Men, Women, and Other Dilemmas
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
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.