I realize that this blog has been dominated by my female perspective on the world, and that I often write about women’s issues and comment on being female in this (male-dominated) world. The About page of my blog should explain why.
But lest my readers get the wrong idea, I decided to change it up and write on another topic of interest: men.
People love to talk about the irreconcilable differences between the sexes: we’re from different planets, we think differently, we speak different languages, etc. While there is some truth to that, there is also greater truth to the fact that men and women have more in common than many people are willing to see. We all think, feel, laugh, and have opinions about what goes on around us. Our biological functions are largely the same, with the exception of hormonally influenced processes. Women burp, fart, and poop just like men, although many (of both sexes) don’t like to admit it. Men experience strong emotions and sometimes even cry, despite societal taboos against such undeniably human behavior. We love our families, stress about finances, learn (hopefully) from past mistakes, and dream about possibilities.
I value the men in my life — father, brothers, friends, lovers — for reasons that may come across as sexist or grossly generalized. So be it. What follows is my ode to men … at least the ones that I’ve been lucky enough to know.
[note to my female friends and relations: this is not to say that you do not possess similar qualities. But it isn’t about you, this time.]
Thank you, men, for being a sounding board without taking what I say personally. You have the uncanny ability to safeguard your ego while hearing me complain about my ex-husband, or my male supervisor, or the asshole that cut in line as we boarded the plane. You know I’m not talking about you when I ask “Why are men so self-centered?” I don’t have to say “present company excepted.” You know you are exceptional. You also don’t feel diminished if I praise a man in my life for certain qualities that you, too, might possess. The fact that I’m spending time with you shows that I admire you.
I am grateful that you let me join your group of male friends, without calling out my gender or assuming I’ll be offended by or unknowledgeable about your conversations. Growing up with three brothers and no sisters, I am sometimes more comfortable with guys than I am with women, whom I prefer in smaller groups. Not so with men: bring them on in droves and I feel at home. I enjoy being the gal pal, the token female, the woman in the locker room (towels on, please). You have accepted me as one of your pack — despite our obvious differences — without making me feel the center of attention or an oddity.
You are my role model in your acceptance of your physical flaws. No doubt there are things you’d like to change about yourself, but I never hear you say “I hate my belly fat” even when you’ve gained weight. You do something to change it, or not — but you do not wage war on yourself and expect me to chime in with my own laundry list of imperfections.
I thank you for not talking about other people I care nothing about. I appreciate that you do not tell me long stories about so-and-so’s daughter who got into her top college choice or whosit’s husband who lost his job and became a Starbucks barrista. You don’t spread gossip about our friends or voice your unsolicited opinion about someone’s personal (and acceptable) choice. You’ll give me a fair-minded and facts-only update on a mutual friend, but only if I ask.
I appreciate your willingness to inform me on subjects I know little about, without condescension or shock at my ignorance. I’ve never heard you say “You don’t know what a goal kick is?” in a tone that indicates I really should have known. Your expectations of my knowledge may be too low at times, yet I honor your willingness to be the fount of information. The same goes for books I haven’t read, news stories I know nothing about, or pop culture references that elude me. I occasionally live in a self-imposed bubble of ignorance, and you are more than happy to fill me in without critique.
I like that you (with some exceptions) can be ready to leave the house in 2 to 15 minutes, depending on if a shower and shave is involved. I take long showers, but am otherwise pretty low maintenance in terms of personal grooming, so I value being ready at a moment’s notice (formal events being the exception, in my case, where the clash between comfort and elegance is sometimes hard to manage). You are ready when I am, and for that I am grateful.
It is a huge relief that you do not judge my attire — even when inappropriate for the occasion — and that you are not ashamed to be seen with me when I am fat, frumpy, un-showered, ill-coiffed, or otherwise semi-unpresentable. I am not your arm-candy, and my lack of polish is not a reflection on you. You’ve never remarked on how smelly I am after days of camping, how I hide unwashed hair under hats or bandanas, or how often I choose to wear sensible shoes. Perhaps you don’t even notice, which is also to your credit. Yet I still love that you tell me I look great when I’ve made considerable effort in that direction. Thanks for that.
You are my hero for being my staunch supporter in my quest for a partner worthy of my love. It sometimes hurts that no man seems good enough for me in your eyes, but I secretly like that you care about me so much, that you think so highly of me that you find fault in every man I date. I still expect you to support my choices and treat my dates with respect and generosity, but it is okay if you think to yourself “he’s not her equal.” After all, you don’t see the whole picture: you would never expect or want to. What goes on behind closed doors is none of your business, and you are content to be ignorant on the subject.
A special shout out to my male friends, on whose shoulders I’ve cried, in whose homes I’ve crashed, with whose girlfriends/wives I’ve become friends, and accompanied by whom I’ve played pool in dive bars and shaken my booty in clubs without fear of being hit on by douchebags. You are my shield, my protector, my defender when needed, and you have kept me walking upright in the rare moments that I’ve over-indulged.
To the men in my life: I love you forever. This blog’s for you.