Sixteenth in a series [gs *]
My husband calls that ‘boy-noise’.
That innocently misogynistic/immature masculine effort to shut out what a woman tells him, her feeling, meaning, message, with a cool pseudo-unemotional logic. That reductionist certainty that he understands everything there is to know about the situation. Rationalizing away the essential core of her truth. Explaining patiently, as if to a child, how his words have been misunderstood and his intent mis-represented, logically and calmly proving how right he is and how grossly she has confused herself. Throwing a compliment here and there to prove he hasn’t become emotional. The deluded belief that logic is up to the task of addressing a woman’s heart. The conclusion that if he doesn’t raise his voice, she’s hysterical.
I’m talking about that email of his here.
Boy-noise is the frantic reductionist logic that wells up whenever mystery threatens. That desperate unwillingness to sit in uncertainty. To let the left-brain feel lost in the dark. It is afraid of feminine ways of knowing and seeks to discredit them by denial.
It’s also a peevish effort to chalk the field, stamping his foot and saying ‘I play inside these lines – I refuse to enter your wilderness – I refuse to acknowledge its existence.’ Believing that as long as he can get us to agree to his ground-rules, he’ll win every fight.
Or, as my husband would put it, protecting himself from the horrible pain of acknowledging that he’s ignorantly harmed someone he loves, jeopardizing a connection he can’t live without, and hoping that a logical ‘rightness’ will make the threat of loss go away. Knowing that if he has to acknowledge the feminine reality, he’ll be crushed by shame, that if he allows the feminine into the room, he’s a goner.
I confess that boy-noise has worked it’s ugly magic on me so often in my life that I can go a little ballistic when I come across it – which, until I quit my job, was pretty much every day. Boy-noise has been used, in situations from the most intimate and supposedly-loving, to the most public and combative, to shame me for my emotions and intensity, to undermine my contributions, to make me mistrust my erotic awareness, to get the better of me in so many ways, to shut me up, to keep me down, to exploit my gifts. Boy-noise is the most subtle, manipulative, powerful and socially-reinforced means by which I have watched men (and women trying to play like men) put down, use, and weaken women in almost every possible context. I’m trying to learn how to deal with it differently, but at this point, I admit, I’m still mostly just reactive.
I realize my hyper-gendered view of the world is not an acceptable perspective in polite mixed company. I get that it triggers all kinds of defensive logical arguments that almost everyone would simply prefer we gloss over – it is profoundly uncomfortable to call this out, or even just to be present with it when someone else does. Even worse is that in my whore’s brain the fundamental polarity is dick and cunt, and all others get mapped back to that (oh, wait, isn’t that the same as the lingam & yoni? Maybe it’s not just me? Is this perspective obscene or sacred? Go ahead, be confused, I am).
But 4 out of 5 experts agree, that magic we all want can only be found by examining the elephant in the room. And, from my perspective, this gender/power stuff is one huge fucking elephant (so huge, if you ask me, that we’re all sitting bunched up in its ass – yes, I’m being crude, but for some illogical reason, that’s exactly what emerges from me when I’m subjected to too much boy-noise).
Those experts also agree that all perspectives need to be heard if we’re ever going to have any chance of solving our great insoluble problems. So, I get that it may be repugnant (unspiritual, threatening, divisive, explosive, polarizing, disruptive, angry-sounding, subversive) for me to go on in this gender-analysis way, but I don’t believe that my stopping is any kind of solution. Especially since the ‘Missing Voice’ is one of the least-represented perspectives in any discussion anywhere ever, and that Missing Voice is the one I most want to create space at the table for. And there’s no discussion with the Missing Voice that doesn’t include gender and privilege and poverty and power structures. From my perspective, the Missing Voice is civilization’s blind spot, and until we can embrace her, exactly as she is I will continue to talk gender, and I will continue to swat down boy-noise.
And the Missing Voice, due to experience, prefers not to talk nice. As Tim O’Brien said, in The Things They Carried:
You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you. If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for truth; if you don’t care for truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.
The exact same thing can be said about prostitution.
Anyway, boy-noise is a defensive self-reinforcing feedback loop. Once a man has retreated into boy-noise, politeness just keeps the lights on. You can leave them to their delusions, or you can bust up the bullshit (which, in my vast experience requires a severe shock to the delusion-system), but there is no point in engaging their heads any further. It was a mistake to try to be polite with lunch-guy in the first place.
Now, he’s not my problem, and I still hardly know him, so logic could debate my role at this point.
But he too, was leaning into his discomfort. If asked in the moment, he’d have probably said something like he was leaning into the light of pure love, not asking to get smacked upside the head. He’s trying to pretend (now that I’ve called him on his grabbiness) that this is about cosmic, generic, impersonal one-ness, that it wasn’t about me, per-se (i.e. he’s blowing boy-noise out his ass).
