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January 03, 2007

A Question Of Balance

Yesterday over at the Cotillion this post raised quite a few hackles:

Instead of getting frustrated by men, and accusing your son of having 'ADD,' perhaps women could simply try to understand them. It seems to me that we live in a world where, increasingly, manliness is considered to be some sort of disorder, and something we need to crush.

It's no wonder so many men are depressed and confused about their role. It's no wonder divorce rates are high. It's no wonder men cheat on their wives or become addicted to a fantasy world of pornography (a world where images of women who are gorgeous and adoring are easy to find).

We live in a world where being a man is frowned upon. Oh, you can have a penis, that's okay... Just so long as you shut up and play the game. Work hard, smile a lot, talk softly and shave daily. Get your MBA. Drive a sedan (a safe sedan). Wear khakis to work. These things are okay.

Buy a motorcycle. Spend a week hiking. Grow a beard. Shoot a gun. Cuss. Become alive... These things are a little too risky. We (women) don't like it. Heck, the neutered men don't like it too much either. No, just stop all that and play the game. Put the khakis back on, and make sure they've been ironed!

This is where the trouble started, yet there's an undeniable grain of truth to the author's complaints about the feminization of modern society; our aversion to risk taking, thrill seeking behavior, or anything remotely smacking of competition, aggression, and the noisy, often brash physicality more commonly found in little boys than girls. I found myself wincing a bit at the description of the mother chiding her son for turning a stick into a gun.

But in the end, that anecdote caused me to think of the issues involved in a different light. I stayed out of the discussion yesterday, mostly because I found myself growing unaccountably angry at the strong reaction to the author's words.

I took something entirely different from his essay. My first reaction was that while no parent should force a boy to act like a girl or a girl to act like a boy, it is a vital part of socialization to teach boys to channel their aggression (and girls to use their not inconsiderable people skills) in socially acceptable ways. There is nothing inherently good about unbridled masculinity or femininity. Without proper guidance, boys can become disruptive bullies and girls whiny, manipulative tyrants who make everyone around them miserable. Like raw femininity, unbridled maleness or thumos is a double-edged sword of which society is rightly wary:

"Most good things, like French wine, are mostly good and accidentally bad. Manliness, however, seems to be about fifty-fifty good and bad. . . . This is what I mean by a modest defense."

"Manliness," he says, "is a quality that causes individuals to stand for something." The Greeks used the term thumos to denote the bristling, spirited element shared by human beings and animals that makes them fight back when threatened. It causes dogs to defend their turf; it makes human beings stand up for their kin, their religion, their country, their principles. "Just as a dog defends its master," writes Mansfield, "so the doggish part of the human soul defends human ends higher than itself."

Every human being possesses thumos. But those who are manly possess it in abundance, and sometimes in excess. The manly man is not satisfied to let things be as they are, and he makes sure everyone knows it. He invests his perception of injustice with cosmic importance.

Manliness can be noble and heroic, like the men on the Titanic; but it can also be foolish, stubborn, and violent. Achilles, Brutus, and Sir Lancelot exemplify the glory of manliness, but also its darker sides. Theodore Roosevelt was manly; so was Harry "The Buck Stops Here" Truman. Manly men are confident in risky situations. Manliness can be pathological, as in gangsters and terrorists.

Manliness, says Mansfield, thrives on drama, conflict, risk, and exploits: "War is hell but men like it." Manliness is often aggressive, but when the aggression is tied to the concept of honor, it transcends mere animal spiritedness. Allied with reason, as in Socrates, manliness finds its highest expression.

Marine Corps training doesn't crush thumos. It finds a proper outlet for that energy and aggression and channels them. And it's no accident that a warrior culture is a highly structured and disciplined one beset with rules and regulations. Only in such a well regulated environment can so many highly charged individuals get along without killing each other. They co-exist peacefully because they willingly submit to authority and yet few, looking at a base full of Marines, would describe them as wimpy or feminized. This is why society bids men shave, wear neckties, and follow seemingly meaningless social conventions. These things are symbols; tokens of conformity - a voluntary willingness to submit to the often capricious dictates of the social contract; to harness that boundless energy and aggression in service to something larger than themselves. Yet, in just the last few decades a fairly remarkable thing has happened.

Women, whose similarly bridled femininity had been tightly constrained by a stifling set of societal mores, discovered feminism. And suddenly all bets were off.

Now, in the workplace and in the home both men and women are getting mixed messages. In many offices men are still being told they must wear ties and watch their language for signs of sexist thoughts or pronouns. Yet when I open up a fashion magazine, I see women who are definitely not typing pool material wearing low cut tops and extremely short or revealing skirts to the office. Years ago, such attire would have violated any number of office dress codes, not to mention torpedoing ones chances of promotion. Now such unbridled feminine sexuality in the workplace is considered "sophisticated". What kind of message is that sending to men: "Here I am, but don't you dare notice me as a sexual being because if you do, you're objectifying me?" O-kay.

Suddenly it's acceptable for women to indulge their sexuality in the workplace, but not for men? In society's headlong rush to free women of the supposed shackles of home and family the wrecking ball seems to have swung somewhat unevenly, shattering the conventions which formerly constrained women and imposing a new set of restrictions upon men without pausing to consider the important question of balance.

Arguably, much of this change was both needed and welcome. As Raven argues, the old equation was unfairly lopsided. Women really had few, if any, choices in life and after all, men and women do want many of the same things even if I don't quite agree with her that we want them to see them expressed in the same way:

Mistake number one: A wife is a partner…she is the other half of what should be a lifelong relationship full of love, admiration, respect and honor. A wife is not a domestic supporter. If she is viewed as such, the marriage is doomed. I hate to tell it like it is: The 50’s are gone. It may be due to feminism, it may not be. Women are stronger now, better educated and are able to fend for themselves. THIS IS WHAT TICKS MEN OFF. It’s the price society pays, for allowing men who think like this idiOt - to rule the nest without regard or respect to the gifts women bring into the relationship. In other words, I think men took advantage of the woman who chose to stay at home and raise the kids. Women got fed up with it and wanted change.

In the now famous book His Needs, Her Needs, Willam Harley wrote of the following emotional needs of women:
-Honesty and Openness
-Financial Support
-Family Commitment

And the following emotional needs for men:
-Sexual Fulfillment
-Recreational Companionship
-Physical Attractiveness
-Domestic Support

I don’t agree with this list at all, for women. What’s missing from these lists?? LOVE. Without it, a relationship will never last.

In my world, women need:
Love and affection
Sexual fulfillment
and the bag of other important things:
An honest, articulate, smart, intelligent, attractive, fun loving, hard working, hard playing and MATURE MAN.

Many women DO place more value on man’s earning power; on the baggage he comes with. Women, when seeking a future husband, do look at the income, the job and career prospects, the reputation, the looks and feel of a man. Most have a list of acceptable and unacceptable traits. Every man must pass a litmus test before a woman would consider him a serious contender.

While Raven is entitled to her opinion, I found myself disagreeing with her. I thought the list presented by FTM meshed quite well with my experience of what both men and women really want from a relationship. I think love in both cases is a given, but the real question is: given that love exists, how do men vs. women prefer to have that love expressed?

It was something of a shocker for me later in life to realize that by and large, men and women are fundamentally different. When we are in love, in other words, I have observed that while women most definitely enjoy sex, most women want and need affection. Something in us dies if the person we love doesn't tell us we are are loved, doesn't show us tangible signs of affection, doesn't demonstrate that he cares about us. For us, giving and receiving affection is programmed into us and communication and words are extremely important in a way men cannot fully understand. We need words.

And for men it is almost the opposite. Men are doers, not talkers. Something in them dies if the sexual side of them is not wanted, needed and most of all, appreciated by the woman they love and often the things that make them feel most loved are not words, but tangible things you do for them. If you watch a man, you will see that when he wants to show you he cares, he instinctively does something for you rather than talking. So in a very real way, the removal of women from the home removed one of the most visible signs (to men) that they were loved. And the often strident insistence of feminists that women maintain independence "I don't need a man for anything" took away another critical need, the desire to hear that they were needed and that their role as providers was appreciated. If you stop to consider that this is how men want to be loved by nature, this is profoundly sad. It doesn't mean women have no right to want to do things outside of the home. It simply means we have to find better ways to show that we love and appreciate the men in our lives, in ways that are meaningful to them, not us. This is, after all, what you do when you love someone.

