as the intellectual "friend," but the jock was the one she went off with. I was skinny with thick glasses, and now I'm thicker around the middle with thin lenses thanks to the marvels of modern technology. It's hard for me to work up real sorrow for people who had so many of the things I wanted, even if they lost some or all of it later in life. For a time, there lives were golden, or so it seemed to me then. Possibly the reality was much different. But being on the outside, trying to look in, I couldn't even reassure myself that the truth wasn't as pretty as it looked. I suspect most of the folks here have an "outsider's" view of life (and THE OUTSIDER was one of my favorite books when I was 22). But I don't kid myself that I'd give up being an outsider in a nanosecond to experience some of what it's life to be "inside" before my carcass is lowered into the earth. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it, and it's my party and I'll cry if I want to. Cheers, and Happy New Year to my fellow Jews here!
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

Mark Tiedemann
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:12 am

Robert,

Basically, in a word, Status.

Yeah, I know. But two things I experienced taught me how complicated that whole thing is.

The first was in high school, that training ground of future habit. I was never able to find a steady girlfriend then. Many more reasons than just the fact that I read. There was, in fact, a pool of girls who dug that, but I was hopelessly inarticulate about "dating" and the attendant rituals. Long about senior year, though, I hit upon a simple strategy. I'd just ask girls if they wanted to have sex. (This was 1972, the height of the absorption of the counter culture into the mainstream.) As long as one didn't mind being told no often (good training for a writer, that) and stuck with it, it was surprising how successful that could be. I guess I average one yes for every four nos. And the ones who took me up on it were often the "popular" girls.

Now, I got rather full of myself and at one point dared to ask a few of them out on dates. The answers were consistently no, often with laughter. I got pissed and one of them I said "What is it? What we just did here, and you won't go out with me?"

Very cleared-eyed, she answered, "Well why should I? I mean, who are you?"

Meaning what kind of status did I have that would contribute to her own. When I suggested people might like to know she'd been fucking me, then she laughed and said "Who'd believe you?"

The second thing was much later. During my brief foray into clubbing. During the disco era. I am terrible at picking women up. I realized later that it's such a game and I don't fully understand the rules and and and...

Anyway, I hit upon another strategy. I found that if I waited till last call, more often than not I would get picked up. This worked a bit more than half the time.

And the women picking me up were generally in the category of drop dead gorgeous. They were not being approached. I never fully understood this, but I think the assumption was always made that they were already spoken for and men stayed away. Or men thought they didn't stand a chance. They appeared to have higher status, in other words. Or---worse yet---men assumed because of their looks that they were unpleasant: bitches, "high maintenance," or were on the rebound, or---

It was altogether bizarre.

So I have developed the Tiedemann Law of Sexual Relations. "Nothing makes sense." Except, it does. Just not the thing we think should make sense. In every instance, it is always about risk. How you and they calculate that risk is arcane and deeply personal, but that's the driving principle. How much am I risking by letting this person in? Or by keeping them out? Whether we admit it or not, we believe surfaces lie. Or we want them to lie. It would be nice to have a guarantee.

I actually witnessed a couple get together on the spur of the moment, the man having just been through a divorce, a customer of mine, loudly complaining about how it seemed impossible to know someone, no matter how long you dated. "You might as well marry someone you just met, the odds would be about as good." A woman who had been in the store before he arrived had drifted over to listen and add comment stood nearby. He looked at her. "LIke you and me. We'd have as good if not better of a chance." "Maybe," she said. "So how about it?" he said. "Want to get married?" She blinked at him, startled. Then she said "Sure."

They did. That night, I found out later, they caught a red eye to Vegas and got married. Eight years later, just before that shop closed, they came in to see me. Still married, delighted with each other.

My Donna and I hooked up out of mutual ambivalence. We'd both had faithless companions and had decided we wanted nothing but to go out and have a good time. That was 34 years ago.

Nothing makes sense. But it does.

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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:09 am

Another addendum...

