A Natural History Of Love
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The bestselling author of A Natural History of the Senses now explores the allure of adultery, the appeal of aphrodisiacs, and the cult of the kiss. Enchantingly written and stunningly informed, this "audaciously brilliant romp through the world of romantic love" (Washington Post Book World) is the next best thing to love itself.
prove to all that the union has been completed. Among the G’wi Bushmen of Botswana, girls and boys are betrothed when they’re very young. When a girl menstruates for the first time, she’s expected to fast and sit absolutely still for four days, with her legs held straight out in front of her. Then the groom joins her, and both are ritually washed and tattooed. Their hands, feet, and backs are cut with razors, their blood is mixed together and applied to their cuts, thus making them blood-wed. A
omnipresent, wherever water rests. As tiny and frail as these life forms are, they survive hurricanes, earthquakes, the casual chaos of human feet. I felt what Walt Whitman may have when he wrote of the starry night, “the bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place.” His intuition bespeaks both the faith in the unknown and the extrapolation of belief that love and religion require. The part stands for the whole, the single instance for the general truth, as it does in
which starts from the [ring] finger and travels to the heart. It is, therefore, thought seemly to give to this finger in preference to all others the honour of the ring, on account of the loose connection which links it with the principal organ. The man was said to receive “the hand” of his bride, and the ring symbolized that with her hand she gave her innermost self. Every time they touched hands, they touched hearts. The wedding ceremony was a combination of divine and human laws, a forging of
But Roman women had time and opportunity for intrigue, and morals were flexible enough that their affairs were found understandable, even if not officially condoned. Women of the right class were obsessed with their looks, spending the morning on coiffures, makeup, and choosing the perfect accessories for their outfits. In the afternoon, they lunched and shopped, organized the household, then tidied up their makeup and later prepared for a dinner party. Fashion has always been a badge of rank, as
“count the ways” because she had an arithmetical turn of mind, but because English poets have always had to search hard for personal signals of their love. As a society, we are embarrassed by love. We treat it as if it were an obscenity. We reluctantly admit to it. Even saying the word makes us stumble and blush. Why should we be ashamed of an emotion so beautiful and natural? In teaching writing students, I’ve sometimes given them the assignment of writing a love poem. “Be precise, be