Monday, December 13, 2004

The Dinner Party

It has been some time since I last suffered from a truly excruciating hangover. Having flirted with moderation the last several weeks, I spent most of the weekend ensuring that I would soon become reacquainted with the experience. It is exactly as I remembered it, only more so.

I attended my first Christmas party of the season on Saturday night, a girls-only affair that was lavishly hosted by Ellen. Predictably, much of the alcohol-fuelled conversation that transpired there concerned the subject of men, and, as two of our number are presently experiencing relationship difficulties, the tone was distinctly jaundiced. As the usual litany of injustices was recounted – jealousy, infidelity, insecurity, slovenliness, dishonesty – I felt a momentary elation at being single, which I celebrated by drinking until eight ‘o clock in the morning.

Thinking about it again in the deep fog of a hangover, I realize that it is not simply a matter of A or not-A, relationship or not-relationship. The more interesting question is, I think, what kind of relationship? Is it Oprah-relationship? Whitman-relationship? De Beauvoir-relationship? Further, upon what premises is the relationship based? Assuming heterosexuality, are its participants essentially different or fundamentally the same? Is its form predetermined, or does it create itself? Does it inevitably lead to cohabitation? Marriage? Children? Does it assume a dichotomy between reason and passion? Commitment and individuality? The self and the other?

I suspect that the way in which we answer these questions has something to do with the kind of relationships we find ourselves in, or not in, as the case may be. It may also account for the gulfs of misunderstanding that we routinely encounter when we talk about them. I am reminded almost daily that what I mean by relationship is not necessarily what others mean by it, and that in certain conversations, the only commonality that may exist between speakers is the word itself.

Radical nominalist seeks same for relationship of undetermined nature. Likes: drinking, occasional travel, and hot sex. Dislikes: hangovers, winter, and Oprah Winfrey. Smoker preferred.


Anonymous said...

Cher Vee-- out of curiosity, what is your definition of a relationship? And, you're absolutely right--the tone was bad; male bashing was prominent, or perhaps just imminent (I can't recall). But you must admit that the men in our lives (and not in our lives, as the case may be) leave themselves open to, as James would say, "denouncing."
xo ada

Vila H. said...

Short answer: it does not accept prescriptions from women's magazines, daytime talk shows, or romance novels, or, for that matter, their highbrow equivalents. Of course, you already know this.

Also, it posits that all relationships, whatever their form, ought to be governed by the same ethical principles. Not least among these is the deceptively simple directive that people are ends and never means. In this sense, the individuals under discussion have failed, not as men but as human beings, and as such they are worthy of denunciation.

The long answer, I think, is best reserved for the Café.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering lately why we hold people in relationships up to high standards. I mean, isn't half of being human fucking up in some big way? And yet, in every other aspect of our lives we take it as a matter of course, we fuck up on papers, while driving, cooking..whatever. And yet, suddenly we're in this relationship, and we expect people not to fuck up. I guess there are some things that we should be pissed offf about..infidelity, irrational jealously, or just general assholicness. I don't really know what I am getting at here, but the reality of most relationships(at the least those I experienced vicariously through coworkers) is that at some point sex is dependent on whether or not the dishes get done, how and why does that happen?