Posts Tagged ‘open’

In compassion to other texts on its subject, Open is not particularly informative or ‘helpful’. as far as I’m concerned.  I’m sure it could be to someone to whom the concept of openness is entirely alien. it wraps it all up in a soft digestible narrative that can be breezed through fairly quickly. the writing is not terrible, nor is it marvelous, though that’s not its aim.  It’s rife with clichés and half-assedness; filled with “hands going everywhere” and “we talked about nothing and everything”. The root of the book’s problem is that it can’t pick a foxhole. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m all about blending Genres, but here it becomes detrimental. It’s part cautionary narrative, part textbook, part manifesto, part memoir and it carries weaknesses from each and few of the strengths.

What kept me disconnected were the characters. they were weak. In a large part because they’re so uselessly flawed and despite being ‘real-life’, which is never conveniently story shaped and she tries to cram it into one. As a result it is fairly predictable. The problems the author faces are self-created, have very little to do with openness or polyamory and everything to do with her being not self-assertive enough to take care of her own shit.

I don’t mean to condemn her for being human, looking at this as a book, the fact is that I have limited sympathy for someone who self-admittedly grows up with every opportunity to express herself and continually don’t take them. This woman grew up with a liberal mother and feminist father (trust me on the distinction there) who encouraged her to be herself. she had a pretty great run of sexual partners, both male and female in high school and college, who gave her satisfying sex and helped her to understand her own desires, but for some reason she settles for a guy with whom she has little to no sexual chemistry (who is a an asshole to her about it) and then she gets upset that she is unfulfilled, when it was clear that she never was from the beginning of that relationship.She opens up to her husband and instead of standing her ground, she becomes a fucking Stepford wife. Even after she tells her father (a Rabbi) about everything and he validates her concerns.

Throughout the story she  attempts to make it also an academic work by using poignant quotations from a bunch of feminist  texts to make it feel a little more valid. If it wasn’t for the fact that this had been recommended to me and I felt compelled to read it for them, I would have lost patience and tossed it.

Again and again she says the same thing: that this is all the fault of society and women being sold on a contradictory message . Furthermore, she feels the need to restate this yarn each time she has a new metaphor for it “saint on the street/freak in the sheets; virgin/whore complex; kitten in the kitchen/tiger in the bedroom; mother/slut;” and so on… Actually it turns out that her father is the most sensible person we meet in the whole 260 pages.

OK, let’s not be totally negative, especially because I can see why people could like or learn from the book.  About halfway in (page 140ish) they finally open their marriage and at that point shit gets real. from there on out the ‘characters’ feel more human. There are a lot of conversations and discussions about fears, questions, hopes, and desires. There is something people  – especially people new to these concepts, though the lessons can be applied to any relationship – can learn; namely, don’t be a prick, keep an open mind, and listen to what your partner is saying, and keep everyone informed especially  yourself…also don’t be a prick.

(So I guess now you don’t need to read the book)

many of the points she brings up, while important in the grander scheme of things, seem haphazardly thrown in [so I was fucking this young guy and isn’t rape culture terrible] or [so my husband and I were trying to define our boundaries LGBTQ people should have equal rights] oh and here’s a quote.

Once  her marriage is open, there’s a deal of good information and musing on topics like morality and parenting, which by far isn’t very original, but not unworthy of rehashing.  One of my problems with some of her issues is that she is often comparing herself to worst case scenario type situations. Juxtaposing what ends up being for her a relatively tame ‘open’ marriage with radically Christian Right ideals of a woman’s submissive, servile styled marriages and violent homophobia.

The benefit of her story however is in the ‘tameness’ of her relationship. It serves ultimately to make the story far more acceptable or approachable than something that shows the extremes of polyamorous relationships like The Ethical Slut.

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“People imagine marriage is just like Christmas. They have this image of what it should be, and yet that was never the reality and it can’t be the reality. Yes, some people have lovely Christmases, complete with carols and relatives. But even those family gatherings aren’t perfect, Rockwellesque events that people long for. They drag their kids to the mall to sit on a fat, old stranger’s lap so they can tell him their wishes. Christmas is built around fantasy, it doesn’t matter that  the kids are miserable, or that mom is exhausted, or that the father would rather watch the game than eat the meal his wife slaved over all day. But you’re not allowed to say that. you have to play along or else you ruin it for everyone else… people aren’t built for [marriage], and we never lived that way until very recent history. People love to pound the Bible when they want to defend their righteous ways, but they should have another look at it. People have long-lived in communities and groups. Men had lovers or concubines or multiple wives. Kinds and Queens kept their own apartments. Women of status hand lovers, and sometimes even servants to service them. What do you imagine that was about? Marriage was about money and property and not about love.”

-Jenny Block Open