The Experts On Women, Sex, Marriage

ALICE STEINBACH

January 26, 1992|By ALICE STEINBACH

Sorry to bring this news to you a bit late, but the interview between Norman Mailer and Warren Beatty in the November issue of Vanity Fair answered so many important questions about the state of affairs between men and women that I needed time to digest it all.

Incidentally, when I say "state of affairs" I want to make it perfectly clear I am not alluding to Mr. Beatty's allegedly busy love life -- although the article does list the names of 30 famous women with whom Mr. B. is supposed to have had "liaisons."

What I'm actually referring to when I say "state of affairs" are the deeper, more profound issues facing men and women today.

Issues concerning love. And marriage. And sex. And womanizing.

As someone who has taken it upon herself to keep an ongoing file of clips labeled "The Wit and Wisdom of Norman Mailer on Love, Marriage, Sex and Womanizing," I must tell you my heart leapt for joy when I saw Vanity Fair's 12 1/2 -page "Warren Report."

Finally, I thought, we have hit the Mother -- or if you prefer, Father -- Lode: Who better to dispense wisdom to us on relationships between the sexes than a six-times-married, 68-year-old man and a 54-year-old never-married, recent first-time father?

Just listen to this exchange:

Warren (remember, never-married) on divorce: "One way to not get divorced is to not get married."

Norman (remember, married six times) on divorce: "You know nothing about a woman until you meet her in court."

By the way, this last remark sounded oddly familiar to me. And sure enough, after researching my Norman Mailer files, I found a note confirming that back in 1990 the divine Mr. M. said he "didn't ever know a woman" until he had sex with her. Which confused me. Does this mean that, in order to know a woman, Mr. M. now needs to have sex in a courtroom with her?

Never fear. I will soon be writing to Mr. M., asking for clarification on this last point. And also to ask him to be clearer in the future about what it takes to "know a woman." If, for instance, I read a future remark from Mr. M. stating he never knows a woman until, say, he "walks a mile in her high-heeled pumps," does this mean in the courtroom where he and his woman have had sex? You see the problem.

But getting back to the profundities extracted from Warren B., I was touched by something he confessed to Norman M.: "I grew up thinking," said this now legendary Lothario, "I would marry the first woman I had sex with."

But, alas, little Warren's dream was not to be. Instead, the young lad became -- in Mr. Mailer's words -- "a generous, discreet, and considerate womanizer." So generous, discreet and considerate

in his womanizing, says Mailer, that some feminists who usually frown on such activity have offered him "papal dispensation."

Of course the question arises: What makes Warren run? And, like any good interviewer, Mr. Mailer tackles the issue head on by trying to help us understand what shaped his subject. Here, for example, is Mr. Mailer grilling Warren on his high school years:

N.M.: "Were you one of the central figures on the campus?"

W.B.: "Oh, well, you know, it was public school, I was, I -- uh, well, depending on the measure. Yeah."

N.M.: "Objectively, were you one of the Big Men on Campus?"

W.B.: "I was a good football player. I was, uh, president of the class. I was . . . things like that."

That's it! The-Big-Man-on-Campus Syndrome. It explains a lot. No wonder the polarity -- sexually speaking -- between little Warren and big Warren.

But our psychological understanding of both men -- apropos their attitudes about women -- takes a quantum leap through this exchange about the original women in their lives: their mothers.

"Yes, my mother adored me," says Warren.

So did Norman's: "If I had gone to the top of a tower in Texas and shot down 17 people with a rifle," says Norman who, by the way, was given a suspended sentence when he stabbed Wife No. 2 with a penknife, "my mother would have said, 'Whatever did they do to make Norman so upset?' "

And so it goes. Two aging Lotharios sitting around talking abouwomen. And politics. Sort of. See, Norman thinks Warren ought to run for president.

Of the United States.

Don't laugh. It could work.

After all, as Warren himself wisely points out: "I am the only guy who hasn't cheated on his wife."

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