‘Real Women’

 

In the movie When Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan’s character, Sally, sits in a diner with her friend, Harry.  Harry says that he has always been able to give a woman an orgasm, and Sally questions the veracity of this claim. She tells Harry that women “fake it.” Harry admits to knowing that women fake it, but not with him. He can tell the difference, he says. Sally looks at him for a second, then goes into her now-notorious performance. She grips the table, runs her fingers through her hair, and lets out soft cries of “Yes!” until everyone is staring at the two of them. Harry is astonished, but Sally concludes her performance with aplomb. When she finishes, she immediately resumes eating her sandwich as calmly as if an extraordinary event had not just occurred, as if the audience has not just witnessed the way in which women are concerned with the perception of their performance in bed. The scene is illustrative of a larger truth: the fact that women are often thinking about how they look and with the authenticity of their performance, even at the most intimate of moments. Women “lie” in bed – excuse the pun – and the lie is attributed to the deceptive nature of women, not with the internalized idea that we should prioritize the pleasure of the man. Women, in that moment, are acting, and the act is construed as a lie.

The idea of Woman as performance piece, Woman as dramatic, Woman as drama itself, is nothing new under the sun. It began with men, who were cast as players- in both the modern and ancient senses of the word. Man as seducer is a trope that perhaps belies the fact that it is the authenticity of the woman that is always in question. Perhaps men in Victorian novels deceive women -”men were deceivers ever”, says Shakespeare, but it is women today who are inexorably associated with artifice, always seen as performers in the male gaze, always seen as performing for the male gaze.

Real men do – fill in the blank?  “Real men don’t hurt women,” asserted Barack Obama in January. Real men respect women. Real men, real men, real men. Real men do not catcall. Real men do not hit women. Real men do not rape. They do not abuse.

The assertion is eminently unsatisfactory, because we who are real – not fictional- women, understand that they do. We read it every day in the papers ; our lived experiences show that they do. The men who hurt women are real flesh, real bones and real blood. “If he hurt you, he wasn’t a real man,” is no consolation to the wounded.

Real women do – fill in the blank? Real women are conceived of in quite different ways than real men. Men are characterized as real if they possess X set of attributes [that, taken together, reflect notions of traditional masculinity more than anything.] But the realness of women is questioned much more extensively.  The site of the woman’s body is mined for realness, and so often found lacking. What is the masculine equivalent of Real Women Have Curves? Is there one?

The masculine beauty ideal exists, but men who do not meet it are not classified as not being “real.” In sharp contrast, women with skinny body types and narrow hips are banished to the realm of the “unreal.” The Dove Real Beauty Campaign discusses unrealistic beauty standards in the media, but continues to propagate a strange narrative of what real women look like, and what real beauty is. Realness, as a concept, is still central to the Dove Woman. And so we circle back to the question of artificial beauty, of artifice.

 

Dove-Ad-thumb-600x299-124392

 

 

 

Take the artifice of makeup. Makeup is an instrument, a daily ritual for most women. Makeup is a construction of a face, say men, that women do not in reality possess. There is an eternal fascination – mirrored in the tabloids, in men’s forums on Reddit – with un-made-up women. There is one all-consuming question- what do women look like without makeup? What do famous women look like without makeup? Which women are ugly without makeup, and which women are not? Which women wear too much makeup? Makeup is part of the performative identity, and is often construed by men as being especially for their benefit. Men often tell me they find me more attractive with less makeup. The [heteronormative] assumption is implicit: women wear makeup for men.

 

 

Makeup is often marketed as a “masque.” When women take off their makeup, they are perceived as vulnerable because the “mask” is off. In the Natasha Bedingfield music video, “I Bruise Easily”, the singer takes off her elaborate regalia and makeup – she is dressed and made up to look like a geisha – to reveal her bare face, which accords with the theme of the video: vulnerability. It’s a clever little sleight of hand on the part of the music video director that conceals the lie: Natasha is  heavily made up in the scene in which she lets down her hair and sings in jeans and a tank top.

