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August 18, 2005

Towards A New Concept Of Manliness

vmtv_kutcher.jpg What is up with men and women these days? The lines are blurring. Gender roles are changing and we can't turn back the clock.

I stole this picture from KJ, because frankly I found it disturbing as hell. WHAT KIND OF MAN ALLOWS A WOMAN TO DO THIS TO HIM?

He looks like he should have a leash around his neck and a little twirly propeller coming out of the top of his hat.

Modern culture is becoming way too feminized. I admit, there are some things about this brave new world I like. I have no desire to return to the way things were when I was growing up, when men thought it was perfectly acceptible to be openly patronizing about a woman's intelligence. Or her looks.

I don't want to go back to the days when it was automatically assumed I couldn't do certain things, go certain places, say certain things just because I was born female. That's hard for my daughter-in-law, who is an astonishingly bright young woman, to imagine. Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine, but I can still remember when it was reality.

But sometimes I think the pendulum has started to swing too far the other way. Women's liberation and the entry of females into all walks of modern life have caused dramatic changes in the fabric of our society. Some changes - like growing opportunities for women - are positive. But some, like this namby-pamby, PC feminization of everything from education to pop culture to manners to clothes to language have negative consequences - not just for men, but for everyone affected by them.

Our children are slowly being brainwashed. Turn on your TV set and you'll quickly begin to wonder how we managed for those endless eons before Women's Lib burst the shackles of the Moronic Patriarchal Hegemony. World history must have been a comedy of errors. The Glory that was Rome? Puh-leeze... Julius Caesar? He could never have conquered the Roman Empire on his own. He must have had help from the matriarchy.

That corporate CEO on TV can't even match his own socks unless his ruthlessly efficient wife is there to assist him. Tiny tots roll their eyes and thumb their noses at their fathers. Wives dismiss their husbands. In general, Dads seem to provide little more than a steady paycheck and source of constant amusement.

Whatever happened to Father Knows Best? Surely there is a happy medium here, somewhere in between absolute and unchallengeable patriarchal authority and blowing Dad off as a genial, bumbling idiot who exists only to provide lunch money? In the London TimesOnline Carol Midgely comments:

WHO’D be one of you, eh chaps? Let’s be honest, your CV these days is hardly enviable. Outperformed by girls at school, emasculated by women at home and at work, shockingly dislocated from your emotions and the hapless joke figure in endless TV commercials and sitcoms whose message is that females rule and men are fools.

Well wise up, because apparently it’s time to say enough is enough; the ridicule of men must stop. The pendulum of power has swung too far into the female corner and you must stand up and assert your right to masculinity. Stop apologising for it, be comfortable with it, but while you’re at it try to embrace a few female traits such as compromise, communication and learning to multitask.

And that sounds about right to me. I've gone back to work after raising two boys and watched a Marine, a manly-man who never wanted his wife to work, cope with having the little woman get a high-powered job, go from earning next-to-nothing to working hella-hours, slinging tech-talk, and pulling down a hefty salary, and I can tell you this: women still like their men to be men.

Oh, we like a few of the rough edges rounded off. But not too much, mind you. Don't let us push you around - we won't respect you. Consideration is one thing. That is priceless in a man. In any human being, for that matter. It is a mark of taste and intelligence: of adaptability and maturity.

But one of the reasons I chose my husband, to be quite frank, is that I couldn't push him around the way I could some of my other boyfriends. I have never wanted to be able to be able to push another person around - that's not healthy in the long term. I like balance. If you're evenly matched, you strike sparks.

There was a lot of jargon and silliness in the LondonTimes piece, but some sense as well. Men and women are inherently different, but I think in some senses we are taking on some of each other's better characteristics as society changes, much as married couples do over time. And that is not altogether a bad thing. Women are learning to become a bit more direct and less manipulative. Men are learning to become a bit more sensitive to other people's feelings. Those are not bad qualities, if not taken to extremes.

The problem starts when our social institutions begin to push one set of values over another. A case in point: this set of math texts, which seems to want to beat small children over their pointy little heads with the "Men are Evil" message:

"Would you be willing to tell strangers they had: Smudges on their faces? Food stuck between their teeth? Dandruff?"

Charlotte Allen comments:

A series of pie-graphs then informs the youngsters that--guess what?--men are much more likely than women to engage in such doltish behavior.

Well gosh. Some of us would rather know if we have spinach stuck in our teeth or a smudge on our face so we can do something about it, as opposed to the passive-aggressive approach in which we ignore the problem so as never to hurt anyone's feelings (or worse yet, talk about the person behind their back all day). I suppose I could have made a whole series of pie charts about that one, too? Who's more likely to gossip about you when your slip is showing or you have a run in your pantyhose?

Oh, but that was sexist, wasn't it?

