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Moscow, an icy Russian winter, the crystallizing Soviet chill. Now alone with Lara, Komarovsky is unimpressed:. He is high-minded. He is pure…. There is another kind. Not high-minded. Not pure. But alive…. For you to marry that boy would be a disaster. Because there are two kinds of women, and you, as we well know, are not the first kind….
Which is…? I have a vague understanding of the word bad womanbut it has never grabbed my attention this way.
What How to act slutty is he accusing her of? A woman who is, simply, alive? Then why is she so upset? And who gets to determine what those are, or should be. In my mid-twenties, my friend Helen tells me she is becoming aware of her biological clock revving up; she is feeling an urgency to find the right guy and settle down. She believes the female body, at some point, craves being pregnant, wants to give birth, hence the simmering instinct to date, get married, create a family. I am skeptical. She smiles indulgently; it is going to happen to me any time now, she assures, that desire, that need, I will hear my anxious eggs and empty uterus begin screaming for attention, and then I will understand.
All right, I think. Helen is two years older than I am, so I figure she has the authority on this issue. The romantic comedies, from screwball Howard Hawkes, insightful Preston Sturges, witty Nora Ephron, adolescent-angsty John Hughes, even crudely sweet Judd Apatow, all scramble to keep the bantering, sparring lovers apart for two hours, due to contrived miscommunications or inconvenient logistics or the quirky character flaws of jealously or pride, until all that gets sorted out and apologized for and Harry and Sally are off to the domestic bliss of the Happy Ending, where they will banter and spar as a team forever.
It is destiny. Or, if that proves impossible, well, what a tragedy, to deny this fated pair their pairing, what lonely half-lives they are doomed to live, wandering the earth in their existential solitude!
All right, then. One day, I will be complete. But meanwhile, I am having a pretty marvelous time. All the hip bars and house music clubs, all the bubbling hot-tub parties, all the flirty meet-cutes in supermarkets and bowling alleys that Nora Ephron herself would applaud.
By my late thirties, however, everyone seems to be doing that hand-in-hand walk up the ramp to the Ark except me. But I also like having a boyfriend or a girlfriend; I like love. I like the mutual emotional support, the way sex takes on resonance and layers, the evolution of shared gestures and silly jokes. I have the serial monogamy thing down.
You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark. What is wrong with me? I worry. Am I really just some impure, low-minded slut? Who wants all that drama?
I like being in a relationship, but I am not looking for a partnership. The thing I tried to explain to my friend Helen twenty years earlier is the simple truth: what I have always ended up craving, ultimately, even when involved with the greatest guy or the most wonderful woman, is to be left alone. With a dog, and my dear friends a phone call away, my smooth-sheeted bed to myself, a quiet, molecule-steady room of my own in which to knit and read and do the work I am passionate about, find every single thing exactly as I have left it, and the gift of absolute and autonomous self-determination.
I know a hundred delicious ways to cook one chicken breast; I also love taking me and a book out to a nice dinner. I love traveling to my own circadian rhythms, having an empty seat on either side and the bag of popcorn to myself at a movie.
To quote another less-famous line from Jerry Maguire :. Not always, but often. Yes, I understand I have missed out on what is probably the most profound experience a woman can have. And that is perfectly fine with me. We publish your favorite authors—even the ones you haven't read yet. Get new fiction, essays, and poetry delivered to your inbox. Enjoy strange, diverting work from The Commuter on Mondays, absorbing fiction from Recommended Reading on Wednesdays, and a roundup of our best work of the week on Fridays.
Personalize your subscription preferences here. Does it rise to challenge? Melissa Febos's "Girlhood" and Miranda July's "Kajilionaire" give us language for when binary consent falls short. How to act slutty unmarried women of Barbra Pym's s novels are still teaching me lessons today. If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, our mailing list! Take a break from the news We publish your favorite authors—even the ones you haven't read yet.
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