But the saddest thing in FTM's post, the one which seemed to set everyone off the most, and the one I (typically) agreed with, was this - all the way at the end. It was this which led me, finally, to write about his essay, because I found it an interesting idea:

I'm saddened by what modern feminism has done to men. I'm even more saddened by what it has done to several generations of women--women who really do want to love and care for their male companions, but are desperately confused by what it means to sacrifice and submit of oneself in the name of love.

Submission, on the part of both men and women, is a key ingredient to marriage. Any marriage without a healthy amount of submission is doomed to fail.

Submission. What a stale, moldy, outdated, concept. I cringe, even while I'm typing it because I'm sure it will bring the wrath of God down on my poor head for daring even to suggest that I agree wholeheartedly, unreservedly, with the author on this score. Marriage is a parnership meant to last a lifetime, and it's not easy making a marriage work. It's a serious promise, not just a few silly words you toss off unadvisedly, thinking in the back of your mind, "Well gosh, now I kinda sorta love her, but if the feeling passess I can always get a divorce."

I believe you are promising, not to feel love, but to practice it, and that is an entirely different matter when you are looking at a four or five decade time horizon. On the day you marry, if both a man and wife aren't willing to put their marriage ahead of their careers, their children, and most importantly their own private selfish interests: if they aren't willing to submerge at least a part of themselves into this larger thing called "the marriage", it won't survive.

Does that mean you lose yourself? Of course not.

I fight with my husband all the time. I stood up to him when I was "just a housewife", I was ornery then and I am ornery now. He is crotchety with me. We both know the places where neither will compromise (which are few) and the ones where we will (which are many). There are things he does - man things - that made me furious when I was 18, and he still does them. He will probably be doing them when I am 90.

I hope so, so I can kick his skinny old butt.

We also know that neither of us will do anything to endanger our relationship, and that trust is fundamental. But in the end, it all comes down to a question of balance: as society has changed and I've moved from being a full-time homemaker to a career woman, we've had to renegotiate the balance between our respective roles. It has often been difficult and often painful. I have seen, firsthand, all the issues FTM describes play out in our relationship, so part of me wonders at some of the reaction his post endengered.

I'm not sure what he was trying to say. I only know what I took from it, and I don't believe submission in marriage is a bad thing at all. In fact, I think it is a vital and all too often missing element that is, as he observes, contributing to the rising divorce rate. Whether feminism is partially or completely to blame for that is debatable. I believe he has a point, insofar as I hear women putting down the role of homemaker as boring or demeaning, or consisting solely of housework. I believe such women either haven't fully explored the job or perhaps are being unfairly condescending.

Having filled both roles, I beg to differ. Running a home well is both demanding and rewarding. Homemakers, in addition to keeping the home running smoothly, also provide the underpinning for a plethora of community efforts like the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund, a volunteer group started by Marine Wives that has given away over 7.5 MILLION DOLLARS to families of gravely injured combat vets since the war started. That is raw woman power from a bunch of 'bored little housewives' who are, in their rare non-bored moments, doing casework for amputees at Walter Reed and Bethesda. Such grassroots volunteer efforts would quickly die on the vine if all women demanded a paycheck.

Perhaps a slightly more nuanced view of the relationship between the sexes is in order. No one is trying to shackle women to the kitchen stove. We have choices now, and rights under law, and if we freely choose to live with a man who oppresses us we have only our own poor judgment to blame. We should also, objectively, be able to recognize double standards when we see them, and the loonier advocates of feminism are rife with them. If we as women truly seek equality, we must mete out equal accountability along with our new equal rights, and this means not asking men to suppress their masculinity while demanding the right to assert ourselves without restraint.

This is childishness, not equality. Men can and do restrain their own behavior and submit to society in highly visible and tangible ways, and we should both recognize and value this. And what's sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose - what we ask men to do, we should not scruple to do ourselves. The standard is, and always should be, balance and reasonableness; a settling of the pendulum squarely in the center rather than a reckless swing to one side to redress centuries-old wrongs to people long dead.

Posted by Cassandra at January 3, 2007 06:00 AM

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So -- where do you stand on beards, guns, and weeklong hiking trips? That was the part that interested me. :)

Posted by: Grim at January 3, 2007 09:35 AM

You know, I'm going to punish you and give that one a serious answer:

1. Beards: don't much care either way. His face, his choice. The unit had a beard when we were first married. All in all I chose to have no opinion on that subject, which is usually the wisest course if you're female. His mother kept asking me to make him shave it off and that pretty much ensured Hell would freeze over before I would say anything to him.

Finally one day he walked into the room and started talking to me when I was paying the bills. We must have been talking for 20 minutes when he couldn't stand it any longer and exploded - "Damn it woman - I shaved my beard off and you didn't even notice!"

And I hadn't either. :p I told him he looked very nice. And that was the end of that. I think he was confused by my reaction, which is how I like it.

2. Guns:

Ditto: we don't own any but he's talked about getting one and if he does that's fine. My son carries a Glock and I never ask him if he's carrying. None of my business. In fact I bought it for him as a present.

3. Week long hiking trips: you know, for years I have tried to get him to take trips without me. Once I almost had him ready to go whitewater rafting with his best friend but he didn't go at the last minute.

If he were always wanting to go places without me I can see where I might resent it but since he never does, I have offered several times. I think because he has to be away from home so much the idea of spending vacations apart isn't so attractive. He says he would rather have me there. Maybe he is sucking up to me but if you knew him you'd know how unlikely *that* is.

I think more likely it's a function of limited time - if he had more time he might like to do something like that and I certainly would have no objection. I don't object to his traveling with work so why would I object to him wanting some time alone with friends?

I can tell you this - I would not take kindly to one of those mancations where guys hang out at swinger-type places but then he would not go anywhere like that. And if he ever asked, I wouldn't say "no", I'd just say "go right ahead sweetie, and I'll see you when I get back from my week at x, y, or z..." and watch the expression on his face.

You can bet his enthusiasm would die in a heartbeat. I don't think you can tell your spouse what to do without killing something inside them, but I do believe whole heartedly that if they try pulling that kind of crap a good old object lesson in "How would you like it if I behaved this way?" is worth 1000 words that they won't listen to anyway.

Luckily for me I have never had to do that because my husband is reasonable :p

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 10:18 AM

Thanks for the link Cass!

My feelings on this whole thing are mixed and it makes me crazy. I am a little ticked with myself too, for having to admit that feminism has allowed me to be who I am. Only recently did I turn single and I am starting to see things differently..growing perhaps.

When I read this man's post- it irked me because it was so full of hate- as I perceived it. Hatred of women who are standing up for themselves, who have benefited from feminism. I don't think he meant to come across this way.

As for the lists...LOL...I do believe many men are threatened by the idea of women knowing what their needs are and how to get those needs met. I also firmly believe too many men are "allowed" to use the excuse that they are "simple" beings who have limited needs. I've known a lot of men in my time and that is just not true. A man isn't a man because he's simple. Men are not one celled beings. But you wouldn't know this reading some of these posts. Men are as complicated as women- we just don't like to admit that. Men are able to put many emotions and feelings aside and let them simmer in the background. But they're still there.

Balance is certainly needed. I agree with much of what you write here. But the playing field has changed. Women are no longer content playing the housewife, the domestic supporter. The fact that we're educated, capable, smart, financially more independent, threatens men. The balance has changed, indeed, and it's more equal for women now. We have choices we didn't have 50 yrs. ago and this does give us more options. I think it's a good thing for the most part.

