And to the degree that the individual maintains a show before others that he himself does not believe, he can come to experience a special kind of alienation from self and a special kind of wariness of others.”
― Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.
He makes a series of awful puns. I catch three-fourths of his movie references. Two-thirds, maybe. (Note to self: Rent The Sure Thing.) He reﬁlls my drink without me having to ask, somehow ferreting out one last cup of the good stuff. He has claimed me, placed a ﬂag in me: I was here ﬁrst, she’s mine, mine. It feels nice, after my recent series of nervous, respectful post-feminist men, to be a territory. He has a great smile, a cat’s smile. He should cough out yellow Tweety Bird feathers, the way he smiles at me. He doesn’t ask what I do for a living, which is ﬁne, which is a change. (I’m a writer, did I mention?) He talks to me in his river-wavy Missouri accent; he was born and raised outside of Hannibal, the boyhood home of Mark Twain, the inspiration for Tom Sawyer. He tells me he worked on a steamboat when he was a teenager, dinner and jazz for the tourists. And when I laugh (bratty, bratty New York girl who has never ventured to those big unwieldy middle states, those States Where Many Other People Live), he informs me that Missoura is a magical place, the most beautiful in the world, no state more glorious. His eyes are mischievous, his lashes are long. I can see what he looked like as a boy.
When we were ﬁrst dating, a Genesis song came on the radio: “She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah.” And Amy crooned instead, “She takes my hat and puts it on the top shelf.” When I asked her why she’d ever think her lyrics were remotely, possibly, vaguely right, she told me she always thought the woman in the song truly loved the man because she put his hat on the top shelf. I knew I liked her then, really liked her, this girl with an explanation for everything.