january 23, 2007

It is a constantly running train of thought, but here lately it’s been on my mind—the difference between men and women.

I love men. And I love being a woman. It seems to me that these two, when done right, are very complementary.

I know Chris and I work together very well. We have great love and respect for one another, and we manage to do really well on the various projects and entertainments we take up.

There are other men I have known on the job, who I can really click with, who give me respect and collegial affection. I’ve love working with them and miss them terribly when I’ve had to move on.

What is it that men and women give each other? It’s so much more than just procreation. We are broader than that. What, really, do we need each other for?

Of course, need is relative. Do I NEED to go to the gym and work out in the morning? Not really. NEED is for survival. Food, shelter, air.

But perhaps I am too stoic. Perhaps, for the time being, I can count the survival as a given, and set the bottom standard a little above DEATH.

About 8 years ago, I came to the conclusion that it is best not to need anyone for anything. That I am responsible for myself and myself alone. I wanted to be independent and able to get whatever I needed. I didn’t want to have to wait for someone else to get me what I needed.

It turns out I was very able. I pushed my abilities and pruned my wants appropriate to my circumstances. I learned how to be independent and not need things.

But that opened up other questions.

During our first year, while trying to figure all that out, I asked Chris, “If we don’t need each other, what will keep us together?”

He really didn’t understand the question, but he answered: “We will love each other.”

At the time, it was hard for me to understand how he would stay—how could I be sure?—if he wasn’t dependent on me in some way. He should need me.

I’ve learned a lot from trusting his love.

It turns out that instead of being dependent on someone, you can value them highly. In the same way that you would be unwilling to part with an object of value and beauty, you would be unwilling to part with a person of high value and beauty.
And knowing what I value in him, I can try to foster those same things in myself. When I look at myself honestly, I can see that I am of high value. And I can feel confident that he would want to be with this good stuff that is me.

Okay, that’s the micro. What’s the macro? What do men and women need from each other? What desirable thing is it that we are particularly suited to give to each other?

Earlier this summer, I had that highly annoying conversation with a co-worker. You know the one.

“Men and women cannot be friends, because men only want to sleep with the woman.”

Basically, this argument means that men have no use for any part of a woman except…well, you know what I mean.

He brought it up, because I’d met someone who I thought was interesting but who obviously was attracted to me. I’d hoped that he might get over it and be a friend.

“OH no,” co-worker said. “Let me tell you something about men: they never want to be your friend.”

I brought up examples and hypothetical situations. It was a slow day, and we were getting into it. But he was adamant. Friendship was impossible.

I threw this back at him, “So what you’re saying is, while I want to be friends with a guy, he has no interest in my conversation or friendship. Since I am nothing to him, the only thing I’m going to get out of interactions is whatever entertainment I can create….So I should be the biggest possible bitch so that I can get maximum entertainment value.”

The rest of the guys were laughing, but he wouldn’t back down. “I’m telling you, guys do not want to be friends. Ever.”

Well, that made me depressed for a few days afterwards. Upon reflection, I took away two things:

Guys who have that conversation with females are hoping for something. Note to self: avoid that sort of discussion. It’s just an excuse for guys to talk about sex. I thought I had learned that lesson my first year in college, but I guess I forgot. Or hoped that maturity was more widespread than it is.

Also:
Guys who hold that belief have no clue what to do with the huge amorphous feelings they have about women.
Women are highly desirable, but barely understood. The desire they feel is so scary, they try to cover they metaphorical nakedness with this little insufficient scrap called “sex.”

If they have an answer, they can stop asking the question. It matters little that the answer is wrong (or at the least, insufficient). They can put to rest the discomfort of their ignorance with it.

So that leads to another question. What is it that women give men?

I once knew this guy. He was a friend of my ex. He was the most misogynistic young man (~26) I have ever met. He literally had no interest in anything I had to say. I was a woman, and did not count.

It was kind of stunning to realize this. He was never rude, but he treated me as if I were his friend’s cat–simply not a source of intelligence.

He had been dating a 16 year-old (get this, ASIAN). Typical stereo-type. How much more controlling can you be? It was a half-step removed from a mail-order bride. He got married her when she told him he’d gotten her pregnant.

I’d never met her, even though we knew this guy for years while they were dating.

Long story short, after baby boy was almost 2, turned out that wifey had had a boyfriend they whole time and the child was his. She left Mr. Misogynist. He was devastated.

During this bad time, after his wife and erst-while son had left him, he called to talk to my (then) husband. When I told him I was the only one home, he wanted to talk.

I thought he had brought this disaster on himself somewhat, but I felt bad for him. I knew he was hurting.

But the amazing thing is, he wanted to talk to ME.
ME.
The woman he had no use for. The female who might as well have stayed in the kitchen and walked three steps behind for all he cared.

He really wanted to talk to me. He really really wanted to hear words from a kind female. That was all. We talked about small things for maybe 45 minutes.

He needed what I had. He needed womanhood.

I don’t know the boundaries of what masculinity and femininity are. I suspect they are not hard and fast.

But we need each other. And we need each other to be strong and independent in order to receive the good stuff from each other. I think that if we could learn to work together like that, the whole world would change and be beautiful.

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