Posted by: Raven at January 3, 2007 10:23 AM

My wife, for what it's worth, is deeply in favor of beards; has learned to like having a gun or two around at all times, to the point that she insists on carrying one herself if I don't; but as for hiking trips, I think you misunderstood me. :)

I have no interest in taking a weeklong hiking trip 'with the guys.' I'd go alone before I'd go with a bunch of people I'd get tired of. I meant, would you go along? We went hiking for our honeymoon, on the Appalachian trail -- it rained hard every day. I loved it, but, ah, well, "not all of us" did. :) I'm glad to have a son, because I can take him off on hiking and camping trips.


I'm not sure that your assertion that women are "stronger now" can be defended. My mother-in-law is someone I had occasion to write about recently. She, by the way, just celebrated her golden wedding anniversary. Before she married, she hunted wolves and elk in Alaska, and fought grizzlies for table scraps (as blogger Dad29 put it). She raised three children, including a permanently disabled one now in her forties and still under my mother-in-law's major care. After the other kids were grown, she joined the Red Cross and had a successful career teaching lifesaving. She is as admirable a person as ever lived.

Her husband is also admirable -- a B-17 navigator who later became an aerospace engineer, and spent his career designing advanced weapons systems including the Stealth program. She didn't think it was beneath her dignity to starch her husband's shirts every morning, and see he had breakfast waiting and supper at the proper times. Far from it: she took pride in keeping a household that was in good order. That is to say, her dignity was supported by it, not harmed by it.

I don't think I've yet met the woman "today" who is stronger or more independent than her. They don't have more choices than she did: indeed, they have fewer. She could, at any moment, have moved back into the wilderness and survived, which is rare today; she could have gone forth to a successful career, which is all most women today hope to do; or she could build a successful and stable family and take pride in its strength, which is more than most people today can do. She was that kind of person.

I think if you're going to be clear-eyed about this, you have to honor the choices she made. She did what she did because that is what she wanted. Further, there are a lot of these 'smart, intelligent, capable' women of today who couldn't do what she did.

There are consequences to asserting that one's dignity is harmed by being a homemaker. The balance that we need to achieve, first and foremost, is to restore the dignity to that role that my mother-in-law felt in doing it. She was proud of what she had made, and was right to be proud of it. Few today could do as well.

Posted by: Grim at January 3, 2007 10:40 AM

I think that's very true Raven - I hear that a lot: "Hey - we're just simple and women are so complicated" used as excuse for what amounts sometimes to bad behavior.

But I do think there is an underlying truth there too that we overlook in the things that men respond to vs. what we respond to, and that's sort of what I was trying to get at. I think women respond to a more complicated set of stimuli - not that we are more complicated people under the sheets (because we're not) but that things are perceived that way because we want to talk everything out whereas men usually prefer not to do that.

Sometimes talking everything out is needed - you can't ignore major issues in a relationship, for instance.

But sometimes (and I've seen this) there are other ways to solve problems, like simply putting the past aside and resolving to *act* differently instead of endlessly rehashing every little problem, and that's a more male way of problem solving. Of course, you have to admit there's a problem in the first place!

I see a lot of what you describe as hate, and I see more as antagonism or maybe just fear on both sides.

Feminists often bristle at anything men say, even when there's a HUGE grain of truth in it, and that's not helpful. And then men diss anything they say in return even when they have a valid point to make, and it all goes downhill.

I think the more strident brands of feminism have encouraged women to look down on homemaking and even to be suspicious of womanly virtues, some of which are things like [shudder] softness, femininity, giving in at times (which can be a very powerful thing when done wisely). Only a fool goes around in life afraid ever to give way or defer to others, and sometimes the more strident feminists talk as if ANY sign of weakness will send women back to the Stone Age, which is really kind of silly when you think about it.

I think that's part of what he was trying to get across - there are women who truly don't ENJOY being the dominant partner, who like being in the home and want to be a nurterer and they should be allowed to pursue that without feeling they are second-class citizens for being who and what they are because that is a very real part of being a woman and it requires skill and intelligence to be a good wife and mother. I think sometimes we err when we adopt male values as the only yardstick of what is important in life - there are female values too: caring for others (such as the teaching and raising of children - hard to think of a more important job, tending the sick or wounded - I'd hate to live in a world where no one had time to do that). Tenderness and compassion are a female traits. Men are capable of them too, but they are something we bring to the world, and I hate to think that we as women would throw away what we value and replace it with a different set of values.

Better to have an intelligent blending of the two.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 10:46 AM

I think to a large degree, your expectations are programmed into you when you were a child. This is not to demean free will and choice, but simply your expectations and your concept of "normal".
My paternal great-grandmother divorced her first husband (about 100 years ago), ran her own business for years (my father worked for her when he was a teenager, driving a truck when he was 13, in 1937), and was on her third husband when she died in her late-eighties (~ 1958). My father adored her, because she was good and strong and decent. She knew right from wrong and wasn't afraid to act on it. The diamond on my wife's hand is the diamond that she wore.

My maternal grandmother was widowed at a relatively young age, and had to make it in a "man's world" to raise her children, in the middle of the Great Depression. She was tough as nails, but she was also gracious, gentle and had more dignity in her little finger than most people have in their whole bodies. She was one of the most wonderful persons that I have ever known. These were the kind of "normalities" that I grew up with.

So if a man expects his wife to be a demure homebody in this century, he needs a good whack on the head. Likewise, a woman doesn't have to abandon all the good graces that make a difference between the sexes to be successful. It's EASIER now for women than it was years ago, but it's not EASY for anyone to be successful.

One of the great intellectual traps of this age is how "tough" you have to be to be successful. You don't have to be so tough, just use your brain and prepare yourself. Being tough is not an excuse to goof off when you should be thinking and working (and preparing in school when you are young, not copping an attitude).

What does it profit anyone to "gain the world" but lose their soul?

PS. I used to grow a beard every few years since I could grow one (19), but now it's all white and it makes me look like some freakin' old man. So my face is pretty clean shaven most of the time.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 3, 2007 10:48 AM

Would I go?

You should have known me as a child, Grim. There was nothing I loved better than to ramble in the woods. I used to take off, sometimes for hours, and just walk and walk. Or I would get on my bike and set off across town. I was awful. I used to climb fences and trees to get into places I wasn't supposed to be.

When my boys were little we used to walk for hours. I thought my youngest would be born flat from my walking with my oldest boy perched on top of my pregnant tummy. We used to go walking in the woods in Florida - I found all kinds of stuff there. Blackberries, a big pile of bricks that I hauled back to our ugly little apartment in my neighbor's son's wagon and lined all the flower beds with...

Sometimes I still have dreams that I am doing that.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 10:53 AM

Grim, your last paragraph nails it for me. The lack of pride/dignity some perceive in themselves for being a homemaker is something I've been fully aware of, but never quite understood. To run a household well and be the strongest (by time spent) influence on children's development is an extremely honorable and powerful position in society. I'll be the first to state that such a position is not for everyone, but I think those who can (by nature/skill and situation) do it are very lucky people and worthy of admiration and respect.

[For the sake of context: My mother was stay-at-home until my sister and I went to school at age 8. But my father was always deeply involved in domestic life--from weekly cleaning to frequent cooking; things were often accomplished as a team including us children.]

Posted by: FbL at January 3, 2007 10:56 AM

My husband's hair is darker than mine (which is dark reddish brown) but he has bright copper hairs in his beard. And now, white ones! I love it.

When we go down to the Keys he grows a beard and for some reason the Latina waitresses hit on him. I think it is so funny but it makes him embarrassed.

That's OK. I hit on him too. Don, ladies don't mind white or grey hair. That is one of the great things about being a man or conversely, sad things about being a woman :p Men only like younger girls but women still find older men attractive.

So enjoy - you are at your peak, like a fine wine!

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 10:58 AM

"The fact that we're educated, capable, smart, financially more independent, threatens men. The balance has changed, indeed, and it's more equal for women now."

Coming from a man's perspective, I'm not sure how much of the first statement is true. If it is true, it needs to be qualified. Certainly, there would be some men that are intimidated by that, I think I know a few -- but I would say that the vast majority of the men that I know are not. Or, not in the way that you may mean it.