Men do not understand what “the no-makeup-look” means, and how it differs from a face that is truly bare. They talk about feeling deceived when they see a woman without her makeup, as if the simple act of blackening your eyelashes constitutes some deep and terrible betrayal of self.  Popular Twitter comedian Kelly Oxford tweeted: “Women are more self-conscious than men about how we look because we walk around all day with makeup on our faces like a bunch of liars.” Makeup, they say, is a lie, and thus a woman who wears makeup is a liar. Men become very angry at the artifice they imagine we propagate. I am not qualified to discuss the struggles of a transwoman to be perceived as a real woman in a society that sees chromosomes as determining the composition of a “real woman,” but I can imagine that it adds several more complex layers to ideas of women as “performative.”

 

kelly

 

What is the difference between a liar and an actress? (This sounds like the beginning of a bad riddle.) Both wear makeup, after all. However, the art of an actress lies in her performance: she is praised for “lying.” If women are liars without being professional actresses, we are doing something undesirable. We are undesirable, we are manipulative.  Real men are expected to not do X, true. But real women are expected to not do X, as well as not to look Y. Real women are expected to “not be hoes.” Real women are expected to not be skinny, not to have undergone plastic surgery, not to wear too much makeup. We are not “real.” We are a figment, a fever-dream, a reflection in the eye of a man.

What do women want? asked Freud, and this is something men echo through the decades, as if women were a monolith and not separate individuals with distinct desires and dreams. The idea, of course, is that we do not know what we want. But there is a more ominous reading of this question, and that is “Men can never know what we want.” If we are not real women, if we are shrouded  in illusion, how can men expect to understand us?

There is this scene in The Matrix, a movie that is often quoted by men’s rights activists as being instrumental in their understanding of the world. Neo, the protagonist, stands before his mentor Morpheus, in a dystopic universe that he has only just become aware of. Morpheus, deep-voiced, tells him to question his surroundings, tells him to interrogate the very concept of reality. This is nothing new under the sun for women, whose “realness” is interrogated by those around us. We are constantly locked in a struggle to define ourselves as “real”, to have to prove that reality in a world in which we are all already seen as Eve’s daughters and therefore already artificers. Welcome to the desert of the real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

if famous couples texted, part I

JAMES BOND & MISS MONEYPENNY

text1

 

 

 

t2

 

 

 

 

 

NANCY DREW & GEORGE FAYNE

t3

 

 

txx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BATMAN & ROBIN

TX

t6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JAY GATSBY & DAISY BUCHANAN

t7

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN SMITH & POCAHONTAS

T8

 

t9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROMEO MONTAGUE & JULIET CAPULET

t10

t11

 

 

 

 

 

DR. WATSON & SHERLOCK HOLMES

 

t12

t13

 

 

 

English

I contain headlines.

 

 

Man with Arabic flashcards can’t sue agents over airport detention. Sources told FOX 25 that a flight that was headed to Chicago was brought back to a gate at Logan Airport. The source said there were two men on that plane – not sitting next to each other – and speaking Arabic. Moreover, according to Arabic-language and Islamic experts, the ring Obama has been wearing for more than 30 years is adorned with the first part of the Islamic declaration of faith, the Shahada: “There is no god except Allah.”If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing America the Beautiful in English, said former congressman Allen West, “by a company as American as they comedoggone we are on the road to perdition.” Fox commentator Todd Starnes tweeted: “Coca-Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border.” Another angry viewer tweeted: “Nice to see that Coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language.”FACEBOOK GROUPS: This is AMERICA. Speak ENGLISH!!!!!!!!!!! 22,416 likes · 7 talking about this.Why do Starbucks employees correct me when I say I want a size “medium”, like this is America and we speak American

 

Speak ENGLISH, they cry. English, English. English.
Why don’t you speak English
No quiero hablar Inglés, motherfucking wetback.
Dothead. Mujhe aṅgrējī nahi ati hai. Sorry, I don’t speak
English. Fucking towelhead. Illegals.
Lā afham. I don’t understand.

