Why did he leave her? Why did he turn off to a goddess of sensuality so quickly? What is wrong with him? What is wrong with her?
Better yet, what is wrong with Polly, the advice columnist of New York Magazine. Her real name is Heather Havrilesky.
Here are some excerpts from the letter that was sent to Ask Polly:
I finally thought I had met my match. He was charming, older, devastatingly handsome, intense, well-dressed, wealthy, shared my passion for wine — my dark knight. Finally. Fucking finally. He lives across the country, but what the hell? He comes here for work all the time, and that's why they invented planes, right?
I'm 33 and have been mostly single for most of my time in NYC. I've always prided myself on being strong, independent, not your typical rom-com-loving, jealous, cookie-cutter girl. I drink whiskey. I don't want kids. I work in a male-dominated business. I like horror movies. I can hang with the boys. I also like stilettos and lingerie and make pretty good arm candy. Decent package, right? So when I met him, I knew, just knew he was the one. We were so obviously perfect for each other.
I have been looking for someone who can "handle me" for so long, then I found him. He immediately started talking about our future and saying, "Where have you been all my life?" and, "I want your body, mind, and soul." We have amazing toy- and lingerie-laced sex. For hours. He invited me on vacation for the holidays with his friends. He went back to California. He came back a week later. Another week of passion and intensity.
And then it was over:
There was no yelling. No tears. Nothing. I just felt hollow and sad and totally unfuckable. Was it those little pimples I got on my jawline? Did I snore? Get too comfortable too fast? Was I too weird? WHAT WAS IT?
I know I'm not perfect, but I love myself and like who I am for the most part. I think I'm pretty, smart, and try to be a good person.
So how does a 180 like this happen? What the fuck happened? In hindsight, I realized that he was pretty self-absorbed and narcissistic and only kept friends around who were very impressed by his stories of his very fabulous life. But I still want him. What is wrong with me?
Unfortunately, Polly lards it all over with psychobabble. Presumably, she has undergone some form of psychodynamic therapy and thinks that she understands the workings of human desire. Sorry to have to say it, but she barely has a clue.
You have the impression that you know a lot about these people. In fact, you do not. You do not know how old he is. You do not know anything about their families. You do not know what he does for a living or what she does for a living. Knowing that they lusted after each other tells you next to nothing. We know that he is older and unmarried.
Polly is kind enough to see that this woman is a self-styled, self-branded, self-created badass. This is a very nice way of putting it. The woman is an aspiring courtesan. Effectively, beyond the great sex, she is offering very little. She seems to be content with a long distance relationship. She does not want to be a mother and presumably not a wife. She seems to think that having great sex with sex toys is the meaning of human relationships. It is if you are a courtesan. If you are not a courtesan, it is not.
If she is so strong and independent why does she continue to yearn for him?
The relationship is intense and passionate, because empty-headed therapists want people to have intense passionate relationships. But, Yeats got it right when he wrote:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Are full of passionate intensity.
We need not ask why this man turned off so quickly. I will soon explain why that is not a mystery at all. We do need to ask why people frequent psychotherapists who teach them that they are beings of desire and not social beings. We also need to ask why people have accepted that great sex is the ultimate sign of a great relationship. It is not. And we need to ask why people believe that they can ignore all of the social niceties and proprieties, because the sex is good.
We do not know if this man’s friends are married or not. We do not know whether this man’s friends have children or not. We suspect, since the man is older, that some of his friends are married with children. Thus, he might feel left out of the crowd.
We certainly do not know how this man’s friends reacted to his aspiring courtesan when they all got together on vacation. And if the friends were there with their wives, how did the wives react? I trust that you noticed that he quickly took her to meet them on a vacation. It did not mean that he wanted to introduce her into the circle. He wanted to know what they thought of her, objectively… because he was undoubtedly of two minds about her himself.
If all of his friends have wives and home lives, how is he going to feel strutting around with his eye candy, a woman who does not seem to want either marriage or children? Thus, with a woman who only wants him for one thing. And wives are notoriously not very happy about introducing an aspiring courtesan into their midst.
In truth, this woman has sold her soul for good sex. And perhaps even for great sex, but, for most people that is not enough.
Did the situation make him feel cool or did it make him feel like a chump, an appurtenance for some woman’s overweening narcissism?
Note that the letter writer says that she loves herself—another take-away from bad therapy—so why should he imagine that she is also willing to love him. It reasonable in the early stages of a relationship to defer decisions about who is going to move where to be with whom, but if moving was not in question. She was apparently happy enough to see him on occasion, so why get too involved with a woman who does not want to be a wife or a mother and who does not want to make a home for him or their children.
Perhaps the man’s friends are impressed by his bragging, but that makes him entertaining. If his friends’ lives are moving in an entirely different direction, he is going to feel like something of a clown. Unless, of course, he’s James Bond… in which case, all bets are off.
We also do not know whether this aspiring courtesan ever met anyone from the man’s family. The real question is: what does his mother think? No woman should ever underestimate the influence of a man’s mother and no woman should ever discount a mother’s interest in being a grandmother. If said wonderful man tells his mother that he is having a liaison with a woman who refuses to have children, trust me, said mother is going to have something to say about it. She might not say it loudly or overtly, but she will let him know that she does not approve. His mother is not going to be impressed by the fact that this woman drinks whisky and loves sex toys. And his mother will not much like the fact that this self-styled independent woman does not want to make a home or to care for her wonderful son.
How much of what we are learning did the man tell his mother? We have no idea. If he presented the woman to his friends, he might have presented her to his mother. Or else, if his friends knew the story, it is altogether possible that the news traveled. Who wants to guess what Mom would have thought upon hearing tell of the woman's predilection for anal beads?
The aspiring courtesan seems not to have understood that when you model your life on that of a fictional character, it does not very often turn out too well.
One recalls one of antiquity’s great love affairs: that of Aeneas and Dido. One recalls that Aeneas, a refugee from the Trojan War, made his way to Carthage where he took up with its queen: Dido.
And yet, Jupiter had already given Aeneas the task of founding Rome. And Aeneas could not fulfill that duty if he continued to shack up with Dido. So Jupiter sent Mercury to explain the facts of life to Aeneas. Mercury told Aeneas to get back on his ship and set sail for Rome. Better to found Rome than to be Dido’s boy toy.
Aeneas followed his destiny and not his decadent pleasures. Dido did not do quite as well. She killed herself and had her body immolated. It’s not quite the same thing as burning your bridges behind you, but it certainly suggests that it’s best to make sure that you are not going to be tempted to go back.