Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Male Double Bind

Recently, a co-worker complained because her husband became teary when his team lost their bid for the Super Bowl.  Emotions, other than anger and happiness, cause most women to react negatively. This is the double bind American men battle daily.  Husbands, boyfriends, and men in general deal with accusations of not being more compassionate, caring and sympathetic. They also get the blame for being uncommunicative. Let’s examine what happens when men show sadness, which is a direct result of caring.

A man who sniffles at the end of the movie while the woman emptied a tissue box over the same film is teased about his behavior. Most men know this will happen and are smart enough to go to the bathroom to wipe away any embarrassing moisture.

As for strong emotions, men do have them, and more besides angry and horny. Although most men manage to hold the Mr. Spock face for most emotional upheavals. Why is this you might wonder? As a young boy, showing disappointment or even sadness over a lost Little League game or a dead pet met with comments of try harder next time or be a man. Direct translation is men do not cry or display any other emotions except anger and occasionally pride.

While women want men to talk to them, they often don’t like what the man has to say. Men are problem solvers. A woman comes home and complains about her day, which causes the man to leap into action.  His ideas about solving her issues at work might be useful, but she didn’t want a solution, just a listening ear that would hear her complaints. The woman may slam off to the bedroom leaving a bewildered man.

Remember when your parents or teachers would ask you a question that they knew the answer to as a test. Women do this all the time. They seldom inform the man he’s be testing. If he answers wrong, he’s an uncaring jerk. Even the chattiest male, starts to limit his conversation aware simple honest responses might cause an explosion that would rival any volcanic one.

Women see some man cry on television when his woman dies, leaves, or thinks about leaving him. They nudge the guy beside them, point to the six-pack ab man wiping away tears and ask, “Would you cry if I left, die, etc.?” The right answer is always “yes.”

Why then, do women get upset when a man is despondent or depressed? Women still expect men to be stronger in all ways. A man who cries openly causes the woman to doubt his role in her life. She would prefer to be the weak one who can depend on her strong man. Even though most women believe in equality, many managed to drag male stereotypes into the twenty-first century.

There’s so much wrong about this besides making a man live inside a John Wayne stereotype. It also refuses to recognize that women have the same qualities we expect men to have naturally. Men and women both have a wide range of characteristics. It is unfortunate that we have divided these  between two genders. When a man does anything that resembles a feminine trait from being nurturing to soft-hearted, he receives ridicule, often labelled gay by other males.

Now, the man is not only trying to conform to anachronistic societal standards, but prove his sexual identity too by being a bottled up male. Men often deny their emotions for so long that often they fail to recognize them and misidentify them. An unhappy fifty-ish man may decide he’s going through a mid-life crisis and leave his wife for the intern at work. This behavior is more culturally acceptable than a man appearing uncertain and vulnerable.

It isn’t too surprising that most men are on the non-talkative side. They often keep their opinions to themselves to avoid any possible arguments. In Ten Things I Hate about You, the woman asks the man what he’s thinking while he’s watching a movie. His reply is he isn’t thinking about anything because he’s watching a movie. She then goes on to tell him he’s thinking about another woman. What she's really doing is verbalizing her own insecurities.

Even when men don’t comment, they still get in trouble. It makes you understand the silent male on the edge of the crowd. It also makes you understand why it is takes so long to get most men to open up. They remember what happened the last time they opened up.

So in the end, what does the American woman want? Do they want the six-pack ab man who makes six figures and is willing to pour his heart out at his love’s feet? Maybe. Still, he’s a fictional character. It reminds me of two men I overheard when I exited the movie theater arguing about the best way to kill a dragon. Dragons don’t exist; neither do those alpha guys who cry buckets when their love life goes south.

What would happen if two people could have an authentic relationship with each other? No hiding behind stereotypes and free to express any emotion without ridicule, this might be a definition of a perfect relationship.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Defining Beauty

How we define female beauty or male attractiveness may doom our happiness or the ability to attract the right mate. Why is that?

The first issue is how we feel about ourselves. There are few things more off-putting than a woman who puts down herself. A woman who constantly bemoans her weight, hair, or any other feature wants reassurance that she’s okay. Her date renders up confirmation that she is attractive, but she may brush the words away, too caught up in the media-generated version of beauty to accept the words.

Her date feels like she doesn’t value his opinion or doesn’t have the courtesy to listen to him. Later on, after constant needs for reassurance or obsessing about her weight, the man disappears. This only confirms what the woman believed. Women are horribly insulted when their recently departed man chooses someone heavier or less conventionally attractive.  What they failed to realize is how the man views this woman.

The new woman is okay with who she is. It could be that she might want to lose a few pounds, but she isn’t going to base her vacation plans or her life on it. People who are able to love themselves are able to love others. It’s impossible to accept other people when you can’t accept yourself. The cattiness that comes between women stems from the failure to love who they are.

Most women compare themselves to media-generated images that bear no relationship to actual people. A model on the Steve Harvey show recently revealed all the Photo Shopping that went into her bikini shoot. Here was a woman who was already trim and beautiful who had more “help” than any plastic surgeon junkie with the help of technology. Some fashion magazines use computer-generated models since human females are not thin enough.

Despite all the magazine covers and romance novels featuring men with hairless six-pack torsos, men don’t look like that.  An unrealistic standard of beauty cuts both ways.

