I realize that I need to move on. And since I don’t have any more tears in me about Thomas, I’ll try to leave it behind and look ahead. As a woman, I’m living in a golden age. There are so many possibilities for coupling, I can live exactly the way I wish to live—or so they say.
What am I dreaming of? Or should I ask: what is my mind dreaming of? It seems we’re not always in agreement. I’ve been so stuffed to the gills with stereotypes about love and a woman’s role in it that I’m sick of it. Perhaps I should forget the silly romantic ideals Hollywood refreshes my memory with on a regular basis. Not because I believe those stories or find them of high quality or artistically impressive; but it’s as if my mind does. Each and every time I meet a man, I expend quite a bit of energy on squeezing him into this same ideal romantic mold, and each and every time it leads to nothing but frustration, the rolling of eyes and long talks with my girlfriends about how different women and men are.
Then we display our respective cynicism at the ‘man’ talk itself, and we laugh at Bridget Jones and the absurd situations in which she draws attention to herself, because we recognize them in ourselves. But immediately afterwards, I’m vexed. What kind of idiot thinks like Bridget that meeting a man will ensure her eternal happiness? That’s actually where the problems start—and if you ask me, she will not be happy choosing either of the two guys in the film—Colin Firth or Hugh Grant.
A relationship with Colin would rapidly devolve into an everyday routine of him working overtime and her begging for affection the minute he walks through the door. His mind is elsewhere and he can’t understand what she wants. He wants some peace and quiet, and he’s too tired to have sex.
If she chooses to settle down with Hugh, things would start to change after some very intense first months. He will fail to arrive on time to meet her; he can never give a clear answer as to where he has been; and he’s always doing things that don’t involve her and coming home reeking of cigarette smoke and perfume. And in bed he’s predictable, almost boring.
Or am I just disillusioned?!? Whatever happened to Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong and Judith Butler? Or the Danish writer Susanne Brøgger who is known for promoting the open marriage? Why aren’t their strong and sensual ‘femininities’ the ideals of my mind? Is my mind all wrong? What is love? Am I wrong? Should I just accept that men and women are fundamentally different and that most couples will never really succeed at deeply loving each other forever? And the romantic ideals my mind fabricates as soon as a potential man enters within a mile’s radius—should I just accept that they’re hopelessly unrealistic or maybe even immature? Maybe I should simply scrap romance and stick to having just an occasional physical relationship with a handsome man?
It sounds easy. But it feels empty. It isn’t really enough for me. When I ask myself what I want, and I try to be as honest with myself as I can, the answer is always that I yearn for a real man. But at the same time that yearn- ing infuriates me. What’s a real man, anyway? A real man is someone who:
- is well-balanced
- knows himself
- loves sex as much as I do
- has good social skills s has (enough) money s is good-looking
- is funny
- is able to think for himself s is able to commit himself s knows how to listen
- can say no AND yes
- is romantic
I know this list might seem overwhelming to ask for, but I find it hard to make it any shorter. Should he not have a sense of humor? Or money? Or is it unimportant that he can listen to others? Or be romantic.
It’s important that he wants to have sex with me, and not just any (or every) woman. And he should be willing to build a life with me.
What can I offer a man? Hard to say. The popular models for women’s roles don’t do it for me. At one end of the spectrum is the Florence Nightingale ‘ideal’ female model held by patriarchal society—a pretty, happy, service-minded woman who keeps house for her husband, raises well-mannered children, cooks delicious meals and basically runs a lovely, well-oiled household. The man wields the power and the woman yields to him, arranging herself and her private life according to what suits him. That means: sex when he wants it, and her spending evening after evening at home alone when his work or hobbies summon him. It means maintaining his social relationships to his parents, siblings and friends—so he can come and go as he pleases. He doesn’t expect her to live out his sexual fantasies with him; either he hasn’t got any fantasies to speak of, or else he lives them out with other women he meets here and there.
I understand men who want that kind of wife in their life. It’s the perfect solution for an egoist who wants to fulfill his dreams and keep playing the field, though I fail to understand why a woman would want this for her life. It is not enough for me.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Lady Macbeth model. This woman has arranged a life for herself and her husband. She decides where their money goes, with whom they spend their time, what her husband does in his free moments; and if possible, she tells him how to do his work. I have met a number of board directors and CEO’s who belong to this category where they need to ask their wife before they know what they think about an issue raised at a board meeting. Sexually, she’s wearing the panties—and I imagine she keeps them on most of the time. Her man accepts the allotment of her energies and shuffles about on his own as much as he can.
I don’t envy either of these women. But almost everyone I know lives a variation of one of these two models, and either the man or the woman inevitably suffers in silent frustration. I can see why.
That’s not for me. I long for a love where my partner and I are equals, yet we also have an intimate place for us to experiment with the power shifting back and forth between us both in terms of sex, finances and other important matters. Our individual and joint development as people are a key part of a good relationship when I look ahead. It hasn’t been when I look back, so I really must approach this in a different manner.
My girlfriend Karen says there’s no such thing as an equal relationship where both parties have their say. One will always be dominant; sometimes it’s the woman and sometimes it’s the man. It’s very possible that she is right, and relationships have been like that for many decades, but that’s not how I want my life to be. I want a fair, equal relationship with fun and varied sex where we are both strong individuals who nurture each other and urge personal development.
I can’t sleep. I feel like an animal in a burrow that has strayed from all of the other animals. There is no one to nuzzle my fur or forage for food with me.
What must I do to find a little love? What do other people do? How the hell do they know what to do??
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