Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why women love fall

Dear Hannah,

I keep talking about Solomon in these essays and it's starting to feel like he's the only person I talk about.  In fact I've mentioned several times that Ben Franklin is my hero and that Solomon is a screwup.  Mentions of Ben Franklin?  Not sure of the number, but it's a lot less than mentions of Solomon, and this makes me worried.  We all say we have our ideals.  But what are we actual meditating on?  This is what makes us.


The good news is I'm not alone.  We've been quoting Solomon for centuries when nobody in Christian history should ever have wanted to be like Solomon.  If we're to take the book of Ecclesiastes seriously, even Solomon didn't want to be like Solomon.  And adding to the fact that he had too many wives to keep them all happy and treated his subjects too poorly to keep them from rebelling, his fifth-rate poetry is outclassed by Lord Byron, his skepticism is beaten to death by Montaigne, and in every other possible way he's clobbered by none other than Benjamin Franklin.  Solomon is quoted not because he's a great man but because he's in the Bible; and if we know Proverbs better than Poor Richard's Almanack, it's due more to our misplaced reverence than our morality or intelligence.  Solomon was good for the Bronze Age but not for the Enlightenment.  The maxims of Schopenhauer leave him in the dust.

Solomon's real virtue is that he wasn't really that virtuous.  He was merely a thinker.  And this is the same chasm between Solomon and the other Biblical authors.  Nearly everyone else is busy making moral statements and Solomon is busy breaking them -- and making observations about it.  Thus we have some of the Bible's greatest and most glaring contradictions. Paul says every word of Scripture is inspired; Solomon admits that he has no idea where the soul goes after death (Eccl 3:21).  The Law says kings shouldn't multiply wives; Solomon writes a love-song about chasing someone other than his wife. Jesus says be ye perfect.  Solomon says be ye not overly righteous (Eccl 7:16).   And it seems that no matter what he says he's taken Scripturally.  I love the man to death.  He's the only humanist the Jews ever got until the Greeks showed up (or at least, the only humanist they didn't kill).  Whoever put him in the Bible threw a monkey wrench into it.

So I have to pause and think when he says the unsayable -- that out of a thousand men he only found a single good one, and that he couldn't find a single decent woman (Eccl 7:28).  Only a king can say something as honest as this.  Not should but can.  It's the voice of a man who says what his heart tells him, and only because his heart tells him to say it.  If we said anything like this everyone would turn on us because they don't need us, which is why Benjamin Franklin advised us never to say it*.  I wonder whether many of us in the modern world would even think it.  Solomon could say he'd never met a decent woman because he owned a thousand women.  The son of a bitch was too honest to be happy, and his expectations of women were misplaced.  What was he expecting out of them that none of them were good?  And who was the one man he said was a winner?   

Anyhow this has little to do with the title of the essay, so I'll get to the original purpose:  I can't remember a single beautiful young woman ever saying fall was her favorite season.  When I was young they all loved summer -- which is why I loved them.

This has nothing to do with "my generation."  It's as eternal as the seasons themselves.  It's because summer is hot and free and gives the greatest excuses for showing yourself off.  And as women get older, as they get fat or or wrinkly or married or have children they lose the value in showing themselves off, and begin to prefer the seasons where they can't.  Men, on the other hand, prefer spring and summer.  Spring because virility loves the first sensation of dawn -- the first thrills of mating season, regardless of age; and summer because men love nothing more than the days when the best-looking women are getting half-naked.  Aging women love fall.  It's their own version of a summer vacation.  They have less sexual competition, and are able to live comfortably in modesty -- which they pretend is a moral decision, and not a change in priorities.

I'm not saying that modesty isn't smart or that it isn't moral.  I'm just saying it isn't women -- not generally, not if they can get away without it, and certainly not today.  A smart woman loves modesty for the reasons I've described earlier: that it helps her to attract a certain kind of man; usually a more reliable man.  You have to be a thinker to appreciate modesty on this level; and that is the one thing young women are not.  In general, modesty for them is dead until they find themselves a man, which is when it suddenly becomes popular again.  It becomes even more popular once they have a few children.  Aging is having your Facebook feed change from pictures of half-naked blondes to pictures of half-eaten sandwiches.  

It's at this point that women pretend modesty is something they really "knew all along;" as if all their lives they'd been wearing loose-fitting clothes and covering up their midriffs and thighs.  There's immense utility to the hypocrisy too -- if we pretend we have a sudden and personal use for modesty, then the sham is up and young women can do whatever they want.  Morality has to be eternal and objective in order to be really disgusted with immorality; and so we pretend that we really became moral, when we really just reshuffled our interests. 

I don't mean to say that all women are faking their modesty because they have to, or even that a faked modesty isn't beneficial to the human race or our personal relationships (because it is).   I'm saying that in this particular instance women are more practical than angelic, which leads the people who see through them to think they're full of it.  But why should we?  Our youth is passed in the throes of heat, and it's only later we learn the dangers of sex; that the things we thought were fun were actually very stupid, and the things we thought would work were actually working to our ruin.  

And so we're caught between these two powerful forces: the practicality of the wise woman and the brash and sexual energy of her younger rivals.  They fight each other but we need them both.  Without wisdom we would never have marriage, or a brake to the almost indomitable engine of our sexual impulses.  And yet without wildness we wonder whether the human race would ever have gotten this far.  If we only went for the "suitable" suitor before making children, perhaps many of us would never end up pregnant.  Thank God so many of us have made hasty decisions.  I would almost get rid of contraception in general.  Lord knows the country needs less cat ladies and "career women."

So my verdict is that modesty is an invention, but it's the most natural invention we could have ever invented.  It's a moral fit for all seasons, but particularly useful in later ones.  Thirty-year-old women aren't just being hypocrites.  They grow up and they realize their best interests.  They have children and they need more than the attraction of horndogs.  Like everyone else, they experience life and they change their opinions.  Which is why they ditch summer, and end up loving fall.

Your father,
-J

* Praise little, dispraise less.  I'm making a habit of reading Franklin's sayings every night before bed

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