We are a product of our times, of course, and are taught to cherish the smart, independent, willful side of women. No problem there. The problem comes around when these same women become pushy... and there is where the idea comes from that we guys are threatened by it, when in fact, it is just the playing field that changes.

I can't speak for women, but for men, pushy people aren't an old concept. Sometimes we call them bullies, but that's only in the extreme. We deal with it in the manner we were biologically designed and taught -- by pushing back, whether that be on the playing field, with words, with fists, with ideas. Something or someone to overcome. Nothing more.

And that's the problem. I don't think I could deal with that sort of competition with my spouse. I don't *want* to have to act that way to my spouse. Because then, she would cease to become my spouse and become just another challenge to overcome.

I think the problem is not that women are women in the work place. Or that they're smart, or successful. Just that finally, they are treated as competition -- which seems to be one of the goals of feminism. So yeah, men feel threatened. Just not sure in the way you meant it.

... which not so oddly loops back to what started the whole conversation: The need for some to correct men of this 'problem' of needing to compete.:p

Posted by: Kevin L at January 3, 2007 11:52 AM

When women are independent they don't need to rely on a man for support. In the old days, for most women (Not all) they had little option but to stay within miserable marriages- or they settled for what they thought was all life offered them. They didn't have choices.

My Mom worked and was able to take care of herself...she was a strong woman who did her own thing. My Dad used to always tell her he HAD to be good to her or she would leave HIM. And she could have at anytime. She never threatened him with this but he told us kids (later in our lives) that it was always on his mind. It did effect how he treated her- in a good way. It led him to respect her more and he helped with the house stuff; he even cooked a few meals now and again. My Dad told me to never become dependent on a man. To be my own person- to love and trust the right one, yes. But never depend. He was correct with that advice.

Men are different from women- but not so different that we can excuse the simpleton thinking. IMO anyway.

Here's an odd take on women's thoughts these days...and divorce.

Posted by: Raven at January 3, 2007 12:12 PM

I do feel I'm a bit younger that some here, so I may have had a different experience with feminism et al. I didn't feel like feminism gave me choices, I feel like they narrowed them. Getting married was a cause for sympathy (I didn't tell anyone at school except a few friends), it was supposed to end my life, I'd never travel, etc., going to grad school was a must, having a "career" was a must and I did both without much enthusiam or enjoyment. Let me tell you there are a lot of women with "careers" that contain more drudgery than housework and much less meaning than home-making.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with a career or working, but I felt like I was pushed into occupations not based on how they fit for me, but for how good it was to have women represented in these fields. I was given a lot of guilt about not taking advantages of all the opportunities feminism had provided for me whether I wanted them or not (like grad school). So, yes, I'm grateful for my degrees and working experience, but I'm even more grateful that I decided to stay home with my first born and that I will still be here for my fifth.

About submission, I agree. You can't have a relationship if no one ever gives in or both people always have their own way.

I don't mind a beard as long as it is a short one, not long and shaggy. My MIL wanted me to get my husband to shave his beard. When it became obvious I wouldn't she would hint that it was because my Dad had a beard. Ick! That is why I don't like long and shaggy beards. Oh, and my DH shaves occasionally, having all combinations of goatee, mustache, etc., and I rarely notice. He also shaves a lot because he doesn't like the gray. I don't know if I care one way or another.

I will say as the mother of three boys, and watching the insane and bizarre things they do, I read Dobson's Bringing up Boys a lot. On the other hand, raising my daughter is a constant battle to restrain her from being a manipulative bitch.

Posted by: baberuth at January 3, 2007 12:18 PM

We deal with it in the manner we were biologically designed and taught -- by pushing back, whether that be on the playing field, with words, with fists, with ideas. Something or someone to overcome. Nothing more.

Oh boy did YOU just say a mouthful, Kevin. Because it is a rare woman who will respond to that very male behavior (which a man would accept as completely natural) without getting emotional.

I saw this firsthand in my computer science classes in California where I was usually the only woman in a roomful of Marines. In one or two classes, however, there was another woman and the whole dynamic changed.

And when I'd be alone with the other women, they'd inevitably start to complain about how the guys would "talk over" them or how they felt left out of conversations. And I said to them, "Hell - they talk over each other all the time - you just have to get right in there and talk over them right back! Or, talk softer so they have to lean forward to hear you. Or (the 2x4 method) if you can't get their attention any other way wear something tight and then they are leaning forward anyway to look down your blouse - of course there is the danger that nothing you are saying is penetrating their thick skulls, but it's a calculated risk.

Seriously, I was the only female and had little problem getting the guys to listen, but you have to change the way you act a bit - adjust your body language, stand when speaking if needed to physically insert yourself into the conversation because men are physical and if you're small they will literally ignore you because you don't matter to them. I don't like that but it is true. Look them in the eye because they know it's rude to look away. Men don't ignore social conventions any more than women do in the workplace, but don't expect to be deferred to as a woman would if you are competition. Expect - and be prepared - to be competed with.

And realize that most men don't really want or need that stress at the end of a long work day. As we don't, either. Duh.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 12:18 PM

baberuth, I think girls, on the whole, are harder to raise.

I watched girls when I did home day care for three years and they flat wore me out. I felt like the fricking Psychic Vampires had sucked my brains out through my nostrils by the end of the day and I was so glad to get back to my sons that I couldn't believe it. The mouth factor alone was difficult to take - I never allowed my sons to talk back to me and I saw almost every girl I watched sass her parents. I refused to let them sass me. Period.

But it was a constant struggle in a way that it never was with my boys. Like trench warfare.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 12:22 PM

My Dad told me to never become dependent on a man. To be my own person- to love and trust the right one, yes. But never depend. He was correct with that advice. - Raven

I must say that sounds like a very lonely life where one cannot depend on their spouse.

I would say that if you cannot trust your SO enough to depend on them in marriage, I'd just throw out the middle part of the statement: You don't trust them enough to get married, period.

Posted by: Masked Menace at January 3, 2007 01:12 PM

raising my daughter is a constant battle to restrain her from being a manipulative bitch.

Snorted my Sierra Mist over that one. Nice to know I'm not alone! Oh, and the drama... don't get me started! Some days, though, it is all sooooo worth it:


(Scroll down to the Sno-Cone picture)

Posted by: Daveg at January 3, 2007 01:36 PM

The last thing I want is for someone to be angry about this. Honestly, I don't think this is as controversial as some have taken it.

Really... My point was only that where feminism treats "maleness" as a negative is where it goes wrong.

Posted by: FTm at January 3, 2007 01:59 PM

Raven--that "stuck in a bitter marriage" line is one that falls off the tongue (or fingers) so easily.

Any woman who was in such a situation had little legal recourse, in terms that modern women would understand.

How do we know that all, most, or even some women were in that position? Was it a rarity, or commonplace?

If rare, how does that affect our understanding of the cultural/emotive forces at work?

After all, when a successful partnership in marriage on an isolated farm might be the difference between life and death (think of Ma and Pa in Little House on the Prairie), in what way does this change the emotional relationship between the spouses?

I don't claim to know anything about this, I just know that things used to be vastly different than they are now--and that many in the modern world bear a grudge against past cultural norms about marriage. Such a grudge appears to be an impediment to clear-thinking on the subject of marriage.

Posted by: karrde at January 3, 2007 02:09 PM

Excuse me. Marriage is the grandest adventure and committment there is. Raising children increases the risk.

When I got married, I felt as if I was looking over the edge of the cliff to a bottomless crevass. So, I held my breath, put my hand in my husband's and we jumped off that cliff. We found our wings and we have flown successfully. We still will. And yeah, men take risks. So they hike, shoot, chop wood and kill small animals.
They wiggle when they are five years old and get bored when reading romantic stuff and jump on their horse to go find a damsel to rescue.

I like that.

Posted by: Cricket at January 3, 2007 02:24 PM

When I get bored, I go to Home Depot and buy 2x4's to build some contraption in the house. This gives new meaning to the phrase "having a woodie". :)

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 3, 2007 02:58 PM

Actually FTM, yesterday I was pretty much in complete agreement with your post and my only point of upsetness, if any, was that I was really sort of feeling sympathy pains b/c a few weeks ago I wrote something that I felt had been misinterpreted and generated a lot of anger that I couldn't understand.