Schools are getting absolutely silly about this sort of thing: eliminating competition, which boys absolutely need to grow and thrive, getting rid of physical activity and large muscle sports, insisting that active young children stay cooped up for hours at a time. Some girls may be able to work that way (I wasn't) but most boys are not. In a misguided attempt to help girls succeed, we are failing our sons. I truly believe this is one of the reasons so many boys are diagnosed with ADD. They are not hyperactive. They are simply normal, active boys who are not being given sufficient outlet for their normal childish energy during the school day in an overly-feminized atmosphere.

This is coming from a very strict mother of two sons who tolerated absolutely no misbehavior from either of her children. They could both sit quite still for long periods when needed, but I also made sure they were able to run or play until they were exhausted every day.

Boys (and men) are not female - they need to face and overcome obstacles and challenges in order to remain confident and vital and alive. Something in their spirit dies if they are not constantly doing, fighting, learning, or exploring the world around them. Boys are often boisterous and bold as well as quiet and studious. That is part of their charm, not a sign of mental illness to be dosed with a sedative. Properly channelled, that energy creates cities, conquers empires, and discovers new things. Women need to understand that and let them be themselves. To appreciate boys and men for what they are and what they bring to life, not try and remake the universe in the image of The Eternal Feminine.

Part of what we decry about the Arab world is that they have lost the contributions of half of their society: the female half. We are so secure, so used to thinking of the male half of Western civilization as dominant that it seems unthinkable to us that we might lose that half of our being. Yet our modern culture is doing just what the Rad Fems deplored the patriarchal hegemony for doing to them: marginalizing men and 'treating them as Other'. When we outlaw or ridicule traditionally male ways of doing things: ways that have worked just fine for centuries: hierarchical authority structures, competition, direct, open communication, individual achievement over group cooperation, we are in danger of doing the same thing to men that men once did to women.

Hopefully today's men are far too smart to put up with such nonsense, but sometimes when I look around a crowded conference table and see that I-can't-believe-I'm-hearing-this look mirrored on enough faces and no one speaks up and says, "What a load of bunk!", I start to wonder whether the collective weight of all this PC madness is just too much.

Posted by Cassandra at August 18, 2005 03:49 PM

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Stupid me...I thought it was the latest caption contest pic. I feel so cheated.

Posted by: Cricket at August 18, 2005 06:58 PM

Caption it - go for it..

Posted by: Cassandra at August 18, 2005 06:59 PM


Posted by: JannyMae at August 18, 2005 07:01 PM

WRT ADD, it is not clear to what extent some teachers are failing to deal with the differences between boys and girls, and to what extent ADD aflicts males more than females. Certainly, it seems that ADD is a real condition caused by inadequate levels of dopamine in the brain.

With respect to differences between males and females, Eleanor Maccoby wrote a very useful book called: The Two Sexes: Growing Up Apart, Coming Together. I think it is worth reading.

Judith Rich Harris also has some interesting stuff to say in The Nurture Assumption.

You can also find out more at her website: The Nurture Assumption Website.

Posted by: RichardSharpe at August 18, 2005 07:24 PM

Sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it too, Cass. I constantly hear my female friends whine about how the "dangerous, bad-boy types" they are attracted to turn out to not be stable and committed to them. Well, duh! Why would you rationally expect a wild child to be anything but what he clearly holds himself out to be? Expecting anything else is delusional.

Like your spousal relationship, my ex-wife said she was attracted to me because I wasn't a wimpy pushover like her prior male relationships. She supposedly was attracted to a "man's man" who wouldn't let her "wear the pants" in the relationship.

During marital counseling, though, her biggest gripe was that she couldn't stand NOT being in charge like she was in prior relationships. The counselor, a grandmother who had raised five daughters, looked at her and said: "Well, dear, what exactly is it that you want in a man? A strong one, or a weak one, because you can't have both." It was probably inappropriate of me to bust out laughing at that point.

After we split, I told her I wish her good luck in finding Mr. Perfect; he who was The Sum of All Things. I am certainly not perfect, nor ever claimed to be. Your thread, though, smacks somewhat of this same viewpoint. "Oh, I want a manly man, but not too manly like they were before feminism", and "I want a sensitive man, but not TOO sensitive like the wimps they've all become since feminism took hold in the popular culture". Make a decision, Goldilocks.

I'm glad that you and the spousal unit are such a good, balanced match, but this is not the norm. Usually you will not find a guy who is simultaneously manly and wimpy, you need to pick one or the other.

I'm sorry if this post has come across harsh, but I am just fed up with women who can't make up their minds about what they want, so they just say "I want it all!" I'm sure there are paragons of manhood out there, but I would think such perfection is rare.

Posted by: a former european at August 18, 2005 07:59 PM

Well afe, just as you think Cass is unreasonable for expecting something in the middle I think you are probably a little unreasonable in expecting it to have to be one or the other extreme.

No person is perfect. There are times I wish the LG were a little more "female" and there are times I wish the LG were a little less "female". I'm sure she'd tell you the same about me (except on the "male" side).

The difference it sounds like afe is that both the LG and I are open to working these things out together while your ex seems to have expected you to do all the work with no effort on her part.

