Excerpt from In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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In Persuasion Nation

By George Saunders

In Persuasion Nation
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2006,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2007,
    240 pages.

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My Amendment

Mr Terence Rackman
Leadtown Courier-Examiner
Leadtown, PA, 13245


Re: "Not in This Town, Friend," June 15 issue, "My Turn" Lifestyle Section

Dear Mr. Rackman,

Very much enjoyed your recent article and wish to weigh in with some of my thoughts on this troubling matter. I agree with all you had to say. Like any sane person, I am against Same-Sex Marriage, and in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban it. To tell the truth, I feel that, in the interest of true moral rigor, it is necessary for us to go a step further, which is why I would like to propose a supplementary constitutional amendment. In the town where I live, I have frequently observed a phenomenon I have come to think of as Samish-Sex Marriage. Take, for example, "K," a male friend of mine, of slight build, with a ponytail. "K" is married to "S," a tall, stocky female with extremely short hair, almost a crewcut. Often, while watching "K" play with his own ponytail as "S" towers over him, I have wondered, Isn't it odd that this somewhat effeminate man should be married to this somewhat masculine woman? Is "K" not, at some level, imperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a man? And is not "S," at some level, imperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a woman? Then I ask myself, Is this truly what God had in mind?

Take the case of "L," a female friend with a deep, booming voice. I have often found myself looking askance at her husband, "H." Though "H" is basically pretty masculine, having neither a ponytail nor a tight feminine derriere like "K," still I wonder: "H," when you are having marital relations with "L," and she calls out your name in that deep, booming, nearly male voice, and you continue having marital relations with her (i.e., you are not "turned off"), does this not imply that you, "H," are, in fact, still "turned on?" And doesn't this indicate that, on some level, you, "H," have a slight latent desire to make love to a man? Or consider the case of "T," a male friend with an extremely small penis. (We attend the same gym.) He is married to "O," an average-looking woman who knows how to fix cars. I wonder about "O." How does she know so much about cars? Is she not, by tolerating this non-car-fixing, short-penised friend of mine, indicating that, at some level, she wouldn't mind being married to a woman, and is therefore, perhaps, a tiny bit functionally gay? And what about "T?" Doesn't the fact that "T" can stand there in the shower room at our gym, confidently toweling off his tiny unit, while "O" is at home changing their spark plugs with alacrity, indicate that it is only a short stroll down a slippery slope before he is completely happy being the "girl" in their relationship, from which it is only a slight fey hop down the same slope before "T" is happily married to another man, perhaps my car mechanic, a handsome Portugese fellow I shall refer to as "J?" Because my feeling is, when God made man and woman He had something very specific in mind. It goes without saying that He did not want men marrying men, or women marrying women, but also what He did not want, in my view, was feminine men marrying masculine women. Which is why I developed my Manly Scale of Absolute Gender.

Using my Scale, which assigns numerical values according to a set of masculine and feminine characteristics, it is now easy to determine how Manly a man is and how Fem a woman is, and, therefore how close to a Samish-Sex Marriage a given marriage is. Here's how it works: Say we determine that a man is an 8 on the Manly Scale, with 10 being the most Manly of all and 0 basically a Neuter. And say we determine that his fiancee is a -6 on the Manly Scale, with a -10 being the most Fem of all. Calculating the difference between the man's rating and the woman's rating - the Gender Differential - we see that this proposed unions is not, in fact, a Samish-Sex Marriage, which I have defined as "any marriage for which the Gender Differential is less than or equal to 10 points." Friends whom I have identified as being in Samish-Sex Marriages often ask me, Ken, given that we have scored poorly, what exactly would you have us do about it? Well, one solution I have proposed is divorce - divorce followed by remarriage to a more suitable partner. "K," for example, could marry a voluptuous high-voiced N.F.L. cheerleader, who would more than offset his tight feminine derriere, while his ex-wife, "S," might choose to become involved with a lumberjack with very large arms, thereby neutralizing her thick calves and faint mustache. Another, and of course preferable, solution would be to repair the existing marriage, converting it from a Samish-Sex Marriage to a healthy Normal Marriage, by having the feminine man become more masculine, and/or the masculine woman become more feminine. Often, when I propose this, my friends become surly. How dare I, they ask. What business is it of mine? Do I think it is easy to change in such a profound way? To which I say, It is not easy to change, but it is possible.

This is the complete text of the short story, "My Amendment", from Persuasion Nation. Reprinted with permission from Riverhead Books.

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