Women often refuse to date a man under five ten.  It would be like refusing to date a man because he had brown eyes. This is another media-generated image of what a man should be. Not only does a woman expect the man to be taller than her, but still taller after she dons her skyscraper heels. According to the Huffington Post, only four percent of US women are willing to date a man their height or shorter.

How we view people makes all the difference in the world. I have women friends who are married to men much younger than they are. I have heavier than average friends who married attractive, athletic husbands. They all went on to have great lives and marriages.

The difference was they were okay with who they were. None of them lost any sleep over the fact they didn’t look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Their husbands loved them for the brilliant, strong, wonderful women they are. The smart men were able to see real beauty.

Happy people are attractive. Unhappy people aren’t. Often those who are unhappy with their own appearance seek validation in the appearance of their date thinking, ‘If my date meets the media criterion for beauty then that means I'm okay.’ What it means is a constant pursuit of a better model to prove self-worth.

It’s not too late to fall in love with you. It involves accepting yourself as you are right now. It’s amazing that once you are okay with yourself how many other people are okay with who you are. They always were, but it was impossible to see through your own doubts.

Loving yourself allows you to see others as they are as opposed to picking through dating profiles for the best body. This doesn’t happen all at once. I can see in retrospect that I allowed myself to be treated poorly because I didn’t think I deserved better. My dates mirrored back my own behavior.

I met my sweetie once I was okay with myself. He was the one who convinced me that I didn’t need to lose weight to be beautiful and he’s right. I see him as my gorgeous Adonis. Other women saw him as not tall enough.

There were some lonely men and women this Valentine’s Day. There were plenty of folks who would have been wonderful dates for them, but their tight grip on unrealistic beauty standards condemns them to solitude.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lunacy: Why Women Take Back Cheating Exes

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is lunacy. You might have a few posters around work with this particular quote. Did you know it applies to your love life too?

The other day I stumbled across a blog written by a man I knew by reputation. He confesses that he keeps going back to the same woman after cheating on her several times, and even leaving her altogether another half dozen.  This time, he pens, will be different. His goal is to be a better man.

Some people reading the blog will applaud the man for his confession and willingness to be a better man. A few people will believe the words, including the woman, in question.  Too many people want their cheating exes back. The real question is why.

Companies, books, even videos make tons of money on selling the lovelorn gimmicks and tricks to retrieve the wandering ex. Just yesterday on my Facebook page, a tearful video detailed a woman who discovered her ex was cheating on her. She found him with her best friend. He confessed to a year affair with the friend under the woman’s very nose. She cried her eyes out and moped around for months claiming she still loved her ex. How could she love a man who betrayed her and cheated on her?

Most would write the cheating loser off and move on. Too often, people who long for an ex don’t long for the actual man, but the image they created of him. It includes scenarios where the cheating ex becomes a romantic movie character, wooing her with long speeches and generous gifts. It doesn’t matter if this has never happened before. A betrayed woman often wants to believe in her fantasy.

Who wouldn’t? The alternative is to accept the ex that discarded his devoted sweetie the same way he would a used tissue.  This means either the guy is a jerk or the woman is a loser. Neither one is a palatable option for the woman who wants to believe.  Many women don’t want to be part of a broken couple because they will have to go through the whole dating scenario again.   

Better to go with the cheater she knows.  She’ll often rationalize that she must have been the problem. The ex may have blamed her as he left with his current squeeze. The woman seeks out remedies to bring back her errant lover.  She may lure him home with promises to be more loving or more adventurous.  It might even work for a while.

The bad news is it doesn’t last for long. The cheater was between affairs and his ex was a convenient landing spot. Consider he doesn’t have to be charming or on his best behavior with the ex. He probably doesn’t have to spend money either. She doesn’t see him as he is, but as she wants him to be.

Eventually he leaves again despite all the wonderful things the woman does. Sometimes, he doesn’t leave, but continues to cheat while being pampered at home. As a man gets older, he loses his bad boy appeal. It depends on the man when that happens. By then, the man settles because he has no other alternatives. The jilted lover now has a man who wishes he was elsewhere, but has no way to get there.

When people break up, especially when one person cheats, the message is clear. Players play. Data shows that cheaters will cheat again because they are predisposed to it. Too many women want to believe they are the one that will turn a man from his bad boy ways.

A regular guy who cheats isn’t into his current woman.  He doesn’t care if he gets caught and the relationship dissolves. In fact, he wants it to. It makes the exit easier. A committed man doesn’t look for additional partners, but a man on his way out does.

What if the woman left a perfectly ordinary man and now wants him back? She may have felt her life wasn’t exciting enough. The stability and support that her caring spouse offered wasn’t enough for her.  She wanted the excitement of the bad boy. Maybe even the guy writing the blog.  Bad boys don’t care about pleasing women, as opposed to what you see in movies. Instead, they’re out for themselves.

The restless wife or girlfriend finds this out too late. She may try to go back to her reliable man, but will usually find he’s moved on. Keep in mind, the loving man that was left behind realizes his worth and found someone who did also.

Why doesn’t the woman also do this, instead of taking back the cheater, or worse, chasing him? Blame it on the media or poor self-esteem, but she’s sure she’ll get the bad boy back and things will be better. They won’t. She’s shown the man he can do anything and she’ll welcome him back with open arms. In fact, there will be less time between cheating episodes because he suffers no consequences for his actions.

As for the blogger, I doubt he even believes the words he typed. They are, at best, a cheap gift for the woman who keeps taking him back.  He knows she’ll believe them.