Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Woman? Whoa man.

This is something that has been tempting me for a long while...

To all the men in my life who can:
Change a tire
Put up a shelf
Win a fight
Play a mean hand of poker
Stand up for a lady
Catch a fish
Sharpen a knife
Throw a punch
Start a fire
Stay loyal
Toss a football
Fight a bear

Etc, etc (okay, maybe not the bear part...)
Thank you.

To the rest of you, please take off your flannel shirts and retire your cowboy boots. Just because you can grow a beard and throw on some plaid doesn't make you a man.

Okay, so this is the beginning of a long-standing rant about gender in my neck of the woods. We're at that age where we we aren't quite ready to be men and women yet but we can't be boys and girls anymore. We occupy that special middle-ground of chicks and dudes. It's functional, at least temporarily until we settle down. Lord knows I'm still trying to figure out what being a woman means after so many years hiding in bro-dom. So many city-dwelling ladies I know have the same end of raging days fantasy. Meet a fella, fall in love move outta town but still within reach of the city, get a house on a piece of land, get a big ole dog, and settle down with or without the eventual babies.

Surprisingly traditional, no? The older I get the more comfortable I become with traditional gender roles. When I was younger I would think my current behavior was selling out. I went seven years without shaving my legs or armpits, about four of those years not wearing deodorant (that's total, it went in phases.) Now I'm well groomed, my eyebrows are tweezed, my hair is long, and my nails finally painted and unbitten. The realities of aging have begun to set in. My body has started to change and so has my energy level. My wants and needs have metamorphosised and it's a scary prospect. Is this what growing up feels like?

Living here a lot of us fall into a prolonged state of adolescence. Thirties are the new twenties, so all the magazines say, but are we really just so youth oriented that we need to redefine what's young and what's old now? Are we lifting the standards for the age of accomplishment because we are afraid of not accomplishing things in time? Surely it's a good thing not to be expected to be married with kids before the age of thirty. Lord knows I doubt I will be, I'm 27 and don't have a boyfriend much less a prospective mate. But when do we start thinking of ourselves as men and women?

I told a friend the list I had in my head about the ideal man and he jokingly replied, "Who are you looking for, Tim Allen?" Home Improvement jokes aside, I sincerely hope the fact that I snuck in many an episode of Married with Children didn't somehow warp my brain into an attraction to the mythical men and their manly exploits. I doubt it. There is a distinction when gender is used as a tool to marginalize and when it is used as a form of expression. I would like to think I use my femininity as a mode of self-expression. My womanly ways are an essential part of my being and I don't want to be punished for them. I am not drawn to the No Ma'am mentality, where manhood is a boy's club, no girls allowed.

My parents raised me to be independent and to fend for myself, but at the same point, my mom did the cooking (except for taco night and grilling or smoking meats which was dad's role) and my dad did the eating. He watched sports and the History Channel while my mom played bridge and watched ER. He wrote academic articles and she painted Christmas ornaments. Had our family's financial situation been different she would have been a stay-at-home mom which was her dream when she first got married. That is not the life for me. However, growing up in Nebraska my childhood male friends became men who can re-tile a bathroom floor, rewire a light fixture, and drive trucks, they play in country or metal bands, are loyal to a fault drink hard, work harder, battle douchebags with MBAs on the weekends, and are artists at the same time. That's my model for manhood.

Here I feel like so many of us are floundering. The concept of drink hard, work harder has been switched. Or maybe it's just drink hard, work whenever. In a city where creativity is an industry it affords us the liberty of using our creative skills as a means to make a living but in the same manner it also enables us to spend most of the work day reading blogs or looking at videos on YouTube. And after 8 hours of semi-creative work too many of us come home and just want to drink instead of pursuing the passions that brought us here hopeful in the first place. We don't have the energy to be humans much less men and women. All we become are bodies on bar stools looking for other bodies with the desired set of holes or appendages.

People ask me why I don't try to write for fashion blogs or magazines and it's because, while I like clothing and dressing myself, ultimately I don't care about the magazines or the blogs. My heart wouldn't be in it and I don't want to compromise the one thing holy to me. And as a woman, is that what I'm supposed to have to write about? Fashion? I guess it has a broader appeal than just writing about myself, and I am sure you all are aware that this blog is primarily an exercise in self-indulgence. Thank you for reading by the way, I never thought anyone would.

