Posted by: exiwp | August 6, 1990

Maudie and the Men’s Club (1990)

By Fred Newman
Practice, Winter 1990

Somewhere in his middle 30s he noticed.  He noticed his daughter growing up too fast and too crazed.  He noticed his son, two years younger than his sister, growing up frightened and bullied by his father’s virile manhood.  He noticed his working class wife (a less than giving non-heroine), suffering from chronic depression and acute sadness.  He saw his mother whom he had always hated dying of cancer, and yet he hated her still.  And he saw me, his youngest brother, whom he had consistently abused verbally and, on a few occasions, physically, grown up, unhappy, a new father, a college student (the first in the family to go beyond high school), a Korean War veteran and utterly confused and conflicted about how I had gotten to be a man without having participated fully in the rites of manhood.

Maudie was the hero in our family–the top banana, a kind of leffish and Jewish John Wayne.  I was sensitive and thoughtful, a man to be sure, filled with all the competitiveness and aggression that became the hallmark of my gender long before capitalism came along, but with a sensitivity to suffering and pain.

In my sexually “fast” South Bronx working class crowd in the 1950s, I was the guy who “Doc’s and Al’s and Dave’s girlfriends really liked,” something I would ponder sitting in Laurie’s living room reading the sports pages of the New York Post (it was liberal then) while she and Doc made out in the bedroom.  Doc, like my brother 20 years earlier, was attractive and wantable.  I was caring and compassionate.  A leader in my crowd, it was always despite my shyness and rank incompetence in the manly art of being oppressive to women.  How much of my sensitivity in these matters was simply a matter of making a virtue of a necessity (turning my shyness into a deep sensibility to women) I’ll never know.  Nor do I care.  For whatever the causal analysis, my character would be positively shaped by the pain of having been “sexually backward” in my adolescence.  A virgin until marriage (indeed, with hardly any “sexual experiences” at all), I had become a husband and a father of Elizabeth obviously lacking any bourgeois sense of what in the hell that meant.

Then, one day, my brother Maudie and I, distanced by 17 years and male egos on the two extremes of the macho spectrum, met and began to touch each other.  And for almost 20 years, until he died of lymphatic cancer in 1977, we had a most wonderful love affair.  He gave me so much, this sexy brother of mine, and we felt each other so deeply.

W.E.B. Dubois teaches, in a moving essay I read many years ago, that while he as an academic was not subjected to overt racism as often as many others of his people, he was forever aware that at any moment, in almost any place, blatant and violent and vulgar racism could strike.  And he was obliged to live every moment of his life prepared for such a violation.  His very character and personality had to be shaped in accordance with this recognition that he was but a second and an inch away from abusive destruction.  So with women, no matter how seemingly sheltered.  To be sure, there are differences among poor women, working class women and middle class women; Black women, Puerto Rican women, Jewish women, Irish women, et al.  But as women they are all objects of continuous rape and continuous objects of rape.

Hardly.  For getting much while giving little is the socio-sexual motivation of the Men’s Club.  This dictum is no neutral utilitarian credo.  It is sadism pure and simple.  The pleasure lies in getting without giving and the ultimate paradigm for this daily male practice is RAPE.

Dearest Maudie; how I miss you.  I have worked to be a decent man, Maud, even as I taught you to be one and you taught me as we held -each other in tender embrace.  Dearest Maudie, I wish you were here for so many reasons.  But most of all I wish you were here to know Rie.  For finally, dearest Maud, someone has come to want me and love me ever so deeply, and because of you and me I am a lucky, lucky man.  For I can give this most beautiful and extraordinary woman all that I am and, therefore, at least some of what she deserves.  I am not alone anymore, Maud.  And the years that we spent learning–as best we could–not to rape, a learning justified by any standard, has been rewarded beyond belief because I can give to Rie and she can give to me.  Sexy as the day is long, there is no rape in this wonderful love.  Thank you, my dearest brother.  Thank you, my dearest Rie.

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