We might need them, but not this way, and that’s the whole problem
Back in the late 1980s when I first returned from living in Australia for four years, I had by that time spent a considerable amount of time in San Diego. There I met and befriended an Amazon, a simply beautiful woman who was my first true bodybuilder friend. She was my inspiration to get far more serious about the sport. At the time, she was dating a man who was much shorter than she was (she was 5'10"). He was a fellow competitor.
One night when staying at her house, I recall hearing her ask him for help bringing in some furniture. It was a tone of voice I had never heard. She sounded like a tiny mouse. Not a warrior woman, Viking queen, all muscle. I was shocked. Over furniture?
Furniture that Darlene could have picked up one-handed and carried in like a purse? But she simpered, and he happily leapt to the task.
I just can’t subjugate myself to do that. And while that ploy, the simpering, worked for her, as she was ever surrounded by adoring men, I could not, cannot do that. For me it is fundamentally dishonest.
I do not need a man to lift shit for me unless he’s on my payroll. I need him to do the emotional heavy lifting that most men will not do.
Which is why, this last trip to Denver when I tied off, with love, my connection to the state, the ex wasn’t on the menu. He’s a fellow bodybuilder. Frankly, I’m better at moving furniture than he is, and he’s seventeen years my junior.
Do we really, really, REALLY need men?
For those of us who are hetero, the answer is a lot more complex than yes or no. As with all things, it depends entirely on what you’re referring to needing.
Medium peep Lorrae G. wrote a response to a piece I wrote earlier this week about women who are physically strong. Part of what she wrote really underscored for me one of the reasons I am still single at this age. Look, it’s likely not true for all of us, but her comment made me think.
Okay, okay, I know, I don’t think much but she made me think at least once so far this year and I’m going to make the most of it while the thought is still rattling around in my head.
Here is a piece of her comment:
Women CAN be quite strong. They just don’t want to work for it. I take great pride knowing that I never need a man do to anything for me. If I need help moving or carrying something, this means it’s a TWO-man job.
I tend to agree, but here’s what really leapt out at me.
Women may not want to work at being strong because it might cost them a man.
I am hardly the first person to make this intuitive leap but for me this had different repercussions. So many of us women, so terrified of not having a man, refuse, avoid, and are equally terrified of rising to our full power for in doing so we are no longer lovable.
In a world where far too many men are enamored of the idea of the forever perfect, nearly virginal, no-hair-out-of-place Galadriel of the Elves from Lord of the Rings (thin, blonde, blah blah, you get it), well. Galadriel was powerful indeed but she never seemed to do it in a way that pissed the guys off.
Arwen Undómiel, an equally powerful character, spends a fair bit of time with her eyes cast down and sleeping while she waits to be saved. Kindly. She gave up everything for her love, yet the story seems to give Aragorn the credit instead, but that’s just me, and my interpretation. You can tell it’s on again at my house as I hide from the heat.
I’m not without considerable humor that those who were determined to make up equally ridiculous fairy tales about Christ decided to mistranslate the Hebrew word for Mary from “young girl” to “virgin.” What fucking pap. Because if she got fucked, she was no longer perfect. Don’t get me started. Mary was as much a virgin as Kim Kardashian, but it sure supports the narrative as dictated by men who forever want their girls childlike and unsullied, innocent and by god under control.
That made me think about Darlene, whose reference points around men was to let them be the manly-man in that more traditional sense that allowed them to feel useful. You know, open the catsup jar. Chop wood, carry water. All of which I can do just fine. Which I like to do. Prefer to do. Have had to do.
That worked for Darlene. I’ve lived alone for so long, and had to pull my own weight and often someone else’s so many times that the mere idea of counting on a man gives me the heebee jeebees. The ones I’ve met, dated, whatever, are far too often drawn to my strength in all its forms, but then are highly offended when the one single strength I need from them is a combination of their emotional maturity and their vulnerability.
