I've been told more than once – by well meaning women presumably attempting to repair some undefinable flaw in my overly-simplistic character – to “man up”.
I was watching Date Night last night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey. In the movie, Carell's character turns to his wife and says she has to trust him with chores and decisions around the house. At some level, that one line epitomizes difficulties in modern relationships. It states two things. First, women don't trust their men to get it right and, second, men have given up trying.
Yes, I understand I am generalizing. There are a bunch of generalizations in this post. Just sayin'.
It occurred to me as I heard that line in the movie I had been in that exact railway tunnel myself with the headlight of a two hundred car freight train laden with good intent bearing down on me. There doesn't seem to be a correct reply to the admonition “man up”. That is, except the one Steve Carell delivered.
What, exactly, does “man up” mean anyway?
In the early days of the Liberation Movement, women such as Helen Gurley Brown, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer and Susan B. Anthony wanted equality. Men, in general, can understand this. It's a relatively simple concept. Equality across the board. Each person bringing their strengths to the table to create a greater whole.
But, that's not where we are now, is it.
The feminist movement has gone beyond seeking equality (which, sadly, has not been reached yet). It now seems to be about domination. It's about getting what you want, damn the torpedoes. It's about independence, not equality. The shift seemed to occur during the “Me Generation” of the nineties when everything was about what I am getting whether that fit into the societal jigsaw or not. The self-centred-ness of the 1990's seemed to be adopted by the Feminist Movement and has been steamrolling ever since.
Through the eyes of women, today's ideal male has changed, though none of us (men) seem to be able to put a finger on what that ideal is. The definition seems to be a shifting tide. Oddly enough, women don't seem to be able to articulate what “ideal” means either. You want us to be sensitive, strong, silent, verbal, capable, listeners, communicators, workers, players, serious, playful, stoic, emotional and on and on.
There's a mixed message given to men every day.
There is a confusion among men. All we really wish is to please our mates and to be acknowledged for doing the best we can. Yes, we do like to feel like we are your hero. It's that simple. We want to be able to support our partner the best way we know how and not be admonished for “not getting it right” at every turn. Who gives a shit if little Jimmy's peanut butter sandwich isn't perfect or the groceries aren't put away in some unpublished ideal position in the fridge or the corners of the bed aren't tucked to military standard? The bottom line is, the lunch is done and the groceries are away and the bed is made.
When we are criticized for every little detail, we stop trying. We zone out. We flip through channels or surf the net. We stop talking when every word coming out of our mouths is analyzed to death like you do with other women. When we have an idea and it's shot down most of the time, we stop offering ideas. We stop trying anything new when there is a presence hanging over our shoulder judging how we are doing it.
Men equate love to acceptance of their efforts. Women need to start trusting men to do or stop complaining because we don't do. There is no in between. Start trusting us – mistakes and all – or get used to doing it yourself. What we hear is, "I am disappointed in you again and you're going to hear about it every day until you die."
I understand the need for equality. It's what I want more than anything as well. It seems to me equality comes from trusting the other person. If there isn't trust, it's virtually impossible to be equal.
Over the past twenty years or so, every relationship I have started has begun with a clearly articulated thought offered to my partner: don't give up on me. (Yes... I have stated those exact words over and over.) Ultimately, they do give up. Or, at the very least, it feels that way. Ultimately, I felt more and more like a disappointment as each tiny admonishment is built into a stone rampart between us. Ultimately, I stopped trying because I felt I wasn't good enough. Ultimately, I withdrew into myself where it is imperfect... and safe.
I get that I'm not the easiest cat to get along with. I'm opinionated with a strong sense of right and wrong. I often don't put things where they belong. I'm messy. I let my past history bubble to the surface from time to time. I need time to myself to figure out who I am and what I want to become. When my opinions aren't taken at equal value, I withdraw. I fight for my rights when I feel those rights are trod upon. I forget shit. Sometimes I am an everlasting prick and stick to my guns beyond the end of the battle. I get louder when I believe I'm not being listened to. I get quiet or simply go away when I feel my partner doesn't believe I am of value.
Equality goes both ways, you know?
I tend to be attracted to “strong, independent” women... which seems to be the direction of the women's movement. The definition of independent is; self-reliant, separate, not reliant on support, capable of operating on one's own, no need for outside influence.
None of those characteristics seem conducive to a partnership. Independence – I think – must be discarded when when one is considering entering a partnership.
It's great that you are a strong, independent woman. More power to you. Just go over there and be independent on your own. As for me, I prefer to be interdependent with my partner – each bringing their strengths to the relationship, each being acknowledged for those strengths and each being allowed to make mistakes. Be independent when you're “out there”. When you're “in here”, depend on and trust me.
As it stands, I haven't a need to man up. You're doing just fine on your own.