This morning I still find myself in agreement with most of what you wrote, but on a third reading (and having my youngest son read it to get that all-important younger genX viewpoint) I thought of something else. Not what he said, which I actually disagreed with, but my own thought, which was more what I said in the beginning of the post: that while I agree that it's a bad idea to try and crush all the maleness out of boys (or men), society does, during the socialization process, ideally suppress some degree of BOTH masculinity and femininity. I just thought it was kind of an interesting idea. And then I got to the 'question of balance' concept.

And no, I didn't see your post as controversial either, but then I didn't see my post a few weeks ago as controversial and people are still upset over it. Go figure...

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 03:09 PM

Well I really appreciate your commentary.

The father of two girls, I find myself sometimes having the opposite problem: I'm a little fearful of girlie things (dancing, dress up, barbie).

My daughters seem naturally drawn to these things, despite the fact that I keep steering them toward dinosaurs and matchbox cars and stuff... This is done out of selfishness, I suppose.

At the same time, I fear too much emphasis on the "pretty things" gives a warped view of where women should find value. When it comes to my daughters, it scares the hell out of me.

Parenting... fun stuff, ain't it? :-)

Posted by: FTM at January 3, 2007 03:33 PM

Well, I tried to do both with my sons - let them do plenty of boy stuff and make sure they had female friends so they would be comfortable with women when they grew up. But they definitely preferred the boy things - if you take a gun away from a boy he just finds a stick and plays guns with it, and if you take dolls away from most girls they will go outside and find a lost animal or a neighborhood child to 'mother'. I was a tomboy but I always had smaller children following me around when I got older. I loved to play with them.

And though my boys did all the normal boy stuff, they both ended up with girls they met and dated for a long time in high school, so I think I did all right there. I think you can turn out nice men who aren't jerks without turning them into wimps - my oldest ended up being a cop, much to my surprise, but I couldn't be prouder of him.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 03:49 PM

"...and find a lost animal..."

Now that's the truth. How many strays I have known, these last few years...

Posted by: Grim at January 3, 2007 04:08 PM

I'm a single divorced father to two daughters, 8 and 11, whom I have 50% of the time. To just be able to spend time with my daughters cost me many tens of thousands of dollars and three years of litigation. Nonetheless, it was money well-spent. They are delightful!

The devaluation of the masculine in everyday life is nothing compared to the penalties one faces for being a man (or boy) that are laid down in our legal system.

One thing I have noticed is there is an increasing reluctance for divorced men to remarry, whereas in the past they often remarried quite frequently. Not to mention the increasing numbers of women over thirty who are unmarried and childless. Could it be we men have wised up?

If you kick your dog enough times, he will no longer come when you call.

Posted by: Parson Jim at January 3, 2007 06:05 PM

"If you kick your dog enough times, he will no longer come when you call."

By the same token, a dog who has been long accustomed to a kick will treat kindness with a loyalty that crosses into ferocity.

But dogs are better than many men.

Posted by: Grim at January 3, 2007 06:20 PM

Parson Jim,

Hearing stories like yours just makes me sad. I get mad at those women who treat the men in their lives so poorly, and that in child custody battles the woman is automatically assumed to be the best parent.

Also, are you saying that it is women's fault that there is an increasing number of unmarried, childless women over 30, because of the way men are treated? I am one of those 30-something, never-married, childless women, and I would give just about anything to be married to a wonderful man, and to have children with him. I have never treated a man poorly, so I have done nothing, personally, to deserve the attitude that women aren't worth the trouble of marrying...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 3, 2007 06:21 PM

"I have never treated a man poorly, so I have done nothing, personally, to deserve the attitude that women aren't worth the trouble of marrying..."

As a divorced man myself, I can't imagine that men are souring on marriage. Or atleast they aren't once they get passed any bitterness they have. To me, I think its actually the ideal situation, and have many fond memories no matter how dark they ended up. However, I do know that I am far more selective now of the people I choose to associate with than I used to be. But, maybe that's a good thing.

Posted by: Kevin L at January 3, 2007 06:56 PM

Men, women, submission...

A Simile:

The Man = The Infantry. Front line, eyeball to eyeball. Stronger, more aggressive, not always smarter.

The Woman = The Close Air Support. Doesn't have half the raw combat power, but uses finess and skill to make up for it. Supports the Infantry, but is recognized as a potent force in its own right. When on the ground, submits to the Infantry to protect it, and returns the favor when in the air.

And when both are Marine (just an example), neither lacks for self-identity, but are still mutually supporting, working in synch, even though they come from two completely different perspectives.

Just a thought...

Posted by: Sgt. B. at January 3, 2007 07:00 PM

Miss Ladybug:

I don't mean to give the impression that specific women have done something personally to make marriage a bad decision, but the system is set up to be highly punitive for men in Family Court and not that bad for women who are making decent money. Men have been asleep at the wheel while these laws have been put into place, and now are waking up to triage the situation - by deferring or declining marriage.

In my state, California, the Family Code allows for the court to award 50% of gross income to a spouse in support. Oh, and "50%" is "defined" as up to 65% of gross income! Is this a gamble worth taking in a state with some of the highest housing prices in the country? You really have to ask yourself, as a man.

Not to mention the popular cultural floggings we see as divorced men, fathers or not. Late last year on public television I got to see a "documentary" that stated baldly that 75% of men who seek custody of their children after divorce are abusers or child molesters. Wonderful. My tax dollars at work.

After a while, the cost/benefit ratio looks pretty high. So, Miss Ladybug, if you find men to be "commitment-phobic", perhaps its not because they are immature or antisocial. Maybe they are just acting rationally. I wish you luck - maybe the next generation of men will ignore the legal and financial risks in their way and take the plunge, regardless.

Posted by: Parson Jim at January 3, 2007 07:11 PM

Actually in a lot of ways, I like that Sgt B.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 07:15 PM

That's Sgt. B for ya--heart of a Marine and soul of a poet. :)

Posted by: FbL at January 3, 2007 07:25 PM

It would be somewhat off-topic to get into the "why I'm still single" thing. It's a subject I am careful about discussing, as it is something I am extremely sensitive about.

That being said, it would seem to me that if you are worried about the legal and financial risks, you don't truly trust your prospect spouse. If you can't trust them, you shouldn't even consider marriage to them. But why don't they trust women? Have they been going after the wrong type of woman? Maybe they need to change where they look and what they look for, if they want to marry someone they can trust, and wouldn't have to worry about the "legal and financial risks"...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 3, 2007 07:40 PM

While I married young, I was blessedly lucky. I honestly believe that being an older parent has been a fantastic tradeoff. My youngest child doesn't get away with murder, but we aren't wrapped around the axle about most of the stuff he does, unless of course he puts a frog in his sister's bed, expecting an explosion from said sister and she just finds a home for the froggy or feeds it to her cat.

But I digress.

Boys are boys. Girls are girls. Barbies are a sort of normal thing and the same comparisons about clothes and looks can be made to cars and other toys men find attractive or worthy of attention. Teaching them priorities and what has true value is what a parent is supposed to do.
Sounds like you got it covered.

Posted by: Cricket at January 3, 2007 08:02 PM

Why would I enter into a contract that automatically grants the other party rights, while imposing obligations on me? It has nothing to do with "trusting your prospective spouse".

Posted by: Parson Jim at January 3, 2007 08:55 PM


Seems to me your fear is "what happens if the marriage fails?". If you trusted your prospective spouse, that shouldn't be an issue, so there would be no reason to fear "legal and financial risks". You seem to view marriage as a strictly legal arrangement - to me, it is to be much more than that. Marriage should be a partnership, founded on trust, "for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, 'til death us do part"... And if you still fear those risks, why not propose that a pre-nupital agreement? Doesn't that outline what happens/who has to do what in the event there is a divorce??