A marriage is a group effort. Emphasis on group and an emphasis on effort. My brother's ex sounds similar to yours. She was perfect, it was him that had the problem. It's easy to become jaded in that situation. I know my brother has.

Are there more women out there like that than there should be? Quite likely. But there are also more guys out there who think their woman should bow and kiss there feet than there should be too.

You just can't work with someone who refuses to put any effort in themselves.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at August 18, 2005 08:36 PM

Those kind of men are what we call "whipped."

With all due respect to all the research, theories and books written on the subject, it really only boils down to a matter of self respect.

A person who respects themselves will also respect others.
One of the main benifits of self respect is the ability to avoid compromising it for whatever reason, be it love, sex, money or power.

Like Ashton, I think Demi is hot too, but I`ve been with hotter ones than her, and I never compromised my respect. For them, or myself.

As Cass said, most girls want a Man. Not a little boy in knee high knickers that they can lead around all day.

Just like most guys think Bad Girls are hot, and like the IDEA of Bad Girls, when it comes right down to it, they don`t really want to marry them.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at August 18, 2005 08:37 PM

afe, part of finding a mate in life is finding someone who matches you in temperment. There is nothing wrong with that.

If someone is not honest with you, if they give in to you (when you didn't even ask them to) out of some misguided attempt to curry favor with you, that is not a good thing. It means the affection/attraction in the relationship is out of balance -- too one-sided to last.

I have never in my whole life tried to 'wear the pants' in any relationship, nor have I been attracted to (or dated) "bad boys". You are reading a whole lot of things into my post that I never said, and I just looked into the mirror and I am fairly certain (correct me if I'm wrong) that I am *not* your ex-wife.

I have absolutely no trouble in deciding what I want in a mate. I've dated the same kind of guy since I was very young: quiet, hard-working, serious, stable, intelligent, witty. I don't like flashy and I don't like loud men.

And yes, you were being harsh. For no reason.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 18, 2005 08:42 PM

And what joat said:

A person who respects themselves will also respect others. One of the main benifits of self respect is the ability to avoid compromising it for whatever reason, be it love, sex, money or power.

That's what made me fall in love with my husband. Integrity. He is all of one piece, and if he was capable of loving himself, as odd as that sounds, I knew he would be capable of loving me and my children for a lifetime.

I've never been disappointed in him.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 18, 2005 08:45 PM

Boys (and men) are not female - they need to face and overcome obstacles and challenges in order to remain confident and vital and alive.

I know this is one of my pet peeves. The LG will tell you that normally I have the patience of a saint. But if you want to see me get angry tell me I'm not up to a challenge. Tell me "You need my help because you can't do it/are doing it poorly".

Keep in mind I'm talking general trends here, of course there are exceptions and just because you are one doesn't make a darn bit of difference.

Women (the LG especially) tend to not understand why this pisses us guys off. Women see it as helping out since two people can solve a problem faster than one. By working together the relationship (where women get there self-esteem) is strengthened. Men see it as insulting because it makes us seem useless (usefullness/competence being where men derive their self-esteem). If you don't need us around, what the point in having us around.

You want to emasculate a man, strip him of all purpose.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at August 18, 2005 08:57 PM

I think my monitor is FUBAR........tell me those aren't capri pants that dude is wearing....


Posted by: Greg at August 18, 2005 09:12 PM

I could tell that Greg, but I'd be lying.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at August 18, 2005 09:35 PM

Hmm. Looks like we struck a few nerves with this one.

My take on it, is I've known too many marriages where one or the other spouse got married, expecting that their partner would, "change," for them. Most of these marriages have resulted in divorce. One particular marriage comes to mind, where the couple had completely different goals--she wanted a career, he expected a stay at home mother of a half-dozen children. Why they ever got married in the first place is still a mystery to me.

Nobody is perfect, male or female. The key to a successful relationship is accepting your partner as they are. Are there minor little areas where compromises need to be made? Of course! But entering into a marriage, knowing the man you married likes to go out, "drinking with the boys," after work, several nights a week, expecting that he is suddenly, magically, going to stay home with you every night, is utterly absurd! Yes, I know a woman who did this. She is now divorced.

I agree with the self-respect angle. I also agree with someone who made the case that many women are ambivalent about what they want in a man. Conversely, I believe that many men are also ambivalent about what they want in a woman. No wonder we're so confused!!

Posted by: JannyMae at August 18, 2005 09:38 PM

If I would have worn Capri pants, and maybe cried a little, I might have saved my crappy marriage. Sadly, I am not the Alan Alda type. I agree with Joatmoaf that it was more important to me to stay true to myself and keep my self-respect as a man, than pretend I was a nancy boy.

Cass, I apologize for my harshness. Please forgive me. I should not post when angry, but you hit a nerve. I am truly happy that you and the spousal unit have found such a good balance. What bothers me is the ambivalent attitude towards men. I was having a conversation with some female friends this week re this same issue, and I got an earful of "well, I want this", but "now I want something else". I thought this displayed a shocking level of either immaturity or delusional thinking.

