Monday, September 28, 2009

Hard

I've been to Chili's. Again. Chili's is super annoying, as I think I might have mentioned once or twice, but it's also home to flashes of incandescent brilliance. Of course, much of it doesn't survive the harsh light of the new dawn after the margaritas have worn off, but once in a while something really sticks with me. The other night, one of my fabulous Osan pals and I were enjoying child-free time and lamenting various facts of life as an Air Force accessory. It is very hard to get toted around from base to base every few years, losing your home, your job, your friends and everything else you're familiar with all at once only to have to start over someplace new and possibly entirely unfamiliar, sometimes with your active duty spouse gone. Military spouses routinely have babies alone, move their households halfway across the world by themselves and endure months or years as single parents while their active duty spouses endanger their lives. It is a ridiculous way to live, really. But that isn't what this post is about.

No, this post is about how hard it is to be a man in our society. We all know it's hard to be a woman: You're always supposed to be smooth, cellulite-free, and well-dressed with brilliant home-schooled children, a high-powered career and a gourmet kitchen that's constantly in use. And it's ridiculously hard to be a military spouse, because you're supposed to do all that stuff plus shut up about how hard you're getting reamed every damn day, all while under the constant scrutiny of those who have a vested interest in your silence, but what about the poor guys? I've always considered myself a feminist, but I don't even think there's a word for an advocate for all things masculine. Except maybe 'man'. And they're not mutually exclusive, either. I care about everybody, dammit! I would call myself a peoplist or a humanist but those both sound totally gay. Oh, don't get your panties in a wad, I mean gay-as-an-insult-in-an-ironic-sense-because-I-grew-up-in-the-70's-in-south-King-County, not gay-as-an-appropriate-adjective-for-all-things-lame, okay? So, I'll just be a person with many important viewpoints. There's no catchy slogan to go with it, but at least it's accurate. To me. To you, maybe not so much....

Maybe you think I'm crazy. And maybe I am, but I can still be right. Two more things that aren't mutually exclusive. How is it so hard to be a man, right? Well, it starts early. A girl that plays with trucks is cute, but a boy who wants to play with Barbie is ridiculed or shamed. Studies show that parents and teachers regularly give positive reinforcement to girls who show their emotions and negative or neutral reinforcement to boys who express emotions. Boys learn early that they're supposed to be tough and suck up whatever is bothering them and it's to their detriment, and ours. If they make it to adulthood with minimal permanent damage from this, it gets harder still. They're supposed to be the provider and take care of everything with no assistance, because to need help or express doubt is weak. Society expects, and demands, a high-paying career and an obsessive interest in sports, or they're suspect, not quite right. Maybe even gay! The result is a group of people who have severely limited personal and professional options because of their gender. Sound familiar?

To make matters worse, men are increasingly being affected by the same 'social diseases' as women: anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder, to name just two. I blame the magazines. Check out GQ, Maxim, or Men's Health sometime if you don't believe me; they're just as bad as Glamour and Cosmo, if not worse. But I guess blaming the magazines isn't fair, is it? They only exist because our society provides a demand for them. They're selling slick and glossy brightly packaged messages that none of us are good enough and we keep paying, and paying and paying. And guess what, we will never be good enough, and it will get harder and harder to be anyone.

So here's what we do: let's stop using our hard-earned dollars to fund this insidious multi-front war on ourselves. Don't buy the magazines. Let our kids play with whatever they want. Let our boys cry, give them the same attention we would give a crying girl. Encourage our sons and our daughters to be nurses or fighter pilots, or butchers or candlestick makers, whatever they're interested in. If our husbands (or wives) want to quit their high-paying, society-approved jobs and do something they really love, hooray! Find a way to help them do it. Dump the unreasonable and burdensome one-size-fits-all demands we put on every single one of us every day. Pretty soon we'll all be free to be you and me; I can see the rainbows and smell the unicorn poop now!

3 comments:

Wendy Hawksley said...

Excellent!

One friend of mine asked why it is so bad for boys to play with dolls. Why don't we say, "Oh, you are doing what a good father would do"?

And, yup, guys definitely have all the issues you mentioned.

Helen said...

I have so many things to say about this, but all I can think is kum-baya. Such an interesting topic. I don't know where to start. Glad you took first hack at it. Oh, and BTW, Chilis.....?

Lisajoy said...

Can I still buy the gossip mags?