When I wrote this piece of fiction back in 2013, George Clooney was still the world’s most famous bachelor. After a brief marriage in the early 90s, he declared that he “wasn’t very good at it” and remained wedlock-free for 21 years until 2014, when he married Amal Alamuddin. So far there are no children for George, who will be 55 this May.
Now I suspect that many a married Benedick envies George his years of freedom, but far fewer women seem to aspire to be blissfully unwed. However, some online research led me to the lovely Diane Keaton, who despite romances with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino never tied the knot (but adopted two children in her 50s).
I was also intrigued to learn that Kristen Davis, a favorite of mine from Sex and the City, has never been married and is now 51. She is said to have dated a rather impressive list of Beautiful Men including Aaron Sorkin, Damian Lewis, Liev Schreiber, Jeff Goldblum and Alec Baldwin.
20. Gender Equity
Most guys would love to trade places with me. Although I live a modest life in material terms, I have sex with a couple of different girls every week. As you know, variety is the spice of life. The first time you sleep with a girl, even if she’s less than intelligent or less than beautiful, she has the appeal of the new. Some of you have asked how to avoid the trap of jealousy —tying yourself in knots over whether a girl you like is banging someone else. Keep in mind that making you jealous is bait for her trap of exclusivity. I have always valued my freedom and autonomy more than the satisfaction of knowing that a girl is saving herself just for me. If you feel yourself falling for a girl, you should get away quickly, and keep your distance until the madness passes. The best cure is meeting someone new, and feeling the satisfaction of maneuvering her straight into your bed. –Inclusus Amator
To: Inclusus Amator
Subject: Clooney Syndrome
Amator, your column on exclusivity is written entirely from a male perspective. But what advice do you have for a woman? I avoid exclusivity. That’s because I want to enjoy sex, but I don’t have time for a boyfriend right now. It has nothing to do with a craving for variety. I can’t imagine going through life always looking for the next guy to screw, much less making hookups a time-consuming hobby. In my experience, most of you just aren’t that impressive, sexually or intellectually. And what about you, Amator? Look into the future. Are you going to be that pathetic guy with gray hair that tries to pick me up in Diggers? I am worried about you. –Yours Truly, Cloelia
From: Inclusus Amator
Cloelia carissima, I am touched by your concern. As a woman, you are creature of complicated desires. We men are simpler souls. Maybe one day you’ll meet a man who rocks your world so much that you make time for him. I hope that happens for you, mea Cloelia. And one day maybe Inclusus Amator will allow himself to be chained. But don’t hold your breath. –Semper tuus Amator
“Hi, Professor Griffith. May I come in?” Amber stood in the door of Owen Griffith’s office and waited for him to look up from his computer screen. Like all the faculty offices in Chester Hall, it was small. The space was nearly filled by his big desk, his padded ergonomic office chair, and a tall filing cabinet. The walls were lined with books and a single, narrow window looked out on the parking lot. A bare wooden chair without arms was positioned next to the desk; this was where a student was expected to sit. He gestured toward it and she sank down, allowing her heavy bookbag to rest on the floor. Now that she was here, it was difficult to know how to begin. She thought of what Nick had said, and felt more confident.
“I’m here because I have a concern about your class.”
“Oh?” He had been straightening some papers, about to pick up the stapler, but his hand paused in midair, then descended firmly to the desktop. “What is it?”
“You don’t call on men and women equally. When I raise my hand, you look right through me.”
Dr. Griffith shook his head, obviously skeptical. “I don’t think so, Amber. I make sure everyone takes a turn, every class.”
“No, Professor, you don’t.” Amber felt herself beginning to sweat, but she plowed ahead. Don’t apologize, she admonished herself. “I’ve been keeping track. Here’s a count for the last three classes. It shows that you call on the men a third more often.” She pulled a two-page chart from her bookbag and handed it to him. Staring sternly at her over his reading glasses, he took the papers. She waited, giving him time to look them over. As he did, his frown grew deeper.
“Are you sure this is correct?” He removed his glasses again. “If it is, I owe you an apology.”
