Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why can't he just ______________?

Today is going to be an UGLY day for me. Much in my life is changing and at some point I'll be ready to write a post about that. Today's struggle though is going to focus on digging my car out of about a foot of snow, making my way to Reno to get Beth at the airport, to do some grocery shopping for dad and to make it back home. All, hopefully, without having to "chain up."

But that ugliness is not what has me thinking and it's not what I'm here to write about. What I wanted to share today began with me reading an "article." I use that term VERY loosely as there are so many so-called journalists out there - they have interviews, they review things, they blog, they just spew forth a pleothera of subject matter that MANY people take as gospel because they've read it.

This post is not JUST directed at women - it's directed at men too. Let me start by saying I am NOT in ANY way engaging in what's come to be referred to as "man-bashing." I am also NOT really a fan of what the Feminist Movement has done to our culture. Now, do NOT take that to mean I don't think a lot of good came out of it. I just see that our culture has changed in ways that I don't think a lot of people have taken the time to fully consider. And now that they're left with the aftermath, they're not particularly happy about it.

For people who really know me, they know that I'm a "traditionalist." They also know that Dale would prefer this life as well - a wife who has the LUXURY of being able to stay home and essentially tend the household, focus on raising and caring for the children and her husband; as well as a husband who is the sole (or maybe primary) bread-winner for the family. That's right, I said LUXURY and stay at home - let's face it - you can't have all the nice stuff that society thinks you should have AND exist on one income unless that one income is VERY good. For a lot of people, that just isn't the equation. And even for people who have taken the time or are fortunate enough for this TO be the equation, it's still a struggle because the mentality is - I make "good money" I should be able to have______.

Four our generation, this way of life comes at a great cost. If the "man" is not college-educated, which MANY are not, the odds of being able to live this lifestyle are very slim - particularly when we live in an economy that almost requires dual incomes. BUT, I know families that ARE doing it. Ours is one of them. They get by on less because they spend less. They don't buy new cars every few years, they don't buy designer stuff or brand new homes. They often shop second hand - which is another phenomena all together (re-using and re-purposing is cool now!!) But that's not really what I want to talk about today.

So here it is - how many of you  (man or woman) have heard a woman (married or otherwise) say one of the following things in reference to her significant guy: "I wish he would just ____________!!" Now, fill in the blank with one of these:

  • grow up
  • be a man
  • quit acting like a child
  • be more responsible
  • make more grown up choices
  • be more romantic
  • get me presents
  • KNOW what I want
and the list goes on. In all of these cases, the women in question are asking for their guy to do things that are associated with a by-gone era - when the men were, let's face it, "in charge." Again, I am NOT knocking what feminism has done for the most part. But what I see is this - women's independence has left men wondering:

"What the hell do you want from me??? What is my purpose?"

Women will likely NEVER question their ultimate purpose - they may choose to ignore it, but when you get down to it, our purpose, on a biological level, is to HAVE BABIES. That doesn't mean we MUST do this, but what it means is deep down, we still HAVE purpose - we know that if we become pregnant we will ultimately be responsible for the life of a child - with or without a man around as a father (biologically or otherwise). Men, well men don't know IF they have a purpose anymore, other than possibly being a "sperm donor" which frankly, doesn't even require their "active participation." 

Dale and I have had this discussion often - equal rights and feminism have done amazing things for women. It's given us the right to vote, more respect (sometimes), equality in the workplace, better pay, a sense of independence and personal freedom (including sexual freedom) which even our mother's generation (those born in the 50's and earlier) did not have, and a whole host of other things. HOWEVER, it's also given us more responsibility, greater expectations, debt, and the thing I'm writing about today: a generation of men who are not really men. 

I'll refer to them as the "so-called man" (SCM) because they're not what our society thinks of when they visualize the "ideal" man. They appear as many things, the least of which is capable of supporting a family. Once again - NOT knocking anyone who doesn't want family - but for many women - family IS a priority. The problem is with women's independence and ability to sustain themselves they also gained the ability to look at men and realize, "I don't need you." 

It's a cyclical thing really - The "I don't need you" message is SO strong, so prevalent, that men are left wondering "what the hell do you want from me?" Let's face it ladies, guys are CONFUSED. They genuinely do NOT have a clue when it comes to women... at least for the most part. And let's face another thing - MANY of today's SCM's grew up without a dad of their own - and I'm not just talking split families where they had dad every other weekend and holidays. I'm talking about the fact that our generation - those people in their 30's today - our generation was one of the first where being a single mom was something that happened with any frequency. 

How many of you grew up without a father figure IN the home? Well my guess is you could multiply that by 100 now - Women (the early 20-somethings) are opting to go to college, establish their career and even have a child or children WITHOUT a spouse. It's because they realize they CAN - they are fully capable of handling it all. 

The fall-out of this is that the 20-something guys out there (and hey, even some of our 30-something guys) are left in the lurch. Do they ask the woman out on a date? If they do will she get offended? Is he expected to pick up the tab? Who's supposed to initiate sex? Does he open the door for her? Should he stand up when she leaves the table if they're at a restaurant? Why can women have a "women only" organization (health club etc) but when men try to do the same they're called sexist? Why can women ask for equal pay in the workplace and then also sue for the "locker room humor" that is part of that? Why can the woman be the one to say, "I do NOT want to work, so I'll stay home" while the man never seems to have that option? Yes, there are exceptions to this but that's not the point. I'm speaking in GENERAL terms here. There are literally an infinite number of things that this independence has taken away from the men in our culture, that's right I said, TAKEN AWAY. But the point is that many many men don't feel like men anymore. (Ever heard the comment about the wife carrying her husband's testicles in her purse? Well there you go.)

To steal a line from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, they've lost their "muchness."

