Sunday, July 28, 2013

Preying and Hoping - the Difference

When I wrote The Uncensored Post, it had been my intention to follow up pretty quickly with a post about men which would put the negativity and outrage into better perspective, but time and inspiration have gone against my doing so to this point.  For that, my apologies, but now is the time.

Though a feminist and avowedly, publicly so, I have never fit into that half-delirious stereotype so many men *and* women fear, who refuse the label for themselves, or outright revile it for everyone.  I'm not a humorless, man-hating creature, out to set traps so I can consider men to be failures in one context or another.  Indeed, I never quite got over the eager proneness of my innocence, to indulge in crushes, and I was every bit as boy-crazy as any other kid when I was one.  It's just that my ability to find objects to crush on was refines with age, and my ability, too, to stick a landing so to speak - to stick with *one* crush (permanently) - reached an apex and hasn't fallen back down.  It's something of a privilege (and relief) of age.

Fun fact:  my very first crush of any kind, before I even had any idea of romantic interest, was Muhammad Ali.  I was about four or five - and he was right:  he was beautiful.

So on to the point, then.

Just now, in the grocery store (oddly enough - given how I was going on about grocery stores in that first post), I was approached by a guy.  (I say guy rather than man because, as young as he was, I feel almost squicky referring to him as fully mature, because I feel a certain need to repel myself from any hint of cougar-dom.)  He asked me what gym I work out at (I was wearing a knit cami and my "dog-walking" pants).  I laughed I'd been playing with my dog, and moved easily on.

The key to this encounter:  he let me move on, no further interest shown, no question, not even a backward glance.  It was fairly clear he was gauging his own possible level of attraction, but when the message came that there was not prospect, he stopped completely.  Passed him again a few minutes later, and zero "signals" of any kind.

The phrase men need to remember:  NO HARM/NO FOUL.  Now, most of us can live with a guy taking a shot.  As human beings, we'd never procreate at all, if  nobody approached anybody else, ever.  If there were no physical attraction.  It is vital to our humanity to make connections where none existed before.  The only problem is when there is no availability but that is ignored.

Persistence is a virtue - but a woman has an absolute, hermetic right to refuse and even to rebuff overtures.  So do men - and, in full disclosure, I have been rejected myself in making an approach.  Since I was eighteen (I remember the first time), I have been the one who started an approach which resulted in a relationship.  I get hit on, sure - but for pretty much all the significant relationships of my life, I initiated first contact.  That boy I watched Tootsie with.  The one I was sure I'd marry, senior year.  Beloved Ex.  That one with the metrosexual pants, whom a few folks were sure was gay (he was not).  Mr. X, in fact, has told me a hundred times he never would have crossed that room when I smiled at him, because he was sure I must be with somebody.  Shameless flirting is not enough.  So I just get pointblank.  There have been occasions it didn't work for me.  But I've been pretty lucky.

When someone says, though, "I have a girlfriend" or makes some demurring remark - I do precisely what I would expect and require any man to do in kind:  I let the heck go and either depart completely or change the subject.  Flatly.  The idea of pushing through a show of not being wanted is bewildering to me.

But our culture, unfortunately, has this "hard to get" practice, which renders BS in a man's mind any show of reluctance from a woman to his desires.  Even worse, there are women who actually *do* play hard to get.  (I don't mean to presuppose all games are terrible and must be forgone - but this one has created more problems than it can possibly be worth, and there are safer ways to tease someone you wish to keep on a hook; so "worse", above, isn't precisely a moral judgment ... even if I do find that dynamic personally worthless.)  So we've institutionalized the idea that "no" doesn't mean no, and that subtler signals, lord help us, might only be gaming cues.

I am again fortunate in that it is not typical for me to be outright misunderstood by anyone exhibiting interest.  In the past, I have indulged in ostentatious Ice-Queenery to get a point across, and when truly pressed, I've been able to provide acrobatically nimble rejections which leave no doubt and no room for further pressing.

Not all women are fortunate enough to have confidence enough that they're allowed to say no, never mind blessed with a pair of parents who taught them by unwitting but unremitting example just how to do it effectively.  I was given, and understood, boundaries from the earliest age.  It was also demonstrated to me in no uncertain terms that as a human being - as a girl - I had boundaries of my own, which were to be defended.  To some extent, this was a religious imperative imposed on a virgin daughter - but it was also the simple worth and value with which I was treated from the moment of my birth.  I was worth something, and nobody had a right to the core of me in any way, without my consent.  Ever.

Through my life, I have found men who did not plough over that worth, but who admired and valued it too.  That boy, that first love, that Beloved Ex - and Mr. X.  All of them responded to my sense of self with instinctive support, not some adversarial imposition of *their* sense of self as if it were an opposing force.

Not one of these men was in the slightest an emasculated nor submissive person.  As I expect not to be halved nor dominated, I do not reduce nor dominate either.  Beloved Ex and Mr. X, to be sure, are almost stereotypically manly - in all the good ways.  BEx has the warmth and comfort in his own skin I associate with manliness - with, indeed, the very model of manhood in my life, my own dad.  Who, himself, was no milquetoast.  He was passionately in love with my mom from the moment he found her, and was never anything less nor the worse for it.

No man has ever been diminished by emotional commitment to his partner.  Indeed, the measure of a real man (and a real woman) is the person who can give themselves completely and not see it as submission, as any negation of self.  To give fearlessly.

And I like:  real men.

I like them a very great deal indeed.

Edited to add that, ironically, this episode of Voyager happened to come up on my queue just after this post was finished.  Somewhere between Fatal Attraction and Trek, we have another character violating a crew member.  At least it wasn't Deanna getting raped again this time.  Voyager has a way of inverting the explorations of human relationships done on some of the other series.

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