Saturday 22 January 2022

A Very Late Response to an Interesting Question

These days, whenever I'm doing something, it's because I'm not doing something else. It's a bit depressing. If I'm reading an Italian poem, it means I'm not reading a Polish story. If I'm typing this, it means I'm not at the gym. And therefore I wasn't that surprised when I saw I hadn't published a reader comment from this summer, let alone answered it. Here it is, from long-time reader Tiny Therese:

I recently watched a video where it mentioned how men can be intimidated by a woman's achievements. Other men may make fun of him for having a relationship with a woman more successful than him. It said the dream man would support her accomplishments and not feel threatened.

You've talked about being aware of how men truly are not how we want them to be. You say not to brag or compete with men outside of work and school. Don't talk about how you graduated from an Ivy League school unless asked about it. 

What if you strive for your dreams and what you're called to do, are humble, interested in what's going on in your man's life, and prioritize time with him, but he still resents your achievements? He scowls at you making more money than him, running for office, publishing a book, etc. He's stuck at a dead-end job and feels emasculated. Apart from saying, "I'm sorry you're going through that, dear. I want you to be happy and thrive," what could you do? 

My gut says to share in your partner's victories instead of being envious, but maybe there's something more I'm missing when it comes to male psychology.

I still stand by "Men are who they are and not who we want them to be," especially when deep down what we want them to be is women. This is not to say that men cannot become more empathetic and better listeners with time and circumstances, like decades of marriage and the horrible fear that comes along with having a daughter. But I am married to a very kind man who talks often of his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, and who is well-liked by women, and even so I have moments of acute frustration when I realise what I really need to do is speak to another woman. 

I also still stand by not competing with, or bragging about your accomplishments to, the men you know socially if you are interested in getting married. Men are in competition with each other all the time, and the big competitors may react to you as if you are another man if you exhibit this male behaviour. (Men suddenly thinking of women as if they were other men is also one of the many reasons you must never  punch a man first.) If the men around are less competitive types, they might think you're "out of their league." 

Amusingly, I am reminded of a conversation with a paleo-con Republican PhD candidate 15 years ago,  who greatly admired Ann Coulter.

"Is she single?" I asked, pondering that she might like my Republican friend.

"Is she single?!?! Ann Coulter is out of my league," he exclaimed, and so no Boston U. arm-candy for the still-single Ms. C, which is a shame, really, but it wasn't her fault. 

What are men looking for in a wife these days? I haven't thought about it recently, and I'm not sure that many men are looking for wives, but when they are, I imagine they want to marry someone who looks attractive, is nobody's fool, has interests of her own, is kind-hearted, a good listener, and will not end up resenting him for something. 

Tiny Therese is vague about the relationship between her hypothetical couple, but if the woman is merely dating the man, then she should drop him like a hot potato. "Call me when you've got your life together," is what she should say. "I don't want to be with you if you make me feel like a traitor for doing well."

If all goes well, he will get a better job and telephone in triumph to apologise and ask her out to dinner. If it doesn't goes well, she's rid of him and free to meet someone better. 

Why is such a talented, hard-working, and successful woman settling for second (or third) best in her personal life, is what I want to know. This is omething she should ask herself, and perhaps ask rhetorically of her sulky beau, too.

If the woman is married to the man, the answer is easier: shouting. Well, maybe not shouting, but some frank language such as spouses should be free to use with each other. 

"If you hate your job, quit and find another one. My money is our money, and I'm happy for you to take a break to find something else." 

"I am unhappy that you are not supporting me in this, and I would like to know why this is."  

"Tell you what, I'll tell my boss that I don't want to make more money than my husband, and so he should reduce my salary." 

"I celebrate your victories, and I am unhappy when you don't celebrate mine."

"I am very worried about you, and I think you should talk to a therapist." 

"I don't think you're a £$%& loser, and I don't give a £$%& what you do for a living."

I am reading an interesting book by a former editor of Vogue. She was once in an on-again, off-again relationship with a writer who very much resented the attention she got as the editor of Vogue. Reader, she married him, which was a mistake, but at least she had the baby she so badly longed for.  
Since I watched most of Sex & the City years ago, I am reminded by Carrie's relationship with a novelist who broke up with her by post-it note. He resented her success (and superior knowledge of scrunchies), but at least he had enough awareness of himself to be horrified by this. Your faith in the wisdom of the S&TC screenwriters may vary, but I suspect they understood writers very well. I'll never forget the depths of rage and envy I fell into when I saw a photo of a university pal's first book. Yikes. 

Writers have a host of sinful tendencies I know only too well. Ambitious writers should probably not date other writers. 

Anyway, my conclusion is that sometimes a spouse (or anyone in what is supposed to be a loving relationship) needs to remind the other spouse that they are not in a competition but in a partnership. Although, in general, men are more competitive than women, I can well imagine modern women sulking because their husbands are Mr. Rah-Rah Executive whereas they are just at home with the children cleaning up spilled juice all day. In fact, I think that is the story of the second half of the 20th century.

This is why, by the way, I think Single Men Today---at least the ones from my broken-home generation--want to be with women with interests of their own so that they will not resent them for all the thing their mothers resented their fathers for. 

Update: Speaking of the Single life, this is the first time I've seen anything like the following. It seems very sensitive to the hurt Single people often feel. I approve.

Hi Dorothy, 

At Papier we believe Valentine’s is a day to celebrate all kinds of love. Love for friends, for family, parents and partners, and for yourself. But we appreciate it can be a sensitive occasion for some people, so we’re checking in to see if you would prefer to opt out of our Valentine’s Day reminders this year. 

If you'd like to opt out, click here and we'll sort it. 

You’ll still continue to receive all other things Papier so you won't miss out.

Best wishes,
Head of Customer Service

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for answering my question. I feared some women may be reluctant to be ambitious and successful if it meant they'd scare potential love interests away. I'm reminded of past generations of women who were told not to come off as too intelligent so you can get a husband.

    These days, it isn't always clear what reasonable expectations are in romantic relationships. Machismo, certain approaches of feminism, gay pride, and transgenderism complicate things.

    I was born in the 1980s. My generation has often been told how boys are dumber, (apart from things like math and science). Women have better sense. Sitcoms feature nagging wives who are smarter and more responsible than their husbands. The men don't know how to take care of themselves or their kids and don't understand the desires of their families.

    What does it truly mean to be a woman and what does it truly mean to be a man? How do the sexes interact with each other as God intended? There's talk of Theology of the Body in Catholicism. I keep hearing about feminine genius, but wonder what the masculine genius is.

    Sorry for the rant, but that's where I was coming from.