I've never claimed to be able to understand "female logic", and I suppose men's thinking can be just as opaque to women, but I came away with the conclusion that these gals must be nuts. Might as well go seek to find a circular square, as you could the type of guy they were describing.

For someone like me who is back on the dating scene after a long absence, this is very frustrating. The thinking of those gals strikes me as the kind of fantasy-thinking I would expect sheltered teenage girls to have, not mature women who have had some experience with reality (they are well beyond their teenage years). I don't know, maybe I'm the one with unreasonable expectations re a realistic view on life.

Posted by: a former european at August 18, 2005 10:38 PM

Good point Janny, and if I may, there is another type of situation I've seen, that is a bit like what you've described.

I've known a couple of women that fell in love with the type of man that were a leaders every where , all the time, the type of man that always wants to take control of whatever the situation is, leaders in their sport team, leaders in their hunting trips, leaders in conversations, had high positions at work; leaders again.

To those women that was manly and irresistible.

But after a couple of year of marriage, the women started complaining that their man wanted to control everything all the time...DUH!

A few of them are divorced now, of course.

Did they think that at home the man would have a different personality?...

Posted by: Friend of USA at August 18, 2005 11:10 PM

Certainly, it seems that ADD is a real condition caused by inadequate levels of dopamine in the brain.

In a word: bullshit.

ADD is childhood, without discipline or the opportunity to burn off energy. Add either, and its solved.

As for what Cass said, I agree. Well, maybe. But I'm no pushover dernit.

Posted by: KJ at August 18, 2005 11:36 PM

Okay - now I have found myself seriously disturbed at two of my favourite Blogs. Cass and KJ what are you thinking? :). This picture is really starting to trouble me. I always thought that Demi Moore was cute but anybody that would hang out with a guys who dress like a English schoolboy. She has just gone down seriously in my [insert wild fantasy here]. I know that there is an age difference in their relationship but am I the only person wierded out by this. It really reminds me of a mother pulling the arm of an uncoperative child on the way to somewhere he doesn't want to go.....

Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhlboy at August 19, 2005 12:41 AM

"Robin Hood: Men in Overly Short Pants"

"Hey, where's the flood?"

Posted by: Patrick Chester [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 03:53 AM

afe -

I am sorry you are finding women to be so shallow. I'd suggest that you not date anyone who has a copy of Cosmo or ANY of those magazines you find at the checkout on her coffee table. Watch out if she gets her relationship cues from "Sex and the City", and if she has a huge load of divorced friends that she runs with. Bubble-headed thinking and man-hating attitudes can be contagious.

In my experience, finding an interesting woman to talk to is a difficult for a woman as it is for a man. (There is an abundance of interesting women here at VC, which is great!)

I once knew a man who wanted to date me, but I was head-over-heels in love with MathMan (some things never change!) so it didn't go anywhere. I worked with a woman who was single and about his age, so I introduced them over lunch. He behaved as I knew him to be, a kind gentleman, but she changed completely in front of my eyes into something that can best be described as a "ball breaker". I was mortified that I had put my friend through this, and apologized later. She showed me one side, but had a very nasty other side which she carted out when meeting men. Geez! No wonder she was single!

Many guys I used to date weren't comfortable with a smart woman after a while, so I used to dumb it down. That was a serious mistake on my part. It led to a marriage where I spent six years ducking and covering, and having my growth squashed like a June bug. When I escaped with my life and not much else, I made a solemn promise to myself that I would never play dumb again, even if it meant never having another date, and never marrying.

Well, it turns out that MathMan likes a smart woman. He said the biggest problem in college was that the smart women he met could arm wrestle him, and win. :)

I wish you luck finding someone who will love you, just the way you are. It can happen.

Posted by: MathMom at August 19, 2005 08:27 AM

afe, whatever 'balance' my husband and I have found has been hard-won. Yes, over 28 years together we have been very happy, but that doesn't mean we haven't had our rough patches. Sometimes (rarely, but it happens) we fight like cats and dogs.

Ours is a marriage that probably should not have worked out. We were so young and I'm not sure either of us knew what we wanted in life. But I'm not sure how much that matters, after all. People make way too much of this 'feeling' crap. Marriage is a partnership, not a feeling.

We did marry for love, but I grew up reading about arranged marriages. Every time things have seemed bad to me, I have thought that if two people who didn't even know each other could make a go of it, then certainly two people who chose each other intentionally should be able to make it work.

And I was lucky in that the man I married was a good man, and he has also worked at the relationship. It takes two. My childhood best friend was not so lucky the first time around - like MathMom, her first husband was not right for her and he wasn't willing to try.

But then she found a wonderful man and they have been together for ten years. He accepts her for who she is, and she, him. It took time, but eventually they found each other. It sounds to me like your ex-wife was not willing to try, and that is less a comment on you than it is on her character and maturity.

People get out of life what they put in.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2005 08:51 AM

Men see it as insulting because it makes us seem useless (usefullness/competence being where men derive their self-esteem). If you don't need us around, what the point in having us around. You want to emasculate a man, strip him of all purpose.