Amber realized she had been holding her breath, and she let it out. “Thanks.”
“You’re doing very well in the class. Your work has been exemplary. In fact, you’re one of the most talented young women I’ve seen in my twenty years here.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Dr. Griffith. But how do I compare to the men?” Dr. Griffith stared at her, looking stricken as the significance of his own words sank in. He leaned back in his big chair and nodded, a small smile appearing on his face.
“You are every bit their equal, Ms. Bartlett. Now brace yourself, because I’m going to make up for my previous neglect of you. Starting with this morning’s class.” The assignment for the day was a provocative elegy by Ovid, about afternoon sex with his mistress.
“I’ll be ready,” she told him, and picked up her bag.
On Monday evening, Amber rode her Vespa into Philly feeling a sense of wellbeing. Dr. Griffith had called on her first during class, and concentrated more than half his attention on the female students. Whereas Gaby and Joan cast dark looks her way, surmising that she must be responsible for the unwelcome change, Nick gave her a grin and a wink. He knew she’d stood up to Griffith, and this was the result.
She parked her Vespa and climbed the stairs two at a time to her mother’s apartment. Tonight was to feature a long-planned Jane Austen double feature, with Sense and Sensibility, featuring Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon, and Persuasion, with Ciarán Hinds as Captain Wentworth. Her mom had promised endless bowls of Amber’s favorite ramen noodles, doctored with mushrooms, shallots, cilantro and a generous dollop of wasabi. Not to mention her favorite Rooster sauce.
But when she arrived, her mother seemed distracted. Amber had to repeat her story about the Latin class. “…so I told Dr. Griffith that he wasn’t calling on us equally, and I gave him the proof.”
Suddenly, her mother woke up. “Dr. Griffith? Owen Griffith is your Latin professor?”
“Yeah. And he was really acting like he had a problem with women, but I think it’s going to be okay now. Why are you so surprised that it’s him?”
“No reason. I’m proud of you, Amber.” They readied the first round of ramen and carried their bowls and chopsticks to the living room so they could sit in front of the television.
“You seem worried about something, Mom. What’s up?”
Her mother looked away for a moment, undecided whether to speak. “As a matter of fact, I’m upset about something that happened this past weekend. Remember you told me I needed to… get out more often?”
Amber wrapped a large bolus of curly noodles around her chopsticks. “Yeah?”
“Well, I met some people, made some connections, and I had a party here on Friday night. And during the party, one of the women guests had a lot to drink. She was sleeping it off in your room, and someone took advantage of her.”
“What do you mean by ‘took advantage,’ Mom? Do you mean she was raped?”
Her mother looked pained. “Yes. She was raped. While she was unconscious. We don’t know which of the men did it.”
Amber set her bowl down. “My God. What did you do? Did you report it? What did the police say?” Her mother explained that the victim had refused to report the crime. Amber knew that this was all too often the case. She and Gaby had worked an information table for a student organization called “No Means No.”
“Wait just a sec.” Amber went to her mother’s room to use the computer, and after a quick search, found what she was looking for. “I was afraid there might be penalties for nonreporting, but in Pennsylvania, that’s not the case for rape unless there’s a bodily injury. Was the victim hurt in the assault?”
“No, according to her. She wouldn’t let me take her to the hospital.”
“Okay, then you’re in the clear,” Amber said, feeling relieved. “Unless she sues you.”
Her mother looked taken aback. “Why on earth would Ti— I mean, why on earth would she sue me?”
“Oh, if she blames you for not cutting off the alcohol sooner, or believes it was your fault because it occurred on your property,” said Amber. “Just something to think about. She may be an adult, but next time, don’t let her drink herself into a stupor. You’ve got to protect yourself.”
Her mother looked at her as though she’d sprouted wings. “Amber,” she said, with the beginnings of a smile on her face. “You’re going to make a wonderful attorney.”
Copyright 2016 by Linnet Moss
Notes: I could not end this post without a nod to the mother-daughter film festival in this chapter.