When I told my mom I had been maintenance-texted by a boy, she squeezed my hand reassuringly, “I wouldn’t look at it that way – I’d look at it like he was thinking about you!”
Thank you for feeding my delusions, Mother. That explains so much.
I can’t blame my mom for her indefatigable optimism regarding the intentions of the unfair sex. When she was walking the hallway of hormones, things were a lot more straightforward. My dad and his best friend flipped a coin to see who could ask her out. My father won. The end. Or, more aptly, the beginning.
Many people like to blame the disintegration of chivalry on modern technology. Sure, the advent of texting and social media, and the ensuing fissure in formal communication, have thrown the game onto a whole new playing field; but, I think the real anti-courting culpability lies elsewhere: A serious lack of shotgun-wielding fathers.
If any man-child had so much as attempted to maintenance-anything my mother, Grandpa Smith would have taken to his pickup truck, Winchester in hand, prepared to supplement the fear of God with a few well-placed bullets. (Just ask my dad about the time he came to pick up my mom…on a motorcycle…with long blonde hair and short denim shorts. Let’s just say he’s lucky he has a good sense of humor – and happened to hold the state track record in the 400m.)
I would wager that, for most of us in our mid-to-upper twenties, our fathers are harboring such severe concerns over their daughters’ unceasing singledom that they wouldn’t dare scare off a potential suitor. Any suitor. Any suitor at all.
And they don’t need to; apparently, we are doing a good enough job of that on our own. Basing this entire theory on personal experience and a solid number of conversations with individuals on both sides of the gender line, I have determined that men are now terrified of women. In the words of one such shaky soul, “It’s just hard to figure out what you girls want.”
That’s fair. When last June’s Atlantic cover boldly declared that women can’t have it all, many of my friends and I found ourselves asking if we even really want to have it all. And what does “it all” entail, exactly, in today’s society? Then we realized we might be jumping the gun a bit. How are we supposed to boldly assert our right to rule the corporate world, with a ring on the finger and a baby on either hip, if we are still referencing the words of “Why Men Love Bitches” in daily conversation?
I am confident in my beliefs. When I know, without a doubt, that I want something, I have no problem stating that. But what about when what I want really depends on if you want it, too, but you’re not sure what I want, so you’re not entirely certain that it’s what you want? A magazine excerpt I spotted in a MoMA exhibit had a delightfully delicate turn of phrase for this dilemma: “You are your own woman in the hope of being just what someone else is looking for.” This clipping was from the 1950’s, suggesting that this is not a new predicament. I would venture to state that this is an age-old issue, exacerbated by the current lack of clear societal rules.
Women are getting married and having children later in life. They are no longer branded an old maid if they’re thirty and single, and long gone are the days of the virgin white bride. In the immortal Pretty Woman words of Kit and Vivian, “We say who, we say when, we say how much.”
By the same token, men are no longer compelled to commit. The image of that sad, single adman drinking alone at the end of the bar, while his postwar suburbia peers sit huddled about the TV with their families, has been replaced by a group of laughing, boisterous, middle-aged tech tycoons flirting shamelessly with acquiescing blondes, twenty years their junior. Even if they do plan on settling down eventually, there’s no rush. I can almost guarantee you that there was not a single group of men discussing the potential freezing of their eggs over dinner last night.
Yay! Even playing fields! Betty Friedan would be so proud.
Unfortunately for us indecisive types, this basically means that you either figure out exactly what it is you want, and cling steadfastly to that banner, or you linger indecisively in insecure trepidation around a multitude of romantic possibilities, until one ultimately (hopefully) pans out.
Yeah, I’m probably going to go with option B, too.