The loveless thrusts follow one another quickly, towards a vulgar orgasm. And when it is there (…) I push it off me and lose my balance. I fall with my buttocks on the keys to his grand piano. A dissonant final chord. ‘ Thus ends the author and comedian Michèlle Schimscheimer’s (37) relationship with the ‘jazz pianist’. In the autobiographical debut What’s called love she describes in a comic, detailed way how any affair after this great love ends in a great disappointment. We are introduced to the round philosopher, Alexander the Great, the Windmill Man and the married actor. There are flirtations, fucking, endless text messages – the often howling funny painful exchanges are literally reproduced – but each time there is finally the loneliness with the necessary comfort food and the cat Maxipoes. Men are blunt fools, so much is clear, and in these Tinder times one can expect a bit of love.
Little and big Nina
Equally disappointing are the conditions that the theater maker and author Nina de la Parra (35) describes in her debut get women to come† At a flashy, furious pace, described from two versions of the character Nina (‘little Nina’ at 23, addressed by ‘big Nina’ at 33), she talks about the failed relationships with, among others, ‘de Zutphenaar’, ‘the Norwegian ‘(with woolen underpants) and’ de Lichtman ‘(spooky sex). The latter in particular is reminiscent in intensity of Schimscheimer’s great love. Romantic wild camping in the mountains of Scotland turns into a nightmare. “Physically, we are both completely devastated every night. There is nowhere to take a shower. And: have you ever seen a cock after not washing for five days? NOT FAT. ‘ The love does not end much later during a hiking holiday in the Ardennes, with the result that Little Nina hangs out on the couch and masturbates apathetically for nine months with a plate of takeaway. “You are here again, in those sweatpants, in exactly what you know. Something about a man who is crushed and who inexplicably disappears from your life. You know exactly that. The world is back in its proper place. ‘
It all sounds terribly hopeless and helpless. But that is by no means the case. Both writers can show bumbling Bridget Jones behavior, but are much sharper in the way they put the fillet knife in themselves and the man. And little Nina is certainly not passive. She is studying in Edinburgh, trying to build a career as a director in Berlin and is also studying. In short, she is ambitious and independent and shares, à la Sex and the City, not only all male misery with her ‘bitches’ (the princess, the witch and the sheikin), but also topics like yeast infections, pussy odor, menstrual misery, cock pictures, pencils and above all: clitoris. Because where it’s what a man should do with it, but above all does not turns out to be something of a problem. A point that Schimscheimer also raises in his book. The clitoris, she notes, is “a bad final mistake on the part of our creator.” ‘As if God were on a next appointment (…), forgot to give the female sex a place of enjoyment and last minutewithout time to think carefully, pointed to a place about five inches too high. ‘
In short, sex is a hassle, and men often do not even realize during their ‘seed pumping session’ that the woman lets her own orgasm go ‘so as not to break the great intimacy’. Only when Nina goes to Suriname does she experience what she calls her ‘Surinamese revolution’: Quincy and Gregory turn out to be real lovers and give her what is really needed, an experience that she turns into a jubilation manifesto about the importance of Printing for women: ‘All the burnt out, overworked, overachieving girls must come. God created the clitoris FOR A REASON. So join in shouting our mantra: GET WOMEN COMING. HEAL THE WORLD.’
Perfect time document
Flat? oblique? Rude? Yes, it is these books for sure. But it also has a purpose. The swirling, tumbling, ultra-relativistic waking style in which De la Parra writes is so consistently ironic that it works. Her failed self-help book / autobiographical novel / Manifesto of Freedom is in that regard – following in the footsteps of her idols Caitlin Moran, Tina Fey and Amy Schumer – a perfect time document of the hopeless division in which the independent woman in search of bond finds herself. And like her idols, she wants to break through the culture of shame around the female body and calls for female solidarity with her no-bullshit feminism.
Plus, it’s not just about failed sex escapades. De la Parra is strongest in the chapter ‘Intervention’, where she looks back on her childhood in Amsterdam and describes the relationship between her ‘borderless parents’. Her father, a well-known Surinamese film director, cannot support the family give and is often absent. When he is, he prefers to drink Irish coffee in his ‘office’ – Bulldog Café on Leidseplein – and give his daughter a jar of peanut butter for dinner. She has a symbiotic relationship with her hard-working mother, a Dutch documentary filmmaker. While her mother feels guilty about her absence, little Nina manages it. ‘I stand with a list of groceries in Albert Heijn around the corner, and I buy green beans and a fish. I have a cookbook from which I learn to cook. My mom works, I’m at home with babysitters or my brother and sister. †
As a child, she felt her mother’s pain and took full responsibility for relieving it. “I do not know what that pain is about. But I feel it.” That, and her brother’s tragic suicide when she was fifteen, laid the groundwork for a girl who does not get the chance to develop in peace, but from an early age is too outwardly focused to ‘do it right’.
In this respect, Schimscheimer’s book is less strong. The stories of the failed affairs are all too often filled with anecdotes about everyday life. These short chapters are easy to read but lack a clear context. Nevertheless, Schimscheimer sometimes suggests a failed bond. In the chapter ‘Daddy issues’, for example, her father is going to be a reserved man who would rather laugh when she burns her hand on a hot bitterball than help her. Her attraction to emotionally distant men has nothing to do with love, rather something she did not resolve in her youth, the therapist says. That self-reflection is somewhat sketchy, yet Schimscheimer sometimes manages to move you with a single sentence. For example, she describes how, when she hands over the key to the pianist, she decides to go into his house one more time. “In his bedroom I will undress and lie in his bed, inhale the scent of his sheets and be out of his house and his life forever.”