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 3, 2007 09:09 PM

More importantly, Jim needs to get the heck out of California and into a state where there is no community property law :p

I worked in a family law office in California and while I agree with what Miss Ladybug says regarding marriage, after you've seen the sausage made (so to speak) you are left with a very sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2007 09:18 PM

"Why would I enter into a contract that automatically grants the other party rights, while imposing obligations on me?"

Why, there are many excellent reasons to enlist in the Marines. Honor, glory, adventure! Also a 2.2% pay raise this year.

Posted by: Grim at January 3, 2007 09:29 PM

Miss Ladybug,
I hate to crash your ideals, but marriages DO fail, for a variety of reasons, and sometimes no one in particular is the "villain". What Parson Jim is disturbed about is the high penalty imposed on MEN, in California in particular, for so-called "no fault" divorce. And since he now has 50% custody of his daughters, he is probably stuck in California (residence of his ex?) until his daughters reach age of majority and choose their own lives. So he's gunshy about pickin' up a new wifey, which could make him, literally, a pauper, if that marriage goes south (especially if he would have a child with a second wife).

One of my closest friends pays a rather high child support cost to his ex-wife, who makes significantly more than he does (~ 100 grand), and who has also re-married. Go figure. And he is very attentive to his kids when he has them. His oldest son is about to graduate from high school (and is really tough at Halo, in Slayer mode!), so at least some of his child support will drop soon.
He gets some modest comfort in the fact that his teen-age daughter is much like him in temperment (incredibly sarcastic!) and is giving his ex-wife fits. Heh.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 3, 2007 09:39 PM


I am perfectly well aware that marriages fail. I am willing to bet that in most cases, one or both of those in that marriage rushed into it without thinking things through properly (even in those cases where there is no "villian". I also think far too many people go into marriage these days thinking "if it doesn't work out, we can always get a divorce", which gives the parties to a marriage an easy out and an excuse to not really work at it.

To view it as a strictly legal arrangement is crass. I once had a guy tell me that a married woman wasn't really much more than a legalized prostitute - receiving support and shelter in exchange for sex. If I truly thought like he did, I wouldn't want to marry, either; viewing marriage as only a legal arrangement between a man and a woman cheapens it greatly.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 3, 2007 09:54 PM

In California, child support from the payor is calculated using household income. If I remarry or live with someone, my payments go up. If my ex does, her contribution is counted as unchanged, even if she marries a millionaire. The children are largely my financial responsibility.

70% of divorces nationwide are initiated by women in the US. If I go through another divorce, it could be catastrophic for my daughters - the divorce rate for second marriages with children is about 70%, again with the vast majority of those divorces initiated by the wife. My urge to protect my kids far outweighs my desire to get re-hitched.

Over the past three years, presumptive joint custody bills in California have come up before the legislature, only to be defeated by women's feminist groups in concert with retired judges' associations.

I would respectfully suggest that if women faced the same inequities under family law that men do, they wouldn't have the luxury of dismissing the legal dimension of marriage, as Miss Ladybug seems to be able to do.

Posted by: Parson Jim at January 3, 2007 10:09 PM

I don't think she is dismissing it; I think she is trying to point out that that cold reality
is what is keeping people apart. At least, that is how I see it.

Why people divorce? Selfishness. We went over this territory with the woman who admitted she was in a good marriage but bored.

Your mileage may vary, but it should come as no surprise to the manly men that frequent VC that
the distaff side who takes vows and committment seriously know a good thing when we have it and
want to do our part to keep it going.

That is all.

Flame me if you will. I have a frog to catch.

Posted by: cricket at January 3, 2007 10:52 PM

"So my face is pretty clean shaven most of the time."

Are you telling us, dear Don, that the beard
covers that which walks in beauty?

*running off to Cassandra's woods with a Radio Flyer*

Posted by: Cricket at January 3, 2007 10:57 PM


This is really personal stuff, eh?

I had a long "traditional" marriage and was the breadwinner while she stayed home minding kinder, kuche, kirche. I was the fulfilled alpha male, you think? Completely inverted. She had little respect for me and I spent decades trying to fulfill my duties sans love. Both of us had little use for feminism per se - but philosophies are one thing, personalities another. She controlled most of my adult life and I resented it.

I have no overarching principles to offer but instead have a simple observation. I have been writing to women from Eastern Europe for some time now (perhaps looking for a wife) and the following phrases - not uncommon in profiles from these women - simply enchant me:

" I seek my second half"
" I am tired to always be strong and look for a strong shoulder to lean upon."
"I will give to my husband all my tenderness and he will never be sorry to choose me."
"My special man will be treated like a king."
"I am a normal woman with my pluses and my minuses."
"Most important, I seek a man who is honest and faithful."
"I am sociable and calm. I will work to solve disagreements quietly."
"I am looking for a decent man so we can together divide our joys and our sorrows."
"I want to form a strong, friendly family."
"I will do anything to make my beloved man happy."

Aside from the syntax what makes these words sound so foreign to my ears is that I have not heard sentiments such as these from an American woman. They have this up-front acknowledgment of a need for reciprocal benefit, and of a man's inherent worth, that is damn near extinguished in the West.

Guess what? I find it attractive. I think most men would.

A put-up job, mere salesmanship sez you? Perhaps. But the thought is the father - or mother - of the deed and such thoughts are not commonly expressed in our country. To our detriment.

Posted by: buddy at January 3, 2007 11:36 PM

buddy -

you might want to follow Grim's suggestion and join the Marines....

Posted by: Party James at January 3, 2007 11:40 PM

My husband and I work things out. Sometimes he
annoys the helk out of me and I definately cause him to pull hair out of his beard.

He is the only man I have ever loved, obeyed and trusted. He is the father of our children, my best friend and well, uh, this is a family sort of place.

He has gone through hell for us. Last night we found the Return Home video...when he came back from Kuwait. I cried all over again, seeing him cradle our two youngest and holding them as if he would never, ever let them go.

And for a while, in the magic of video, we were a family again.

I am so sorry for the hurt you have experienced and wish I could change hearts.

So I hope you find your heart's mate and are happy forever. You deserve it.

Posted by: Cricket at January 3, 2007 11:50 PM


Those statements from the Eastern European women don't sound much different than what I would look for in a relationship. I think I've phrased it as wanting someone to be my best friend and someone I can grow old with. Doesn't seem to get much of a response. I guess I'm not good at "selling myself". It's sad to me that you think you need to go to a foreign country to find the right woman for you. I'm sure there are many women here in the States that think that way, too.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 4, 2007 12:03 AM

Another 30-something, perennially single woman popping up here to say what Ladybug said.

Posted by: FbL at January 4, 2007 01:00 AM

I gotta agree with the original... decent, strong men aren't respected.
Didn't National Review just do a book review about how hissyfit anger is the new cool thing?
Children have hissyfits, children want this, that and the other... our culture is full of children. (Trust me, growing up, I thought I was just too young to figure out what those strange grown ups were thinking.)

My mom phrased the personality of women in my family perfectly-- we're Samwise. From Lord of The Rings, which she loves-- we find our Frodo, then we're loyal to a fault, protective and will follow them to the gates of hell. We're a lot like that normally-- although she's no pushover!-- but for Our One, it's moreso.
(off topic, no, Sam wasn't bopin' Frodo. Ick)

Posted by: Sailorette at January 4, 2007 03:48 AM

You know, I think there are a mixture of things going on here.

I think we all have a mental picture of our "ideal" person in our heads, and the older we get sometimes the more reluctant some are to surrender that picture. It's as though it becomes frozen in time.

If you are lucky enough to find 'the one' when you are relatively young, that is wonderful. But that doesn't happen for everyone. And then the field narrows and we start to age and no one looks like your mental picture - it requires significant adjustment (especially for men, who are so visually oriented and are not attracted to women their age or older as often).

I wonder how often nice men pass by women who would make them SO happy because the outer wrapping didn't have 'curb appeal' at first blush? And that is so dumb.