I hate to think that adulthood is necessarily a negotiation of passion and reality. Maybe it is for some, but I hope that I can become an adult or rightfully call myself a woman (and I think I am almost there) without compromising my desires. Maybe that is what makes a woman and a man, not compromising desires. Reality isn't necessarily a buzz-kill. Sometimes reality can be everything you wanted it to be, or everything you needed without even realizing it. Or maybe I'm an optimist. Strangely I do have faith, something lacking around these parts. I can't think of the world as an entirely cold cruel place where you have to lie, cheat, and steal to survive. Maybe it's the Midwestern gal in me. Maybe I'm right and I'll get that house outside of the city with the big dog and a man who can do a few of the things on that list. Or maybe I'm wrong and life will give me a big old slap in the face. Do reality checks inherently have to be harsh?

Then again, I call this blog Reality No Show so who am I to talk.


Dv said...

That´s a really cristaline reflection of the XXI´s century people between their 20´s and 30´s: surfing on Peter Pan vs. Adulthood.

I agree that to be a Man or a Woman is easy on standard paper, but not on atitude or feeling like it. We fight constantly between our dreams ("when I get to 28 I will be having childreen/car/house/wife/big job/Helping the world/Work in ONU/be a Big Fish/Never be a looser/etc) and reallity (F%$k I´m 28 and I´m still studying/Working in Macdonalds/don´t have boyfriend/have 2 kids but don´t live with them neither with their biological mother/I´m working as slave for the Big Fish/I´m a Big Fish and I have colesterol and impotence/not knowing what to do/Expecting for better times/etc).

Aging for me is a project under construction, that started once you got a big wide look at the world and your place in it.

Orin Brecht said...

"....most of the work day reading blogs or looking at videos on YouTube. And after 8 hours of semi-creative work too many of us come home and just want to drink instead of pursuing the passions that brought us here hopeful in the first place."

I agree with this entirely.

Aside from the poker thing, guys can learn how to do everything on that list from being a boy scout. I did.

thehistoryofmyfuture said...

My mom always taught me you can't depend on anyone but yourself-- although it's nice when you have some help every once in awhile. My parents were intellectually and academically matched. I must admit, my dad has never been much of a chef, but this was never a chauvinistic behavior, but that cooking was something he didn't enjoy. The man would have lived on KFC and PB&J's if something else didn't land on his plate.

Being a man to me doesn't mean he must be an Eagle Scout (Orin!) or fart on the couch whilst watching football on Sundays-- Just like womanhood isn't defined by eyebrow pluckage and the height of ones stilettos. We aren't Barbie and Ken obviously!

As far as when to we reach adulthood? I'd say we reach it around age 24-- Many in our generation (especially in NYC) are just sadly irresponsible and immature. This is not to say, we should lose our youth though. Adulthood will show that a lot of things don't matter that we once thought (I.E. Crushes, rumors, cliques, drama.) Surviving is more important, loved ones and real friends are even more important than that. That's what it has meant to me anyway.

In regards to womanhood though, I always loved this song:

brendan donnelly said...

just wait till you go through menopause. i can do all of the things you listed above but the reality (no show) is this:

-check (you lear that in drivers ed)
-check (thats something you HAVE to know)
-last fight was in 97 (lost) but at least i tried my best
-i roll dice
-check (but then put her back in line)
-check (but fighting sucks, it's fun to watch other people fight though!)
-check (learn that in boy scouts)
-check (learn that from dad)
-sorry on that one
-check (played from 2nd grade-10th grade)
-i can fight a leather bear off of me. we all saw how well that dude from "grizzly man" did at that.

these are basic things men are taught from the time we were born. it's just whether or not we want to choose to use them. i don't like fighting but i can fight, i don't like cooking, but i can work a grill.

when i wear flannel i always tuck my dick and balls between my legs so i'm in the clear for this one.

Battle said...

Thanks for the feedback. The initial list was mostly in jest. I'm not looking for an eagle scout, but I am expressing comfort in gender roles to degree. Womanhood is such a complex thing, that sometimes it's easier for me to figure out by simplifying manhood which is pretty unfair. Sorry fellas. The things I think a woman should be able to do can't be listed (although the song does a pretty good job of cataloguing some serious expectations.)

Above all, when I say, "man up" it doesn't mean act tough. While the sight of a dude shirtless with a gun may turn me on in some troublesome ways, it's not my model for living. But our fantasies can definitely inform our reality. My masculine daydreams reflect a set of values that are still emergent in planning my life and future in relationship to both myself and the less fair sex.

thehistoryofmyfuture said...

I realized it was in jest, but you still felt the need to site your hairy arm pit phase as a less womanly time in your life, and your new--erm-- better groomed(?) you as your more womanly self, so that antiquated list of manhood ideals seems pretty much what you consider masculine, manly-- even perhaps godly?

*Note that I totally understand that you were stating somewhat of a fantasy, and that this would vary with personal taste.

**Also-- something that I don't think that has been recognized here is that these are all totally American ideals.

(If this doesn't make sense-- Sorry, I've been wrapping gifts for the past four hours-- Speaking of American ideals!)