Caracas, 7 October 2003
Dear Mr. Coelho:
I have read all your books and must say that the latest one really surprised me. Several times during the reading I felt like stopping and crying – just for being a woman. One does not need to have the experience of a prostitute to feel the emotions and confusions that you expose so well in your book.
Nonetheless, I would like to add some comments on women that you may not know. All of us have a bit of Maria (the character in the book) and we always promise never to love again so that we do not hurt or get hurt. We always end up breaking this promise, and we always regret this.
We are neither completely good nor completely bad.
Since sexual pleasure is not exactly our main concern, for many generations it was possible to conceal the fact that we rarely have an orgasm the way that men imagine we do. Do you know what gives us more pleasure than sex? Food. When we love a man, the first thing we want to know is whether he has already eaten, if he is well fed, and if he liked what we cooked for him. Although the feminists may hate me for saying so, seeing the man whom we love enjoying a meal is just divine! And you fail to mention this in your book.
The biggest problem for Latin women is that they end up a mother to their man. The love of a mother, forgiving all his weaknesses (because we know that he is weak, even when we spend the whole day saying how strong he is), making us want to believe that he will always come back home and realize that the best thing in his life is to be beside the person who takes care of him and pampers him. But men, even though they want to be loved like sons, always behave like savages, giving in to their impulses and the passions of the moment. Even though they may not abandon us in a physical sense, their soul has already departed and returned time and time again.
Women always live in the hope of returning to the past, remembering each and every moment they have experienced. And they are scared by the fact that the past has gone, now is another, shorter time and it is passing by ever so fast. I am not just talking about biological time but rather the fact of no longer feeling desired, walking down the street and noticing that no heads are turned. Then there is the fear of never being touched again like when they were young, never seeing in a man’s eyes an erotic or – I dare say – pornographic thought.
Women are romantic, but always let men kill their feelings – and because of that they can become implacably destructive because they no longer have anything to lose.
The other day I was talking to some friends about how we were capable of being “perverse and destructive,” when one of them said: “No, that’s not quite true, it’s far worse! When men are hurt they get themselves an arm and prepare to take vengeance, ready to put an end to the adversary. But when we are hurt by those we love, the only thing that we can think of is to prepare a lot of strategies until we manage to get our executioner back and begging for pardon. That is our vengeance: making him miss us and then come back.”
I know that in your new book you try to talk like a woman and at some moments I think you succeed. But that is the ideal vision of the female sex, not the real thing. The character resembles more what we would like to be than what we really and truly are.
But be that as it may, it is very important to see a man trying to think like a woman. You may never achieve that but that is not important, it is the trajectory that is very interesting, and this might stimulate others to do the same thing.
From a faithful reader of yours who is the mother of a boy of 14 and whom many accuse of thinking like a man,
In a city in the Pyrenees, 24 October 2003
Dear M. E. – I only wish that the literary critics were as sensitive as you.
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