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Men, Women, and Other Dilemmas

June 14, 2011

We all have our ways of organizing our world, lest it overwhelm us and crash our respective systems. Anyone who knows me well knows that I organize the world into male and female, men and women. It  works for me.

And as a therapist over the age of 40, I seem to be able to offer my clients a perspective our culture has taught them to reject or ignore: You say you’re in a relationship with a woman but miss screwing around? And you’re beating yourself up for it? Don’t: You miss it because you’re a guy. You may choose to stay monogamous, but allow that you’ll be looking at tits and ass the rest of your life — hopefully.

Or you’re married and your husband doesn’t want to listen to you talk about your day, and  keeps offering you advice when all you really want is for him to listen? It’s because you’re a woman and he’s a man. That’s how we’re built – you talk to connect; he talks to resolve.

I know that what I’m saying can push people’s buttons. Probably because no one likes to be pigeon-holed. Or marginalized. And that’s what these traditional definitions, roles and expectations did and can still do.

And perhaps what I’m saying doesn’t apply to you. Perhaps you’re the opposite, at least sometimes. Fine. We live at a time when all definitions are crumbling. Where all the old rules about how men and women should relate are out the window, and we’re all making the new ones up as we go along. So in my practice now I see women who are out screwing around while their man waits for them to come home to eat  the dinner they made; and men in touch with they’re emotions and women so hard-headed they could go hatless at a construction site. 

Things are changing, but let’s not throw the baby boy or girl out with the bathwater.

For me, thinking in terms of male and female helps me configure my world, and my needs. I’ve learned to construct a life that’s both heterosexual and homophilial. That is, I love and make love to one woman. But most of my friends are men. Why? Because they know me better simply because they’re men. (Hint for straight single people: whenever you get set up by a friend or family member on a blind date, if the one setting you up shares your biological equipment, take their word for it and go on the date. Otherwise, don’t bother.)  I love women; but I like men. And when I was blessed to meet a woman I liked as much as I like my best male friends, I married her. Women for the most part attract and fascinate me but can perplex, overwhelm and infuriate me as well.


Men shake my hand

Pat my back

Unleash their rage into my face.

He drops me in icewater

Stings and stabs me.

And when I pout, look at him all hurt, he says

“I do it to wake you up! I’d do it again!”


He kicks me


out of the plane


and I’m reborn


the moment before


the parachute opens.


He drums and stomps to make my heart

Pound the beat of the tribe

Till it almost bursts from my chest.


Till I mount my horse and ride back into battle                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Today, and again tomorrow, and it never ends.


Women lure me in 

Pin me in their lush dream.

She bathes me in her love

Revealing her inner face:

A softer, starker beauty.

She calls forth my ecstatic best.

The final eternal moment

Gushing majestic

Dissolves me to we.

Released and relieved,

Her liquid life seeps

Down to my thirsty roots

And I am renewed.



Any man who has not known both of these

In his guts and his nuts

Is missing the fullness of life

Attainable on this animal earth.



So I myself would be lost without both, or with too much of one. But for me, balance means I want two or three men in my life for every woman I’m close to. Maybe it’s because women are stronger. (Could anyone really dispute that?)  I’m a believer in same-sex friends not only for friendship sake, but for marriage sake. My men’s team (yes, it’s a team. I’ll explain another time) keeps me honest and from running my bullshit on Shelley. They can do this because they know me because they’re men themselves. A man who’s married without good men friends is like a Jaguar owner without a good mechanic: Pretty soon it’ll break down and he’ll have an expensive fiasco on his hands.

Women tend to have lots of friends, usually other women. Men — we tend to go it alone. It’s one reason we die sooner. I myself couldn’t imagine being married, or having gotten through my divorce for that matter, or any number of life’s inevitable challenges without good men around me. I don’t know how I would have made it through in one piece. And as for  other men who lack this support, and especially those who don’t think they need it, I just don’t know how they do it.     

I’d love to hear from you about this. If you’re female, what do you get from women and what do you get from men? And if you’re gay, and I’ve obviously left this whole realm of experience out here, I want to know what this is like for you.

Perhaps you don’t normally think in these terms of male and female, but I’d like to hear your thoughts about it.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    June 14, 2011 10:52 am

    I have found what you say to be the truth, but contrary to my expectations, most of the women I know do not have as many intimate same-sex friends as the men I know. Perhaps my friends and I are the exceptions.

  2. June 14, 2011 1:52 pm

    As I’ve said before, Men are from Mars AND Venus, and so are Women, So Good Luck! Meaning, I personally don’t relate or resonate with your categories or “divisions of labor.” I have many great and intimate male AND female friends, and I always have. Your beautiful poem about women above, is not about women, it’s about a particular kind of woman-as-lover-archetype, but doesn’t apply to my “ordinary” women friends who tend to fart and belch.

