Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

April 13, 2010

Edith's Take on Manning Up: Thoughts on Men, Dating, Marriage, Etc.

I have thoroughly been enjoying the posts and comments on Manning Up. To make it all even better, I am currently visiting with Agatha and Julian and it has been very refreshing!

First, I loved the article originally linked in Julian's first post, just linked above. I think commentator Paul is totally correct in saying that stereotypes are totally unfair. He writes:
These kinds of stereotypical narratives go along way to obscure the true nature of masculinity. We don't like it when femininity is abused by bad stereotypes and marketing campaigns, etc. Why do we tolerate it for men?
True, very true indeed. But there is some truth even in silly stereotypes, right? For example, I notice that men are generally going to tell women they want to impress bad jokes. And to men, bodily functions are pretty much always funny. So, I think the key is to learn to appreciate those silly masculine qualities that make guys...well, masculine. I have been in the liberating position of having no desire whatsoever to date anyone, for obvious reasons. Don't get me wrong, I still desire to be married. The frustration is not knowing to whom, since marriage is always with a particular person. The pain is thinking that I did know, but was wrong. However, it is nice to just sit back and enjoy the company of young men without any wonder at what any one of them could be to me in my life. And then you can appreciate them for just being men, and seek to get to know the person for who he is. That is refreshing.

Agatha and I (and I am sure Julian too, I just have not asked her) loved the way commentator Paul ended his last comment:
I just want to say that it's so important to put persons ahead of manners/cultural conventions. Manners, etc., are for persons, not the other way around. And if we're talking about romance, the best ones are not a case of two perfect lovers finding each other, but of two imperfect people, learning to be perfect lovers together.
That is true. Seeing a person as unique, the way God created him and intends him to live is crucial - it is what it means to love as God loves, which is precisely how we long to be loved.

The sentiments that Julian and all of us ladies I think can relate to is the utter frustration of having to put up with guys who don't always treat ladies with respect, and perhaps are not willing to learn, either. Maybe they just want to get a girl into bed or speak endlessly about how women fall over their feet to date them. Yes, that actually happens. It should not. And while men can learn, I think it gets tiresome to women to have to be 'the teacher.' Maybe that is part of the single woman's vocation - to charitably remind guys how to 'man up.' But that can have a backlash too, because one of the most common complaints is that we women are always trying to 'change' men. And I think it's a balance, not that I can say I have struck that balance...

It would be nice to live in a society where men opened doors and would refuse to let a woman pay for her meal on a date. But unless you live in the South, that just is not the case :-). I am being silly, but we don't live in that kind of society even if we should be. (And let's not forget that Agatha's point that great manners don't necessarily make a good man.) And women don't have to go out on another date with such a guy. Bad manners is usually a bad sign, but door opening is not the end of the world. And of course, we can place some blame on feminism, which skewed men's roles and often sent confusing signals about a woman's expectation. (Sidenote -- but one I want to develop more. Back in October, Agatha emailed this to me and Julian on the effects of feminism in the Church. It has some fascinating points related to this, so I will try to write another post on it!) Let's not forget ladies, when a man is seeking our attention, he wants approval and acknowledgment from us. And if he does not want that, then he is not interested. Women should tame men into gentlemen, and men should in return make a lady out of a woman. The key is a mutual self-sacrifice, certainly not easy (or, one might argue, even encouraged!) for the majority in the current dating scene.

So, suffice to say this: women are not from Venus and men are not from Mars, but we are different and we think differently about things. If we try to first of all respect each other as human beings, and as human beings differentiated as male and female - I think we will be facing the right direction in which we can walk together toward eternity and help each other along the way in whatever capacity our vocation demands.


healthily sanguine said...

Great post! Thanks. A lot of what you wrote I think I needed to be reminded of at the moment! :)

Paul said...

Great post, Edith! I appreciate yours and Agatha's additions to the discussion.

You mention frustration with guys not treating women with respect, and I just wanted to add that I think there is a fundamental difference between things like opening doors, wearing ties, manners in general, and respect. A man can have the good habit of opening doors for ladies and still not respect them. A man might also not open doors but still have profound respect for women. So while I comment before about a man learning to open doors for example, and I suggested being patient with men who don't do that, I would not say the same thing about respect. Openings door may not be a big deal. Disrespecting a woman is a very big deal, and women should not put up with it--period.

I also don't think a woman should think of it as her place to teach a man to be a man, at least, not directly. Men teach other men how to be men. When women try to teach men how to be men, it doesn't work. The woman has an essential role, but it's not as teacher of masculinity. She should inspire the man and be patient with him, but he has to take a lot of the initiative himself. It's like a woman trying to teach a man to lead in dancing--it rarely works.

And it works very similarly in reverse. The man doesn't teach a woman to be a woman, but inspires her and creates a context for her where she has opportunities to grow more fully into herself. There are ways that you might even say the man leads the woman to be more womanly, such as in the dancing example, but somehow all of the man's leading would be worthless if the woman didn't already posses her own genius for dancing.

In short, the men and women need each other to be fully who they are as men and women, but neither men nor women can do it for the other if the other is unable/unwilling. While I said quite a bit in my other comments about essentially cutting men some slack, to be fair, that's only part of the picture. Women should also never compromise on the essentials and should never put up with men who don't treat them right.

Ultimately, it's not so much the societal stuff that concerns us, I'd wager, but our various relationships with each other. There, we need a lot patience, creativity and more than anything, charity.

Edith Magdalene said...

Thanks, Paul, for your thoughts! I agree that a woman should not put up with disrespect to be sure. And I was hesitant to say 'teaching' per se, but I think women and men do teach other. I think you point out rightly that men need to be taught about manliness from men and women about femininity from women. I think warped views and misunderstandings result from it any other way.

But men and women need each other and complement each other - thank God for that! In that way, I think they do teach other something about how to live a life of charity - which is exactly what I think we are both trying to say :-)

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