“You know you’re going to have to do something about that attitude of yours, don’t you?” Sherry, my hairdresser — and the only person who knows for sure how many grays I have — joked as she colored a few more of them. She’d also assumed the role of therapist when I announced I was ready to begin dating again.
“My brother was engaged to this woman — successful, owned her own home, put all of her kids through college by herself — just incredibly accomplished. And she was nice — we really loved her. Then one day he got a bug up his butt and dumped her for this pitiful little twit with a “vacant” sign where her brain should be. When they go out, she never orders her own meal; he chooses it for her. She can’t even get her hair cut without his permission.”
Having recently divorced my own tapeworm, such an imbalance made no sense to me. In my dictionary, a marriage is a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties — a bonding of equals, so to speak. It’s a partnership in which both are perfectly capable independently, but who choose to combine their efforts. I’d never met Sherry’s new sister-in-law, nonetheless my left hand itched to reach out and throttle her wretched little neck while I slapped some sense into her with my right.
She continued, “Maybe my mom had a point. She used to say that even though you’re perfectly capable of tapping the lid and opening your own pickle jar, you should always let a man do it for you; it’ll make him feel like a man. Be weak — even if you have to fake it — so he can be strong.”
The air in the room vibrated as she threw her head back, laughed and added, “I open my own damn pickle jars, thank you very much! And maybe that’s why I’m still single!”
And maybe — just maybe — she’s right. Over the past few months I’ve read a number of articles on relationships that echoed her mother’s advice. Men fantasize about strong women, but they don’t want them. They feel no “job security” in the lives of sisters who can take care of themselves. Men solve problems; men come to the rescue. So, the articles sang, let them. Play hard to get. Be the distressed damsel in the tower — even if you have to build the walls yourself. If your goal is to get a man to commit, one advised, “trick him into becoming your white knight.” In other words, yes, build your relationship on a shaky foundation of deceit. I’m not sure which offended me more: the suggestion that women are that manipulative or that men — although much of their thinking is controlled by those little divining rods — are stupid enough to fall for it.
Unfortunately, that I was offended doesn’t make it untrue. And we seriously wonder why those relationships crumble?
At one time fathers paid for our marriages with dowries of land, cattle or whatever they had that was of value. As sexist as it clearly was, it was an honest transaction. Apparently, however, our price has escalated.
The new cost of commitment is our own dignity, integrity and self-respect.