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The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt by Jon-Jon…

The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt

by Jon-Jon Goulian

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Recounts the author's decision to leave the professional world to experiment with the norms and conventions of society, an effort that prompted him to don women's skirts and espadrilles as part of an effort to define himself.



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I've shelved this under lgbtq, because Goulian isn't entirely straight, though he's not gay. He's genderqueer for sure.

Goulian is a good enough storyteller, but I found myself reading less from a literary than a clinical perspective. Goulian's not-unreasonable family keeps asking him "why?" and Goulian isn't able to answer. He tries to in his last chapter, giving, as most of us do, a psychodynamic explanation for his self-presentation and actions. However, I don't think it's a sufficient answer, not because I doubt Goulian's intentions and effort, but because I don't think the issue is psychodynamic or even, at its core, psychological. Goulian strikes me throughout (and I emphasize that I'm not diagnosing, but articulating an impression) as somebody with a psychiatric (physiologically-based) problem. I'm not referring to the content that may grab attention, such as his non-gender-conforming clothes, obsession with his body, and sexual experiences. Rather, what I notice is his intense rumination, difficulty making decisions, emotional paralysis, and fear. I notice that he finds it hard to understand or even rationalize his own behavior over time. I notice his own sense of his oddness, his understanding that social interaction is much more difficult for him than for other people. His sense that there is a meaning but that he can't grasp it. I notice the timing, that his life became puzzling to him in early adolescence (a time that's not only socially, but also biochemically significant). Thus, though I do think he has some obsessions and anxieties, I find myself wondering if he's ever had a good evaluation. I wonder if Paxil (which decreases social anxiety as well as depression) would make a positive difference for him. I wonder if the underlying problem is in the schizoid range. Even so, I wonder if he's ever had a good (and smart) therapist, and if an existentially-based men's support group would help even if there's an underlying biochemical problem. I find myself glad for him that he's able to spend his time gardening and writing, and wonder what he might turn to after telling his own story and thereby, perhaps, giving a good-enough answer to the question, "What happened?" ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
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