Whenever I talked about E.M. Cioran with M.H., he always sneered in his typical fashion and retorted that he couldn't really imagine how the famous French-Romanian thinker had managed to earn his living. He surely didn't write best-selling books, did he? So where did he get the money to survive? I couldn't find any answer to that, didn't know what to say to my sceptical friend, but just felt slightly embarrassed because he was attacking one of my favourite authors, sort of half-God. I was young and gullible. Time passed and in 1995 Cioran died. When his Cahiers were published two years later, I discovered that during his whole life - or at least since the fifties - there had been a woman, Simone Boué, behind him and supporting him. And by supporting him, I mean that she must really have fed him: she was the working one, the one who plodded along when in France her companion's books were neglected by mainstream readers. However, she isn't mentioned in any of Cioran's books, so that when reading his aphorisms or his essays one might be tempted to believe that he lived in utter loneliness, in a small and damp poet's garret in rue de l'Odéon, Paris, which is - admittedly - a very attractive picture of a nihilist thinker. Simone Boué was the silent one and led the very normal life of an English teacher in some obscure lycée. I also read that her first assignments as a teacher were very far from Paris. At the same time Cioran kept on babbling about the meaninglessness of life and history and musing about suicide, which he never committed. Then, in the eighties he was discovered by students - and, he ironically added, not even by university students, but by les lycéens. And before that? Before that there had been good Simone Boué, who after Cioran's death collected and typed Cioran's notebooks and edited them. After their publication in 1997, Simone Boué died in an accident. A very strange one, though, because apparently she drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, at Dieppe - if I am not mistaken, as I haven't found any evidence of this in the internet - where the couple had a home. Of course one can't but think that Simone committed the suicide that her companion had written about for so many years without ever taking the final step.
But Cioran and Simone Boué were by no means an exception, as far as the relationship between a man and a woman is concerned. I just have to look around me and see that we are fed an artificial myth according to which men are the pillars of society (the tough guys) and women always just lag behind. This is still true in politics or economics, which are based upon a sophisticated (and sometimes, or somewhere, not so sophisticated) exclusion of women, but daily life is quite different. Let's say that men like to think of themselves as strong, responsible and carrying the burden of life on their shoulders. Women are often wise enough to make their men (husbands or companions) believe it's true, but I suppose they possess the real strength and the real resilience in life. Men just love acting out power, but in case of need they mostly crumble like dilapidated walls. After giving up the little power they had when they were young and active, older men are as powerful as a handful of dust and as hot as ashes which even a gust of wind can blow away. On the other hand, women are steadier in their silent and hidden strength. They have the strength of those who have always been in touch with life and flesh, and not only with their symbols. Most men are braggarts who want to be flattered in their ego and their ego is perfectly satisfied when they can be convinced that they have done great things. However, never ever believe a word of what a male says about himself: more often than not he's lying. When it comes to actual courage - the courage of doing things and not just faking them - women are far superior and, surely, more enduring. Men explode and then deflate, leaving behind themselves only their pitiful words, whereas women store up energies for times when an important decision is to be made. Then you can be sure that it'll be them who take the final step.
I am not exposing a dry theory: I've seen too many of these male weaklings in my life. First in my own family, where my mother has always been the one who had the guts to make a decision my father was too irresolute about. She's always been strong enough to push ahead. Or I think of I.F. who was flooded by debts when her husband died, the very same husband who had lived his life without giving a damn, like a spoilt child, and who had played the role (but only the role) of the rebellious communist. And I think of D.F. who silently held the reins of their household while her husband wasn't even able to charge the people he had worked for and spent the little money he earned for his whims. Surely he led an interesting life, but a life which had been possible only thanks to the silent strength of a woman who worshipped him, didn't complain about anything and sometimes even struggled to make ends meet. Would you say that in these cases men are the practical and rational creatures they give themselves out to be? Let me doubt it. Furthermore, growing old seems to expose human beings for what they really are. Old age destroys the masks they have been wearing during life's comedy. So when I see older couples I must always admit that the real driving force behind them is often the woman. Men are wrinkled not only in their bodies, but also in their minds and in their egos, and they are grown unable to endure the hardships of that season of their lives. They lean on their wives who are supposed to be the "weaker" element of the couple and mostly look like idiots or children, or both at the same time - an experience I always make whenever I meet a man and a woman, say, in a hospital. He is the wreck who is unable to do things alone and must be backed by her. Women do manage alone.