I just wanted to thank you, Menace, for that.

This is something I really knew, but it made me see something that has been bothering me for a long time in a different light (maybe more through my husband's eyes? even though it makes no sense to me emotionally).

So often, we just appreciate you guys *just for being there* every day. It doesn't really matter much, at least to me, that you *do* anything for us.

I knew in a sense, but didn't really realize how important it was, or maybe more accurately *why* it was so important to you that you do something for us.

That is something I need to remember. Sometimes I have issues with being too independent.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2005 09:03 AM

Yeah, by in large men are doers. That's why when ya'll have a bad day and come complaining to us we start offering solutions. We think you've asked for advice on how to solve a problem. (Men don't have a problem receiving advice so long as it's asked for). We trying to show our love for you by doing something about the problem.

And for this, you yell at us for "not listening". Which is not anywhere near the truth. Of course we listened, if we hadn't we wouldn't be able to propose workable solutions. The problem is that there is an unspoken second half of the sentence (that I had to learn the hard way): "...and shutting up." If a guy told another guy about a problem and his only reply was "yeah, that sucks" it would be considered rude. This, however, is almost exactly what women want. They aren't asking for advice, they're asking for empathy. I don't pretend to understand it, but I know enough to do it.

And this brings me to another point about relationships: Love isn't just an emotion, it's also an action. It's something you do. It's a verb. Just as you might not feel like going to the gym some days, after you get in and start working out you end up feeling like it after all. If you do those things that express love to your SO you'll soon feel love for your SO (and they'll feel loved too). If the two of you want to keep feeling in love, the two of you need to keep acting in love.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at August 19, 2005 10:46 AM

That's so funny :) We got into a 'discussion' in the car a few weeks ago because I wanted to discuss my 'feelings' about something that was really bothering me [cue the deer-in-the-headlights look]. At this point, he should have (pick one, keeping in mind there is no right answer if you are male and any answer you pick is correct if you are female):

1. run the car off the road
2. shot himself - it would have been less painful
3. shot himself, and then me

I was only trying to explain why I'd been so moody all week - I didn't want to discuss it. I guess I was trying to justify the fact that I had basically been pretty uncommunicative and make up for it.

But then he had to go and talk. He had no right :) And of course he didn't agree with *anything* I'd said about my feelings, so then he wasn't listening to me, which was clearly *his fault* for being male, and also, there he was, breathing my oxygen again.

Men can be so annoying.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2005 11:12 AM

I think I would just like to agree with the Menace's take upon the man's need for usefulness and competency.

For a man, there really isn't anything else. If you aren't useful, if you aren't competent, and if you can't do it yourself, really there isn't much point to you out there. While this may be more true of women now in the workplace, its always been this way for a man and so its really a large part of our life. Other than sports, beer, and all the other fun stuff.

And although I'd never hold this against my wife as I know she's trying to help, there's nothing more frustrating when I'm doing something new and unfamiliar and since I'm being 'slow' at it, she feels I need some help and does it herself. I suppose, if a man wanted help we'd ask for it. Otherwise, we are usually rather pleased to puzzle it out for ourselves.

Posted by: ceramic at August 19, 2005 11:44 AM

Balance, nuance, wishy washy, etc.

That is part of the give and take of marriage.

I can't read my husband's mind because for some bizarre reason, the much fabled feminine intuition fails me and I have to talk to him in order for him to talk to me, and then, horror of horrors to the feminazi set, I have to listen.

He does the same with me. However, he knows me so well that he can almost read my mind. I don't expect it all the time, but it is nice when it happens. And I do the same with him.

I don't think we could get along on that level if we both hadn't worked at it all these years.

Love is a verb and yes it does mean having to say you are sorry and working things out.

Posted by: Cricket at August 19, 2005 02:38 PM

Cricket, I agree. I have long thought that the platitude "Love means never having to say your sorry" was the absolute worst blatently stupid pile of bovine excrement to every be committed to celluloid.

Love means having to say your sorry a lot often for things that aren't even your fault.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at August 19, 2005 02:57 PM

I agree, Menace.

If you care about someone, you say you're sorry when you've done something wrong, and sometimes just when you've hurt or upset them unintentionally. You don't have to cover yourself in guilt (and if they're fair, they won't expect that), but showing you care that they're upset is never a bad idea.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2005 03:11 PM

Hmm. Now I feel like a Martian. None of this seems to describe me. I'm a female who likes challenges (and tech). I don't want to be in a relationship where *anybody* wears the trousers. Why can't I love someone for who they are rather than what they can do for me? Why shouldn't I do it myself if I can?

I completely agree the schools are idiotic, though. The real world has competition, harsh assessments, and winners and losers. Everybody (male and female) needs to know how to deal with this. Also, children aren't that dumb. They know when they are being patronized and all it does is create contempt for the alleged authority figure doing the patronizing.

Posted by: Bad Cat Robot [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 03:24 PM

I'm really sorry that I have nothing meaningful to add to this debate.
And I mean that. Really, really sorry.