  3. June 15, 2011 2:25 am

    I don’t know, I think you’re right at least about the difference between men and women’s sexuality. I think the sex industry is adequate evidence of that. Porn and prostitution exists almost entirely to serve men, whether gay or straight, because men like it, and women apparently don’t. The other differences between men and women are more debatable.

  4. June 26, 2011 3:23 am

    Hi Charley…I want to reply to Ed’s comment above who says women apparently don’t like porn. That’s a loaded topic, but I just got a piece published as a Feature on a GREAT men’s magazine (online) called The Good Men Project. They donate proceeds to organizations that help men at risk for homelessness, prison, drugs, of like Oprah did for so many.

    I wrote it because the founder of that site was saying in his weekly column how Hugh Hefner was gearing up to have a huge hit series on NBC this fall, The Playboy Club & how he thought Hefner ushered in an era (of porn) that ultimately really strained relationships between men and women, causing all kinds of divisions…. I asked The Good Men Project if they wanted an article talking about what it was REALLY like to work at Playboy, not all the hype being generated about this new TV show. They were interested, I submitted my piece, and it’s been hugely successful.

    Maybe this will speak to Ed’s saying apparently women don’t like porn. (some do).

    Enjoy, Charley and readers….and please hit LIKE and comment if you can! Or send it to anyone else who might find it interesting…Thanks, Lili Bee

  5. para permalink
    June 27, 2011 3:14 am

    It’s PC these days that women are the stronger sex… but I don’t think it’s right. Men have their own strength. And it is no less than that of women.

    In many ways, I feel that we’ve begun making a fetish out of downplaying the role of masculinity in relationships and society. Partially because the accepted male stereotypes seem superficial; playing sports, being the breadwinner, competitiveness and ambition are all things that are approved ‘manliness’ indicators, but are things in which women are sharing more and more. Because these easy earmarks as to the measure of a man are becoming obsolete, the rug is being pulled from under our collective identities.

    At the same time, we dismiss the deeper difficulties men face. In the dating arena, for example, men are typically expected to make the first approach when meeting women. More, we’re expected to escalate – to heat up the conversation, initiate the first kiss, and steer the woman to our bedroom. Many women manage this themselves, sure; but not to nearly the same degree, when you look at society as a whole. And frankly, it’s damned hard to ‘play the field’ after ending a relationship. Walking into a room full of strangers and waiting for the women in it to come to you is usually a losing proposition; you have to take your lumps and walk into the fire, if you’re a man. And doing so has definite possibilities of ending badly… approach anxiety is not always an unjustified fear.

    Men typically can’t count on having the same kind of support networks, either. We’re expected to be able to stand on our own. Heck, my own dad kicked me out of the house at 18, and his main reason was that *his* dad did it to him. That’s not an uncommon theme for young men trying to find their way in the world. Men who remain dependent on their families are ‘momma’s boys’; men who depend on their wives’ incomes are house husbands; men who depend on their friends in a time of need are freeloaders.

    But we live in a world where you can’t just get a job at the factory out of high school and support a family anymore, unless you luck into it. These days, men *need* to have strong support networks, just as much as women do, but the deck’s stacked against us – not heavily, but noticeably.

    Men who manage careers and healthy personal lives in this day and age are every inch as strong as women.

    • Charley Wininger permalink*
      July 3, 2011 9:50 pm

      Dear Mr. Para,

      I so appreciate your beautifully written response/essay! And I agree with your pro-male sentiment.The deck is stacked against us, as you say, partly because we’re living in an increasingly feminized society where men (and more accurately, masculinity) are being devalued. And we are willing participants in our own oppression, by, for example, buying into the idea of toughing things out on our own. We need support systems and also modern equivalents of initiation rites that actually prepare us for the game of life as it’s played now.

  6. Tresa permalink
    November 23, 2011 12:28 pm

    I am watching the transitions in our society with great interest, waiting to see how the differences in our genders will play into what is coming after everything settles back down. My (women) friends think (are rooting for) the age of the goddess is coming again, where women again take on the head of family and community roles (officially) and men are delegated to tasks they excel at, and when they’re done, they get to go do man things. When we’re being crass, we joke that we’ll send them off to sit around the fire to get drunk and fart and arm wrestle and tell bad jokes.

    I didn’t grow up with a good relationship with my dad or the male gender as a whole, so I feel like I’m playing catch-up, coming to understand boys and men. As mother to my son, I am learning a great deal about boys who grow up to be men. The older my son gets, the more he is able to articulate what’s going on inside that head of his, the more I find myself kind of sadly thinking, “yep, other team.” I find some peace, though, in knowing that it’s not me, it’s the gender line, the wiring of the brain, physiology, that provides this line, creates this mental gap, where at times there seems to be no bridge.

    I find that my life is enriched the more I come to understand the workings of the male gender, and accept their limitations. Women’s strengths sometimes become their own limitations. It is right and perfect that men balance out women (reign them in sometimes?), and I look forward to seeing how women, if we reach the top tier of power once again, use the position fairly, kindly, and productively.

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