The Men We Love

…do we infantilize them?

I live in northeast Pa, not far from Pottsville, the home town of the writer John O’Hara. 2020 is the 115th anniversary of his birth, so the town is fêting him. Yesterday we attended a showing of the movie of his epistolary novella, Pal Joey.

I’ll say one thing: Joey is the rôle Frank Sinatra was born to play. I ate him up, as I’m sure every woman who has ever seen this movie did/does. I immersed myself in the novella beforehand, and….he was perfect. (Till the end: see below…)

But it’s too bad a movie couldnta been made of Pal Joey during Hollywood’s pre Code years. Or, why not now? Hollywood doesn’t mind portraying completely amoral or immoral characters in 2020!

Anyway throughout the movie, women protect and serve Joey. They do his laundry, they spend their money on him. They literally “invest” in him. Some commentator we heard after this showing said Joey is “ feminized”. Wha’!?! He’s infantilized: women are turned on by doing things for him! They want to do it. And I think we women all want to feel we can help and comfort the men we choose to love, if we didn’t think that, we wouldn’t love them.

In my opinion, the definition of “charm” is : a quality that makes people want to do things for you, even though they have no idea why they want to do it.

O’ Hara’s invention, Joey, is ruled by two things: money, (but that’s not greed: it’s tantamount to survival) ; and his trouser-snake,

In O’Hara’s novella, the women aren’t innocent, either. If Joey occasionally takes advantage, he is snookered by a con-woman just as often. Everybody he encounters is on the make.

in the end of the novella, Joey is unreformed. In the end of theBroadway musical, he’s unreformed ( which it’s why it was so shocking to audiences in its time) . In the end of the movie, he’s reformed, tamed.

But still remains the motif of how pleasurable we women find it, to assert the loving tyranny of the nursery, of the convalescent chamber, over the men we love.

This isn’t a critique: personally, I’ll take my pleasure wherever I can find it!

18 thoughts on “The Men We Love

  1. All true, Hyp – about a novella written by a man, who might’ve been fantasizing on paper. Then, bowdlerized by a rather cod-pieced, codified Hollywood. Give me real life at its best – where both men and women are free to let care-giving and care-taking go both ways, as needed/desired.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, well, but. 🙂 Lots of men “invest” in the women they love-men are probably far more likely to do this than women, actually. And feminists have always argued that traditional sex roles infantilize women, so maybe we are all infantilizing each other? I think it’s beautiful when two people take care of each other, I don’t call that infanitlization, I call it love 🙂 As long as it goes both ways, it’s great. I get the feeling that with Joey it only went one way?

    I have never heard of this book or this movie: my knee jerk reaction based on very limited information is that Joey sounds like someone I would have zero interest in, but there is a lot here that I don’t know and don’t understand 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. O’Hara seemed in danger of dropping out of the canon, like Sherwood Anderson or my fave, Thomas Wolfe. But O’Hara really is a great novelist! Y’oughta try this novella, it’s not very long! And he seems to be coming back in vogue now.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Didn’t he and Anderson concentrate on smallish town middle-America, post-WWII? (John Cheever, too.) Not as exotic as Wolfe, Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor – and other regionalists. No wonder they’re being deposed….Just horrid.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Re: Nanda’s comment about small-town America: yes, and then , I believe, there was a reaction, the “flight from the village”. But I don’t think it was “ horrid”. These writers were American Balzacs. If you’ve never read him, and you” like novels, give O’Hara a chance! Maybe start with “Ten North Frederick”…

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Reply to Hyp: “Horrid” applies to the authors I mentioned being ignored, Hyp….Not *reading* them myself; read them as an English major in Northeast Ohio, and nodded knowingly all the while. -grin-

        Liked by 2 people

  3. “But still remains the motif of how pleasurable we women find it, to assert the loving tyranny of the nursery, of the convalescent chamber, over the men we love.”

    Hypatia; you’ve got it backwards, especially as you are married to a MD! 🙂

    This Queen Bee has a husband who enjoys waiting on her hand and foot; I think it’s that macho instinct to protect the female which is precisely why the femi-nazis annoy me so. They could ruin my advantageous scenario.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What Liz said! Ideally, men and women will take care of each other in different ways, but when men fight the wars and confront the intruders and kill the bugs and also (usually) make most or all of the money, I will never mind cooking their meals and doing their laundry, because I know they are taking care of me far more than I am taking care of them.

      The question is, did Joey do any of those things? 🙂 Considering that Hypatia mentioned women who enjoyed spending money on Joey and “investing” in him, I am thinking not. If my instincts here are correct, Joey sounds like someone I would have zero interest in, and I don’t care how pretty he looks 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. H’mmm, that’s interesting, JAC! Well, in the movie, made to code, Joey does get protective, at least once. But he doesn’t in the novel or the Broadway show. He’s a kind of sexual Mac the Knife! (Like in Threepenny Opera). Doncha ever fantasize about men like that?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Do I ever fantasize about a man who has no intention of ever really doing anything for me other than screwing me? LOL, No I don’t. I guess I am more the romantic type: a guy like Joey just doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. 🙂

        Based on what little I know, he also sounds like someone who is extremely unlikely to actually exist in real life. A guy who does nothing for women, but is supposedly really good in bed? Mmmm, maybe, but not likely 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Well, y’know what, my darling ET?your response has convinced me there are two types of women. I totally admire you, the epitome of the Queen Bee! But I reckon I’m more of the worker-bee type. Chaqu’n a son gôut…

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I should clarify: to me, a man who refuses to do anything for women and wants to be appreciated because he looks good and is good in bed is not masculine, he is a feminized man, and it is impossible for him to ever be attractive. To me, anyway 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, maybe that’s what the commentator I heard yesterday meant by “feminized”. Thanks for this perspective, JAC, I really had no idea what she meant.
      Still I will recommend the novel. O’Hara is writing about a time in our country,,and a class of people, who were on their own, every man, and woman, for him or herself. And everybody so much more isolated than we are now! I mean, here we are on ST sharing intimate thoughts with like-minded people we’ve never met, As for Joey, picture him in some flea bag motel, one bare lightbulb dangling from the ceiling, scribbling off these barely literate letters ….no, I’da done his laundry too!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Let me just recommend O’Hara’s brief novella to you all! Really he is a great writer, one who seemed in danger of dropping outta the canon. And a native son of Northeast Pa, so I’ve got a dog in the fight! You won’t be sorry! Without an acquaintance with the novella, this thread is just a general discussion about men vs. women.
    Read it, or a bit of it, for history! He’s writing about the late 1930s-early 40s a hardscrabble time in,our country. I say this is like Balzac cuz the only other epistolary novel I ever read where all the letters are from the same person is by Balzac (well till the very last one!) Anyway if you read novels for pleasure, give our Johnny (O’Hara) a chance!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s