There was a video making the rounds on Facebook last week, a collection of clips from Hollywood movies of “women who needed a spanking”.
I know. I couldn’t watch it either, and I’m certainly not going to link to it, even if its point is that things used to be worse.
But it did get me thinking about the ways some things have actually changed or are changing. For one thing, outside of specifically labeled BDSM mainstream films [cough, Fifty Shades, cough, cough], men hitting women “who need it” isn’t really a thing these days. Mom-shaming is out, and so (supposedly) is body-shaming. Same-sex marriage is legal, and gender pay equality is at least the law (if still pretty far from the reality). A woman is challenging the highest and glassiest ceiling of all by running for president. Seriously.I have a son-in-law who leaps up and has dishes done before we even set down our forks. I have a daughter who actually understands how those little cartoon guys want us to put together IKEA furniture. I have a husband who makes the bed every morning—although, if I’m still in it, he makes it right over me.
But still… I have a new granddaughter, and I’d really like to believe that she’ll grow up to make as much money as any grandsons I may have. I’d really like to think she could take a bus home at night without having to keep her keys between her fingers, or walk down a street without people whistling at her and telling her to smile.
I want all the big things for her, but I’d also like to hope that things will improve in a couple of teeny little areas that still need work. All progress considered, this blast-from-the past from my 1990s newspaper column in The Champaign-Urbana News Gazette is not nearly as dated as it should be in the new millennium.
Men and women, women and men. It will never work.—Erica Jong
Even though most men are raised by women, it sometimes seems they not only speak different languages but have evolved parallel cultures which make Miss Manners and the Missing Link look like the ideal couple. I decided to test this theory with a rigorously scientific survey of a group of women who happened to wander past my house. [full disclosure: white wine may have been involved. Lots.]
Question: where do men learn the little nuances of manhood?
We didn’t come up with any answers, but a number of interesting points were raised.
- How do men find out that it’s okay to discuss the day’s events while flossing their teeth?
- Who tells them that used manly underwear needs to marinate on the bathroom heater?
- How did men determine that you have the ‘L’-of-shame as a forehead tattoo if you:
- Stop and ask for directions?
- Let her drive when you don’t have at least one limb (preferably several) encased in a plaster cast?
- Let your kids make more than one potty stop per trip?
I am certain his mother never mentioned that it’s unmanly to wipe off kitchen counters, but almost every guy knows it. He knows that he doesn’t need to wash the pots and pans either because the Fairy Godmother of the Kitchen will handle that. You remember the Fairy Godmother? She also goes into the bathroom occasionally to put a new roll of toilet paper on the spindle, although her reasons for doing so remain a mystery to him.
Did some mother sit her little males down and tell them, “When you’re big boys, you’ll want to spend all your waking and most of your sleeping time thinking about the two things which start with ‘S’, one of which is not ‘sports’?
Or like me, did she sit down with her little females and tell them, “Play with these toy trucks and tools, symbols of your brave new world?” The symbols remained untouched by Daughters #1 and #2. Then my son was born, and even before he could crawl, testosterone-poisoning dragged him over to one of those trucks and evoked the primal comment, “Rrrrrrrrrrunnnnn.”
A few years later, my four-year-old daughter was playing superheroes with two little boys. “No sexism here,” I congratulated myself.
“Hey, Wonder Woman,” bellowed Superman. “Make me and Batman some dinner.”
[I do take some tiny amount of comfort in the fact that Wonder Woman bellowed back, “Nuke it yourself. I’m writing.”]
Once I went to see the show designed and presented by the children in my son’s preschool class. First the little girls donned tutus and pirouetted to “The Sugarplum Fairy” from The Nutcracker. Next the little boys presented their version of “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog.” Like their model—not to mention most males between the ages of birth and death—the little Elvises devoted only about two-percent of their attention to the guitars they’d made out of rubber-bands and cardboard boxes, reserving their real concentration (and at least one hand at any given time) for monitoring the status of their Family Jewels.
Men do not, I’m sure have any easier time figuring out women. I remember my father shaking his head and telling his eight daughters, “Girls, whatever you do, don’t grow up to be women.”
But just take your average, with-it modern guy. He knows that PMS is out there waiting to turn a relatively rational partner into someone whose reply to, “Hello,” is, “What do you mean by that, you Neanderthal?” But he also knows that he must never, ever mention it. Even just the suggestion, “A touch of the old hormones?” and he could be pulling sofa-sentry until sometime next century. If he’s lucky.
Back when I was in high school, our nuns would whisper to us that boys were different.
“They have needs,” said Sister Mary Phys-Ed during PE/Sex Ed.
“They can’t control those needs,” continued Sister Mary-Library during English/Sex ed.
“You have to be strong for both of you,’ said Sister Mary-cafeteria during Study Hall/Sex Ed.
“Pray for purity,” Said Sister Mary-Arithmetic during Math/Sex Ed.
Our scholarly instincts demanded that we test this hypothesis. Thoroughly.
But just then we got liberated and found out that we had needs too. At first, ours weren’t any more interesting than theirs were. But then we got lucky and discovered PMS and The Biological Clock, the two greatest weapons in the war of the hormones since the headache.
For example, consider the scene at a typical party.
Cinderella: Hello, I’m doubled over with PMS-induced tension from spending my days clawing my way through the testosterone-dominated corporate world without sacrificing my feminine power. According to my enchanted basal thermometer, you only have until my biological clock strikes midnight to make a lifelong commitment to developing sensitivity to my needs, fathering my child, and guaranteeing that I live happily ever after.”
Prince: So, how about those Seahawks?
Fairy Godmother: Given where Cinderella stuck that enchanted thermometer, I think it’s safe to say this story did not end happily ever after.
None of this helps get toilet paper onto the spindle, but at least it might convince the Prince that the Fairy Godmother REALLY wants it there.