, Research Paper
Woebegone Lover and Wayman in Love
Although in an ideal world it would fit that our lover was a soulmate, most rational people would agree that this is not always the case. Tom Wayman’s “Wayman in Love” details an encounter between a man and a woman that, although devoid of true love, the man feels has been a long time coming. Conversely, Carol Jane Bangs’ “Touching Each Others Surface’s” is the remembrance of a love that is no longer alive. Both of these poems explore the topic of physical encounters that possess no feeling. However, they do so from opposite ends of the spectrum. While “Wayman in Love” is the story of a one-night stand (and therefore devoid of real emotion), “Touching Each Other’s Surfaces” is a tale of love long past.
Tom Wayman’s “Wayman in Love” is a satirical look at the consequences of passion and sex through the eyes of one of the participants. Jut as the main character has finally succeeded in persuading a young lady to join him in passionate embrace, he feels the tug of conscience in the form of a nineteenth-century thinker who joins the couple under the covers. “I’m here to consider for you the cost of a kiss” (11), says the intruder, a gentleman by the name of “Doktor Marx”. Since Wayman had previously been “locked in one of those embraces so passionate that his left arm was asleep”(2-3), it is clear that the young man is now having second thoughts about his one-night stand.
After the initial shock wears off, the main character is able to regain enough composure to break into Doktor Marx’s outline of “costs” of the encounter. These costs are not limited to fiscal matters, but also include the eventuality of longterm commitment and the hinted possibility of sexually transmitted diseases (as indicated by the Doktor’s “medical fees in case of accidents” ). The introduction of this personified conscience before Wayman can even consummate his lust shows the degree to which he feels responsible for his actions, both upon himself and his partner. Had he not cared, he would never have been visited by the good doktor, much less so soon.
Just as it seems that failure to consummate can be avoided, Doktor Marx counters with the consequences for Wayman’s lover. Enlisting an ultra-traditional view of womanhood, the philosopher paints a picture of a dependent housewife not able to make her own decisions. He then directly correlates this to a subservient position in the bedroom, effectively destroying any last glimmer of hope Mr. Wayman ever had of getting lucky. “If you are not working,” says Marx, “you are going to resent your dependent position. This will influence, I assure you, your most intimate moments (19-21).” At this point, it is almost possible to hear the groan of the speaker.
As he makes a last-ditch effort to preserve the moment, Wayman’s conscience again screams stop in the form of another great thinker. As the poet Wayman details the awkwardness of the shifting bodies in the bed to make room for another, Doktor Freud is introduced to the couple and the audience. The connotations of Freud and his Psychoanalytic Theory immediately fall on the last stanza, as the reader can assume that everything that ever pertained to the situation was sex-related anyway. However, instead of bringing justification for the present encounter, Doktor Freud says “I can see that you two have problems…”(line 33). The open-ended nature of his comments leads the reader to believe that the lovers have only begun to understand the consequences of their lust-based encounter.
While “Wayman in Love” details an encounter based solely on lust, “Touching Each Other’s Surfaces” speaks of an embrace in a love long gone. The poem has a tone of affection, but it is an affection that can no longer be completely embraced. The first three lines of the sentence dictate a sense of longing that casts a shadow over the entire poem- “We want to think/ we know each other scientifically;/ we want to believe (1-3).” Why know your love scientifically? The poem even goes so far as to use the terms surgeon, bone bend, and shoulder blade-not exactly the language of Aphrodite. Pointing to the fact that affection did at one time exist, the speaker tells of “objective knowledge that gives us the conviction of intimacy” (4-5). The use of the word “conviction” in the connotation of a reinforced idea juxtaposed against a personal term like intimacy summarizes the dichotomy presented throughout the poem. Were the speaker actually still in love with her lover, she would not be trying force herself to believe this conviction.
The second stanza ends the mention of body parts and medical references and enters a more emotional, metaphorical dimension. Instead of “each hollow, each hair, each failure of form,” (15), the speaker tells of “these currents of feeling rushing past like ripples over a pool of water,” (24-25). In what seems like an attempt to grasp the last bit of love the two shared, the poet expounds upon an idea that questions the existence of permanent love. Instead of a tangible emotion, love is a phantom that casts a spell just long enough to make us trust another individual with our minds, bodies and emotions. Why else would the author refer to love as “this ignorance, this uncertainty, this lack of clear view” (line 35-36) which brings a true feeling that “emerges briefly” (42)? These are not the words of a woman in love, and this makes the tone of this poem much more tragic than the foiled one-night stand of Mr. Wayman.
“Wayman in Love” and “Touching Each Other’s Surfaces” both deal with a romantic encounter that is not based on love. Tom Wayman’s poem is a story recounting the inner turmoil faced by a young man who has finally captured his sexual quarry. While Wayman does face the humiliation of losing his focus (among other things), his situation pales in comparison to that of the speaker in the poem by Carol Jane Bangs. “Touching Each Other’s Surfaces” chronicles an act of passion, with no love to be shared anymore. Both of these poems show a wish that the moment would not end, and both speakers know that it will never happen again. However, for Mr. Wayman, the consequences are only a night of failed pleasure and embarrassment. For the speaker in “Touching Each Other’s Surfaces,” the love is gone and all that is left are the night and memories.