Really. Even though it is my fault. Really.

Sorry about that, really.

Posted by: David at August 19, 2005 03:33 PM

Man, I must be expressing myself badly on this one.

I don't want to be in charge and I don't particularly want to be bossed around either. I'm looking for an equal.

And I sympathize with your "Why shouldn't I do it for myself if I can" - that was the point of what I was saying to Menace. But if you're in a long-term relationship and you want it to last, you have to make sure you both get something out of it. And that means sometimes you take your partner's needs into account too.

I don't think that means sacrificing your own wants 100% of the time, but if you can't learn to see things from your partner's POV, it sure won't last. There is a give and take, and sometimes you give in on this, knowing your partner will give in on something you care about that is important to him, just because it's what you need. That's what makes a marriage (or a business relationship, for that matter) profitable and happy.

It's only when that give and take gets out of balance that things go wrong. As long as things stay fair, it works to everyone's advantage and you both come out ahead in the end. The amount to which you cooperate depends on your personalities and the responsibilities you have - obviously if you have kids there is a lot more involved than if you are dual income, no kids.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2005 03:35 PM

And David, you suck :)

And I mean that with all my heart.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2005 03:35 PM

naah, Cass, I got your take on it. ;-) I was also addressing some of the comments. Absolutely you have to take your partner's needs into account in a relationship. As long as they do the same for you, anyway (and I guess that's where it stops being a relationship if they don't) The issue may be that there are ranges of behaviors for men and women, and there is healthy overlap. In my very personal opinion, the overlap is naturally large and culture squishes it various directions. No, I don't mean going for "sensitive" men and "ball-breaking" women. Maybe it is just me, but I find the obviously "sensitive" types equally annoying whether male or female. Ditto the ball-breakers. And nothing makes me remember an urgent dentist appointment faster than someone wanting me to discuss my "feelings". Blech.

Posted by: Bad Cat Robot [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 04:10 PM

Oh good. I was starting to wonder if I was losing it! Sometimes I think I know what I'm saying but it comes out all wrong. Actually, that happens to me a lot.

I agree.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2005 04:44 PM

"Man, I must be expressing myself badly on this one.

I don't want to be in charge and I don't particularly want to be bossed around either. I'm looking for an equal."

Cass, I think you used the word, "equal," when you really meant, "balanced." You did revert to that word, by the end of your post. There are some areas where I would say I, "dominate," and others where my husband does. There is, however, a balance, which we have achieved over the last twenty-five plus years, definitely by working at it, and through compromise. Compromising does not mean giving up who you are. If that is happening, then one person is doing too much, "giving in." There isn't a balance.

Posted by: JannyMae at August 19, 2005 05:06 PM

I don't have anything to offer on all this excellent love advice. However, as to the comment:

"I always thought that Demi Moore was cute but anybody that would hang out with a guys who dress like a English schoolboy."

All I can say is, I could forgive him if Demi were dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit.

Posted by: KJ at August 19, 2005 06:43 PM

I still wouldn't forgive him, I just wouldn't exactly notice that he was still in the picture. :©)

Posted by: Masked Menace© at August 19, 2005 06:51 PM

I think Mathmom nailed it for me. I like smart, accomplished women, but think I have run into a big patch of Cosmo-reading, Sex in the City- watching, bubbleheads; hence the frustration. I agree its probably just as hard for women to find smart, interesting men. Part of it also is just the general weirdness it feels to be dating again after so long.

The whole notion of equality, though, is something I'm not sure I agree with. While it sounds good in theory, it is much harder to implement. It also depends on what you mean by "equality".

In my circumstance, I consider myself smart (always been at or near top of my class), I have been fortunate in achieving a great measure of professional success (I now run my own PLLC), I was an excellent collegiate athlete (now, sadly, my girth has advanced in my middle-age years), and I have had a tremendous amount of "life experience" (escapee from Soviet Bloc; rough childhood/adolescence).

Although I loved my ex dearly, she was obsessed with the notion that we had to be "equal". This meant, to her, an endless competition between us where she had to show she was just as good as me in all things. This is the kind of chip-on-my-shoulder, I am woman hear me roar, feminist crap that has made relationships that much more difficult.

In my case, she always felt the need to compete with me, even though I did not feel so reciprocally. Therefore, because I had better grades than her, was a better athlete, was more professionally successful (none of which mattered to me, because I don't "keep score"), she became more angry and frustrated with our "inequality". Her final solution was to simply constantly tear me down so she could feel better about herself and make us more "equal". As you would expect, the marriage didn't continue for much longer in the face of such a poisonous atmosphere.

Posted by: a former european at August 20, 2005 06:33 PM

afe, I don't think your ex felt like she was equal to you: that's why she kept competing with you.

There are certain things my husband is just plain better at than I am and I would never dream of disputing that. I don't feel diminished because he is more practical than I am, for instance. Or a better financial manager. Or a better judge of character. Or a better long-range planner. He's incredibly insightful - he will see aspects of a situation 99% of other people miss: it's one of his best qualities. I leave these things to him - he excels at them - why would I wish to compete with him?

