Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Why Do Boys Count So Much?

Girls, hello! I neglected you yesterday for the laundry and getting my eyebrows done and all the things I have to do before I go to Canada to sell my book. But I did think of you, and wondered what words of wisdom I could drag out from my 20 years of dating. Sometimes I wonder if I had to go on all those dates or whether I could have just concentrated on other stuff and then just met B.A. at 37. I don't know about you, but it makes me think.

Now, I know the boys are going to read this because it has boys in the title. I'm not sure reading this would be good for them because do they really, really need to know how much girls long for their attention? But they do, and as I struggled in high school to free myself from crushes that positively fogged my brain, I wondered why.

"I wish I had a boyfriend," the teenaged me said to my mother.

"Why?" said my mother. "What would you do with one?"

Ten years or so later my shrink said this was terrible and Freudian and alluded to sex and inappropriate and blah blah. But actually it was quite a sensible question, and I don't think my mother was asking, literally, what I would do with one. She meant what was the point of having one when you're way below marriageable age and I was stumped.

But I was stumped only because I did not know how to express to my mother the sense of being unloved and not-special and lonely and plain and I thought romantic love would clear up all that. And, I have to admit, being admired even by boys I wasn't attracted to (the vast majority of a small band of brothers), did add an frisson of excitement to my day.

This feeling began when I was ten or so, and I think I have to blame books. I was not interested in attracting the attention of the boys in my elementary school class--au contraire. The boys I loved were created by E. Nesbit and Enid Blyton. The male behaviour I admired was best illustrated by the heroes of Tolkien. The typical boyfriend, I believed, was Ned Nickerson of Nancy Drew. Reading about these boys gave me such comfort, I suppose I thought having them come to life would be even better.

(It may be significant that, when I first met B.A., I had the curious sense that I was living in a book. Indeed, I spent twelve days or so moving from book to book, with frequent returns to the happier chapters of Brideshead Revisited. Basically I've married the spiritual descendent of Evelyn Waugh. Maybe this means that if you grew up in love with heroes of Westerns, you should move out West. Just saying.)

But to get back to my original theme, other girls in class were more interested than I in attracting the affections of the boys and went at great lengths to get it. It was common, by the time I was ten, for the "popular boys" and the "popular girls" to meet behind the school and French kiss. They didn't have a lot of privacy--indeed, sometimes they all trooped back there together. At the time I (accidentally well-catechized) thought this was SHOCKING, although now it seems a trifle funny.

Less funny is the world of today where ten year old boys can download porn from the internet in the blink of an eye and the average girl is offering up her body for sex at a younger and younger age. It seems like such a stupid, stupid thing to do, but girls do it all the same. Why? Can they not see that the kind of boys interested only in sex are not the kind of boy to whom they should even be speaking?

Oh poppets, I think I must be getting Married Person Amnesia, because I cannot remember why it is that girls and women take such emotionally and socially terrible risks to attract or keep the men they admire. If any of you have light to throw on the topic, please answer in the combox.


Deirdre said...

I'm not sure if this will shed any light on anything - just my two cents. Underneath everything, I think we all just want to be loved, we want to feel special. As children we crave this attention from our parents and friends, and as we get a little bit older our hormones kick in, we start to look outside our families for a different kind of love and attention. There is very little emphasis on chastity in the lives of most young people today - in education, in the media, in entertainment, even at home sometimes - I don't think we can overestimate these influences - sexual relationships are portrayed as "normal" - and we're all aware how desperately most young people yearn to "fit in". But as women, as adults, there are so many different reasons we attach so much importance to having a partner - any partner - for some it's still that idea that having someone in your life is "normal", for others it could be fear of being alone, or a craving for attention, or an inability to cope with life as a single person, or pressure to be in a relationship from other sources ... or the search for a husband, a father for potential children, however misguided we can be, there are probably as many reasons as there are relationships.

AveLady said...

I'd imagine there are plenty of reasons, but when it's at its worst, isn't it rather like doing drugs? You may know perfectly well that it will just make everything worse in the long run, but for the short-term rush or relief of pain/lonliness/longing it seems worth it. It doesn't help that today's society encourages instant gratification and makes it incredibly easy to get this sort of "love."

Thankfully though that's an imperfect analogy, because unlike the high from drugs everybody can legitimately have (and instinctively knows they can have) all the benefits of love. It's just that whole waiting thing that has never come so well to humans, I should think. I know I frequently find myself thinking "Lord, I know you'll either send me a man or call me some other way sooner or later... but can't it pleeeeeeeeeeease be sooner? PLEEEEEEEEASE?" That feeling of being in limbo - unattached to anything/anyone in particular but expecting to be thus eventually is annoying. Of course, getting married doesn't fix that entirely because what we're all REALLY waiting for is beatitude. But try telling me that when I'm in a "PLEEEEEEEEASE send me a man!" mood....