But he too is on a journey of growth, however he’d articulate his goals. After witnessing something in me that struck a chord for him, he came looking to me for something necessary to his journey, and all I can assume is that ultimately (even if unconsciously), he came looking for what I actually could give him, and not what he fantasized he’d get.
The fact is, it was me he tried to gobble up, my heart that drew him, my life he tried to weasel into sideways, and he’s not going away when I ask him to. That suggests there is something in me that he is still looking for (even if that prize is fast being reduced to being able to say he’s right and I’m wrong).
This isn’t fun, but I’m getting what I wanted. I wanted to work on goo, and he keeps gooing on me, so I may as well keep working with it.
From here on out, he’s not going to have fun either, but he keeps engaging, so I’ll pay him the respect of continuing the conversation, in spite of the fact that we’ve blown way past my ability to (or my faith in the effectiveness of) be(ing) polite. I’ll continue the conversation in the one way I am capable of at this point, which is to quit pussy-footing around.
It’s always been the case with me – what I get, however unwelcome, I ultimately find is what I needed. (I don’t claim this piece of spiritual pablum holds true everywhere – it would be obscene to say the same of slaves, concentration camp prisoners and trafficked children, but for me, in this life, it works – in large part because I believe it and figure out how to make it true, but also because I’ve had the good fortune never to be captured by monsters. Sidetracked by them, occasionally, but never inescapably so). To treat lunch-guy as an exception would be to treat him like the infant he keeps trying to convince me he is with all his boy-noise pretend innocence. But there, again, is that perversion. If he wants to be a man, he has to be treated like one. And a man needs to hear his mistakes.
Anyway – I read his patronizing boy-noise defense, let myself settle down to see what would remain, and four days later I responded again:
[In my previous email] I was trying to be polite, yet say what I needed to say to you – but you clearly did not take my meaning, so I will be direct.
The bottom line, for me, was – I ultimately felt grabbed at by you and slightly invaded – spiritually, and later, verging on erotically, and I really don’t like those feelings at any level. They don’t feel like love, pure or otherwise, and they really don’t feel like respect. Reaching out and connecting is one thing, being grabby and referencing the state of your willy is another.
You just assumed your desires were my desires – like to merge spiritually, but you neither asked if I felt as you did, nor slowed down to see if I responded in kind. You were being presumptuous, and while I am sorry I didn’t stop you sooner, I don’t expect an adult man to need more obvious clues than I gave.
Your innuendos about my energies are a silly and inflated misreading. When you asked what was in my heart, and I didn’t say “Pure light and love” as you expected, how does that imply to you that I was feeling something more physical? I said something like “I feel like my regular self” – meaning a very polite version of “I suspect you are inflating this experience and I am not participating in that”.
And how do you get your ‘desire to connect causing another to want to become physically intimate with’ you, from ‘I was uncomfortable’ and ‘I didn’t want to be completely alone with you’? You were starting to feel to me like an annoying little dog humping a leg. Harmless and forgivable, but still uncomfortable-making (and certainly not arousing or desirable).
My bad was in not just saying that as it was happening, but I got caught up in trying to be polite, and hoping you were ‘teachable’.
You are a boy to me, (increasingly so as you reveal yourself to me in this exchange) like many others I have known who believe they have suddenly discovered the key to the universe and are suddenly in a position to impose their sudden enlightenment onto others. You strike me as still far more in your head and penis than you realize. I didn’t feel love coming from you, I felt adoration, greediness and abstractions. If your wife tells you you’re being phony – maybe she sees you better than you do yourself. Wives often do. They’re especially good at discerning phony “love”.
I was trying to say to you – I was honored that you had a big experience triggered by something you saw in me, but I don’t need another son, I don’t need your confused projections, I don’t need to sneak around in any way, I don’t need a ‘project’, and I don’t need a ‘friend’ who tells me about his stiff body parts and who ‘misses’ me after, what, a couple of days? And I really don’t need someone in my life who hides behind spiritual pseudo-innocence and can’t even cop to his own bullshit when it’s called out – that’s a sort of bottom-line criteria for me, and you failed your opportunity to rise to that occasion.
Therefore, let’s consider this the end of that little adventure.
Here’s my quote in response to your Rumi –
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert Closkey
He responds that very day with:
Thank you. Your words hurt very much, but I will process them nonetheless.
I hope you will forgive me.
Sending you kind wishes and goodwill.
I’m assuming (or hoping) he means to process my hurtful words in private. I’ve told him I’m done, twice now. But you probably know as well as I do that that is my own version of naive and wishful thinking.