April 20, 2010

The story, “Sexy” by Jumpa Lahiri, is set in Boston.  A woman named Miranda is seeing a married Indian man named Dev.  She works with and Indian woman named Laxmi, whose cousin’s husband has left her for another woman.  When Miranda first meets Dev, his wife is out of the country and they spent a lot of time together.  Miranda is from Michigan and has never dated anyone so worldly, who pays for everything and kisses her hand in restaurants.  She is enchanted with him. He is the first man to tell her she is sexy.  Her coworker’s cousin’s plight does not bother her much at the beginning.  When Dev’s wife comes back, he can only see her on Sunday and he does not take her places anymore.   She still likes him until Laxmi’s cousin comes to visit and Miranda watches her young son while they go to a spa.  The boy tells her that sexy means “loving someone you don’t know”.  When she realizes that Dev is going to use her as long as she lets him, she slowly cuts off the relationship.

                I think many people who have not been there do not realize how easy it is to rationalize something like this.  Most mistresses talk themselves (or are talked by the man) into thinking that the man is only with his wife because of the children, or her mental health, or for his parents, or even that he is about to leave her.  I do not think that Miranda is a bad person, but I do think Dev is.  That is a little hypocritical, I know, but I am a woman.  I identify with Miranda.  I’ve been fooled by men; I’ve done things I knew were bad for me just because I wanted to.  I can understand the draw of an exotic man who says you’re sexy, that’s a heady thing for a Michigan girl, to feel chosen that way.  I think the writer draws a very interesting parallel with Laxmi and her cousin.  Like Miranda knows exactly what she is doing, but she does it still, buying “things a mistress should have”.  She’s playing a role, and it’s sexy to her.  I think it hits her hard when he does not notice the things she buys just for him.  It takes her meeting the son of a man who has left his family to put it in her face, so she cannot deny the wrongness anymore.  She likes Rohin, and she feels sorry for him, but guilty too.  I think in the end that’s what pushes her to end things with Dev.  I wonder if she ever would have done it had she not been roped into watching the little boy.


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