There are those that stand in front of you at 1 AM
who scream at you to go home, so it echoes off the streetlights
and sky while your friend stands in his abāya, your hands
clasped together your collective minds running every memory
of every atrocity, every hate crime
that ever happened to someone who
looked different, remembering that call from the FBI a year ago
saying Miss, he wants to kill you he believes you’re Al-Qaeda
Do you want 

a security detail? Miss? Miss?
-on a loop endless as the beautiful desert

There are those less angry
Azealia Banks saying: “Uber really has to stop hiring random
immigrants as drivers. The language barrier’s too irritating.”
The language barrier is too irritating. 
The language barrier is too irritating.
The language barrier is too irritating

The language barrier is too irritating.
The language barrier is too irritating. 

Read long enough, so the words crack and spill.
THIS IS THE IRRITATION
THE IRRITATION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED

When you laugh about an inside joke with your best friend
and you use Arabic words so that no-one will understand
that you mean “Rescue me from this boy,”
La, yalla, miskeena. Come on, no. The poor thing!
-and you turn your head alert as a bird that hears
branches snap and you see the men
their eyes blank as the desert, the look and then the question
the word terrorist, soft, the sibilant s replacing the plosive p-
no explosive p! The only explosion will be the bombs you
-spoiler alert: you’re the terrorist-
have already loosed inside their heads! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAH

If you don’t like it, you can leave. I imagine that spelled out in
the bodies of Native Americans
I imagine it spelled out in a thousand endless drones that speed
across the endless desert like doves, blossoming inside a
wedding tent in Yemen, bursting across the sky in
Pakistan (laʾilāha ʾillāllāh!) so it killed all the guests at a funeral
for a young boy who had been killed by drones a week earlier.
(third world problem!)
Excuse my irony. But why do they hate us?
writ large in the stars and shrapnel
of an endless desert, and I answer,
It is for your freedom

If you don’t like it, you can leave. But I have left! I cry,
I have left again and again, and I see everywhere,
you with your phrasebook
in Delhi, I see you with your tour guide in
Paris, laboriously spelling out Bibliothèque? and the tour
guide replies
On vient de tuer le gamin?
I’m sorry, that wasn’t the tour guide, that was a man in
New Mexico saying So we just kill the kid? before he
kills the kid, so that his grandmother will see him before she
too is  encased in shrapnel, so that the men cross their hearts
against those they call the terrorists
Excuse my irony. Excuse my French.

There are those less angry
PARA ESPANOL, MARQUE ‘DOS’! says the automated voice
dully, as if she, too, is weary from the years of people shouting
that we don’t need to press a button to speak our God-given
English, our destined English, our Manifest
Destiny, because this is America, god damn it.
This is ‘Merica, they say to me, who you can’t annex
without a struggle. Like Sparta. Like Sparta, we will die defending her
against the cruel Orient. Everything is the Orient
there, where the horizon is rose
and it stretches out before you like infinity

Don’t say grande, don’t say venti
why do I have to say venti instead of tall,
because this is fucking America
not some dune-coon desert, and all the while
you shout at me to speak English, the language I already know
so well, the language I learned so long ago, along with the four
-onedo, trois, naalu, anju-
languages I learned to count in growing up, because of course
we would learn other languages
because I always knew my country wasn’t the greatest country
in the world (third world problem?)
because I’m not stupid, because I used to be trilingual, because
I could have been a polyglot if I hadn’t stopped reading my
French copy of Madame Bovary
because I stopped practicing, because I regressed back to
bilingual, to fucking lingual because the only thing I speak
is fucking English so give me your hand -
do you want to see a trick?

give me your fucking English
and I promise to speak only fucking English.
I promise to take your English (I promise to never say grande!)
I promise to speak English, to hold it in the palm of my hand,
to wrest it into letters so bold
and so bright they burn the night sky with their
anger and their fire.  I PROMISE TO SPEAK! 
I promise to speak only English, I promise to leave
my language behind in that desert you imagine, that infinite
desert of rose and quartz. I promise to take your language
and make it my own, I do.
I promise to speak it better than you ever dreamed;
I promise to twist and beat the thin silver words of English
until they turn into silver doves that
will fly endless miles across desert and come home; magnificent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOTHERFUCKING #PREACH: Junot Diaz on Writing Women

“If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity.”

