I had the opportunity to act out on a fantasy when I went to a play recently. The production was a comedy written and performed by one of Minneapolis' favorite companies. But I wasn't quite with it and I wondered why I wasn't having as much fun as the people around me seemed to be having.
Half way through I realized this was a comedy of rage, a comedy of alienation and rage. Not any different than much of what our culture serves up, but fresh out of the sacred space of a men's conference it was easier for me to see and feel it for what it was. That explained the knot in my stomach and the high, tight laughter of the audience.
Anyway, I got a crush on one of the actresses. This happens often enough. I go to a play or dance performance and the woman on stage is somehow different from those in my own life. It's the lighting, she's singing her heart out, we're in some sort of fairy tale time-out-of-time, I read this as all display for...me? Whatever it was that night, this woman looked really beautiful. She had raven black hair, mischief in her eyes and a nice figure. In one skit she wore this snug fitting red dress and had a lamp shade over her head. So, she was up on stage and bigger than life, and I gleefully projected all my stuff onto her -- what the psychologists would call my own "inner feminine" -- until I thought I was following every wink and shudder of a goddess.
After the show, I discovered that the whole cast was lined up in the lobby greeting the departing audience. It was somewhat self-conscious, part of their show. Part of their rage? First, I went up to one of the artistic directors, shook his hand and said, "Ah hah...comedy of rage, comedy of alienation and rage!" He seemed to look right through me and my words might as well have been spoken to a hedge. I nodded and thanked him -- or the space where I thought he was -- and moved on down the receiving line.
Then I went to the woman of the red dress. I went up to her lightly, and with a smile I took her hand, looked into her eyes with a slightly affected swoon and asked with as much earnestness as I could, "Will you marry me?" It was sweet. She was startled. She immediately withdrew her hand and sucked in her breath. She tried to disguise the fact that the compliment had registered and then in a beat she played the moment, gushing, "Oh, I'm sorry! I can't!"
I went for "crestfallen," lowered my head, mumbled, "Oh, okay...." and shuffled away. When I looked back at her, she and the actor next to her, who had also witnessed my declaration, were sharing the joke. She was laughing, but it also looked like there was some part of her heart that was touched. I got eye contact with her and gave her a knowing wink.
Meanwhile, in my heart is blooming this little piece: "Whoa, the woman in the red dress! She might if she could, but she can't! But if she could, she might! Whoooa!"
So, who is this woman in the red dress? In the past, I've looked for her everywhere, even asking my wife to measure up. And my wife, bless her, is sometimes willing to hold my projections, as was the woman in this story for a few brief moments. But now I've learned the woman in the red dress is the love goddess of archetypal proportion. Yes, the. The Greeks called her Aphrodite, but it's probably better if each of us gives her a name of our own choosing. Because she lives inside each one of us; inside me and every other man, and, of course, inside every woman. And I've learned that she likes to be courted, and that there is a transpersonal aspect of her that needs to be served if I am to be in right relationship with her. If I'm not in right relationship, I can spend a lifetime in unrequited yearning, as scholar James Hillman likes to say, at the shopping mall.
Yes, she's mine and I'm hers. And I have my arm around her waist, and we're walking together with our hips gently swaying in the heavy light of afternoon, and I'm whispering something behind her ear that would only make sense to the two of us as we enter our private bower in the forest.