(Français : La poignée de main secrète de Leonard Cohen)
“Suzanne Vega... sometimes tells a funny story on stage about Cohen’s secret-handshake appeal.” David Remnick, Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker, The New Yorker
Suzanne, 63 years old
A secret is a secret; neither Remnick nor Vega revealed it but, according to Remnick, Suzanne gave us a clue:
“in Vega’s memory, admirers of Leonard Cohen in those days were a kind of 'secret society.'”
It seems that that secret society gathers the women Cohen seduced or tried to seduce with that secret handshake. Indeed, Suzanne, a few years ago, at the end of a concert in La Cigale (Paris), introduced me to it; after a pleasant talk, she held out her hand to me, and, at the end of the handshake, caressed my hand with her palm, but rubbed my palm with her thumb. Disconcerted, I did not realize it was an appeal and did not react, but let her hand slip away. Then, I felt a very unpleasant irritation in my palm; Leonard’s caress was likely softer.
Suzanne’s “Luka”1 was a difficult child, and difficult children are most often the victims of the repression of autosexuality2. This is why they become difficult, sensibly, since the prohibition of pleasure is contrary to life. Parents react to difficult children in the same way they were raised: violence and ill-treatment, which teach the law of the strongest from generation to generation.
Later in life, the war of the sexes is a war of oedipian, neurotic vengeance against ill-treatment by the beloved parent of the opposite sex. Seduction, a power relationship that treats the other as an object, is an element of that war. Leonard was a seducer, and by dubious means; he seduced Janis Joplin by pretending to be Kristoffer Kristofferson she was looking for (cf. his song Chelsea Hotel). His secret handshake is an intrusive, little elegant means of seduction.
Treating the child as an object, circumcision is the height of the repression of autosexuality and of the individual’s submission by society. Leonard was a victim of the pedocriminality that mutilates the child and rebelled against it3. In 1994 (at the age of sixty), he withdrew for six years to a Buddhist monastery, where he became a monk. Buddhism is not a circumcising religion, but all religions are fantasies of neurotic males who find a way to fulfil their masochistic guilt and their domination compulsion in their hierarchies.
In July 2022, Suzanne said that, in the eighties, she felt neither male nor female, which changed after the birth of her daughter. It seems that at our meeting in La Cigale, she only wished a fuck, which does not necessarily mean that she would have opted for the male gender. However, from a loved one, a secret handshake, entirely gentle caress or accompanied by unpleasant thumb rubbing, is a “sexual” assault.
2 The psychoanalyst Paul Denis uses the word in Le narcissisme (Paris: PUF; 2012).