Of Mice and Mean … and Norman Mailer

Our Love Goddess sets her starry eyes on the issue of male cruelty.

I hate meanness. Oh sure, I love a delicious barb if it’s hilarious and the person it’s aimed at has been cruising for it. It’s great in sitcoms and late-night talk shows.

Not so much fun in love affairs, though.

Norris Church, the wife of the late Norman Mailer, writes in her widely reviewed new book, A Ticket to the Circus, about living with good ol’ Norm, wife-beater of at least one of his former five wives; wife-stabber of another; philanderer during his time with the rest of them, including his 33 years with Norris. What will stay with me long after I forget the cheating and the talent and the glamour, though, is one haunting anecdote: At a party, Norris, surrounded by charmed friends and strangers, was having fun. Her husband, seeing this, walked up to her and whispered in her ear, “You’re losing your looks.”

Huh? Could something have been lost in translation? Maybe her besotted husband was [itals]really[itals] delivering a disguised, deadpan compliment, right? You know, “I guess you’re not all that popular, my darling!” – an ironic, beaming celebration of her loveliness. “No,” said a friend of mine who knew Mailer. “He wasn’t being facetious. He was just trying to make her feel bad.”

Just being Iago, hissing poison into her ear. I’ve seen that look on mean people’s faces – the misery in the midst of someone else’s joy; the uncontainable bile that needs to spill out onto someone, usually on the one experiencing the joy. But a socialized creature learns – doesn’t he or she? – to control it. Couldn’t her husband have fled to his office to write a paragraph or two? Or have gone to the bathroom, gagged, and got rid of his wretched bile?

France, by the way, is making emotional violence a crime. Really. Actually making the systematic attempt to alter a person’s sense of herself illegal. France’s National Assembly just recently okayed a proposal to make “psychological violence” – ongoing verbal meanness just like Mailer’s – punishable by a three-year jail term and a fine of over $100,000.

I wonder: Had Mailer been slapped with a fat fine and a couple of years in the pokey, would he have learned to shut up? Probably not. Mean people like to justify their meanness by saying they’re just telling the truth. “Don’t you want me to be honest?” they like to ask.

“No,” is the answer to this, my darling earth girls, should anyone try that one on you. (Was “the truth” about Norris’s looks relevant? Of course not.) No relationship I’ve ever heard about, romantic and otherwise, here or in the heavens, thrives on meanness – disguised as truth or otherwise. Not one. Not ever.

Editor’s Note: Who is the wisest of them all? Who is more dedicated to your pleasure than anyone on earth? Who can help you when you’re going online for the first time to find love; or when your lover’s children hate you; or when you want to strangle your husband? Why, the Love Goddess, of course. She promises nothing less than celestial wisdom, heavenly sex, divine dating. Want more from the Love Goddess? Like all savvy goddesses, the Love Goddess has her own site, which you can visit by clicking here.

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