THE MENDOLA REPORT
Reviewed by Lars Eighner
For what it is, The Mendola Report deserves to
be bought, read, and carefully considered by gay
couples, by gays who are considering coupling, and
even by those happy singles who have no intentions
But, for what it pretends to be, The Mendola
Report deserves a healthy Bronx cheer.
Ms. Mendola set out to investigate 'those quiet
gay couples who live in a style that does not draw
attention to itself.' She sent a questionaire through
a network of friends and organizations - but definitely NOT BARS. She reported the response to her
questionaire and interviewed a psychologist and a
number of couples.
The Mendola Report presents a number of issues
which starry-eyed young couples often overlook, like
those dreary insurance and property arrangements.
It also shows that coupling, for gays or straights,
naturally involves some friction and adjustment problems. It is far better to be prepared, and these
insights are easily worth the price of the book.
Unfortunately, Ms. Mendola presents her work as
scientific research on the level of Masters and Johnson, Kinsey, or the Hite Report. She is not a researcher in this class, and she falls on her face
attempting to make herself into one.
Ms. Mendola has carefully tabulated the percentage responses to each of the questions on her questionaire. She appears to think her numbers mean
something, for she cites her own figures time and
again. It is very hard to tell whether she suffers
more from pretension or ignorance.
She reports being happy that the percentage return of her questionaire far exceeded that expected
from mail-back questionaires. The possibility that
this indicates a particualar bias in her sample does
not appear to occur to her. Does she know better?
Does she expect we won't notice?
She refuses to distribute her questionaire in
bars, then cheerfully concludes that coupled male
homosexuals are no more likely to be promiscuous
than coupled male heterosexuals. The possibility
that the promiscuous couples could be hanging out at
the bar is of no apparent concern. And she slips-in
the tacit assumption that there is something wrong
Ms. Mendola does not acknowledge any studies of
homosexual couples which preceeded hers. Is she unaware of this body of literature? Or does she simply
not care to invite comparison between her chatty,
amateur volume and the work of the serious investigators? There is pleaty of room for a popularization
of the findings of the academics, or even for an
amateur to take issue. Ms. Mendola does not have
to pretend to have made the only significant contribution to this field in order to produce a worthwhile book.
But the larger flaw of The Mendola Report is its
failing to make it clear that it is investigating
only one small alternative in gay lifestyle, and,
in fact, only one general form of gay coupling. Her
kind of gay couple is just like straight married
couples - only different. She assumes the values
of straight society and tries to show that gay
couples can live up to them.
COUPLING: A PARTIAL CHECKLIST
by Lars Eighner
How much you love each other, whether your
arrangement will be open, closed or soirewhere in
between, and what you like in bed - these questions
are likely to be answered by the time you are thinking of forming a couple. Here are a few you might
not have considered, but which can make the difference:
Where will you live? Will you both have family,
friends and acquaintances there? What determines
where you live? One partner's job? Is one partner
tied to a locality for some important reason?
Will you both work? If not, will the partner
who stays at home get an allowance of mad money?
How will you handle money? If one of you doesn't
work, what will be done about the hole in the resume
in case of death or separation? Who will own the
house and/or the car? Is there a will to protect
the surviving consort from the avarice of relatives?
Will there be ready cash for the survivor in case
the will is contested?
What about exes, male or female? Children?
How will they be dealt with? Will your arrangement
affect visiting rights or custody?
What do your families know? What will they be
told? Is there likely to be trouble? Is there, for
example, an aging grandparent who need not be given
an explicit picture of the arrangement?
What are your expectations in case of a job
loss or financial reversals? Are there religious
differences? What about housekeeping? Pets? Who
is in charge of the decorating?
What do friends think? Will they be supportive?
How will predatory singles be dealt with? Do you
have coupled friends to socialize with? What aspects
of your life have been geared to being single? How
is the health of your consort? Your own? Is there
an age difference? What can reasonably be expected
of that difference over time?
Is there a fundamental difference in degree of
commitment? What are the relative strengths and
natures of your mutual dependencies? Have previous
relationships fallen into a set pattern? What is
your own real motivation for coupling? What do you
think your consort's motivation is? What are the
reasonable prospects for significant changes in your
life situation? What are your occupational goals?
How will you meet them?
Are there drug or alcohol problems? Gambling?
Does one partner have reservations about his/her
sexual identity? Will your partner be able to interact successfully with your friends? Your family?
Your business associates? Are there cultural differences? Political differences?
These are only some of the possible important
questions. Many do not have right answers and some
will not be very important for a given individual.
Nonetheless, 'the pair who spend hours discussing the
wedding, but no time confronting questions like these
may be in for some unpleasant surprises.
If you believe the object of Gay Liberation is
to be just like straight people - only different,
then you will warm to Ms. Mendola's thesis. If
you appreciate the alternatives offered by the gay
lifestyle, then you will have to take The Mendola
Report with a grain of salt.
The Mendola Report: A New Look at Gay Couples,
by Mary Mendola. Crown Publishers, One Park Avenue,
New York NY 10016. 288 pages. $12.95.