This has not been a good year for the reputation of the American male.
In print and on television, the narcissistic, endlessly self-absorbed Maureen Dowd has accused men of wanting nothing more than to marry their maids and secretaries — all the time planning to ditch them when they’re around 40. According to Ms. Dowd, men are generally so insecure that even a glint of female power and intelligence is enough to send them scurrying away like scared bunnies.
Even little boys are subject to the same kind of mindless trashing. As Deborah Roffman pointed out in last week’s Washington Post, there’s now a virtual expectation that "boys will be bad," both socially and sexually. One wonders: Is that attitude to be expected when women like Maureen Dowd — clearly no fan of the other sex — are in the midst of their child-rearing years?
Certainly there are some men who wouldn’t be caught dead dating or marrying a woman they suspected to be more intelligent or more successful than they. But the "intelligent" and "successful" women should thank their lucky stars every time a suitor is scared away by a graduate school degree or a fancy job — consider it early warning on the jerk-detection meter. Likewise, there are some women who wouldn’t dream of dating or marrying a man they didn’t deem to be "rich." That doesn’t make all women gold-diggers, any more than the existence of some insecure men means all men are insecure.
Of course, there’s no doubt that some men are "pigs." Almost every woman has had an experience with the boyfriend or boss whose boorish behavior beggars belief. All of us have either known or heard about men who care for nothing but cheap, easy sex and pretty faces. Bad guys are out there, all right.
But it’s worth remembering: For every one of those, there are ten others — like the soldiers risking their lives to protect us from Islamofascists, the doctors who give up their nights and weekends to deliver our babies, and the mechanics who warn us when the treads on our car tires are becoming dangerously worn. There are the truck drivers who stopped to help stranded motorists in a pre-cell phone age, and the policemen who still respond to midnight burglar alarms — when they’re malfunctioning, and when they’re not.
They are our husbands, fathers, brothers and friends. Their teasing, messiness, quirks and annoying idiosyncrasies may drive us to distraction, but at the same time, we know that they would do whatever it took to stand between us and disaster — and that the most heart wrenching thing in the world for them is to see us cry (even when we’re in the wrong).
In the end, women have a power over men much greater than the pull of sex or the threat of disapproval. For some wonderful reason, good men (for the most part) want to please women and to see us happy — even if there’s no immediate "payoff" in it for them. And for the most part, they will live up (or down) to the expectations we set for them. Best of all, real men are proud of high-achieving women in their lives — so long as all the achievement is leavened with a little kindness, humor, humility and love.
Men, as a sex, are not inherently insecure, animalistic nor undisciplined. They are just different. Pity the women who look at them and see nothing but a projection of their own shortcomings and fears.
They are missing out on one of life’s greatest joys — the love, friendship and companionship of men.
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