Thursday, 20 October 2011

Men Are Who They Are

...and not who you wish they would be.

This is a quote from He's Just Not That Into You, a book I very much enjoyed, although religious girls have to mentally rewrite some parts. For example, the authors are of the opinion that if a man is that into you, he will do his best get you into bed. Catholics and other Christians and women from other religious traditions know that this is not necessarily true for men committed to their faith tradition. If an unmarried religious man is "that into you" he marries you, and if a married religious man is "that into you" he tries to avoid you, and if a priest is "that into you" he goes into denial and blames you for the whole thing. (Ha, ha, just kidding, priests. Mostly.)

(By the way, we know crushes on priests are very, very dangerous, yes? If you have one, don't beat yourself up--crushes are just the common cold of the psyche--but don't encourage it either.)

Anyway, I have been thinking about men this week because the combox has been a bit harsh on them, and the last thing I want to do is encourage a men-are-scum mentality. Men-are-scum is not a rational belief, and it is the hallmark of the Bitter Woman. Bitterness is the Single's Enemy Number One.

I may be the General of Generalizations, but the truth of the matter is that all men, although they share maleness and thus tend to share certain behaviours, are unique, and that should always be taken into consideration. And men should be taken into consideration in a logical, methodical way. When I was a teenager, I would get a crush on a guy based on what he looked like, and from his looks I extrapolated what he might be like. And then I would be away into Fantasyville because very rarely did I get to know my crush very well.

I knew boys and men in books and on TV a zillion times better than boys and men in real life. And in elementary school I had found it very disappointing that boys and men were so unlike boys and men in books and on TV. They used bad language and said very rude things and either hated girls or snogged them behind the school (or both), and often delighted in making the weak suffer, which was not something Aragorn son of Arathorn--or even Henry of the Purple Crayon--had let me to expect.

Anyway, now that I am grown-up and even married, I take a scientific interest in concrete men and watch them and listen to them and try to determine what they are like and to predict what they will do in a given situation. For the generalities, I rely on books like He's Just Not That Into You and mull over things men have told me about men and whether experience has proven those things true.

Anything is better than wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is when you think about men not in terms of who they really are but in terms of whom you wish them to be. A very, very, basic example of this is mistaking "A man with such a pleasant smile must be a wonderful man" for a viable intellectual conclusion instead of a wish. (N.B. The worst of the bullies of my elementary school had a smile that charmed the hearts of all female creatures older than the ones he beat up/molested.)

Another wish is that men be as pure as Saint Dominic Savio, who once tore up a magazine of "bad pictures" that had found its way into his schoolyard and was being gazed at by his fellow students. However, very few men are as pure as Saint Dominic Savio, who wanted to be a priest, and died at 14 anyway. Come to think of it, most women are not as pure as Saint Dominic Savio either, as you should reflect the next time you leaf through Cosmo, Vogue or a romance novel.

I am reminded of a great young Catholic friend, a married guy, who half-ruefully told me (when my other friend his beautiful wife was in the room) that he thought he might be too preoccupied with sex, and I said that I didn't see anything wrong with that as he was a young man, and married, and it was good for the species.

I thought of this because of Denise's anecdote (thank you, Denise) about the guy who said he and his friends thought of the kind of girl who threw herself at men in bars as "Practice." Denise was angry about this, and I would be angry, too, although not because men think like of girls "like that" as "Practice". Men have thought of girls "like that" as "Practice" for at least six thousand years. If they didn't avail themselves of the girls and call them "Practice", they merely despised them from afar and called them "Harlots." The Old Testament stresses avoiding such women entirely.

I can't speak for Denise, but I would be angry because not only do I not want to be thought of as "Practice", I want to be the sort of woman to whom a man is embarrassed to reveal the seamier side of male culture. I want to inspire a man to think of higher things, etc., etc., and to reflect that all womanhood is noble and that all women are made in the image and likeness of God. Obviously, the poor benighted goop who shocked Denise was not inspired by Denise to reflect upon this. But at least he is old-fashioned enough to believe that there are some girls, like Denise, who are not "for Practice." Some men think all women are up for grabs.

This is not me saying that you should give male sluts the time of day. In fact, if I were Denise, I would have told the man that I was offended by his exploitative attitude towards the silly girls who, like everyone else, just want to be loved, and gone home. But I would not have been particularly surprised by his attitude because men-in-general have, openly or secretly, despised women "like that" forever.

As generalizations go, I think I am on solid ground when I say that. Meanwhile, the substance of the post is "Men are who they are and not who you want them to be" and this is all just commentary. I will just add that if you let a man talk more than you, or just sit silently listening to him interact with a group, you can learn a lot about him.

Don't block it out or conveniently forget it because it does not jive with your expectations. If he says something that seems disappointing or unreasonable, and you are reluctant to ask questions about what he has said, go check it out with your brother or a good male friend.

No comments: