Saturday, November 6, 2010

Men Want Paradise Too

We've probably all seen one of these recent fart-driven comedies on TV or the movies about what men want: Wedding Crashers, Two and a Half Men, The Hangover, The Ugly Truth, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Knee-deep in dirty sweat socks, pizza boxes everywhere, constant TV or video games, in fact a grimy pigsty inhabited by cavemen who still somehow believe they are attractive to women.
This is, of course, a gross exaggeration in order to ratchet up the humor stakes--at least, I hope it is. Anyway, the reason it is funny is the grain of truth within: Most men don't like to clean up, themselves or their den. They don't want to dress up, go out, hit craft fairs, art crawls, or fancy restaurants. The only reason they do any of these things is when women, women who might sleep with them, want them to. Require them to.
But most men are not cavemen. They believe themselves to be nice decent human beings who perhaps see no reason to shave, put on a tie, or God forbid, a suit. Let's not talk tux. What they share with these over-the-top Oscar Madisons is this deep-seated belief that no matter the exterior, they deserve female companionship. They, unlike many women, don't believe they need to change something about themselves to deserve love. Lots of women will agree in principle that they should meet men halfway. Many men want to be met more than halfway. With little or no reciprocation. There are even those who want women to give it up freely, for nothing--and then go away.
I am reminded of Elizabeth Bennet refusing Mr. Collins' proposal in Pride and Prejudice. My husband often accuses me of having no compassion for the slimy Mr. Collins. That's not true. I do feel sorry for him. Just not as sorry as he feels for himself. Obviously he does not have the skills he needs to find a wife in the regular way. He has to resort to a version of shooting fish in a barrel. No, what I object to is such a common women's complaint about men that it crosses all centuries and all cultures. Mr. Collins wants to be understood by Elizabeth, loved by Elizabeth, given every benefit of the doubt--without having to bother his thick head with seeing anything from Elizabeth's point of view. Mr. Collins has worked out what he wants from her and he just doesn't understand what the problem is. Why won't she do as he asks? (Of course, in Jane Austen, the only time a woman can make herself heard is in refusing a proposal. The culture is so constructed that that is the only moment in a woman's life when she has any say in the direction it will take.)
Even today, some men have this weird belief that women should be more like men: moral, independent, untied to any other consideration than their own desires. Just like men. But as soon as women actually begin to live exactly like men, as independent moral beings, women find their own need to understand, pamper, and forgive men for being short-sighted and me-centric all the time just dries right up. Some men think that women should just let men do whatever they want--because they'd let women do that too, wouldn't they? (Well, not really. It's just a talking point, but whatever.)
But women, many of them, want harmony. Even if they do no go so far as to want perfection (see below), they are not so wedded to having their own way that they couldn't compromise to suit all parties. Many women want to do things together, not separately fulfill separate desires. They want to bake the cake and eat it too. Not just gulp down the ingredients serially. They want love with their sex. They want sex with love. They want the visuals and the essentials. They're not afraid of work; they just don't want to be the only one doing any. In their search for harmony, they continue to hope that there is something they can do to improve the situation. Sometimes there is. Sometimes not. Sometimes the guy is too close to Mr. Collins to be affected by any action of theirs.
Obviously, this is far from the last word on this.

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