And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherf——rs attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.

And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherf——rs.” So women come with it built in because of the society.

It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherf——rs are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.

The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherf——rs will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.

As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.”

-Junot Diaz speaking at Word Up Bookshop, 2012

 

 

 

How To Write Offensive Jokes

 

An Offensive Joke I Don’t Enjoy:

In 2011, I watched my first episode of ‘American Dad.’ It was Season 1, Episode 6 – titled Homeland Insecurity. I wonder if you know where this is going.

In the episode, Stan Smith (a CIA agent and macho dad – think the opposite of Homer Simpson) discovers his new neighbors, the Memaris, are Arab-American. When he does, he panics and assumes they are the “enemies of freedom.” He asks them with suspicion: “So, uh, what part of Islam do you hail from?…Oh, you’re from Cleveland? You know, we also have a Cleveland here in America, and it’d be just great if you didn’t blow it up.”

I laughed uncomfortably, but I laughed. (The Arab-American friend I was watching the show with laughed too, for the record.) But my laughter meant very little in 2011. In 2011, I believed in the death penalty, in the freedom to make jokes like “that test raped me” and to characterize anyone who called me out as a “PC buzzkill”. In 2011, I was arrogant as all hell, convinced of the correctness of my opinions. I still am, but I know a little more now than I did then. In 2011, I was more able to laugh at episodes in which a neighbor brought a box of puppies to the Smiths’ house and said: “Chinese dessert!” As little as a year ago, one of my favorite comic bits was a blatantly racist sketch about a young Latina girl going to a Vietnamese nail salon. I admit it. I’m not proud of it.  In 2014, I still watch American Dad sometimes, but only for the fey pansexual alcoholic wisecracking alien, Roger. (I don’t know what that says about me.) In 2014, I can’t laugh at basic race-based stereotypical humor.

The episode went on in that vein, with constant references to the clash between Stan and the terrorist neighbors. The only voice of reason is Stan’s daughter, Haley, who says angrily to him “What you’re doing violates every tenet of a just society,” to which Stan says: “Great!” Clearly, Haley is meant to be read as the PC Police; the annoying social-justice crusader who we roll our eyes at for not having a sense of humor. Even the Memaris are cooler than Haley: the episode ends with them acknowledging that they often encounter xenophobic vigilantes like Stan Smith. “At least he’s better than our previous neighbors,” they tell Stan’s wife, Francine. “They were black.”

If I sat down with Seth MacFarlane and asked him what the intent of this episode was, I’m almost a hundred percent sure he’d tell me that I didn’t understand satire (see also: his hosting of the Oscars in 2013). But here’s the thing, I do. I really, really do. I just don’t think it’s particularly valuable or funny satire. It’s barely a notch above Daniel Tosh telling a heckler “Wouldn’t it be funny if you got raped by 5 men right now?”  It’s not that I enjoy being offended or outraged. I really, really don’t.  Describing Arab-Americans as terrorists is hardly cutting-edge. That shit’s so 2001 and late, bro.  I get that we’re supposed to laugh at Stan for being such a paranoid racist – but the line between laughing at Stan and laughing at the terrorist stereotype is so thin it’s easily missed. Some jokes come so heavily weighed  with the burden of past shame, with a truckload of racist assumptions, a history of discrimination, of fear.

Some jokes demand the right to be told. Some jokes are not worth telling. I believe in your ability to be funny without hurting somebody’s feelings, I do. I believe you’re better than that.

 

Examples of ‘Offensive’ Jokes I Enjoy, and Why: 

Disclaimer: I’m about to lay out a sample joke in every single category of offensiveness I can think of. Anyone who disagrees with me: please let me know. These are merely jokes that wouldn’t hurt *my* feelings if I heard them told – from my unique perspective as a woman, as someone who has experienced abuse and harassment and discrimination. These are jokes I consider to be truly satirical, to be truly funny, and to dismantle patriarchal/sexist/racist assumptions. Trigger warnings, obviously. 

