Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love Letters and Longing

If only all evenings could start with unabashed romanticism and end with lust.

The love part was courtesy of a VMFA lecture, "My Faraway One: The Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Steiglitz," given by Sarah Greenough, who edited  a book of the same name.

The couple were extensive letter-writers (25,000 pieces and barely  a tenth of them went into the 800-page book) and their output detailed life when they were apart, the development of artistic ideas and their thoughts on other artists.

When they met, she was young, disarmingly frank and had a strong sense of independence. I'm quite sure I would have liked her.

He was married, established in his career and absolutely besotted, sometimes writing her two and three times a day with some letters 30-40 pages long. Now that's what I call smitten.

I loved hearing about how they described their longing, both physical and emotional, for each other in great detail.

Georgia wrote, "I'm getting to like you so tremendously that it scares me some times."

The full frontal nude photographs he took of her before they got physical (on what he called "Virginity Day") were gorgeous despite the understandable tension in them, given their unconsummated love.

Greenough was a terrific lecturer, imbuing the letters she read with the passion and longing with which they were written.

She said she'd debated whether or not to include the explicit sexual references (a rare dilemma for an art historian, she laughed) and decided that given how important their sex life was to them both, it was a requirement.

Hearing portions read aloud, it certainly warmed up the room nicely for this attendee.

So with that for foreplay, I moved on to Richmond Triangle Players to see "2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night" with the handsomest theater critic I know.

The two-actor play (both from NYC, although one was British) was a one act story set in 1987 at 4:30 a.m. In bed, naturally.

Kissing and grabbing each other all the way, two guys have left a club and gone back to one's apartment to have sex.

Which means that the play got off to a fine start with full frontal male nudity, delighting the mostly male crowd. I do think I was one of a very few females in the audience who also enjoyed it.

The story centered around the eternal one-night stand dilemma where one person just wants to leave afterwards and the other wants to talk about feelings.

The eighties references were fun; the visitor looks at his host's CDs (New Order, Bronski Beat, Erasure and "the ever-popular Material Girl"), only to squeal "Ooooh, the Carpenters!"

They reminisce about watching "Dynasty" on Wednesday nights and getting home at 10 a.m. from Saturday night club outings. And of course they discuss AIDS and their fond memories of a pre-AIDS social life. You know, because it's 1987.

For a play about one-night stands, it had enough universal truths about love and relationships to make it mostly relateable, no matter the orientation. Mostly anyway.

Can't say I could relate to the explanation of what a guy wants ("In the following order, you want me to slap you, f**k you, love you"), but that was probably just me.

And, okay,"Strength is sexier than weakness" resonated for my team, too, on some level. But not like a Steiglitz letter.

"You have given me, I can't tell you what it is, but it is something tremendous, something overpowering that I feel as if I had shot up suddenly into the skies and touched the stars."

You don't write that to someone you want to have a one-night stand with.


  1. I consider it a good rule for letter-writing to leave unmentioned what the recipient already knows, and instead tell him something new. ~Sigmund Freud

  2. Ooh, I like that! Yes, tell me something new (and good)!