Sunday, March 14, 2010

Men: Wear your pants, or not.

A woman in control is a powerful entity. Yet woman, control, powerful in the same statement connotes negative imagery for many. After watching a few commercials aired during the Superbowl, I recently had a conversation with a psychologist who noted that the role of men in our society is in a transitional phase. Men are being advised to "Wear the pants" as though women have taken them away. They are being told they need to put the toilet seats down, as if that is a bad thing. They are being given permission to get in their fast cars and drive away. They deserve it after all they have to put up with. Unfortuntely, I imagine an out-take of a woman dancing through the house on the news of his departure. The ads didn't exactly provide a motivator for any changes in women. The men were not so appealing.

The women's movement of the 60's and 70's changed the way women saw themselves and provided some guidance to how we function in many areas of our lives today. It has taken years for us women to realize the impact this movement has had. We are still writing the script and revising it to fit different phases of our lives.

The male bird, however, is a different species altogether! There was a weak attempt at getting men to eat quiche at one point. This would somehow prove their masculinity once and for all. An egg pie presented to provide nourishment and sustenance for men, real men, not Arnold Schwarzenegger’s "girly men". Sensitive men ate it and felt empowered to do so. Strong and brave souls, they! It didn't get embraced by the masses and men seem to continue to be struggling with their roles. The egg pie didn't solve any problems although it is certainly enjoyed and featured on many tables. Most acceptable for brunch though, not a "real" meal even.

The term "sensitive men" has a similar feel to "powerful women". Not typically thought of as compliments. We seem to be a cross generation of people that want to change some of the rules and roles modeled by our parents but we don't seem to have the internal compasses needed to bushwhack the trails. We make some headway and then we run to the false safety of the known. For the most part our fathers worked and brought home money. The equivalent of going out in the wilderness and killing something dangerous and dragging it home to eat. Survival of the fittest, brought to you by "man". Rules and guidelines were a bit clearer. You fit or you didn't. You defined yourself by rigid expectations. If you didn't you kept quiet and faked it. This belief system continued through the ages. Only recently have we started altering these constraints. Listen to my great sigh of release here, "Sigh!" I believe much of this is a result of the women's movement, the slow aftershock. There may be more hope to come.

The role of women has changed drastically on some fronts but not so much on others. While most of us have a job, or career, outside the home, we are still quietly and not so quietly expected to manage the inside of home. Take care of the children. We contribute financially, and some of them in turn help-out with a few of the household tasks. Not all of us operate this way, but statistically speaking-most. The line is dug deep in the sand, but "women's work" seems to take up a greater proportion of the sandbox.

Some of my most ambitious friends work long hours in stressful jobs. They are leaders in their fields and valued employees and yet they go home, after picking up the kids, make dinner with the food they shopped for, clean-up or request help in cleaning, supervise homework, sports events, extra-curricular activities, cajole, prod, calm, and prepare all to start again the next day.

We are viewed as harpies. Nags. We emasculate. We made chicken, again. We did not ask the right questions or put enough effort into really listening. Who do we think we are? We didn't put on a nice outfit and pour a martini. We also didn't feel listened to or attended to. We are all so busy and so challenged in understanding the new roles. And we are in a bit of a crisis. We want change.

We all, men and women alike, want to be taken care of and heard. We all want to be valued. Here lies the problem: If our fathers went out and returned with a slab of meat and our mothers cooked it up for dinner, we all got to eat. If we both bring home the slab of meat, or the egg pie, who cooks it and who's hungry anymore after setting up opposing camps to determine who cooks it? Who cares about the details and why?

We put so much time and effort into understanding how we are being short-changed by the other side. Maybe we need a new game plan. Why don't we assign roles, mutually? I love to fix thinks. Regretfully, I started to view this as another thing I'm doing, that he's not. He didn't ask me to. He would have paid to have someone else fix it (I would have had to make the phone call-but that's another day). But I like to fix things. Man's work? Not so much. He cooks some incredible meals with food he shopped for. We got here too begrudgingly. It might have helped along the way to have sat down and looked over some of the jobs and decided how to cooperatively share them. Instead at times, we kept track of the disproportionate share of responsibilities one had and the other didn't. I am hopeful that we could still meet and discuss new ways to tackle the jobs and celebrate the outcomes.

If we only look at how our fathers operated and millennia of men before them, how do we start to make collaborative changes? Long term and healthy changes? We can each assign or take on roles or at least be aware of them. They don't need to be rigid and they can be shared and altered and redesigned to fit the lifestyle we personally determine as a couple and a family. We all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table, let's enjoy whatever feast is available. Someone put the martini mix in the freezer and decide whose turn it is to serve it tomorrow. Throw some ham in the quiche, someone cook it. Enjoy! Wear whatever suits you. Men can wear their pants, or not. Just because skirts for men have not caught on doesn't mean it's a bad idea, yet, maybe? Whatever, try not to get so caught up in the details.

1 comment:

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