On the other hand, I am better at other things, and he admits that without any particular sense of inferiority. I'm a better abstract thinker. I'm better at improvising - put me in a tight spot and I'll come up with a creative solution no one else thought of. And I can fix things, though I never know why they work: they just do. I use my intuition. I'm better at high-level math. He's better at calculation. Go figure.

I have a knack for getting people to cooperate with me, even though I'm not very outgoing and I don't like talking to people I don't know. I see possibilities in every situation, where he sees potential problems. Both are strengths, looked at the right way. Strangely enough, though he is far more cynical than I am about people, when he describes people to me from work, I usually will nail potential problem people right away. I think it's because I love him and I'm hypersentive to anything that might hurt him, where in real life I excuse people over and over again when they do rotten things. So I'm probably more perceptive than I think, but I make excuses for people, except when it comes to him.

And if you'll excuse my saying so, you mention 'what you mean by being equal', and then you go on to say you had better grades, were more successful, etc.

It sounds as though you and your ex were NOT evenly matched in intelligence/talent. Perhaps attraction was what led you into the match and not a perfect match in the personality/mind department?

I had a hard time at first when my husband went to grad school and I hadn't even been to college yet. But what saved us was that I read 3-4 books a week and though I hadn't been to college, there was no doubt that I was his intellectual equal. I could still understand him when he came home and talked to me about econometrics. And that pushed me to go to college, because even though he didn't care that I wasn't a college graduate, the disparity in our educations bothered me.

Now he still has a Masters and I don't, but frankly I don't see that there is any disparity in our intellectual development, because I'm more intellectually-inclined than he is. I try to keep learning and stay on a par with him, not out a sense of competition, but out of a sense of companionship.

And FWIW, you're not alone in thinking the dating scene is weird. I remember sitting at a very elegant dinner party at 1 am not long ago and talking with a bunch of singles (all my age) and thinking, "This is all so fricking high-school". The conversation could have been transplanted back 30 years without losing a beat. These were all successful, good-looking people, but I thought: "Wow - they still haven't grown up. How sad."

Posted by: Cassandra at August 20, 2005 08:05 PM

Janny's exactly right: "balanced" is a much better word.

I used to joke around that the Unit and I have "spheres of influence" where one or the other is in control. We can't do much together: either one of us or the other has to be in charge of a project. We once tried to stake out the boundary of a fence for our yard and almost killed each other :)

I love the man dearly, but after 28 years together, we've learned that one of us or the other steps forward and takes charge. Anything new, we discuss and usually come to an agreement very quickly because we've been doing this so long.

If we don't agree, frankly, most of the time, it's going to be him because I'm pretty laid back and just don't care about 99% of the stuff we talk about.

There are very few things I won't cave on. If I don't cave right away he pays attention because that's unusual. So on those matters, he backs off and I'm in charge. And he's really great about not trespassing.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 20, 2005 08:17 PM

What AFE says about his ex wanting to be his equal or better seems to me like such a waste of energy. Life is sweeter when you find something that really floats your boat, and share the joy with your spouse, instead of trying to rob him of his joy. That way two of you can grow together. I believe women and men are different, and I think that is just fine.

I love MathMan for his strengths, and for his weaknesses. As in Cass' case, he has the greater education, and in my opinion is the demonstrably smarter of the two of us. He says I'm smarter, but I know better. Call me June Cleaver, but there is nothing more thrilling to me than for him to come home and tell me about an accomplishment of his at work, or to get to see him in action. I like to see him shine. I like to hear people say nice things about him. I like when he gets letters from his former employees in Saudi Arabia, when they tell him that working for him was the best work they've ever done. I saw that he was really unique and special, and it makes me proud when others see the same thing.

When he was leaving his job consulting for the Air Force so we could moved to Alaska, one of his co-workers said to me at his going away party, that no matter who was in the room, MathMan was always the smartest. She said she had grown professionally, and had gotten ideas she would never have had on her own, because she worked with him. This made me extremely proud, because I'd seen this in his effect on me, and I was glad that someone else saw to the core of his being and knew what a good person he is. I always tease him before he goes out the door to work that he should "just pull out enough to win."

You see, I take pride in his accomplishments. He takes pride in mine. When he had the stroke last year prepping for the heart transplant, he was moved to a diferent hospital for a bunch of heart tests. A physical therapist came to see what deficits he had from the stroke, and he waltzed through the ICU with her. She said they don't usually see people with hearts as bad as his who can walk, let alone waltz, and asked him what he attributed this to. He said "my wife believes in alternative medicine, and has kept me alive." If I needed any payment, I got it that day.

He has been like fertilizer for my growth. He is one of the reasons I made it through many semesters of higher math. As I always joke about him, he may not be able to tell you want he wants to take for lunch, but you can wake him up from a dead sleep at 2 am and ask him for the fundamental theorem of calculus, and he can tell you. I absolutely love that! I wish I had his gift for math, his ability to see bulls**t in an argument, and his ability to be succinct in my thoughts. But I don't.