PS My word verification is "owless." I'd like an owl... oh well.

Lemons said...


The "Who needs boys, anyway?" tangent has been a little too frequent for my taste lately. No matter how much I may agree or disagree.

Boys count for the same reason parents count, and friends count. If I didn't have parents, I'd probably desperately wish I had my mom and dad; if I didn't have friends, I'd probably be extremely lonely for friends. In fact, at 13, I left my family, and more purposefully, my gang of male friends to live at a convent because I wanted more girl friends I thought I was lacking.

But even stronger is the human need for a deep connection with another human that you often can only get from a romantic relationship.

I am totally with you, Seraphic, that kids below the age of marriage should not concentrate on that which will likely end before it counts for anything. But physically and hormonally, you think you're ready for marriage and sex. After-all, why else would parents ship their girls off to get married as soon as possible after these girls physically "became women?" That was a long-standing way of doing things that didn't end terribly long ago.

So I think it's perfectly natural for anyone, even teenagers, and even at certain points, serious singles, to *want* that, no matter how impractical or unnecessary.

Also, I think it's wrong to assume and generalize that it's the girls *giving* their innocence to boys. Being frequently accosted by my own raging hormones, I can't say I totally buy that it's the girls who always feel pressured and like the only way the boy will love them is if they have sex with them, and, though I can't say for sure having never been a boy, I think that girls are probably often as willing as the boy is.

MargoB said...

Maybe it has something to do with the repeated use of the Wedding Feast as a symbol for heaven? (Just thinking out loud, here.) We *do* want to feel singled-out, attractive; want to be pursued and loved especially -- and, as already stated, the only way we'll ever be satisfied on that score is by complete union with God. But I'll bet we are willing to take those steep risks because we sense that this is not a fruitless search -- and because we want it so badly: for which, thank heavens, as this deep desire can be transformed/used in drawing us to God.

Jess said...

Just wanted to express my love for Brideshead Revisited (fantastic book!) and agree that my longings for male attention definitely began when I was very much unmarriable, probably 11 haha, and for the most part my yearnings were stirred up by books and movies, even very innocent ones. I don't think I should have been deprived from reading or watching movies/shows with romantic themes in them. When it comes down to it, our longing to be loved, appreciated, and cherished is really a longing to be loved perfectly by God!

fifi said...

Maybe this is cliche, or just repeating the others, but I think the reason a lot of women take such risks is because they don't value themselves enough. They don't have the self-respect to hold out until someone treats them in the way that they are worthy of (and holding out is lonely and scary if you don't know how to be a Seraphic Single). On the extreme end, I see a lot of women engage in behavior that is essentially self-destructive: drugs, getting real drunk and sleeping with anyone and everyone, bad relationships.
I'd like to think I've been blessed with a lot of love and a healthy upbringing, but even I didn't banish my own gerbil brownie-eater until I realized brownies and delightful, deep conversations deserved more of an investment than he was putting down (ie, boyfriend/girlfriend status). It wasn't that I valued him any less, just that I learned to value my gifts and my selfhood more.
...(selfhood... is that a word?)...

Seraphic said...

These are great responses!

Fifi, selfhood is indeed a word!

AveLady, the limbo feeling is indeed the WORST. How I hated the Not Knowing part! It's like being a little kid waiting for Christmas only this year you don't know when Christmas falls. EEEEEE!

MargoB said...

Hmmm...Fifi, you made me think. I wasn't referring to *those* kinds of risks when I wrote what I did, above. I meant the much-less-destructive-but-still-not-becoming-of-a-woman things we do to get masculine attention. But it's quite possible Seraphic meant the term 'risks' broadly, and in that light, I get what you're saying.

Alisha said...

"They don't have the self-respect to hold out until someone treats them in the way that they are worthy of"

Just a thought, but it's worth considering that in some cases the girls or guys are receiving care from the one they are giving themselves away to...while we know this is morally wrong, it is not necessarily the case that all women, or men for that matter who "give it away" too soon are doing so with men/women who treat them badly. Sometimes the care is genuine, if misguided, just in the wrong context.
The trouble then is that once someone has equated that kind of intimacy with caring, if a relationship doesn't last, they will look for the same kind of intimacy they had before - and at that point, if they are particularly longing for it, they may look in the wrong places.
I say this simply because it is important to recognize that people are drawn by whatever good there is in a situation, not the bad. It is not that girls are saying "I'm going to go treat myself with disrespect" or "I only deserve this". They have some idea of what they want, and they may find someone/some thing that matches that in an emotional sense - maybe the guy is a genuine, caring person and tries to take care of her the best he can. But without the Christian vision of marriage, the higher ideal to aspire to, neither of them may even know they are settling. It is not a lie that attracts, but the truth or beauty in the wrong place or twisted.