August 19, 2005

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 19.

It's Day 19 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

Today's page puts side-by-side two drawings that observe couples in restaurants. One is a general observation about the way men and women relate to each other in restaurant conversation, which, traveling alone, I overheard constantly. The second depicts a particular woman, who deviated from the norm and gave her partner hell about every little thing.

I was feeling lonely on this trip, but I often thought about whether I would be happier if I were this particular woman or that, sitting with that man, experiencing that conversation. The answer was usually no. I put a lot of effort into trying to reshape my loneliness into a profound, spiritual solitude. That worked some of the time, and the drawings are the direct record of this effort.

Throughout this trip I was always aware of the vacations that other people had that were denied to me. They could pursue fun and relaxation, but had the threat of interpersonal friction. I was on an art pilgrimmage, far from any of these things.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

12 comments:

Bruce Hayden said...

Are we really that boring? I find myself quite fascinating. But then, I suspect that most men are in a similar position.

I used to wonder why women did this, but didn't realize that they did it with me, until a couple of years ago when my erstwhile girlfriend started telling me that I was giving too much information. Then she taught my daughter to do it to me. And, then I realize that I had been pandered to for 35 years.

Jonathan said...

Help us find a cure for Male Answer Syndrome. . .

Simon Kenton said...

Bruce, it's a dance. The contre-pas, if that's a word, is the parrot-cracker question.

"What should I do about my investments?"

(A week of research passes.)

"You should do A. If that is uncomfortable, B. A third possibility is C, but that is undesireable for the following reasons...."

"O, I could never do that. What else could I do?"

(A week of research passes.)

"You could do D. Alternatives are E and F."

"O, I could never do that...."

After going through this I recognized that the woman was activating me just as she'd offer a cracker to a parrot: "Polly want a cracker?" It doesn't matter what the parrot responds, as long as the parrot does respond. It doesn't matter what the question is and what the response is; there was never any intention to utilize the research and expertise. There is some need to be thought expert on our part that leads us into being activated again and again as parrots, some need to maintain conversation or social harmony on theirs.

The system crashes when there is actual need for the expertise. I resigned as insurance advisor for a woman, telling her, "I suggest you go to yet more cocktail parties and base your decisions about your daughter's welfare on whatever wisps you pick up there." The system crashes when the parrot tires of being the parrot.

After a while you both need to move beyond that dance, to other dances.

tcd said...

I think women have to resort to the Q&A interview method because men by nature do not like to share their thoughts or feelings. If women, especially those in a longterm relationship, do not start conversations there would be no conversations at the dinner table at all. I am limiting this lack of conversation to longterm relationships because this has been my experience. Sure when you're single & dating, men will "talk" to you & even pretend that they're interested. But once you're married or committed to them, all interest go out the window. Hopefully, the lack of conversation is replaced by a deeper love and understanding.

Goesh said...

Sometimes your sketches remind me of Spielgelman/Maus....

Goesh said...

-and i should add that for a while i thought you were just trying to torture us with your sketches but there is something very subtle, hard to describe, in some of them that latches onto a viewer, like the eyes/cheekbones of that woman

Larry said...

You're aware, I trust, that the condescension flows in both directions?

Ann Althouse said...

This is was my generalized observation in 1993. Possibly too harsh. I do think the writing shows I blame the woman as much as the man -- at least!

ohiomike said...

While the illustrations are better than Pekar, you need more time for observation and listening to capture the full spectrum of male thought and conversation.

Your generalization don't work- but they do reveal a bit about you.

Jack said...

"Throughout this trip I was always aware of the vacations that other people had that were denied to me."

Perhaps I'm reading too much into the wording, but there seems to be a subtext that I may have missed somewhere.

The phrasing makes it sound like vacations were always denied, not just that the purpose of this one trip was not as a vacation.

I'm curious, and now I'm being nosy...

Ann Althouse said...

Jack: The phrasing is not an accident.

Jack said...

I thought I recognized a sadness in that wording that I am all too familiar with in my personal history, strangely enough at roughly the same time (1993).

No more being nosy. Sorry.