Excerpt from my new book, Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies
(Sorry about the really long intro:)
There was a video making the rounds on Facebook, 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 positive Hollywood 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).
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 in the directions want us to put together flat-pack furniture. I have a husband who makes the bed every morning—although, if I’m still in it, he makes it right over me. Even a p**sy-grabbing POTUS has at least led to #MeToo, toppling tinpot abusers from their entitlement thrones and providing women with strength in numbers.
But still… I have a granddaughter, and I’d really like to believe she’ll grow up to make as much money as any grandsons I may have. I’d like to think she could take a bus home at night without having to keep her keys between her fingers as a weapon, or walk down a street without people whistling at her and telling her to smile. And most of all, I’d like her to be able to take all the jobs and trips and adventures she wants, instead of those where she would be ‘safe’.
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.
Men and women, women and men. It will never work.—Erica Jong
I am certain his mother never mentioned that it’s unmanly to wipe off kitchen counters, but almost every guy knows it. He also knows he doesn’t need to wash the pots and pans 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 did 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.”
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 we had needs too. At first, ours weren’t any more interesting than theirs were. But then we 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.