When we were both independent computer consultants, prior to the birth of our first son, there was one month when we were both working very long hours, and since we were paid hourly, each hour counted. I actually hauled down more money that month than he did. I really truly wondered how he'd handle that. Well, he called every one of his brothers and sisters, and his parents, and said we'd had a red-letter day at our house, because I'd made more money than he. That's who he is.

I think if you can take pride in each other, instead of compete with each other, things will go much more nicely. I think we complement each other, nicely dovetailing relative strengths and weaknesses, as Rocky said, filling gaps.

Posted by: MathMom at August 20, 2005 09:36 PM

I agree MathMom.

I say I worried a bit when the Unit got his Masters and I had not even graduated from college. And all my life I have wanted to go to grad school, and now at 46 I'm facing the fact that I may never get to go (or maybe I will) but whether I go or not will be my decision, and I will be happy with it.

But either way, it was I who pushed him to apply for grad school in the first place and I have never regretted that. It was such a joy to watch his mind light up and catch fire. He is a better person for having gone, a better Marine. If you love someone, you don't want to hold them back - you want them to push themselves and become the best they can be.

I can't count how many Marines have come up to me in private and said how much they admire his mind, and that makes me so proud to be his wife.

It's funny, what you say about you and MathMan arguing over who is smarter. I think my husband is smarter than I am too. And he says I am smarter than he is, which is a load of bunk. It's not whether you have a degree or not or how much you make or even whether you get that big promotion.

We can't always control the external things in life - there are tradeoffs to all these decisions. My Mom has no degree yet she is uncommonly well-read and can discuss just about any subject you care to name. I think life, in the end, is what we choose to make of it, and whether we choose to view the glass as half-empty or half-full.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 20, 2005 10:00 PM

I somewhat understand your outlook about "dating" at your age, because IMHO, most people that are middle-aged and "dating" are in some way emotionally or psychologically "crippled".
What do I mean by that?
If they have never married or never been close to being married, I'd say that they have a real problem dealing with the "opposite" sex.
If they were married, and are now divorced, they are probably still wounded from the emotional trauma of divorce.
When we are teens or young adults, we are emotionally immature, yet trying to become "whole", as a person. If we are lucky enough to find a complementary soul and love mate, the journey to becoming a complete person (emotionally, sexually, intellectually, etc.) can go forward happily (see Cass and Mathmom as examples).
But I have seen one of my closest friends going through a divorce he did not want, and frankly being "lost" for several years. He didn't fall apart, he just became sort of withdrawn. I've seen the same with two of my sisters, one widowed at a young age, and the other divorced (twice).
Fortunately, my friend found a very good woman who needed him, too, and while they are hardly Romeo and Juliet, they both quietly adore each other (though they never admit it, it's kind of cute , really).
My widowed sister has finally found an older man who is a very good and decent fellow, and cares about her very much and treats her and her daughters in a very kind way (as opposed to her second husband, who was a schmuck).
My twice-divorced sister is a real mess (emotionally).
I think that our social norms have become so fractured that the common social ground for men and women has been reduced. It's hard for (middle-aged) single men and women to find someone compatible, just in some of the simnplest terms.
Best of luck to you, friend.

And Cass:
"you want them to push themselves and become the best they can be."
Which is sort of the thought behind that remark about your "future" I made a few days back about the L-career, if you recall.

Posted by: David at August 20, 2005 10:31 PM

I've done a bit of reflecting over the last few days. I feel for AFE, and the problems he is having being back in the, "dating world." My twice-divorced sister is just getting to the point where she is ready to go back, "out there," and at the age of 53, it's not going to be easy for her. She has experienced two marriages where the men ended up treating her abominably. It will be very hard for her.

I believe my husband and I have evolved together, into mature adults, with the help of one another. My hubby is the best father I know, despite the fact that he had no direct example to follow. Somehow I wonder how he puts up with my moodiness. He is one of the nicest people I know, and our friends and family will all attest to this. I can be a real bitch, which our friends and family will attest to, also. I have, however, "mellowed," considerably over the last 25+years.

I credit, in large part, Kirk's mother, for the way he has turned out. Kirk's dad committed suicide when Kirk was six. His mother had just lost her second child, and had a six week old baby at the time. Not long after, she remarried a nightmare of a man. How she survived that period in her life and is so stable and supportive of her children now, is a mystery to me. Obviously, Kirk went through hell during that time as well. Kirk says that, not having a stable father figure, he looked to other male role models, such as teachers, family friends, and an uncle, for examples of what a, "man," ought to be. He has done a marvelous job.

Posted by: JannyMae at August 21, 2005 02:29 PM

I know that, David, and I took it in that spirit :) It's just that for the next few years we face the prospect of moving every single year, so making plans ahead of time (like applying for and completing a 3-year school) is pretty much out of the question for me.

Anyway, life is strange. Things can always change.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 21, 2005 04:06 PM

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