I just got back from a discussion and signing of Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back, the wonderful book by Norah Vincent, a graduate, like yours truly of America’s finest small college. I had reviewed the book last February and still ***highly recommend*** it. In the book, Norah recounts her experiences living for eighteen months as a man and offers observations on what she learned in that guise.
Perhaps due to her excellent college education, Norah did not do a traditional reading where an author reads a select passage from her (or his) book to whet book-buyers’ appetite for the rest of her work. Instead, she led a discussion, more like a college seminar than anything else. And yours truly was truly, truly in his element, frequently chiming in, noting how lesbians seemed to get relationships right and defending the book’s fifth chapter — about her experiences in a monastery — as one of the best. Two men (one gay, the other straight) who otherwise enjoyed the book did not particularly like that section of the book.
I liked that chapter because it was there that she realized how women serve “communicators, the interlocutors between men and themselves, men and their children and even men and each other.” She became aware of the absence of intimacy in the all-male environment of the monastery.
What was interesting about the conversation tonight was that we (that is, those who came to hear Norah) basically agreed with those who commented to my recent post on Vulnerabilty that our difficulty relating to one another has more to do with our gender than our orientation. Women seem to “get” relationships better than men.
There was, however, disagreement on whether or not women could really “tame” (my word which I acknowledge is perhaps a bit too clunky) men and that we would always be driven to stray. I got into a heated discussion with a gay physician, disagreeing on the ability of men to settle down. I believed we are capable of that. He was dubious. And to show you how I differ from many gay men, I gave him my card not because he was my type, but because I enjoyed our exchange. It seemed one could have a great conversation with him.
The conversation tonight reminds me why I loved Norah’s book so much. That it’s one of those works which really gets at important matters — and does so in such away that invites a good discussion. And I loved that Borders Bookstore gave Norah Vincent the forum to promote her book and she used it to initiate a lively exchange. While those of there did not always agree, we did show great respect for the other fans of this wonderful book. And had the kind of civil discussion of which I wish we could see more of on this blog.