Dating good idea
Then, later, she wonders why the memories of the encounter make her feel so sick and scared, and she blames herself for overreacting, for not being kinder to Robert, who, after all, didn’t do anything wrong. Margot, certainly, interprets his behavior in this way: she believes that he’s intimidated by her, that she has the upper hand, and this appeals to her.
I can imagine Margot not asking Robert what he does, because she intuits that he might be sensitive about answering the question. Maybe he’s playing to her ego by pretending that she intimidates him; maybe he’s trying to undermine her by implying that she’s a snob; maybe he talks a lot about the fact that she’s in college because he’s fetishized the idea of dating a college girl. Margot, and the reader, can project practically anything onto Robert, because there’s so little there.
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.
It’s in this context that Margot decides to have sex with Robert.
In order to avoid an uncomfortable, possibly risky exchange, she “bludgeons her resistance into submission” with a shot of whiskey. I do think there’s a hint of class tension in the story: Robert teases Margot about her “highbrow” taste in movies, and repeatedly brings up her college education in a way that (in my mind) suggests the possibility that he hasn’t gone to college himself.
In the bar, Margot thinks of Robert as “a large, skittish animal, like a horse or a bear,” that she is taming, coaxing to eat from her hand.
I liked writing Robert’s side of the conversation, on the other hand, in part because I felt like I was his analogue as a writer: both of us were trying to imitate how someone younger would talk, always on the verge of a slip that would give the game away.
That option, of blunt refusal, doesn’t even consciously occur to her—she assumes that if she wants to say no she has to do so in a conciliatory, gentle, tactful way, in a way that would take “an amount of effort that was impossible to summon.” And I think that assumption is bigger than Margot and Robert’s specific interaction; it speaks to the way that many women, especially young women, move through the world: not making people angry, taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, working extremely hard to keep everyone around them happy.
It’s reflexive and self-protective, and it’s also exhausting, and if you do it long enough you stop consciously noticing all the individual moments when you’re making that choice.
Our initial impression of a person is pretty much entirely a mirage of guesswork and projection.
When I started writing the story, I had the idea of a person who had adopted all these familiar signifiers as a kind of camouflage, but was something else—or nothing at all—underneath.
of the story, Robert calls Margot a “whore,” so I hope that most people lose sympathy for him then.