HAVING survived the longest week of our lives as graduate students, the four of us sat down for the first time that day to catch up with breathing and ostensibly enter nirvana by way of pasta.
We ended up talking about men.
How we love our men in theory.
Graduate life is bizarre. You cover the walls of your room with dead men’s thoughts. You wake up because all these men inside your head will not stop talking and arguing.
You wonder why you cannot hear women’s voices; they probably were conscripted into armies to serve non-stop so that the great men could think, write, and publish in peace.
So, in keeping with this bizarreness, the four of us celebrated by going over the men who give us misery without measure.
Strictly speaking, L. loves Donna Haraway, who asserts that cyborgs and prosthetics offer avenues for transcending men. Off the top of her head, though, L. can map out the discourses of power, down to the tiniest capillaries, commandeered, of course, by men.
Even if she’s up to the challenge of “slaying” him through a countertheory, T. is loyalty personified with Stuart Hall, who wrote that there was more than one way to encode and decode.
We didn’t know how to react when N. blurted out, while puttanesca and carbonara exchanged places, that she and Hall actually go back to her undergraduate and master’s days.
Could we share idols? Since we shared cheese cake and sans rival afterwards, we apparently could.
Mention Jürgen Habermas and L. and T. will automatically dart moony-eyed glances my way. This grandfatherly version of a chisel-jawed Kirk Douglas reappraised Marxism by being a proponent of the public sphere and communicative action.
How many men believe in “communication”? Habermas is a gem in a world of machos who curse, joke, and grunt, in that order.
When the last crumb of cake was taken—in the company of friends, your appetite can show up, without apologies—we gathered our bags and books, preparing to go back home to our real others: husbands, sons, daughters, and sisters.
For while we imagine circumnavigating systems of thought with these staggering, stupefying minds, this is merely a mnemonic aid to prop up memory or stimulate the fatigued will to assert one more time.
The imaginary comforts because it cannot impose. You can close a book. You cannot disappoint the son who waits for you to come home and tell him a story. You cannot NOT color with your daughter the drawing she makes hours away from the deadline of a paper.
Or sense the silence inside your man and not keep the rushing words at bay.
To imagineer is to soar and then touch ground.