What Kind of Effect on Men? by Lauren Phillips, Part 2
To See a Man Widely
I learned that how we see the first people we meet affects the way we’ll see people we meet later, including men. As the only girl and the only blond in the family, I got a good deal of approval. And my father, Arthur Phillips, and I went for long walks together, complaining about my mother and my two brothers, and commiserating with each other. Without knowing it, I was doing something very hurtful: backing up my father’s feeling that the world had hurt him, and trying to have him think nobody was as warm or interested in him as I was, including his wife. What he was hoping for or concerned about, as to his work, as to my mother, never crossed my mind. I was to continue this selfish, weakening purpose with other men.
My consultants once asked whether, as I went after my father’s praise, I made less of my “deepest desire, to know another person and use him to like the world.” They continued, “You need to see your father with respect and width and not as a possession.” To encourage me to do so, they gave me assignments: for instance, to write a soliloquy of Arthur Phillips, trying to show what he feels to himself. I was asked to think about him as an actor would think in trying to understand a character in a play. As I really thought about who my father was, what he was hoping for as a lawyer, husband, friend, parent, I felt I was meeting him for the first time.
Through my study of Aesthetic Realism, as I read works by such men as Shakespeare, Dickens, Molière, Henry James, Walt Whitman, Sir Walter Scott, I began to see with some amazement and great pleasure that men weren’t put on earth to praise me: they had selves with insides that were interesting, various, deep, and alive. I learned too that a man’s biggest hope is to like the world, to feel he can have a good effect on people. For the first time, I had pride in thinking about men. And I began to feel hopeful about love.
How Much Are We Affected?
I had not known that I was unable to be truly affected by a man because of my excessive interest in the big effect I wanted to have on him. For example, in college I met Tom Sheridan, the first man with whom I had a long-term relationship. Even though I felt more for him than I had for anyone before, when an old boyfriend wanted to visit me, I explained to Tom why I couldn’t see him—Tom—for the weekend. Though my mother told me I was being very unkind, I was determined.
Meanwhile, that weekend I had a terrible headache and felt miserable. I’ll never forget seeing Tom on Monday, and his speaking to me about how much I had hurt him. I felt ashamed, but I didn’t know how to be different. Increasingly I had less feeling for the men I dated, and was careless about whom I was close with.
I felt enormously relieved when, a few years later, my consultants explained: “You don’t believe a good effect is possible because it hasn’t been what you’ve gone after in your affecting people. Two values are really in a showdown in you. You have a sense that it’s possible to be with a man in a way you respect yourself for—to have a man feel that the world looks better to him, more sensible, through you. In the meantime, there’s been pain, self-dislike; and there’s also been a pleasure in just being able to have a powerful effect and not show yourself truly or honestly.”
I was learning to think about a man in terms of who he is, what he is hoping for. I was learning to have good will, which Mr. Siegel has described as “the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful” (TRO 121). Aesthetic Realism shows that good will is an urgent, beautiful need in every person’s life. And I’ve learned that whatever the situation, whoever the person, it is the one thing that can have a woman proud of her effect on men.
When I met Bruce Blaustein, I had a new feeling: that I could show my depths to a man instead of pretending. I liked his energy and the thoughtful way he was interested in people. He too was studying Aesthetic Realism, and as we spoke, I had the thrill of seeing that a man wanted me to be more honest, stronger. I felt two things I’d never felt before: I was swept to my core by a man, and I had respect for him—and the combination was something!
My consultants gave me assignments—such as to write about “Opposites in Mr. Blaustein and the World” and “What Does It Mean to Be Close to a Person and Have More Respect for the World?” I felt a dignity and pride I had never before experienced. I had never realized that sex and love could be a subject of education, wide and cultural.
I cherish my marriage to Bruce Blaustein, who is an Aesthetic Realism consultant and whom I love more deeply and passionately with every year. That I can feel my mind and body have a good effect on my husband, makes for such pride.
Aesthetic Realism can enable people to feel truly proud of how we affect each other. The study of how to have a good effect on another person is new in culture, and there is nothing more important or pleasurable for men and women to know.