Romantic Realism

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New, and yet not particularly new at all, research on sex and its many tentacles wrapped around America is snaking through the Internet in various forms. One section of the report in particular garners a predictable amount of attention in our “endangered” man era, and that is the “revelation” that young men aren’t faring well academically or career-wise when compared to young women.

That the sky is falling on masculinity is not new. As early as a decade ago, the plight of boys struggling to cope with a female dominated and driven public education system was already causing much wringing of hands and dire predictions for the future. But what is causing angst now is that despite being poor catches overall, young men still set the romantic and sexual agenda and women play ball or buy a vibrator.

And I am left wondering, how this is different from when I was a twenty-something? Men were not “endangered” and yet still got to make the rules where dating and relationships were concerned. Men decide “where, when, and what type of commitment” now and always from my perspective. So nothing new to see here, people, move along.

That the problem is men has never been a real issue. This male “crisis” is just another distraction from the real problem, which is that women – to a large degree – take a long time getting over the idea that they have to bend over to have a relationship at all. We are schooled in tactical compromise from birth and foolishly never really learn to set our boundaries and walk away when they are violated.

Our training begins with each other. It’s in the feral packs that make up the mined land of girlish friendship where indoctrination begins. We can’t blame men for this. We are vicious and conniving and manipulative from near go when boys don’t matter one iota, and the prize is the “best friend” or the highest ranking social clique. Training ground zero that sets us up neatly for the games that boys and men play to maximize their “innate”* need to sow as many fertile fields as possible with the least amount of encumbrance.

I posted a link to my Facebook page from Slate’s DoubleX, summarizing the continuing state of affairs – that being that men are still encouraged by society to be schmucks, and women are expected to contort themselves in flanking maneuvers – and ended up in a discussion with a writer friend who is decidedly anti-marriage at the least and anti-monogamy at the most. Her contention – as tired and worn as feminism itself –  is that marriage is a trap. Women should strive to be militant in their abhorrence of it, and that the fact that marriage is on the downward slope (although – statistically, relationships dominate in terms of society. More of us couple exclusively than don’t) is proof that women have “come a long way, baby”.

Marriage or civil unions, in my opinion, protect both partners when the aim is a long-term – possibly life long – relationship. There is no other option that better ensures the safety of each than a certificate of binding and entwining. People who live together without any sort of legal sanction, even if they are proactive enough to change all the beneficiaries on insurance and studiously set up the joint this and that will still find themselves a signature or legal protection short at the end of that terrible day when something unthinkable happens. And something unthinkable is not just what happens to other people. Though the cohabitation crowd thinks not and begs the question, who is really the romantic with unrealistic expectations here?

But my friend, not really knowing me at all, thought my belief in marriage, and my ire at the way young people today blithely ignore reality because it gets in the way of spontaneity or is so “yesterday in a grandparent kind of way”, is based on my sweetly romantic notions about relationships.

What?

I am not sweet nor  particularly romantic. I am the women who nagged her husband of just a month to make an appointment with the lawyer so we could draw up wills, get POA’s and such settled before our marriage certificate was even inked and in the post. I am the one who point-blank told her late husband that “I don’t play house so when spring rolls around if we are not planning a wedding, I will consider myself free to pursue other options”. Knowing what you want, stating it, and acting is  – in my opinion – what “independence” means.

My marriage is quite cuddly, and I am of the opinion that married is a far preferable state to single, but that is because Rob and I work at the cuddly, fan those flames and because out of the nearly 30 years I have been legally an adult, I have spent 2/3rds of the time single. I am not easily fooled by the feminist nostalgia about “having it all” nor I am dumb enough to fall for the notion that independence is something one can only have when one is alone. Independence is an internal mindset that should not be confused with one’s physical state of being – ever.

Being single is lonely and it can be scary when push comes to shove. It’s doable. I did it. But I am not naive enough to prefer it. I am also not so unschooled in the ways of survival that I don’t know that there is a definite advantage to being properly matched and mated. I don’t advocate pairing up with just anyone. And that’s brings me back to the problem of young men and young women. The latter still believes that men can be molded and the former know this well enough to use the knowledge to get sex without deserving it.

You should like the person you live with. Respect him and be respected in turn. There should be fun and love and a willingness to throw in together come what may. There should also be a healthy realistic perspective because no relationship is perfect and bumps and ebb/flow is normal. My perception is that too few people go into relationships with any idea of where they want to ultimately be years down the road. They are suckered by the ridiculous free love notions of the 70’s and the Me/Me/Me mentality of the Boomers that is the root of a lot more than relationship issues in our society today.

I love being married, but only because I love Rob. He is my match. My lobster. There is just as much to lose as there is to gain when troths are plighted, and one must put priority on the intangibles first. Love is more important than physical independence, but it’s not attainable until you are truly independent. Only those who have the courage to state their needs and see that they are met and who listen and give in the same vein are going to find contentment in marriage. It’s only when you peel away the juvenile view of romance that you find the real thing.

*Which is just so much bullshit. Men and women are not bonobos. We are not slaves to our Jungian archetypes. The human species is the least endangered in terms of population, so the idea that men are “seed sowers” and can’t help themselves is just one more baseless argument put forth by people who are just too selfish and lazy and own – out loud – that they are selfish and lazy where relationships are concerned.

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