|A lover or a fighter? I suspect there’s a reason the Lord gave me a good flight impulse. Though I lean strongly (and willfully) to Cupid’s side of the question, I still find it a curious dichotomy. Why must we pick just one? And why, when saying one’s a lover not a fighter, do people normally sound a bit apologetic, like being a lover was the booby prize you get for not being the town bully?
It could be the lingering cultural impact from the first major work of European literature: Homer’s The Iliad. Written approximately ten centuries before the birth of Christ, The Iliad takes great pains to divide men into the two camps and to generally have the amorous get their asses waxed by the bellicose. At times, it seems almost comical the degree to which beauty and facility in love are punished in The Iliad; at one point, even the love goddess Aphrodite gets slapped around by war goddess Athena. But nowhere does one see the antagonism expressed as clearly as in the fight between Menelaos and Paris over Helen, the woman they each want, whose abduction set the whole war in motion.
To recap: Paris and the Trojans paid a visit to the Greek Achaians and went back to Troy with the Greek prince Menelaos’ wife Helen. Wife-nabbing apparently didn’t go over so well then, so Menelaos and his brother Agamemnon assemble a couple hundred warships and sail to the Trojan coast to sack the city and get Helen back. Ten years later, the groups are still fighting with no end in sight, so Menelaos and Paris agree to fight one-on-one to see who wins the mega-hottie.
The two men could hardly be more different. Menelaos is constantly described as warlike, tough and broad-chested (if short). Paris, meanwhile, is noted for his full lips, his facial beauty, his way with women and his curly golden locks. Wanna guess who has the upper hand? Before they fight, Hector, Paris’ brother, makes clear what’s at stake: “Evil Paris, beautiful, woman-crazy, cajoling . . . [thus will] you learn of the man whose blossoming wife you have taken. The lyre would not help you then, nor the favors of Aphrodite, nor your locks, when you rolled in the dust, nor all your beauty.” Ouch. And from his own brother!
So, of course, the fight ensues, Paris is getting mangled and is only saved by intervention of the gods. But here is where it gets interesting: having been delivered back to his castle in a cloud of mist, Paris finds Helen, who proceeds to berate him for having lost the battle. His response sets up this week’s Naughty Bit. And, indeed, if one can’t truly be both a lover and a fighter, make no mistake as to which is preferable. Take Paris’ lead and embrace the shame, as you embrace everything else.