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… Simone de Beauvoir continues her detailing of the plight of the woman in love… in a footnote she lays out her ideal marital relationship, one in which the wife has found autonomy, her own purpose outside of her husband and children… if this does not threaten the husband, the two will develop a love relationship built on mutual respect, the two orbital spiritual bodies i described earlier… de Beauvoir does not think this happens much, that most women (and men) are trapped in tragic relationship dynamics of one kind or another… basically, one or both fails to be mature within the marital relationship… society enforces boundaries on their roles that makes the tragic dynamics more likely…

The man grasps the woman as being assimilated to him, in her immanence; here is why he easily plays the Boubouroche; he cannot imagine that she too could be someone who slips away from him; jealousy for him is ordinarily just a passing crisis, like love itself: the crisis may be violent and even murderous, but rarely does it last long in him. Jealousy for him mainly appears derivative: when things go badly for him or when he feels threatened by life, he feels derided by his wife.1

… i read this passage and think, whoah!, my experience is very different, J has been intensely jealous for decades, much to my dismay, there is no hope they will ever get over it, no hope that there can be a normal relationship… de Beauvoir does say rarely, but when rarely becomes your life experience, it is ubiquitous and the caveat “rarely” thrown in for just such a contradictory situation seems empty and hollow…

The day when it will be possible for the woman to love in her strength and not in her weakness, not to escape from herself but to find herself, not out of resignation but to affirm herself, love will become for her as for man the source of life and not a mortal danger. For the time being, love epitomizes in its most moving form the curse that weighs on woman trapped in the feminine universe, the mutilated woman, incapable of being self-sufficient. Innumerable martyrs to love attest to the injustice of a destiny that offers them as ultimate salvation a sterile hell.2

… de Beauvoir has hope for the relations between man and woman and for the lot of woman, but only if the alternate universe of the feminine can start to loose its strictly defined boundaries and allow woman agency in the world… this is happening, too slowly perhaps, but it is happening… gender fluidity is a thing, and it rises…

… as i am reading de Beauvoir’s words I am thinking about the song “When a Man Loves a Woman,” written by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright and first performed by Percy Sledge… the first two stanzas describe an agony that i wonder whether de Beauvoir would believe possible:

When a man loves a woman

Can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else

He’d trade the world

For the good thing he’s found

if she is bad, he can’t see it

She can do no wrong

And turn his back on his best friend

If he puts her down

… would de Beauvoir argue that a man in love never intends to give up the world in the long run, that it is as predator that he looses himself momentarily in instinct, that once he claims a woman as his own in spirit and body, Man returns to the world he forsook, leaving her at home to wait…

  1. De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex (p. 702). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex (p. 708). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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