A relative said something (and so did a male friend recently who is now happily married for the second time) that was so smart. He said of his now-wife: "At first I wasn't as attracted to her as I was to other girls I've dated, but now when I look at her, she is beautiful in my eyes." How lucky that he met her at work and got to know her as a person. Otherwise he obviously never would have considered her as a partner.

And the truth is, his first wife was far prettier but she made him miserable and was never really committed to their marriage. Was that a good bargain?

This couple has been through hell together and their marriage is strong. You can see the love they have for each other in their eyes. I get so angry sometimes when I think of the waste.

I don't think I would marry again if something happened to my husband, but I know that even if I did, the chances for someone my age are not good and that is very sad to me. People should not be alone if they don't want to be.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2007 07:22 AM

Cassandra, sometimes you just depress me.

Posted by: FbL at January 4, 2007 08:24 AM

Sometimes I depress myself, Fbl. On the otter heiny there are two ways to look at that last comment.

Somewhere out there, there are men like my relative and my friend who are a little smarter than the average bear. And perhaps others who can take a hint when it hits them upside the head with a 2x4.

That wasn't necessarily aimed at anyone in this conversation. It's just that in past threads (some of the feminist ones come to mind) I've read comments regards women's outer appearance that grated on my last nerve. And I know many of the guys here have noted that when you love someone, you look at them through different eyes - this is true even for men, who do tend to be more visually oriented. I can think of cases when I was younger where I was not initially attracted to a guy until I got to know him.

That is a good argument for getting out there and trying to get to know as many people as you can if you are looking for a mate. You never know where 'the one' might be lurking :p My mother in law was in her sixties and remarried, so it definitely happens, and sometimes that person ends up being right under your nose. Her situation was the opposite - all her friends turned their noses up at the man she married but he is solid gold and she could not possibly have chosen better if she'd waited a million years. We all adore him and he has made her very happy.

I'm sorry if I depressed you - I didn't mean it that way.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2007 08:42 AM

FYI: I was thinking of my MIL's situation when I brought up that "ideal picture" comment. Her second husband could not be more unlike her first, yet they are very happy together. Thank God she had the vision to see past that idealized "template" in her head.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2007 08:45 AM

I gotta agree with the original... decent, strong men aren't respected.

I think it goes even beyond that. I'm beginning to think that people have no concept of how to value or even just get along with those who are very different than them or who don't offer them in the relationship (business, friendship, romance) every little thing they think they want.

I see it in my interactions with people who are supposedly "difficult." For example, I once wrote about working at the USO with a recently-retired Master Chief who didn't know yet that he was retired (haha). Most people can't stand him because he's "bossy," and the feeling is mutual because he thinks they're rude and argumentative (they usually are, because he "gets their backs up").

Well, when I was assigned to work with him, I got the full treatment--for a few minutes there, I thought I'd finally enlisted and was a seaman recruit, haha! But, keeping his tendencies/background in mind, I didn't take it personally and soon found ways to politely (and without discussion) show him I was more his peer than his subordinate in this situation. He already knew I was a civilian, but within 45 minutes he was absolutely intrigued by me and wanted to know my background. He ended up asking for my resume and bio, which he promptly shared with the regional Command Master Chief, who called me to meet him.

And the retired chief? He's decided having someone on his shift doesn't have to be bad... ;) We've worked a couple shifts now and he has taken a very direct interest in my job search and we've had a lot of friendly conversations--as well as ones in which I absorbed his excellent advice. And yes, we're not exactly peers, but I have his confidence that I actually know what I'm doing (unlike his--mostly inaccurate--opinion of 95% of the other volunteers).

So yeah, he's uber-bossy, but he knows how to do his volunteer job and he's a really great guy. When you find ways to "manage" him you can find that out. But few people have figured that out with him and I think it's because they want people they can instantly understand, who don't challenge, confuse or make them feel uncomfortable.

But---and here's where it gets back to romance---people who are as different to each other as the two sexes often are will make each other as uncomfortable and intimidated at times as the Chief does to me. I don't completely understand where he's coming from, I don't always value the same things in the "work" environment that he does, and sometimes he just makes me roll my eyes at him (like his daughter does, haha!). But I've learned to see and value what he has to offer. And in respecting that I drew out a response in him that others could only dream of.

I think there are a lot of men and women out there who spend their time looking for or trying to make a potential partner what they think they should be rather than acknowledging the differences and realizing that those differences are often advantages.

I don't know... I'm not communicating this very well, I think. I'm trying to say that the lack of respect for "strong, decent men" seems to be related to an unwillingness to let those who are different be who they are and treat that which we don't quite understand with openness and respect.

I suspect that willingness is the key that opens the door to things in male-female that each didn't even know were there.


Reading this, I'm not sure it makes any sense at all. Maybe it's too early out here on the West Coast. But I worked hard on this comment, so I'll leave it. Hopefully it's not a total waste of electrons... ;)

Posted by: FbL at January 4, 2007 09:08 AM

I'm sorry if I depressed you - I didn't mean it that way.

I know. But being a self-centered person (haha), I immediately tried to apply it to my situation. Very depressing...

Yeah, I've got a BF at the moment, but I know he's not the one--not by any stretch of the imagination. We're mostly just enjoying each other's company right now because that's what we need. But we know it's not going anywhere. For one, it's the huge age gap that puts us at completely different stages in our lives. Because, like you said, men my age just aren't interested (he's old enough to have finally learned that the outside isn't first place).

Posted by: FbL at January 4, 2007 09:13 AM

Actually I think your first comment was extremely astute.

I think that's what women do very well, and frankly it has a lot to do with not having to compete all the time and being willing to bend a bit in the interest of getting the job done. I am perfectly willing to let someone else think they've "won" if that floats their boat. My husband will often point out that they are trying to dominate me.

Ummm... yeah. I simply don't give a rat's ass who is perceived to have dominated whom in the end if I end up getting my way, which I do about 90% of the time? :p

My ego doesn't really need the stroking. If someone else's does, so be it. I'm not going to bend over so far that something anatomically unpleasant happens to me, but if all that's required is for me to make nice a bit and let someone else feel like top dog because that matters to him and it matters not a whit to me, I can live with that. On the otter heiny there are instances where status matters to your ability to do your job, and then I won't give in. For instance, I had a man try to treat me as his personal secretary not long ago and I let him have it, very politely but quite firmly and he apologized immediately. I've never done that before and hope I never have to do it again.

But I think those times are far fewer than people make them out to be.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2007 09:29 AM

Yes! You are articulated exactly what I meant; I didn't realize it, but it cycles right back to that competition issue. Competition in relationships is going to bring up the defensiveness in men. So if we women go around in a romantic relationship attempting to direct/control/modify or demand respect from our men, we're going to lose their respect because the competitiveness response is going to make men more likely look for faults and minimize achievement rather than acknowledge success.

As in my example above, those who came at the retired chief with their backs up to challenge him were "dismissed" real quick; he saw them as competition and (unfairly) decided they didn't know what they were doing. But I was careful not to activate his competitiveness and so he didn't see me as a challenge/threat--he thus allowed himself the opportunity to see my skills in a non-threatening light that inspired him to want to assist rather than compete. And he apparently ended up respecting me a great deal for what I had to offer--enough so that he was wanted to introduce me to the CMC of a regional command and has taken such an interest in my success.

So perhaps in romantic relationships the principle is that NOT competing with a man who is the dominant type is the way to gain his respect. BUT... That respect will not come because he thinks she's "properly submissive." Rather it will be because not having the competitiveness "button" pushed allows him to easily see and acknowledge her achievements since he doesn't have to fight a reflexive need to diminish or exceed them.

Not sure about that (there are possibly some disturbing tangents and corollaries there), but it's certainly something I'm going to give a lot of thought to.

Posted by: FbL at January 4, 2007 10:01 AM

I think there is a delicate balance with men. I also think the same balance is there with women - it's just a bit different.

From what I've observed over the years, most guys don't want to come home to a woman who competes with them. They are already tired at the end of the day - who needs another battle royal? But then they also don't really respect a woman who gives in too easily or who appears desperate or needy either. Sure, they'll gladly sleep with her, but they won't marry her unless they are slightly afraid of losing her.

