Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 1 May 2016



(for B.)

It's always harder
when it's somebody else's cross
you're carrying.

I told you you were beautiful
and I did not lie
but I questioned my motives.

I need to show I love you
because I fear he doesn't
but what can I give you:

There is no light under my door:
I am at home,
but not to callers.

What will you take
to take the pain away?

25 March 1989
In geometric terms, the eternal triangle can be represented as comprising three points—a jealous male (A) in a relationship with an unfaithful partner (B) who has a lover (C). To use a mnemonic device, A feels abandoned, B is between two mates, and C is a catalyst for crisis in union A–B. Leigh (1985) preferred a nomenclature describing the principles as “victim,” “cheater,” and “cheatee,” whereas Pittman (1987) utilised “cuckold,” “infidel,” and “affairee,” but such terminology strikes us as judgemental to all parties. – Alvin Pam, Judith Pearson, ‘The Geometry of the Eternal Triangle’, Splitting Up: Enmeshment and Estrangement in the Process of Divorce, pp.148.149
F. observed once than every time B. visited we had sex that night. She wondered if it was more than a coincidence. I denied it—I really had no strong desires that way—but, at the same time, I couldn’t deny that B. made me feel… I’m going to use the word ‘good’ here because she did but she also made me feel bad as well; in my experience most things in this life that make us feel good come with a rider. I never thought about having sex with B. when I was in bed with F. and especially not whilst having sex with F. but I did think about B. constantly; that I can’t deny.

I’ve had a work wife before. I’ve even had a work daughter. I understand these relationships. But how exactly do you describe the relationship between an artist and his muse?
A secretive model for realist painter Andrew Wyeth, the Prussian-born Helga Testorf became the captivating subject of her Maine neighbour’s studies for 15 years without the knowledge of her husband or his wife. Obsessively portrayed in 247 brooding portraits where she is with and without clothing, Helga became an American icon when one of Wyeth portraits of his muse made the cover of Time magazine on August 18, 1986. – The 10 Most Influential Artist’s Muses, Flavorwire
Did they ever have sex? It’s not beyond the realms of possibility but his wife thought not: “If there is this sexual thing,” she told The New York Times, “if he went over the bounds it wouldn't be a painting. He would lose the magic. It would go.” Sex isn’t everything. You get a rush with sex—endorphins are released by your brain—but you can get a rush when you exercise—endorphins first, adrenalin if you push yourself—but there are other chemicals our bodies use to reward us like serotonin and especially dopamine. Whenever we do something that our brain/body thinks is ‘positive’ (winning the lottery, eating a cake, finishing a poem) we’ll experience a rush of dopamine which serves to reinforce that behaviour/stimulus. Do you see where I’m coming from?

Dorothy Parker famously said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Why? Because you don’t get your reward until the job’s done. For a novelist that can mean long waits but when you write poems with a couple of dozen words in them then getting a semi-regular fix isn’t so hard which is why over the next few months I rattled off so many poems that weren’t that great. But we’re not there yet.

The “he” in the poem (and the reason the title is in the plural) is a chap called S. by the way. B. was in love with him so even if I had been in love with or lusting after her she wouldn’t have seen it. In the end he chose E. and then dumped her for the most androgynous-looking woman I’ve ever met and moved to Canada but that’s another story.


Kass said...

Interesting poem and personal thoughts. I wonder why our sexual desires have to be the measuring stick (pardon the pun) of relationships. Is it like Harry said in When Harry Met Sally, "...yeh, men and women can be friends, but the man pretty much wants to nail her." (paraphrasing)?

I love several men and I don't want to have sex with them, but I think the energy and passion for the relationship comes from the same place in the body that sexual desire does.

Jim Murdoch said...

I think part of the problem is language, Kass. We create artificial constructs like ‘depression’ and then wonder why no two depressive are ever alike. I used to be a terrible one for crushes—my daughter tells me she’s the same—and I guess that’s basically what I had with B. Was there a sexual component? Undoubtedly. She was an attractive woman and your body doesn’t have any sense of morality or propriety or even common sense; it wants what it wants. One of my favourite films is The Man Who Loved Women (the 1977 original by François Truffaut). It was a film that made so much sense to me because it was about love and not sex. Yes, he has sex with a lot of women and I would’ve too if I’d been brought up in a different society and without the burden of religious guilt weighing me down but the film wasn’t called The Man Who Screwed Women and for a very good reason. Would I have liked to have slept with B.? Yes. But not especially her. What was special about her wasn’t her features or her lovely breasts—she did have lovely breasts—but the fact she triggered poetry in me; I wasn’t going to risk losing that for five minutes of how’s your father? We like to think we’re complex creatures but the most complex machines on the planet are still driven by primal forces like electricity, magnetism, steam or combustion.

Kass said...

...five minutes of "how's your father?'...Anglophenia? Being misunderstood? A little lost here...

Conversation might ruin the allure?

Jim Murdoch said...

I thought the link would help, Kass. I’m afraid I love everything idiomatic, euphemistic and metaphorical. I guess it’s the poet in me. And the Scot. I remember once when I was still with F. we had an American over for a meal. I can’t remember who or why but the poor man spent all his time repeating the phrase, “Excuse me?” over and over. He just couldn’t understand us and it wasn’t just the accents. We were talking a foreign language. Even his excuse-me’s amused the hell out of us. If we were to use the expression it’d be to send it up in an affected tone.

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