"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
An American Chip
I read an interesting column this morning on Strike The Root called 'Marriage, Horror and Susan Reimer' by Fred Reed. It's one of several similar viewpoints I have seen in articles over the past couple of years. It discussed a man's perspective on why men shouldn't bother with marriage in America , why they should select women from other countries like Mexico or Singapore , and how most American women have a big chip on their shoulders about men and life in general. I have also wondered at the whole mail-order bride trend (another series of articles I've seen in recent months) and the many men I have read about (and some I have met) who absolutely refuse to consider American women as potential partners and who only look outside the country.
A real pisser, if you ask me. However, it also made me think, and that's the best part of controversial articles. In truth, I feel rather sorry for the individuals who write these kinds of articles because they seem very bitter and unhappy; worse, they want to push it in a cautionary, blame-pointing way.
Now, I'm no expert. I am, in fact, a single 30's female by choice, and quite likely have several of these 'chip' and self-absorption elements. I have to be to work in the corporate world, make a living, pay my own bills (no one helps me), manage to write and do art on the side, and deal with the fact I am not classically 'pretty' by American standards and therefore shunned by many males. I think what I think, and there it is ' I am every bit as individual, important, ambitious, valid, and absorbed as any other person. But, you know, there are elements of truth to these columns.
For example, in the workforce and in friendship, I have dealt with many women. I have met women who do choose to use men as a mealticket, unfortunately ' sleeping with them to get something like a car or cushy homes. One really nice woman I knew used to talk about her prospective dates, rate them on how much they spent, and said if he was a cheap date (I think of pizza and a roller skating date as inventive and fun, mind you), the guy was out the door. If he didn't buy dinner all the time, if he didn't bring flowers, and if he didn't have a nice car, screw him. I've also met men who are just as ' uh ' one dimensional. Let's face it, most of the folks on shows like 'Blind Date' are pretty scary ' they make me think that the human race has fewer viable members of the gene pool than originally believed.
Then there is marriage. I have not been married, and like the guy's attitudes toward women in the column, I have found much of the same unpleasantness in prospective males. I have seen problems in many friends' and coworkers' marriages, plus I make generalizations from what I overhear in many public conversations between spouses and what the media promotes as 'usual' marriage behaviors.
This is where my 'American Chip' comes in. Let's face it ' I want a good, wholesome, enjoyable, and productive life for myself. I don't want to work the same number of hours my partner does and do 100% of the household work because he feels he deserves to laze around after 'earning' the paycheck. I don't want to work, handle the kids 80% of the time, and let the partner be the 'fun' parent. I do like to pay my own way, or if a partner pays one time I'll pay the next, because I believe friends and partners share and blend resources, not hoard them or be beholden to the other. I don't want to be expected to be accessible for sex and entertainment 100% of the time, except when my partner is bored (usually during football, baseball, soccer, and any other sports season), when he really wants to dump me and play with the guys (who I'd get to feed when they come to visit). I don't want to be expected to prepare meals and fetch things for my partner because he expects it (think Frank Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond), yet I would LIKE to do these things because they can be fun, I'd like to nourish my partner, and we could cook really well together (if you know what I mean). I'd like sex to be open and playful and intimate, and I'd like to share ideas and argue concepts and play games. Yet I don't want to play relationship games, like have my partner ogle every single female that walks by (and men, yes you do this even though you think you don't), because this makes me feel ashamed and like I must be lacking something, like my partner thinks he settled for second best. I don't believe I should have to settle for someone who has sex illicitly with other women because he honestly believes it's the male's prerogative and he just can't help nature or who thinks he can and should hit me when I disagree. I want to partner with and support my companion, but not be expected to Mommy him by cleaning up after him, reminding him of appointments we both made with friends, etc. And yes, I would like to not be ashamed about attempted molestation (sorry, but it WAS a couple of males), or feel I need to apologize for being plus-sized (again, I apologize, but only men have commented on my weight and said I'd be a 'knockout' only if I weighed less than 130 lbs).
But here's my point. That's MY problem to deal with. I am a grown up, and I can choose not to deal with bitter, or possessive, or child-like sports guys, or men who have all sorts of put-downs for me like letting elevators shut in my face after they've escorted the waspy blonde inside. I can and do look for friends and equals who have a life. I've also chosen not to be angry. These people can't help the way they are until they start looking at why they behave that way. Mr. Reed and other bitter men have definite reasons and bad experiences behind their anger, and the anger is very, very valid. So, the rest of this article is for the bitter men AND women who find themselves in this boat.
First, you just need to grow up and deal with it. By this, I mean you need to decide who makes you comfortable with a person and why, and insist on this for yourself ' accept no imitations or pressure from outside. Stop falling for the stereotypes, figure out who you are, and decide what will make you strong and content throughout your whole life (and that's longer than the next month or two). It can be your neighbor, the most American of American coworker, the wonderful exchange student from Brazil , etc.
Second, you need to also look hard at yourself. What you reap is what you sow. If you seem to be attracting people with 'bad chips,' what signals are your putting out? For instance, if you are looking only at the females from other cultures, especially those who appear to be docile and subservient, you are in for a rude awakening. Women are women, no matter what the exterior. You may not be privy to their real thoughts and ambitions but even the most subtle have them and let you take that at face value. A woman chosen for her docility doesn't love or trust you any more than one chosen for her tiny waist or blonde hair. She loves and trusts you for YOU (or she doesn't), and if you choose to look for non-realities and be bitter and demanding, you get what you get. Plus, the partner's cultural behaviors will often dominate, even in America . For instance, look at the many women whose spouses have taken their children back to Muslim countries when they had a fight, instead of working on the marriage.
Third, you need to look at marriage itself. What do you expect? Passion and lust are great, but sometimes it's best to have it and move on, better for each other's short-term company. Marriage is a must. You must marry this person because no one else is the potential parent of your kids. Because you want to grow old together and be safe when you find out you have breast or prostate cancer or lose your job. That's the only reason. If so, then be a grown up and spill all before you sign on the dotted line. Share who you are and define your values. Share past experiences and disappointments. Learn each other's value systems and expectations beforehand, and set ground rules and expectations of what you believe your marriage to each other will be like. Then, during the marriage and all the many ups and downs, tweak it like adults. Talk, decide, plan, and grow. Remember, you love this person and how being with them makes you feel and be. If you love them, put him/her first. Do YOU always need to be right? Do they always need to kowtow to YOUR whims? If it doesn't conflict with your most essential human and self-values, can YOU just let it go? If it's all about you, you're not grown-up enough to be married so don't do it.
As for looking to women or men of other cultures ' diversity is great. But, if you look to them ONLY to avoid what you think is lacking here, you are the same as the guy who only wants model-like beauties, or women who only want guys with thick hair. You are being shallow and not looking for THE PARTNER of your life. You are settling for less. If your partner is from another country, wonderful. If from here, wonderful. Just don't pigeonhole yourself and potential partners.
In the end, marriage and partnership is truly for those who can fight past the bitterness of past disappointments to envision what they really want and need, not what society pushes. For those who honestly feel respect and compassion, even for those potentials who just don't measure up. For those who learn to communicate what they want and are willing to work to build it. And for those who find the person who they most want and need to be with during the worst crisis in his/her life (or the partner's), not just during the courtship and good times. If that's not you, then go back to the drawing board and rethink your values and willingness to develop past where you are. Partnership isn't for everyone--it's not a right but a privilege--and if you don't have it in your future, no problem. Just deal with it and figure out where else your energies might go.
That's this American's chip. No apologies. Have a great day!