The "article" I read can be found here. What I'm putting out there for the women who might ask, "why can't he just ______?" is this - think about what you do and how it impacts not only your guy's "role" in the unit (be it family unit, recently married with no kids unit or dating unit) but how he thinks you view him. Do YOUR actions tell him that you REALLY want him to take the lead? Do your actions say, "I value you" or do your actions say "I don't need you, but I want you to think I do, to act like I do." 

Because that's what it's about - it's as if women want to have their cake and eat it too - we all do right? Well we all know the old saying, "you can't have your cake and eat it too." For the most part this is true. Sure, some couples/families out there manage it. But for me, and most of the women I talk to, we LONG for a way of life that would give us the luxury to be a single income family, ESPECIALLY if children are something we want. Again - many couples out there are perfectly happy with both parents working etc.. this isn't really directed at you guys.... This is for those people who WANT a man who's a "real man" (not saying the other guys aren't real men, but are you getting my point here?)

But, for a lot of these women, they see the price attached to that as FAR too high. To achieve it, they'd have to give up things that, for their whole life, they've been taught are things they have the right to. 

So guys - here's the deal - if you have a "typical" woman in your life, chances are she wants you to take out the trash, help around the house and NOT spend so much time with the guys. She wants you to some-how "know" what she wants, but doesn't want to have to tell you (my theory is that she's confused too and half the time SHE doesn't even know what she wants, so don't feel bad). She wants children but she also wants a career. What guys hear is I want I want I want. What guys are NOT hearing and are NOT getting is: what can I give you? What do you want? 

Listen guys - we're as confused as you are as to what is going on (though many won't admit it). We've been told that we can have Prince Charming AND a career, but no one really told us how to achieve it. We had no role models and no handbook. Most women I know WANT chivalry but they also want to be treated as an equal at other times.... in a lot of ways it's an impossible thing to achieve for you. Some women get this. Others are clueless. So, take a chance. BE a man - not just a SCM. Ask her out on a date, and pay for it, or just ask her if she wouldn't "mind" being "treated" to dinner. If it's important to you to have a woman in your life who's willing to be an at home mom, then LOOK for that - yeah, in our generation it'll be tough to find, but you might be surprised how many women secretly want it. The point is - take the initiative. I know you're feeling like you can't, but just do it. You guys are flexible - you can change tactics later if that doesn't work. Same thing that I'm going to tell the women applies here - she can't guess what you want/need so you MUST tell her. 

Ok girls - your turn. If your guy is sitting in front of the tv playing video games all the time, if he doesn't take out the trash when it needs to be done, if you feel like you constantly have to remind him to do things... If you have ever uttered the phrase, "I wish he would just ___________!" then listen up. YOU can NOT expect him to just guess. It is NOT POSSIBLE for him to just "know" what you want if you don't tell him. Yeah, that might take some of the "romance" out of the equation, but let's face it - our guys are confused.... a LOT of the time. Dale has said to me many times, "Just tell me what you want." Sometimes that's hard for us to do - because there's part of our brain that's still stuck on the Disney channel where Prince Charming is supposed to sweep us off our feet - I don't ever recall Cinderella or Snow White having to tell her Prince to be a certain way. Well ladies, that's because his role was CLEARLY DEFINED... and so was hers. That's not how it is anymore, so time to adjust the game plan. 

Somewhere along the line, our culture lost track of who we're supposed to be. More women are going to college than ever before, in fact, last I heard, the number of women is greater than the number of men! More families are families even though they don't have a father in the equation. More people are waiting longer and longer to get married and have children. In a lot of ways, things are FAR better than they were for our mother's or grandmother's generation of women. But, in a lot of ways, things are NOT better. People are confused about the opposite sex, or even the same sex. Our roles as men and women have been replaced with just roles as "people."..... Of COURSE we're confused. The rules keep changing and no one knows what to expect. 

What I'm trying to say here is this:

Guys - if you want a career wife, great - go look for one - but get real and don't expect that you'll get a June Cleaver at the same time. You'll find she MIGHT want children, but she's going to want you to be an EQUAL parent - which means a lot of the time, especially if you have BABIES, you're gonna get diaper duty, midnight feedings and lack of sleep. If what you want is a SAHM (Stay at home mom) bring that up EARLY in the relationship - I'm not saying first date early, but certainly BEFORE you talk about moving in together or getting married. 

Girls - if you want a career AND family - be ready for your guy to be confused about what you want. He's trying, really he is. But it's hard for him because you're hanging onto the double standard, and likely he's still thinking of Leave it to Beaver....where you have dinner ready and a drink in hand for him when he walks through the door. If you want to be a SAHM, make sure he KNOWS that - don't assume he will or that he'll just somehow figure it out.  NEVER EVER EVER even MENTION marriage even in passing, until you've discussed FAMILY with your guy. Too many of us (myself included) get so excited about "getting married" that we seem to forget what comes with it, or what we think is supposed to come with it. 

Neither men or women are solely "at fault" for this phenomenon that's gripped our culture. It's cyclical - women want more freedom, more rights, men agree... yet both are confused about what's expected. 

So what do we do? I'm not sure - I have ideas... as I've said above - be honest with each other about what you want/need. Don't discount the other person. TALK. Make the expectations clear BEFORE you get serious. Unfortunately, our biology seems to get the better of us much of the time - we rush to marriage and children without thinking because simply that's our purpose in life - to procreate. 

In the end, what I hope this has done is make you think. Where have the men gone? Guys??? Where's your "muchness" and how are you going to get it back while still allowing your significant other to be a strong independent woman. The answer... hmmm... I'm not sure it's possible with the way people think right now. 

Maybe, just maybe, we all need to think a little differently. 

Now, I have to go shovel some snow. 

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