In the summer of 2018, I’d had rotator cuff surgery. I was in horrible, terrible pain, the oxy didn’t work, and it caused me to fall over and smash my skull into a bookcase. The pain was unrelenting. My own surgeon called me “hysterical” for being in that kind of pain, having smashed my fucking forehead, leaving an ocean of blood on my living room floor. Instead of hearing me, that fuckwit told me about a MALE patient who fell down a stairway. That’s real pain, he said.
Oh really. How about I rip out your testicles right now and we’ll discuss REAL PAIN, shall we, doc?
Against this backdrop, I asked the BF for a hug every so often.
All I fucking wanted was a hug. A fucking HUG. The BF couldn’t be bothered. He was happy only when I was willing to tolerate MY pain long enough to give him a fucking blowjob, no matter how much it hurt ME.
Do I need I man? No. However.
I wanted someone with strength of character.
When my ex was tested, he failed miserably, as did nearly every single one of the men I have loved in my life but one. He died in a plane crash in 1973. The Holy Grail of what I consider a real man has nothing to do with Conan the Barbarian thighs, although I sure can appreciate them. I hung out with a computer nerd for a good long time thinking that by letting go of the athletic piece that I so value, there was possibly a better chance.
Nope. While I was on a business trip, he slept with an old girlfriend.
The damage of toxic masculinity, flamed into a vicious whirlwind by evangelicals about what and who a Real Man is, is so costly. Much better writers like Mark Greene have pointed this out; this is just my take. A s women increasingly take on different roles, for which they are beautifully suited, and men also take on different roles, for which they are also perfectly suited, there is far greater room for us to relax into what feels right for us. To my mind, good men, truly good men, do not verbally abuse their women. The ex did. Good men aren’t threatened by powerful women. They don’t feel the need to fuck it, which is how they dominate it.
Read what my editor over at Living out Loud, Kim Petersen, has to say on this:
The top highlight:
A man might say that he prefers strong women, but it can be a different story when her independent nature and fiery spirit confront him.
I tend to agree. It’s not easy for either side in a world where the patriarchy has beaten both sexes into submission around a set of narratives that never did work. As history keeps on showing us, the old stories about how women were in the caves and didn’t hunt were bullshit, for example. That the Viking leaders were all male. Nope.
While this isn’t that article, it wasn’t until religion starting their beat down of both men and women that things really got screwed for both sexes.
The issue of Britney Spear’s mental health is all over the news. Good writers like Gillian Sisley are taking this on, as they should for how she is being treated is indicative of society, not just Spears. However, this morning before I headed out for a run I read this piece by John DeVore:
There are two quotes which leapt out at me from his piece and caused me to suck in my breath:
…but she also struggled with the men in her life and the men who see a woman who is anything but agreeable or docile as ‘crazy.’
I know this to be true because I have used the word ‘crazy’ to describe women who I can’t control and I only have control over one person, and that’s John DeVore.
I read John regularly, for several reasons, but the above nailed it for me. THIS kind of man is what the world needs, one who is struggling with what it means to be vulnerable, needy, embarrassingly so, and weeping for no reason. Or, for damned good reason, such as having his own full potential ripped away from him by toxic masculinity and religious bullshit.
God damnit, that’s strength. That’s character.
That kind of battle, which those on the Far Right are utterly terrified to take on but which might turn them into Real Men, is the turning point in a life. My ex doesn’t currently possess this ability, for strength for him is still better defined by his beautiful muscularity rather than a brave soul.
A brave soul is one who realizes that it’s not his job to protect a woman from her fears but this:
Deal with his own fears,
and believe in his woman to work through hers.
And for fuck’s sake, hug her once in a while when she hurts, will you?
Do I really need a man? In one sense, no. Not really. I can do all my own heavy lifting.
Would I like one? Maybe. I miss being held. I would like company. I enjoy sex. But the cost of having to tamp down that which makes me who I am in the fullness of my own power is too great.