Friday, January 20, 2006

On the iPod: Self-Made Man

I have to admit that even a year ago if I had come upon a book written by a lesbian New York literary figure who spent time in the world dressed like a man, I would have dismissed it and moved on. More blue state pretention, and I can almost write the conclusions myself. "Men are pigs, and it's great to be a lesbian. More women should try it... and a few did with me." Having rounded a corner so to speak in my wanderings in this skin, being not so reliably red state in my response to my blue neighbors, I decided to download Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man from, stick it on my iPod, and give it a listen on my drive from LA to Phoenix.

I'm really glad that I did. Far from being a man-hating screed, this is a tender, insightful treatment of men from what might otherwise be an unlikely source. And Vincent openly admits of the predictable liberal/lesbian/feminist presuppositions she carried around about men--before she decided, on a lark, to live like one. And so "Ned" Vincent was born.

As Ned, Norah joined a bowling league, went to strip joints, spent time in a men's group, participated in a drum-beating masculine discovery retreat, dated women, and ultimately broke down under the strain of living a double life.

Throughout the recounting, as I listened to her candid observations about men and their patterns of speech, their bonding rituals, their troubles and triumphs, their wisdom and their banality I came to deeply respect what this woman had accomplished. Far from being an expose about how dull and brutish men really are, Self-Made Man is a work of true compassion. We celebrate Jesus for living among the alienated in society, but Norah Vincent became the very creature she wanted to understand. Can there be anything more compassionate?

One of the most touching moments comes late in the narrative, when Ned is on a Robert Bly-style men's retreat into the forest with thirty or so "other" men and she comes to realize the weight that a man can carry, how unique his burdens can be, and how narrow the range is in which men are permitted to express the frustrations and passions of their lives.

I admire Norah Vincent for having the guts and honesty to live in a man's skin and speak the truth about what she saw. Here is this lesbian, who so many of my faith want to dismiss as being hopelessly reprobate, doing what so few professing Christians would ever deign to do--live among the enemy as the enemy. How many Christians, full of what they want everyone to believe is love but is really fear, would live as a gay person to better understand gays?

I have no doubt that Jesus would go to a gay bar and would break bread with literary lesbians from liberal New York. And in that respect, he has more in common with Norah Vincent--who shares in his compassion in a way that few ever will--than with those who use his name like a weapon.


At 7:49 AM, Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

Yep, exactly.

I am so glad Jesus does not have a sin test before salvation I would have never had hope.

Love you

At 8:47 AM, Blogger ~Kat said...

Very cool. :)

At 10:37 AM, Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

I watched that on TV. I am curious to read that.


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