I don't think men who go after much younger women particular want the younger woman so much as they themselves want to feel twenty-something again. I think some women go through that kind of nostalgic envy as well, but social convention makes it harder for them to indulge it.

For my part, the only thing I miss from my 20s is the unselfconscious energy. Otherwise, you can keep the rest.

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FrankChurch
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:28 am

Mark, you are freaky as heck.

Men, we lower our standards because we just want to get laid, sad fact, but one no doubt. If we just maintain a positive angle we can succeed. But, tell the truth, Mark, you told the women that you were a famous writer?

----------

Nason, men are not hard wired for anything. Once again, we know little about human nature. We need this on t-shirts.

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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:53 am

FrankChurch wrote:Mark, you are freaky as heck.

. If we just maintain a positive angle we can succeed. But, tell the truth, Mark, you told the women that you were a famous writer?

----------

Nason, men are not hard wired for anything. Once again, we know little about human nature. We need this on t-shirts.


Why am I freaky?

No, I never told any of them that, because when I was single I wasn't. Of course, I'm still not a famous writer. Fame is relative and I have relatively little.

I grow weary of that refrain, "we know little." I don't think it means what you think it means. But I would point out that if in fact we know little then you could never have made the quite assertive statement "Men, we lower our standards because we just want to get laid, sad fact, but one no doubt" As usual, giben enough time, you contradict yourself.

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FrankChurch
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Sep 22, 2014 1:30 pm

We want to get laid, but that is biology. We do not all agree what it means. Some of us do it for fun, some for procreation, others out of spite, some because we need love or a human touch. Some of us see it spiritually, some merely as a human response.

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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Sep 22, 2014 3:06 pm

FrankChurch wrote:We want to get laid, but that is biology. We do not all agree what it means. Some of us do it for fun, some for procreation, others out of spite, some because we need love or a human touch. Some of us see it spiritually, some merely as a human response.


Biology, translated into decision-making action, is psychology. What's the matter, did someone beat your Jung ass with a Freudian twitch?

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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:18 pm

Very good Doctor Tiedemann.

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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:12 am

Mark -- Yes, you nailed it. Status is the word I was searching for. Bingo.

I had the same troubles with girls in high school that you did, but I didn't discover your simple strategy until many years later, when I guy I new who was not particularly good-looking or endowed (ahem) with much status told me that he'd just ask a woman to have sex with him. If she said yes, great; if she said no, he'd go on to the next one, without wasting time trying to woo any of them. He claimed he usually managed to find a woman to sleep with, even if it took asking a hundred women in a day. "And that's what you've got to do," he told me. But I never had the chutzpah to be so open about my desires -- at least not then. It seemed too crude, and I'd been trained, too well trained, by all the raging feminists around me. I'd really try to develope a "meaningful" relationship with them. What usually ensued was that I was relegated to what one woman I knew dubbed "the dreaded 'friend zone,' and the girl would wind up hopping into bed with a guy she just met at a party. When I saw the girl leaving with the guy, it would break my heart.

I suspect I didn't like the idea of rejection, either, though Lord knows I got plenty of it when I started sending out stories to all the science fiction magazines when I was 13, and continued for the next fives years. I never sold one, but I did get a personal letter from Ben Bova once instead of the usual form letter, telling me "I rather like your style of writing and hope you try us again." But soon after that I was in college, and found more immediate gratification writing for the newspaper and literary magazine and playwright's workshop, where my word would immediately see print or be staged. Anyway, my sf stories (and horror and fantasy) weren't all that good.

As for rejections by the college girls (or should I say "women?"), I won't go into that.

I probably should have tried your approach. One yes for every four nos. That's batting .200. Pretty damn good, I'd say. I had to laugh, though, at the fact that they'd sleep with you but not "go out" with you because you didn't bring enough "status" to the table. If men are hooked are women's bodies, women are hooked on men's status. So who's more perverse?

I've tried the last call approach on occasion. Trouble is, you have to have an iron butt to sit at that bar all night and a thick wallet to pay for all those drinks. It's a very labor intensive approach, though probably less expensive than buying dinners. (You'd be horrified to know how much I've paid for dinners on first dates with women whom I never saw again, and who never even thanked me.)

