A Lesbian Love Advisor: The Sweet and Savory Art of Lesbian Courtship. – book reviews
Sarah T. Randolph
A self help book that’s Funny? What a relief! A Lesbian Love Advisor covers the intricacies of lesbian relationships, from flirting to breaking up, with healthy doses of frank sex talk and women’s spirituality, West’s approach is sassy and iconoclastic, her advice a mixture of the lighthearted and the pragmatic. In her section on fighting she counsels civility and forgiveness, with guidelines for listening well and fighting fair. I loved her idea that we could aspire to be elegant fighters. I got some great ideas from reading this book (not all of them about fightingl), and I’m leaving it on the bedside table for Melanie to find.
Successful Lesbian couples never, in fact, stop fighting. ;Why should they? They are two people, not two clones, so of course they will have honestly conflicting needs, opinions and expectations to be negotiated. In successful relationships, however, the partners are elegant fighters, not remedial ones. Elegant fighters come from a place of autonomy, flexibility and compassion, rather than one of shattered egos, desperation and insecurity. They also practice, really practice, at fair fighting, understanding that the “School of No Swords” is attained only by pursuing the utmost diligence in fencing exercises. The question is how to manage the conflict that will always be with us. Will you drive your partner to the ropes, where, stripped of her dignity, she is declared “at fault,” and you “win” (for a while). Or do you prefer conflict as a cauldron of silently seething resentment where anger is bottled up to poison you like a toxin.
How about a Wiser way? Conflict can become discovery in working out a livable, enjoyable path together, as well as a place to get rid of unreal and limiting assumptions, a vessel in which truth can evolve. Lesbians have a tradition of non-violent conflict resolution and activist peace-making. We intuit that the male way of countering violence with violence leads to hopelessness, and ultimately to death.
“It also dawned on me I couldn’t win against my beautiful samurai- but that I didn’t have to lose either. AlII needed to do was to stay present and learn and keep fighting as cleanly as I could.” The idea is not to win, but to aim carefully. I realized she didn’t have such a mighty sword; I just gave her one with my irrational dread of anger and power. Once I got over the idea that I had to ‘win’ something, I started loosening up. I began picking up some techniques on how not to be a victim and how to keep my calm, my self-respect, and usually get what I need. Here is a grab bag of what works for me.
“First of all, I recognize some things are too important to fight about. Number one is religion. Curb your dogma — or furious non-dogma. Everyone has a right to her own spiritual life, for Goddess’ sake. Number two is having kids. Here compromise is impossible — half a kid. Finally, the futile old battle-ax of monogamy/pluralism is an energy-sink of black hole proportions. Love and let love.
“Fight about everything else, especially ‘little things’ if they might build up and fester. Hake it enjoyable. Duel in the sun. Never ‘stuff’ anger. Stuffing makes you crazy and oblivious to all your partner’s wonderful qualities like how sweet she was when your dog ate her legal briefs. None of my relationships ever perished under big blows: they were whittled away by resentment after resentment.”
The general flow of an opener to a Fair Fight bout can be summarized in the following formula: “When you [describe action], I feel [describe feeling] and then [describe impact of behavior on life]. I want you to do [act/on] because of [purpose].” Example: “I feel resentful when you leave your clothes and dirty dishes all over the common areas of the house for days. I feel like l am your maid picking up everything. I want the house to be cleared up every week, and I don’t want to do it alone any more.”
Elegant fighters will note the aggrieved party “owns,” takes responsibility for, her feelings about the problem with clear “I” statements. She does not impugn her partner’s character with moral blame or name calling, the instant route to noncooperation. She does not make extraneous judgments or psychological diagnosis. She treats one issue at a time.
A Lesbian Love Advisor (The Sweet and Savory Art of Lesbian Courtship) Celeste West, 1989; 190 pp. $9.95 ($11.95 postpaid) from Cleis Press. P.O. Box 8933, Pittsburgh, PA 15221 (or Whole Earth Access)
COPYRIGHT 1993 Point Foundation
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group