A dear soul, we’ll call him J, asked me, almost two months ago “when did women become so desperate and men so complacent?” We’ve been discussing this loaded topic ever since, and it has taken me this long to figure out how to approach it in writing. I want to be clear here that while I’m using terms like “women” and “men”, that I’m not limiting this discussion to heterosexual relationships – certainly homosexual men and lesbian women can identify with desperation when it comes to long-term comittment and family planning, and also complacency where related to the two.
I’ve since polled friends and our discussion has become such a thing among us, that I thought perhaps I’d address it in parts. But then I wasn’t sure where to begin, and how to divide the thoughts. Since I’m still not sure, but can’t hold my tongue (hands? fingers?) any longer, I’m gingerly stepping out here and taking the dive into what is surely a bottomless conversation.
My feminist self balks at J’s question immediately – women aren’t desperate to be married! What does he know anyways?! We’re not baby-starved, marriage-hungry zombies!
Okay, maybe some of us are.
And that’s okay, if that’s you. To the traditionalists among us women who hold hearth and home as life’s singular goals, awesome, go for it. Far be it from me to tell a woman she should accomplish A or B before proceeding directly to C(hildren) or M(arriage). Indeed, the root of feminism is to inform
close-minded fools living in the dark ages people that women have just as many choices as men.
There’s a popular essay “Marry Him” by Lori Gottlieb which makes the case for marrying when the chance is presented – whether it’s everything you ever hoped it would be, or whether it’s just good enough. When it comes to romantic love and family-making, sometimes these two don’t go hand-in-hand, according to my paraphrasing of Gottlieb’s article. Seize the guy willing to stand next to you and change diapers, and claim him for your life’s mate, says she. So you don’t have an intense romantic connection? And maybe he, um, less than stimulates you – on so many levels – these are but trivial matters to consider when selecting your life’s mate, according to Gottlieb; stop the endless searching for Mr. Right and settle for Mr. Right Now. This essay, if you haven’t read it, is truly a fantastic read. (And I’ll offer up my commentary in a blog post to follow.)
What a sentiment. Dolls – if you’re looking for romantic love and won’t settle for less – don’t believe the hype by Gottlieb. When almost anyone will do, what you’re desperately seeking isn’t love or companionship, it is to fill a void within yourself. We’ve all been burned, but love exists for those who have their hearts open to it. Marrying Mr. Right Now, because you have an immediate need and he’s there to supply means that you’re desperate for something else that should not be filled up with babies, bottles, and boring husbands. Personal voids can only be filled by yourself. And the longer you stay in a relationship of convenience, as long as you are settling for the benefits brought by a Mr. Right Now, you will pay a dear cost.
But doesn’t the scale feel a little tipped? Why does it seem that women are the family-focused ones and the men are just happily kicking back and relaxing through life? Maybe it’s because women are wired to be the family planners. Does it all come down to biology? Are we simply the product of our hormones and ovaries? Are we only as old as…our eggs?
This, was my explanation to J. Simply, the desperation we’re observing is a result of female DNA hard-coded to kick in the family planning process when we start menstruating. When we all lived to be 40 or 50, it probably worked out for the best. But, today’s woman outlives her husband, on average, lasting until she’s in her 80s, and it seems like girls are getting their periods at awfully young ages. Today’s woman goes to college and jumps into careers before family and life planning really take a focus, and then one day she’s in her 30s and, oh shit, there are decisions to be made. Quickly. Perhaps biology hasn’t caught up with society, and J (and all the other men of the world) should cut us some slack. Now I know there are exceptions to every rule, but if I’m wrong show me a single 33-year old woman at a bar on a Saturday night who’s going home alone – again – and tell me she isn’t considering the fact that she may not have the opportunity to have children while she’s still “young”.
J has a different point of view and maintains that women (and we’re still speaking generally here) spend the large majority of their 20′s (prime baby-makin’ years) dating guys who are nothing more than projects that they’re trying to
fix help in hopes that they’ll be repaid in eternal loyalty and unending devotion. Frustrated when the relationship ends, the women examine the failed relationship and lower their standards, in order to appeal to more men, and start all over again for the next project – the cycle seems to rarely ever end happily. After a few repeats of this cycle, the women get desperate, J tells me, his female friends turn to him with desperate, pleading eyes “why can’t I find a man to marry and have babies with me”. He, with a heavy eye roll, tells them to stop looking on top of bar stools. Perhaps he has a point.
Maybe it’s biology and maybe it’s low standards – maybe it’s a little of both. A few male friends of mine say that what J says is true – women waste an awful lot of time chasing after less than ideal mates. As one of my friends says “If women dated geeks in high school, they would be a lot more happier in the long run”.
I can’t help but feel like women are, again, shouldering the responsibility of the sad state of relationships. We’re too desperate or pushy. Or, we’re dating the wrong guys. Or this, or that. Enough!
Dolls, accept that in your life you have to kiss a few [dozen] frogs before you find your prince. But, he’s out there. Don’t settle, don’t ever settle, on Mr. Right Now, and never be afraid to take a chance on love. Even if it doesn’t show up until you’ve hit menopause. Because there are other ways to have babies, and there are other parts of yourself that can be born and reborn.