Funny, but my dad told me that when he was in college he was crazy about a gorgeous girl, but assumed that anyone that beautiful was unattainable. One day he told this to the girl's roommate, adding, "I assume your roommate must have constant dates because she's so gorgeous." The roommate said, "Yes, she does."

Ba-da-bing. Weren't expecting that, were you? Neither was I, when my dad told it to me.

Tiedemann's Law of Sexual Relations reminds me of screenwriter William Goldman's Rule about Hollywood: "Nobody knows a fucking thing." The thing is, there are patterns. Certainly in my life. I keep having the same bad date over and over. Not every time, but quite frequently. The last one was a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I'll tell it here when I'm feeling masochistic. It was one of the most expensive first (and last) dates I've ever had and one of the most unpleasant. I think I may try to correlate the statistics I've gathered into a ratio between expense of date and the cruelty of the woman, and call it Nason's Law. But I'm even worse at math that at dealing with women.

That story about the couple in your bookstore who got married on the spur of the moment is one of those anecdotes that are usually prefaced with "nobody would believe this if you put it in a story." But I believe. "Real" can produce some amazing stories, even happy ones.

I like that phrase "mutual ambivalence." That sounds more like real life. But it seems to have worked for you and Donna. I imagine you've had many good times, and I wish you many more. Someday my own life might make sense, or at least a different kind of sense. But not nonsense, please -- I've had enough of that.
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:17 am

Frank, I really think you should read more of the books for laymen (and women) on neuroscience and evolutionary biology that have been published lately. We really are hard-wired for quite a few things. Naturally as civilized people we don't have to give in to all the impulses generated by that wiring, but how many people are civilized? Just go to a football game or walk around a supermarket and see how many spirtually elevated men and women you can find.

(At this point Frank will tell me to try walking into a church, instead. To which I say, "Frank, I'm Jewish!")

We're human, but we're also animals. And many animals are much nicer than people.
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:20 am

By the way, Mark, you're right on the money about that "unselfconscious energy" a person has in his or her 20s. At the time, I thought that was just being normal. Little did I know. But look how most people waste that energy and create nothing of real value with it. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I guess many of them have more fun than I did, so god bless them and keep them -- far away from me! (Now I'm stealing lines from "Fiddler on the Roof.")
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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Steve Evil
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Steve Evil » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:12 pm

Biology and culture intersect in fascinating ways - in fact, all of culture is arguably a result of our biological functions. The securing of food, shelter, reproductive partners. . .

Greg Bear wrote a fascinating novel on the subject, in Slant. The chapters are strung together by exerts from a fictional treatise entitled The Kiss of X which expounds on how the sexual instinct molds our behaviour, or social interactions, and our wider culture (ie, how much of our marriage rituals are based on safeguarding our sexual outlets? How much more important is jealousy than we would like to think?).

It's fiction, so you can take it or leave it: but it makes perfect sense to me. Ever see your loved one in the arms of another? Ever fall for someone unavailable? The disruption of the instinct can have disastrous consequences for the psyche.

(I'd quote from it at length, but, alas, it was also lost in the flood. . . )

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Lori Koonce
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Lori Koonce » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:40 pm

Mark and Robert

I've been thinking about your dialogue about older men dating younger women and have a question for the two of you.

While everything you two mentioned is correct, why is it so easy for humans to forget that personal preference plays a huge part in our choice of partners? For example, since the day I first noticed the difference between the genders I've been attracted to older men. For the most part they have a maturity that I find very attractive. Even now, at 47, I find myself hopelessly in love with a guy who is 16 years older than I am.

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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Ezra Lb. » Tue Sep 23, 2014 3:06 pm

Never had any trouble attracting women. They sense my power but I deny them my essence because they do not satisy my exacting standard.

Woman must worship me as a living god.

So far no one's buying but she's out there...I know she's out there..

You see, friends? I'm a romantic. :wink:
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter


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