Women Who Love Too Much
Reviewed ca. 1987.
This book is either largely accurate and a bit uninteresting, or it makes female-chauvinistic claims which are perhaps interesting, but almost certainly false.
If, on the one hand, the book is simply claiming that emotionally susceptible females are regularly seduced and terrorized by alcoholic mates who are "interesting" in the same ways their alcoholic fathers were, then it is on very safe ground, and important to the extent that our society is plagued by drunks.
If, instead, it is claiming that women are as a class terrorized by highly motivated and hyper-achieving males who may be compared with no loss of accuracy to drunks — then we are dealing with a wild-eyed and stupid feminist in the person of Ms. Norwood who needs to have her knuckles rapped.
Since all the men described by this woman happen to be drunks and drug-addicted derelicts, and since the book never claims to be about drug-addicted men only but men in general, it is easy to get the impression that there are no men whose "addictions" do not fit the unflattering descriptions provided.
In fact, there are men who are addicted to activities and influences far more exotic and dangerous than mere alcohol, and whose sway over female fellow-travelers is far more compelling, and in most cases more destructive, than that administered by even the most avid abusers of substances like alcohol, cocaine, and crack.
What is our opinion of these men — the same as our opinion of drunks, heroin addicts, and the abusers of children? Careful! These men are no scum. We are talking about the great men of any age. These are your Saints, your creative geniuses, your leaders, your demi-gods — those addicted to things like wisdom, power, dominion, a certain perception of the common weal, and abstract ideals.
They are the responsible creatures of the planet, creating meanings in the middle of the night, while others sleep. They have visible auras, these addicts.
Many of these creatures are male, to be sure, and most of them are in fact in pain. The pain they report is the intractable pain which accompanies creation ex nihilo — gut-choice action taken in the face of an insufficiency of conditions, and responsibilities which others find it far more convenient to avoid altogether.
Some of these great men (and women) may be addicted to that pain, and it's good thing for the rest of the tribe that they are. Someone apparently has to do that work, and it could have been us, (you and/or me), instead.
But not all these courageous men (or women) require nursing and support from co-addictive spouses, as Ms. Norwood suggests. Most would positively abhor such meddling, and resent the interference.
The last thing such a person needs is to be "changed" by a well-meaning Mary Magdalene pulling at the hem of his robe, preaching, say, the values of home and hearth. That would not be tolerated, as cruel as this might later appear to the woman, and to her counselors.
Nor is fair to assimilate the remainder of our opinions of hyper-achievers who happen to be male to those we have formed about drunks and derelicts. It is simply not helpful to conflate these two classes of "addicts," and treat them as one. That Ms. Norwood is willing to do so smacks both of feminist axe-grinding, and of sour grapes to the extent that some great persons happen not to be female. She comes very close to saying that all interesting men are drunks.
What she really means to say, I think, is that some interesting men are drunks. This may be nothing more than an intellectual sloppiness, or a pandering to the paperback audience.
It would have to be. The conceit resident in the assumption that all hyper-achieving males are no better than common alcoholics, in that they must somehow solicit and require co-addictive support from emotionally deficient females, is fabulous, and is itself a viable candidate for exorcism through the very sort of professional counseling Ms. Norwood offers to ladies who have somehow lost their cool.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.