Pauline took out a tract from her purse and handed it to Herr Lippert. At the same time she was looking at Frederick. She said, “I’m sure your friend Herr Freud has seen this. We’re distributing it everywhere. The ideas in it are not new. It concerns the health of women, awkward for men, but by and large it is important for them too. Of course, I know how to walk and talk, and it’s not my job to inform you boys. I know we’re accused of getting away from Christian ideas, or shall I say age-old Christian ideals, as exemplified by the Virgin Mary and Eve. I know it’s rather controversial still.”
Herr Lippert said, “I’ll digest it later.”
Each point, each page conveyed the same message: “women aren’t sexless”: healthy women have sexual desires and erotic instincts that are normal and that these desires needn’t be denigrated or sublimated. In other words, motherhood or nurturing the seed of future generations wasn’t necessarily a woman’s primary duty. And she has other choices other than becoming a lady or a tramp. Pauline, therefore, remained skeptical about the virtues of motherhood. As she thought about her beauty and how men were attracted to her, her emotions grew.
Both men looked over the tract. As they handed it back and forth, Herr Lippert remained unmoved and Frederick was puzzled. He may have seen the tract before. At least he wasn’t dismissive like Herr Lippert was. Pauline held herself up straight and waited impatiently for a response. Herr Lippert, more than once, started to give one while Frederick felt aroused. To him it was erotic material, just as their previous conversation had been. Pauline hadn’t said anything titillating after suggesting that she become their nude…how could she top that given that they were in a public place…but Frederick didn’t need anything else to get his imagination going. He found himself, to his surprise, thinking about his own body, and then he began to think about his penis. Sitting beside Pauline, who had turned away from him, he started stiffening. So he scooted forward, up under the table, hoping she hadn’t noticed.
She, certainly by then, was aware of Frederick’s weaknesses, and could’ve exploited them. He began to fidget. Once or twice he shook his head. And then he signaled for Herr Lippert to hand him the tract again. He seemed agitated. He had to be careful not to say anything out of hand. “Sigmund Freud, held that the libido was an inherently masculine trait, and that sexual desire in a woman was abnormal.” He stared at the ceiling because he hated to admit that he had trouble with the tract. There was a very long silence.
Frederick finally said, “Pauline, I admire what you’re doing.”
Herr Lippert remained as he had been, unconvinced, and silence returned. The dinner was over. When the three of them spoke and said good-bye, they were friendly to each other. The two men left together. It took Pauline a little longer to gather up her things. She gazed at the tract before he put it back into her purse. She then whispered, “What have I done?” She had surprised herself. She knew the she shouldn’t have shown the tract to “the boys.” The tract was meant for women and was readily available, so why had she embarrassed herself?
Over time she came to some conclusions. The first one was that men didn’t understand women, and she didn’t pretend to understand men. Up to this point, though she had an abortion and given birth to two children, her body was still foreign to her. Now, unexpectedly, she became aware of secrets that had eluded her, she began to enjoy her body and resent anyone who tried to force her into a mold. And she didn’t mind sharing her story, particularly with other women. But unlike many other feminists she advocated employment for all women and not just to those widows, orphans and spinster who through misfortune were denied a male provider. This unfortunately intimated men, including freethinking men like Frederick.
Pauline’s feminism took Frederick by surprise. It also threw him off and he bemoaned the loss of the doe-like lovelorn female that he soon learned that he couldn’t manipulate. She had seemed pliable. He was surprised that he couldn’t seduce her, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Then he began to think that she was heartless.
It could’ve meant the end of their relationship. There was nothing more that he could do about it. His imagination took him only so far. Though he loved a challenge he would’ve preferred some action: not making any headway damaged his ego. Now, when nothing was going right, she suddenly became more affectionate, and he wondered what he was doing differently. She’d still invited him up to her flat. Still she would only go so far.
But Pauline felt that they were making headway and that he might be an exception. She said, “You’re a very sensitive man, and I like that. I like the way you take care of me. Not many men would be so considerate. It’s very good. But feel free to go out with someone else.”