This started as a response to Emma Lindsay’s story “Why Do Men Put So Little Effort Into Serious Dating?” and it got a little long.
Every time I try to venture onto a different platform, I feel like I have to give an overview of my personal experiences with men, respectability politics, and social expectations as a rule in order to legitimize that message, and that’s exhausting just to think about. Plus: trolls.
Remember when I talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Back when the world still made some sense?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theorizes that humans are motivated to achieve certain milestones before being truly happy, in a somewhat direct order.
After a person conquers those basic needs, including food, shelter, and finding a place within a community, this theory proposes that to truly find happiness, we must look within to achieve our full potential, self-actualization.
Self-actualization and adjusting your world view as you get older are not just parts of growing up, at some stages they’re necessary. In part, it’s why certain levels of education align themselves with certain stages of development. The way you see the world when you’re in high school should change when you’re in college, because you are theoretically getting a much more expanded world view, but also because you should see the world differently at age 20 versus age 14.
It’s also why that world view also changes in your 30’s, because guess what? Because you should see the world differently at age 32 versus age 20.
Adjusting your world view can sometimes be downright traumatic, because it most often requires admitting that the people in your life may have lied to you, that adults don’t always have the right answers, and that everything you thought was right was actually completely wrong. But it’s also necessary, because there is nothing cute about a 50 year old acting like they’re still in high school.
We, the people living in relatively stable environments, with jobs and families and food on the table and credit scores, are striving for self-actualization, even if we don’t even know it. It’s in that existential dread that creeps in when everything is quiet, that nagging feeling that you need more to be fulfilled.
If you’re a relatively balanced individual, you might you might answer this call my taking a critical look into your life. You might think:
- Am I happy with my job?
- Am I happy in my home?
- Am I happy with my career?
- Am I happy in my marriage?
- Do I want to have more children?
- Do I want to learn a new skill?
- Do I want to travel more?
But if you’re not a relatively balanced individual, well…
But First, Gender Roles
We all come from different backgrounds, but the gendered education seems to be universal, with a few extremes in some cultures.
You know the codes. Girls are supposed to like the color pink (purple if you’re a rebel, but not too much of a rebel, you know?) and dolls, and be nurturing, and want marriage and babies, and love to cook, and know how to clean, and be passive, and be nice, and care for their loved ones, and keep their mouths shut when married men hit on them, and never enjoy sex inappropriately, and be nice, and sacrifice for their families, and worry about what the neighbors would think, and be cool, and watch their figures, and perform for the male gaze, and pretend they don’t notice when they see evidence that their spouse is cheating, but always be nice, for the love of god always be nice!
Boys? Boys are supposed to be strong, and leaders, and rowdy, and love math, and never show their emotions, and explore, and love sex at all times, have full-time jobs, and brag about how in-line they have their women, but they really don’t love them hoes, and marry the kind of trophy that would make their boys jealous, and die of heart attacks in their 50’s at their in-home offices with a burning cigar to the left and a cup of whiskey to the right, and only at the funeral will one of his side bitches step forward and introduce his love child to his legal wife…
Yes, it’s an overgeneralized and exaggerated picture of gender roles, but it is one that is supported and encouraged every day in media, in our societies, in our ethnic enclaves and churches, and you can’t tell me that you didn’t picture someone while reading the above descriptions.
Also, I haven’t even seen Mad Men.
Gender roles are in direct contradiction with theories of self-actualization. When you tend to see everyone as either men or women, you stop seeing them as people. It’s also why religions that heavily rely on gender roles consider the legalization of gay marriage as a direct affront to their doctrine. Because once you stop preaching that people need to adhere to strict gendered archetypes in order to achieve enlightenment in the next life, and instead listen to their individual psycho-social needs in this one, the whole thing falls apart.
Which Brings Me To The Dudes
If you come from the kind of background that discourages men from showing or exploring their feelings in any way, from admitting that they’re wrong even when they clearly are, it can be really difficult to reach a level of self-actualization where they can be vulnerable, supportive partners to the people in their lives.
Instead, what you find are men who strive to keep their options open, who don’t realize or want to realize that those options are actually people. What you find are men who live their lives through passive decisions instead of active engagement, who blame their partners for everything wrong in their lives, and rarely take responsibility of how their actions affect others, often dismissing feelings (and definitely hurt feelings) and emotional labor as worthless in the grand scheme of things.
It’s not that there aren’t bad women out there, there absolutely are, but the passive-aggressive, catty, backhanded, crazy and manipulative breed of woman out there is still a product of the mentality that women should be docile and passive, and that the only way to get what they want is to be passive-aggressive, catty, backhanded, crazy and manipulative.
And guess what: men very much still benefit from this. Because as long women are adhering to these guidelines, they are 1. Just as bad as men are, and therefore, share the blame for bad behavior, 2. Easy to read and categorize, and 3. NOT unionizing with other women, because nothing is scarier to a man than the women in his life getting along and leaving him out of the conversation.
Men are, and still continue to be, the social gatekeepers, and just like white people need to talk to other white people about racism (bet your ass I’m going to include this) men need to talk to men about the way they treat and subjugate women, and the way they treat and subjugate other men (#notallmen, beat you to it, bitches).
Change will not happen until men themselves admit that there is a need for change and that toxic masculinity hurts all of us.
I don’t know any woman who doesn’t think about these issues regularly. I have this conversation nearly daily with friends and family. I have talked about it here ad nauseam, because I can’t seem to get the message across: You cannot see me as a person and still try to treat me like a female.
Why This Matters
I dreamt, for a long time, that I’d end up with someone I grew up with. Someone who knew what it’s like to grow up in the hood and get out. Someone who wanted to grow up and grow up together. Someone who’d seen and appreciated all that I’ve achieved. Someone who wanted to achieve. That didn’t happen.
What I am seeing is a lot more of the above, and it clashes with reality. I’m talking about guys who are balding, graying, bloating, getting older but still, “Want to keep their options open,” or, “Not ready for a serious relationship.” Guys who treated me terribly and then got convenient amnesia as time passed so they could still hit me up with the, “U up?” at 2 AM like that shit is cute, not realizing that I rarely forget a misdeed.
I’m talking about guys that I had crushes on before I actually knew what I wanted, who are trying to get a second chance for something that never really existed, treating me like an option that’s been waiting on a shelf without caring to know me, let alone like me, always resorting to insulting and calling me names when the answer is no.
And it actually breaks my heart, because I know that they’re single and lonely, but admitting to their longing is something they can’t do, and agreeing to their fucked up terms is something that I can’t do, and even though part of me wishes I could have healthy relationships with these people, I’m reaching a point in my life that entertaining them will be downright irresponsible of me.
I worry that these dissatisfied men in their 30’s are going to grow up to be dissatisfied men in 50’s, single and unhappy, bemoaning that bitches are all the same, because as time passes people only become even more set in their ways. Do I hope they get a grip and change? Absolutely. Do I believe they will? No. And nothing is more dangerous than a society full of unhappy, unmarried men.
As for me, I’ll be okay. I got all the ass I needed a long time ago anyway.