 

1) “People throw around the word ‘rape’ too casually. Especially online…it’s like, dudes playing Halo and they yell, “Oh my god, dude, you jumped out of the bushes and raped me!” Um, no…I’m pretty sure if I sat down with a woman and asked her what it was like to go through that horrific experience, she’s not going to look at me and go “Well, have you ever played Halo?’”                                                                                                                              -Dane Cook

EXPLANATION: I know, I’m as shocked as anyone else that Dane Cook came up with the best joke in any category. In my opinion, this works because the joke isn’t on rape survivors. The joke is clearly on the idiotic man who has no idea what these words are that they toss around so casually.

 

2)  I’m walking in New York with my boyfriend, and he says, ‘Gee, it’s a beautiful night, let’s go down by the river.’ I said, ‘What are you, nuts? I’m not going down by the river! It’s midnight, I’m wearing jewelry, I’m carrying money, I have a vagina with me…’                                                                                                         -Elayne Boosler 

 

 EXPLANATION:  Another example of a perfectly-crafted rape joke.  This works because the joke is on the victim-blamers, the people who go: “Well, walking around late at night is like walking in a bad neighborhood with jewelry on – you’re begging for it.” Here, you have Boosler deconstruct that kind of mentality with the knock-em-dead line “I have a vagina with me.”  Dude. That’s all it takes to get raped and have someone say “Well, she was asking for it” – a vagina. If you’re not a professional comedian, you probably shouldn’t tell rape jokes in any situation. (Ask yourself why you feel the need to tell rape jokes, first).  But if you MUST, tell this one and only this one.

NB-If you’re looking for great essays on this/more examples of feminist perspectives on acceptable rape jokes, try Lindy West, Jessica Valenti, and Kate Harding on the jokes of Louis CK and George Carlin.

 

 

 

3) I’D LIKE TO SPEAK TO A SUPERVISOR – WHITE PROVERB

claudia c ‏@literalporn         

EXPLANATION: Okay, this is straight-up hilarious. The joke is that white people feel very comfortable calling on authority because they have nothing to fear from it. Until racial profiling disappears and the criminal justice system straightens itself out, this joke will continue to be trenchant, along with “I don’t see race- white people proverb.”

NB-I’ve gotten into hot water before for making affectionate “white people like…” jokes. White people on Twitter accuse me of reverse-racism, which is not real b. I love white people. I am attracted to white people and I have many good friends in the white community, I promise. When I post a gif of Taylor Swift “white-girl dancing”, know that it can’t compare to the systematic racism and oppression faced by people of color. Does it seem like an unfair double standard? Well, the white people can’t dance stereotype =/= black men are dangerous/brown men with turbans are terrorists stereotype. Y’all aren’t going to get killed for it, you see. That’s why I don’t consider this joke to be racist or offensive.

 

 

4) ANY JOKE BY MEGAN AMRAM:

“If life begins at conception then I can use the carpool lane for the next few days.”

“I’ve got a “bun” (baby) in the “oven” (oven)!”

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t have a large collection of child pornography.”

“I don’t mean to sound racist but all the Klumps look the same to me.”

“If embryos are people, ultrasounds are child pornography.”

“Writing a romcom about a human centipede front that falls in love with a human centipede back. Middle guy is the comic relief “cockblocker.”‘

“I call my vagina Denny’s because seniors eat free on Tuesdays.”

“Show me on this Georgia O’Keeffe painting where the bad man touched you.”

“Excuse me, I have to head to the Ladies’ Room (kitchen).”

-Megan Amram

 

 

EXPLANATION: What can I say? Megan Amram tackles every provocative theme possible: child-pornography, rape, sexism, racism, abortion, murder, human centipedes- and does it spectacularly well, almost never (maybe once in 1/100,000 tweets) being truly offensive thanks to her razor-sharp social satire. Unless you’re Megan Amram, do not do this at home.

 

5) This joke. 

 

 

men

Again, this joke is funny to me because men are not the oppressed population. Misandrist jokes are simply not the equivalent of misogynist jokes, and never will be. For clarification as to why, I suggest you watch some Louis CK jokes. Specifically, this one:

“How do women still go out with guys, when you consider that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women! You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease.”

