Singing the Body Inviolate: Book Two

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Michael Robartes and the Dancer The Tower The Winding Stair and Other Poems New Poems Back Matter Pages He is one of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in This is the definitive collection of his poems, encompassing the full range of his powers, from the love lyrics to the political poems, from poems meditating on the bliss of youth, to the verse that rails against old age.

How haveyou been? Then emboldened, he added, Why,only last month we slept together on the trip across. And what, Lady X asked icily, makes you think thatconstitutes an introduction? In England, relationships are made not according tophysical closeness but according to social standing. Youare not necessarily a friend of your neighbour unless yoursocial backgrounds are equal. This is a cultural fact basedon the heritage of the English people, but it is also a resultof the crowded condition in England. The French, likethe English, are also crowded together, but their differentcultural heritage has produced a different cultural result.

While crowding has caused the English to develop an in-ordinate respect for privacy, it has caused the French tobe very much involved with each other.

THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE

A Frenchman meets your eyes when he is talking toyou, and he looks at you directly. In Paris, women areclosely examined visually in the streets. In fact, manyAmerican women returning from Paris feel suddenly un-appreciated.


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The Frenchman, by his look, conveys a non-verbal message. I like you.

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I may never know you orspeak to you, but I appreciate you. No American male looks at women like this. Instead ofappreciation this would be interpreted as rudeness in anAmerican. In France the crowding is partly responsible for theFrenchmens involvement with each other. It is also heldresponsible for their concern with space.

French parkstreat space differently than American parks do. They havea reverence for their open areas, a reverence even in thecity, for the beauty of architecture. In New Yorkwe are an intensely crowded city and because of this wehave developed an individual need for privacy. The NewYorker is traditionally known for his unfriendly attitudeand yet the unfriendly attitude is developed out of arespect for our neighbours privacy. We will not intrudeon that privacy, so we ignore each other in elevators, insubways, in crowded streets.

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We march along in our own little worlds, and whenthose worlds are forced together we go into a catatonicstate to avoid a misinterpretation of our motives. In body language we scream, I am being forced to rubup against you, but my rigidity tells you that I do notmean to intrude. Intrusion is the worst sin. Speak to astranger in New York City and you get a startled, alarmedreaction. Only in times of great crisis do the barriers fall down,and then we realize that New Yorkers are not unfriendlyat all, but rather shy and frightened.

During the GreatNortheast Power Failure everybody reached out toeverybody else, to help, to comfort, to encourage and fora few warm, long hours the city was a vital place. Then the lights went on and we fell back into our rigidzones of privacy. Out of New York, in small American towns, there is amore open friendly attitude. People will say, Hello, tostrangers, smile and often make conversation.

However,in very small towns, where everyone knows everyoneelse and there is very little privacy, the stranger may betreated to the same stand-offish attitude that he receivesin the very big city. But unless we understand thebasic principles of individual territories we cannotappreciate what happens when these territories are in-vaded. How we react to personal invasion of our territoryis very much related to body language. We should knowour own aggressive behaviour and our reactions to othersaggressions if we are to become aware of what signals weare sending and receiving. Perhaps the most touching account of the inviolabilityof body zones was a novel written almost half a centuryago by H.

It isthe story of a young child shipwrecked on a tropicalisland with an old sailor. The sailor raises the boy to self-sufficiency and then dies, and the child grows to man-hood alone, meets a young Polynesian girl and falls inlove with her. The novel deals with the boys loveaffair with the Polynesian girl who has been declaredtaboo from infancy.

She has grown up forbidden toallow herself to be touched by any man. The strugglebetween the two to break down her conditioning and 45 It was the early recognition of just how defensive ahuman can become about his body zones and personalprivacy that led Stacpool to explore this theme, but it hasonly been in the last decade that scientists have begunto understand the complex significance of personalspace. In an earlier chapter I told of a psychiatrist who, withthe aid of a packet of cigarettes, taught me a lesson aboutthe invasion of personal space.

He, in turn, had learnedmuch of what he knew from the reaction of patients inhospitals for the mentally ill. A mental hospital is aclosed microcosm, and as such often reflects and exag-gerates attitudes of the larger world outside.

