I mentioned Laura Kipnis earlier. I'd never heard of Kipnis before reading Cristina Nehring. Unfortunately for me I have this odd compulsion to check into author's who come up in the context of what I'm reading. So I got Kipnis's polemic Against Love out of the library and started reading.
Here is the paragraph that made me give up on her a mere 18 pages in:
Yes, we all know that Good Marriages Take Work: we've been well-tutored in the catechism of labor-intensive intimacy. Work, work, work: given all the heavy lifting required, what's the difference between work and "after work" again? Work/home, office/bedroom: are you ever not on the clock? Good relationships may take work, but unfortunately, when it comes to love, trying is always trying too hard: work doesn't work. Erotically speaking, play is what works. Or as psychoanalyst Adam Phillips puts it: "In our erotic life ... it is no more possible to work at a relationship than it it is to will an erection or arrange to have a dream. In fact when you are working at it you already know that it has gone wrong, that something is already missing."There are a lot of rhetorical tricks going on in that paragraph. There isn't any actual argument: the conclusion that "work doesn't work" is simply asserted.
The thing I'd note is that it is possible to will an erection. It's not a
By the way, the modern word "slut" derives from "slattern" meaning a lazy and sloppy woman. Somewhere along the line it got a new meaning of a woman who is very enthusiastic about sex, something that has always been a high compliment in my books. I have no idea what made the change take place but you can see another way to think about the original sexual vice that was meant by the word in that Kipnis quote: we might also speak of either a woman or man who is so lazy and sloppy about life that they give up on a relationship as soon as it becomes work. Or, to turn it around, we might want to speak of the person whose vice is to always seek no partners because it is always easier for them to get aroused for a fresh partner. And we all know people like that don't we?
I assume it's obvious enough that if the woman in your life starts talking the way Kipnis does in the paragraph I quoted above you should leave. Now. Get the heck out of Dodge son, there is nothing but trouble for you here. (And if your psychoanalyst sounds anything like Adam Phillips, you need a new psychoanalyst. Or none at all.)
But there is something else here. For the truth is that no one works harder at a relationship than the single person with the chance of entering into one. The Serpentine One and I were at a pub the other day and there was a young man and woman falling in love there. It was amazing to watch her (his back was towards us). Her eyes were locked on him. She smiled and laughed and followed his every word and thought.
Years from now, she may remember that night and think how amazing it was that their thoughts ran parallel. She always understood where he was going and he always understood what she meant. Why, there were times when he seemed to know even the things she left unsaid.
Towards the end, when he was gone to pay the bill, I looked over and recognized the expression that someone gets when their face hurts from smiling all the time.
Contra Kipnis, the difference is not between times when a relationship requires work and times when it did not. The difference is between the times you feel like working at it and when you don't. Play isn't the opposite of work. It's work with a specific intention.