Friday, 3 December 2010

Don't Bother Trying to Improve Them

I have been writing advice all morning, which is so against my M.Div. training, I am ashamed. However, we all know I'm not in ministry but in bloggery, so I guess that's not so bad.

Now I am seriously in a spill-my-guts mood, so now I shall write in a way that may ruffle the feathers of my few male readers, although frankly I am delighted that I still have male readers and of course men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life.

When I was Single, I was a little more careful about not saying bad things about men. At least, I think I was. My publisher, being a man, was shocked and shaken by some of the things I say about men in my book. (By the way, have you bought all your friends copies of my book for Christmas yet, and if not, why not, eh?) Men look tough, but inside they are tender plants, or so my mother always said.

When you say "Sometimes I really hate men" they take it personally. In fact, sometimes when you say "Men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life," they take that personally, too, and wail, "Why not something more nutritious?"

For nutrition, I talk to women, cuddle babies or read books. For that old black magic, that zip, that bit of what-gets-you-through the day, that caffeine, I banter with the man I married not because he was a great earner or whatever (and FWIW he has no car), but because he is sexy, amusing and good. "Ah, your poor wife! I pity her. At least with my Paddy, if I've nothing to eat, I've got something to look at" as the stroppy Catholic Belfast wifie said to the British soldier.

Personally, I like men not because they can do math or whatever but because they are taller than me, and have broader shoulders, and have to shave their faces, and often have growly voices. When they can do cool stuff, stuff women can or could do, too, if they got around to it, like build houses or paint portraits or dance the Gay Gordon, I am full of additional admiration.

I couldn't give a tinker's damn how much money they have or what car they drive. I have a husband; their money is no good to me. My chief social interest in men is whether they amuse me or not. If they write to me asking for advice, then I will do my best to advise them, my brothers in Christ, but in general I leave men-in-general alone to get on with their job of being men.

I have absolutely zero interest in actively investing in the improvement of specific men. I know that there are women who feel that it is their duty to give men friends unasked for advice and admonishment and fraternal correction, but if they are Single and wish to marry one day, I think they are shooting themselves in the high-heeled foot.

My mother never seems to say a cross word to my father; normally she tells him that he is clever, and my childhood echoed with "O children, what a clever man your father is!" This brainwashed us into thinking our dad was The Best Man on Earth, which he sort of is, and it brainwashed me into thinking that the best way to deal with husbands is to praise them all the time. My husband seems to like this. He flourishes. My father flourishes, too. Like plants.

The thing is, though, both my father and my husband are clever, good and worthy of praise. So are my brothers. I suppose they must have their bad points, but I generally ignore them, unless they affect me immediately and directly, and then I squawk.

To sum up, I think Single women should retain a slight reserve around Single men. IF you want to get married one day, flirt with Single men like crazy, but don't give them advice or critique unless they ask. Unsolicited advice is for aunties, and spontaneous critique is for mothers, older sisters and, as a last resort, wives. I also think you should marry only that man it would not choke you to praise all the time, and who would appreciate your praise. Of course, this might be specific to women who were brought up the way I was brought up. Possibly there are other viable methods to the Care and Feeding of Husbands.

Men are not women. I think they're more like trees. And I love trees. Give the sound ones lots of sun and nourishment, avoid nicking their roots with the lawnmower and don't bother talking to them about their flaws. If they're that flawed, beware of falling branches, and find a sounder tree to hug.


Sheila said...

I bought your book for a Single friend for her recent birthday! She says she's enjoying it so far. Thanks for the great gift idea!

dark but fair said...

This is so true! I do not even generally give my younger brothers unsolicited advice.
My boyfriend is awesome. So I tell him that he is constantly and it just motivates him to keep being awesome. To keep being himself, in short. I do think all men are like that. They want respect and appreciation even though they pretend that they do not need it. Once during a witty banter with one young man I teased him. The next time we meant, MONTHS later, we chatted again and he remembered EVERY word of what I had said, and rebuffed it. I said to him in some shock, "You do realize that I was just teasing you because you seemed to me like an intelligent, strong, confident fellow, right? You do realize that I was not serious?" THIS GUY REMEMBERED that one thing that I had said with no thought or effort or seriousness for all those months and remembered it WORD for WORD!

I had to give him several nice compliments to put things right. But I was so shocked that this young fellow cared so much what a random woman had said in jest. And now I know. They look tough on the outside but they hear and internalize EVERYTHING we say.

sciencegirl said...

Bwahahaha! Men are sexy trees, apparently.

Stuff like this is why I don't mind if men say women are delicate flowers, china dolls, etc. because I am secretly objectifying them too.

My favorite female idiocy: the girl in movies who, on seeing an ex-boyfriend happily with another girl, are sad because she spent so much time improving him and now she gets the benefits. Ans she is seriously confused why the man she basically tormented would like to be with a nice, fun girl who actually likes him.

Seraphic said...

Men are indeed sexy trees. If I were Queen of the World (and not married) I would hug all the sexier ones. Not being the Queen of the World (and being married, not to mention living in the UK where hugging is illegal or soemthing), I have to make do with real trees.

Seraphic said...

Sheila, thank you for buying my book for your friend!

Maggie said...

Is there really such an awful taboo against hugging across the pond? Oh dear. I am a huge fan of hugging (not random people, which would be awkward. Close friends and relatives) and would be quite sad without it.

Seraphic said...

The idea of trying to hug anyone except B.A. and fellow North Americans in Scotland fills me with abject fear. Would X REALLY break my nose? I fear he might just out of sheer instinct and panic.

Becca said...

Sigh. You're so right. I'm not very good at praising people out loud it seems. And the problem is that I can praise the boys I have no romantic interest in and only seem to tease the ones I actually like. My sarcastic tendencies have decreased since realizing I was using it as a defense mechanism but is sadly still there somewhat.

I do believe I will make affirming others an Advent project.

The Sojourner said...

Dark but Fair--
That's an interesting point about teasing. I almost never tease my boyfriend, because the couple of times I tried I could tell it kind of hurt his feelings. (Not like he went around sulking, but I can read him pretty well...) I figured it was just his style of humor or something. But maybe it's a widespread man thing to not want to be teased by attractive women.