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But a mentalhospital is also a very special type of place. The inmatesare more susceptible to suggestion and aggression thanare normal men and women and often their actions distortthe actions of normal people. How aggressive a mental patient is to someone dependson the rank of the other person. It is a test of dominance. In any mental hospital one or two patients will attainsuperior rank by aggressive behaviour, but they canalways be cowed by one of the attendants.

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In turn, theattendant is beneath the nurse and she is subordinate tothe doctor. In the Army, dominance isachieved by a system of symbols, stripes for the non-commissioned officers and bars, leaves, birds and stars for the commissioned officers. But even without the symbols, the pecking order remains.

I have seen privates in a 46 The sergeants,through their manner and bearing, were able to convey anobvious body-language message of rank. Advice for Status SeekersIn the business world, where neither stripes nor otherobvious symbols are worn, the same ability to project asense of superiority is the common attainment of theexecutive.

How does he do it? What tricks does he use tosubdue subordinates, and what tricks does he bring outfor in-fighting in his own rank? An attempt to study this was made by two researchersin a series of silent films. They had two actors play theparts of an executive and a visitor, and switch roles fordifferent takes. The scene had one man at his desk whilethe other, playing the part of a visitor, knocks at the door,opens it and approaches the desk to discuss some businessmatter. The audience watching the films was asked to rate theexecutive and the visitor in terms of status.

A certain set ofrules began to emerge from the ratings. The visitorshowed the least amount of status when he stopped justinside the door to talk across the room to the seated man. He was considered to have more status when he walkedhalfway up to the desk, and he had most status whenhe walked directly up to the desk and stood right infront of the seated executive.

Another factor that governed status in the eyes of theobservers was the time between knocking and entering,and for the seated executive, the time between hearing theknock and answering. The quicker the visitor entered the 47 The longer the executivetook to answer, the more status he had. It should be obvious that what is involved here is amatter of territory. The visitor is allowed to enter theexecutives territory and by that arrangement the execu-tive automatically achieves superior status. How far into the territory the visitor penetrates, andhow quickly he does it, in other words how he challengesthe personal space of the executive, announces his ownstatus.

The big boss will walk into his subordinates officeunannounced. The subordinate will wait outside the bossoffice until he is permitted in. If the boss is on the phone,the subordinate may tiptoe off and come back later. If thesubordinate is on the phone, the boss will usually asserthis status by standing above the subordinate until hemurmurs, Let me call you back, and then gives the bosshis full attention.

There is a continuous shifting or fighting for statuswithin the business world, and therefore status symbolsbecome a very necessary part of the shift or dance. Theexecutive with the attache case is the most obvious one,and we all know the joke of the man who carries onlyhis lunch in his attache case but insists on carrying thecase simply because it is so important to the image hemust project.

I know of a black minister and educator inAmerica who travels around the country a great deal. Hetold me that he would never go into any Southern city,into the downtown area or a hotel, without a businesssuit and an attache case. These two symbols gave him acertain amount of authority that differentiated him fromthe nigger in the same city. Big business sets up a host of built-in status symbols. Alarge drug firm in Philadelphia earned enough money 48 The build-ing could have been designed with any number of officesand workrooms, but quite deliberately the company set upa built-in status symbol in the offices.

The corner officeson the very highest floor were reserved for the very high-est personnel. The corner offices on the floor below werereserved for the next rank of top personnel. Lesser, butstill important executives had offices without cornerwindows. The rank below this had offices withoutwindows at all. Below them were the men with par-titioned cubicles for offices. These had frosted-glass wallsand no doors and the next rank down had clear-glass cubicles.

The last rank had desks out in an openroom. Rank was arrived at by an equation whose elementsconsisted of time on the job, importance of the job,salary and degree.

The degree of MD, for example,gave any man, no matter what his salary or time onthe job, the right to have a closed office. PhDs mightor might not have such an office, depending on otherfactors. Within this system there was room for many otherelements to demonstrate degree of status. Curtains, rugs,wooden desks as opposed to metal desks, furniture,couches, easy chairs, and of course, secretaries, all set upsub-hierarchies.

An important element in this set-up was the contrastbetween the frosted-glass cubicles and the clear-glasscubicles. By allowing the world to see in, the manin the clear-glass cubicle was automatically reduced inimportance or rank. His territory was that muchmore open to visual invasion.