Guys are infinitely weird and confusicating to the female mind, which is vastly wise, superior and logical. You'd think being kind, loyal and faithful would make you a desireable mate, but the very aloof and fickle behavior men complain about is usually what separates out the women they chase after the most.

If you are quietly confident and appear to have a life of your own, yet also admire them and are geniunely interested in what they do (but not too much - they want to chase you a bit!) that seems to be the right mix.

But then it has been a looooooooooooooooong time since I dated and my GuyDar is extremely rusty, so what the heck do I know? :)

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2007 10:31 AM

Cass, I deleted a post that went into that a bit.
In all my experience (I married at 26 and was
independent), the men who chased me were the ones who I sort of didn't give the time of day to.
Not that they weren't good guys, but I wasn't as interested in them as they were in me.

When I met the Engineer, he was part of the posse
that was beating down my door.

Along comes my husband and sees the hunters stalking me. He held back just enough. I hate when those Capricorns pull the strong silent treatment. But he treated me differently and better than the pack.

He was quiet, capable and tender hearted. He was helping my parents out with some carpentry work that my father needed when I met him. He didn't try to dazzle me with his accomplishments or brag about himself. He just worked on me.

And he knew all the right moves. He would attend church with us, then leave to babysit a military couple's child.

He would help out little old people who needed
repairs done in their homes. NEVER did I hear about any of this from him. The recipients told me about what he did.

And I was intrigued. I began to look forward to his visits, and a year and a half after meeting him, we were married.

Like I said, we have our moments, but the overall relationship is so good that we still feel like we are honeymooners.

Love that man forever.

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2007 12:21 PM

My problem is, I don't look like I did when I was in college anymore when I was 135 lbs and wore a size 9 (which today would be a size 5?? WTF?).

One of my best friends is a retired Navy Chief I got as a pen pal when he was on his last deployment. He's become like a big brother to me, and I can talk to him about stuff to get that "guy perspective". He was concerned that I might be giving off "negative vibes" that would put men off. I had a job where I traveled a lot, and I ended up having a trip out his directions with some free time over a weekend layover. I was able to drive down to meet him and his wonderful family. They took me out to dinner Saturday night, and he played tourguide for me on Sunday before I had to return for work Monday. He told me that he had talked about me with his wife, and they both decided I didn't give off those "negative vibes".

So, I am only left to assume that it's the package I come in. Men don't seem to be able to get past what I look like to find out what it is I truly have to offer. I think I do a pretty good job of not being bitter about men and how shallow they seem to be a lot of the time. I'm 10 and 14 years older than my little sisters. Whenever I'm out with them, it's them that gets the looks, not me.

So, yeah, it pisses me off when men talk about how sh*tty they've been treated and then translate that to all women or when they think they have to find some foreign woman instead of an American one, when they don't even seem to notice that I exist.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 4, 2007 02:09 PM

Good point, Ladybug... and it's worth pointing out that those "foreign women" that are advertising themselves to American men are almost universally very easy on the eyes.

Posted by: FbL at January 4, 2007 02:27 PM

I'm not translating anything to "all women", but the system has changed drastically over the years and the risks greatly outweigh the benefits for someone such as myself, with kids to care for and an ex-wife as a financial dependent.

Posted by: Parson Jim at January 4, 2007 03:42 PM


Yeah - I thought that about the foreign women, but didn't actually make that comment. I guess another thing is that I've never been one to play coy or crap like that. With me, what you see is what you get. I don't play games like I've seen other women do (usually the ones with guys fawning all over them, and able to wrap any man around her little finger). So, what is a decent girl (who is far from being beautiful, even if I was thin again) to do? I haven't a clue, otherwise, I wouldn't be in the situation I'm in, with regard to men...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 4, 2007 04:08 PM

"So, yeah, it pisses me off when men talk about how sh*tty they've been treated and then translate that to all women or when they think they have to find some foreign woman instead of an American one, when they don't even seem to notice that I exist."

I'm sorry that you encountered those men, Ladybug! Bitterness happens, unfortunately.

But, in regards to Jim's comment, I don't think that most people think about the financial ramifications of divorce when they get married. And, I don't think that its necessarily right to write off the institution of marriage just because divorce is unfair. You get married to stay with that person, not because you're excited about the divorce that comes in the years to come.

Sure, its a risk. But, if the match is wisely chosen in the first place, then I doubt that we'd have anything to complain about. Except maybe about how they take forever in the bathroom, or that they can never make up their mind about where they want to eat, or that they keep asking us about their clothing... when we don't care about clothing and wish there wasn't any. You know, the normal stuff, which is all rather nice if you ask me.

Posted by: Kevin L at January 4, 2007 04:41 PM


"Those men" commented in this thread.

I fully realize that marriage is a risk, that you must choose your spouse wisely. I know there are women who treat men badly, and men that treat women badly. If I am ever lucky enough to find my "Mr. Right" and get married, I will expect that to be for the rest of my life, not only for so long as we don't hit any tough times.

How many times do people who are perpetually marrying and divorcing (both men and women) go for the same type of person, over and over again? Maybe if they changed their ideas about the type of person they should be with, they wouldn't get caught in that destructive cycle. Give a different type of person a chance...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 4, 2007 07:12 PM

Jim makes some valid points about divorce laws, especially in his state where there is community property law to contend with. However, I'm not sure how marrying a foreign bride would solve any of those issues - I think that may be partially what Miss Ladybug can't get past. She has an equally valid point.

That article I linked to the other day (why American Women suck) was really just ridiculous. Any time you start to lump people into bins you have really kind of jumped the shark. You don't marry a category, you marry an individual. Generalizations are useful when you don't know anything about a person, but only an idiot marries someone he doesn't know, so all of that flies right out the window, doesn't it?

Before you say "I do" you need to know the character of the woman you are marrying and whether she is foreign or American isn't going to help you much, especially if she's just using you to get away from her home country. And that is something you really can't know for certain unless you take the time to know her as a person, just as you would with any other woman. So why not find an American woman (as MLB said) when there are plenty here in this country?

Of course, Jim may have just been trying to make a point about what sounded good to him, and not intending to marry at all in which case all of this is moot :p

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2007 08:03 PM

Either way, it's certainly an emotional subject on both sides. I'm hope that things will work out for both of you.

I believe they can. MLB, I do know several women who have married in their thirties, at least two of them for the first time. And several of them were not svelte, nor fashion magazine material. But they were good, intelligent, decent women and they found good intelligent, men who wanted someone faithful to spend their lives with and it worked out. And they are still married in their mid-forties and fifties.

So don't give up!

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2007 08:06 PM

So if a man expects his wife to be a demure homebody in this century, he needs a good whack on the head. Likewise, a woman doesn't have to abandon all the good graces that make a difference between the sexes to be successful. It's EASIER now for women than it was years ago, but it's not EASY for anyone to be successful.

Don, this is the sort of thing that drives me crazy. A woman can either be a demure homebody or be "successful" (whatever that means, as if being a housewife and or mother is being a "failure").

More and more men are starting to wise up. He'll "play" with feminists and other successful "career women", but they won't marry them. He'll wait for a woman who puts him, their children and their family first. Oh sure, she can work, but the ultimate financial support comes from him.

I know that for many men, including myself, a primary requirement in my marriage is that I'm needed. If a woman can do everything I can do without me, she's welcome to do just that.

I am lucky enough to have a wife who rather than be "empowered", empowers me. I have a wife who makes me feel like the most important guy in the world, a guy who she cannot live without, and I feel likewise toward her.

My wife gives me a safe haven I can come to after working all day. She's someone with whom I can be myself. I would take a bullet for her.

So if you're a woman who is interested in having a career, and it's compatible with the guy you've chosen to share your life with then go for it.

I just know it's not for me, and I'd rather remain single, or become a priest than marry a woman like that.

Posted by: Tony at January 6, 2007 12:15 AM

Hi all,
This is raji.

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Posted by: raji at March 23, 2007 10:31 AM

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