There you have it: my last helpful guideline for making offensive jokes: ask yourself who the target of the joke is. If the joke EVER targets an oppressed population (women, people of color, foreigners, the LGBTQIA community, rape survivors), DO NOT MAKE IT. You have been warned.

 

A Mathematician Writes A Love Letter

 

 

 

 

1) We met at the Met Bar. We met because you were killing time, because you were early and your friends were late. I can’t calculate the exact probability of you being early to things because I haven’t tabulated every instance in your life in which you were early or late, but I imagine it is quite low because you were never on time for at least two-thirds of our dates.

2) We met because I came up to you. I never approach strangers unless it is to ask for directions. Before I met you, I would have calculated that the probability that I would come up to you was 0.00 until it actually happened, and therefore I’d calculated wrong. You said to me during the course of our relationship that I could map the human genome but not your heart. I did not really understand this, but I always believed that you generated impulses in me that contravened logic, as evidenced by the fact that I felt no need to correct your erroneous assertion that I could map the human genome.

3) I talked to you because I heard you say on the phone that you were “nostalgic for the future”, and it was the first time I’d ever heard that particular phrase.The odds of you saying those precise words are astronomically low. The odds of you saying something that incited me to approach are higher, although still very low.

4) The drink I saw the bartender pour you was my favorite kind of gin, and so I thought to myself “If I go up to her and say something about how much I like that particular brand of gin, that would be alright. She  might not hate that.” The probability that you would be drinking that type of gin is low in general. The Met Bar stocks eight different brands of gin, so the probability of you ordering that particular type of gin is 0.128. (Here is a tangential aside: I have stopped drinking gin, as it reminds me of you. The probability that I will order gin at a bar is now 0, even if gin was the only type of alcohol served at that bar.)

5) There are other reasons why I approached you (such as the curve of your upper lip, the tumble of dark hair on your white shirt-collar, other incoherent reasons) that factor into why I approached you. I cannot calculate the likelihood of these features occurring together in one person with any level of accuracy.

6) I was at the Met Bar because my friend had asked me to choose a bar downtown. Of the hundreds of bars downtown, I immediately thought of six bars. I replied to him, suggesting that we meet at one of the six. The odds that I’d be there that Thursday night, therefore (instead of at the other five), are 0.167.

7) In that first conversation, we both discovered that neither of us believed in destiny but that we both had had a butterfly in a case in our childhood homes. The probability of both growing up with a butterfly on the wall is small. The probability that we would talk about butterfly-collecting in the Met Bar within fifteen minutes of meeting is minuscule. The probability that neither of us believe in destiny is much larger, although I confess that these probabilities make me wonder. My butterfly had a wingspan of 7.5 inches, and had wings of jade and burnt sienna.

8) I’d been waiting by the door because my friend wasn’t there yet. I hadn’t checked my phone yet. If I hadn’t been by the door, I wouldn’t have seen you sitting by the bar. If I had checked my phone, I would have seen that my friend decided to go to a different bar.

9) When you ordered another drink, I was so relieved that I knocked a wet napkin into your lap. When I saw this, I began stammering. You mentioned this later as something that you found appealing. The probability that you would find my gaucheness unappealing cannot be calculated precisely, but anecdotal evidence from my past tells me it is very high.

10)  Kolmogorov’s axioms of probability suggest that the probability of  a coin landing on either heads or tails is 1, but that the possibility of it landing on neither heads nor tails, is 0. Either I would have met you, or I would never have met you. If I met you, I would have loved you. If I did not meet you, I would not have loved you. I find myself, contrary to all reasonableness, wishing for an outcome in which neither of these events occurred or did not occur. I postulate that the probability that I would be able to heal our relationship is unfeasibly small.  In the event that I could heal our relationship, the probability that I would be able to reverse the inexorable progression of time is 0. And yet, I imagine myself defying logic, forever watching, suspended in time, your hair lit by the bar lamps until it appeared to me like a corona. I imagine Probability, against all the rules of probability, as a little demon, one whose life I extinguished long ago so that we could be together in every iteration of the world, every what-if, every universe in which every possible event that occurred was only me loving you.