The subject of nonconsensual sex—between older men and younger women, in particular—has been very much in the news lately.Do you think of this encounter, which is, at times, cringe-inducing for the reader, as a consensual one? Well, he buys her alcohol, even though he knows she’s underage, and he tells her that he thinks she’s drunk right before he takes her home. But I’m more interested in the way that Margot herself weighs the costs of her own decision to consent.It’s in this context that Margot decides to have sex with Robert.
So much of dating involves this interplay of empathy and narcissism: you weave an entire narrative out of a tiny amount of information, and then, having created a compelling story about someone, you fall in love with what you’ve created.
The moment when I feel the most sympathy for Margot is when, after she spends the entire story wondering about Robert—what he’s thinking, feeling, doing—she is left marvelling the most at herself, and at her own decision to have sex with him, “at this person who’d just done this bizarre, inexplicable thing.”I always wanted to be a writer, but I spent most of my twenties doing anything and everything else. at the University of Michigan, and I’m putting the finishing touches on a short-story collection.
I did the Peace Corps in Kenya, and I was a nanny for a while, and then I spent a long time in graduate school, studying African literature.
story in this week’s issue, “Cat Person,” is both an excruciating bad-date story and, I think, a kind of commentary on how people get to know each other, or don’t, through electronic communication. The story was inspired by a small but nasty encounter I had with a person I met online.
I was shocked by the way this person treated me, and then immediately surprised by my own shock.
of the story, Robert calls Margot a “whore,” so I hope that most people lose sympathy for him then.