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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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  • First Published:
    Apr 2006, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 240 pages

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Print Excerpt


I know, because I have done it.

When young, I had a tendency to speak too quickly, while gesturing too much with my hands. Also, my opinions were unfirm. I was constantly contradicting myself in that fast voice, while gesturing like a girl. Also, I cried often. Things seemed so sad. I had long blond hair, and liked it. My hair was layered and fell down across my shoulders, and, I admit it, I would sometimes slow down when passing a shop window, to look at it, to look at my hair! I had a strange constant feeling of being happy to be alive. This feeling of infinite future possibility sometimes caused me to laugh when alone, or even, on occasion, to literally skip down the street, before pausing in front of a shopwindow and giving my beautiful hair a cavalier toss. To tell the truth, I do not think I would have scored very high on my Manly Scale, if the Scale had been invented at that time, by me. I suspect I would have scored so Fem on the Test that I would have been prohibited from marrying my wife, "P," the love of my life. And I think, somewhere in my heart, I knew that. I knew I was too Fem.

So what did I do about it? Did I complain? Did I whine? Did I expect activist judges to step in on my behalf, manipulating the system to accommodate my peculiarity?

No, I did not.

What I did was, I changed. I undertook what I like to think of as a classic American project of self-improvement. I made videos of myself talking, and studied these, and in time succeeded in training myself to speak more slowly, while almost never moving my hands. Now, if you ever meet me, you will observe that I always speak in an extremely slow and manly and almost painfully deliberate way, with my hands either driven deep into my pockets or held stock-still at the end of my arms, which are bent slightly at the elbows, as if I were ready to respond to the slightest provocation by punching you in the face. As for my opinions, they are very firm. I rarely change them. When feeling like skipping, I absolutely do not skip. As for my long beautiful hair - well, I am lucky, in that I am rapidly going bald. Every month, when I recalculate my ranking on the Manly Scale, I find myself becoming more and more Manly, as my hair gets thinner and my girth increases, thickening my once lithe, almost girlish, physique, thus insuring the continuing morality and legality of my marriage to "P."

My point is simply this: If I was able to effect these tremendous positive changes in my life, to avoid finding myself in the moral/legal quagmire of a Samish-Sex Marriage, why can't "K," "S," "L," "H," "T," and "O" do the same?

I implore any of my friends who find themselves in a Samish-Sex Marriage: Change. If you are a feminine man, I urge them, become more manly. If you are a masculine woman, become more feminine. If you are a woman and are thick-necked or lumbering, or have ever had the slightest feeling of attraction to a man who is somewhat pale and fey, deny these feelings and, in a spirit of self-correction, try to become more thin-necked and light-footed, while, if you find it helpful, watching videos of naked masculine men, to sort of re-train yourself in the proper mode of attraction. If you are a man, and, upon seeing a thick-waisted, athletic young woman walking with a quasi-mannish gait through your local grocery, you imagine yourself in a passionate embrace with her, in your car, a car that is parked just outside, and which is suddenly, in your imagination, full of the smell of her fresh young breath - well, stop thinking that! Are you a man or not?

I, for one, am sick and tired of this creeping national tendency to let certain types of people take advantage of our national good nature by marrying individuals who are essentially of their own gender. If this trend continues, before long our towns and cities will be full of people like "K," "S," "L," "H," "T," and "O" "asserting their rights" by dating, falling in love with, marrying, and spending the rest of their lives with whomever they please.

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

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