A discussion over on Café Philos serves up blog fodder this morning, resulting from a jab-in-jest meant for someone else sideswiping me.
Okay. Okay. I’d had a not-great day, so assumed a snarky posture … one of my best looks, actually … from which I lobbed a few grenades, but — really now! — would anyone knowing me at all not have expected a bitch-slap out of this:
… Sandra. You belong to Paul Sunstone’s harem and I always respect male friends.
Hold the phone!
Yeah, I spat a few nails … good thing I have a plank floor and thereby avoid the ricochet … gave a bit of thought to why this comment grated, took some ideas out for a spin, then came up with this comment:
Excuse the interruption here, guys … but I’m not part of anyone’s harem and, quite frankly, I find the whole idea insulting and arrogant.
Not to take this too far off the path, but I do think there needs to be some reality check going on. I have come to the thought that one reason so many of the men in my life have been significantly younger has a lot to do with a certain mindset that seems to solidify in men of a certain age that pigeonholes women in ways they’re not aware of … an arrogance, as it were. I don’t think it’s intentional … in fact I’m guessing backlash against comes as quite a shock, since most think themselves quite “liberated” in their thinking, but I’ve seen this time and time again.
Any idea how tedious it gets having guys expressing apparent surprise that I’m smart and funny, and how fucking condescending it is to hear congratulations on the fact that I have the capacity to think circles around them?
This isn’t a shocker to men under 40 for some reason … not that they don’t have their own issues.
It seems a bad habit, this mindset, dudes … and something worth examining.
There’s been dialog since, both on Paul’s blog and in my life, so I’m processing as I compose today, checking the vaults of my memory’s bank for interest on deposits and wondering if I should make a withdrawal.
The fact that younger men have always been a feature in my love life doesn’t play into today’s focus; after all, I started that proclivity early and celebrating four 21st birthdays with guys I dated when I was 28 made no cross-generational statements, nor were there any revelations.
It wasn’t noticeable even when my now-ex-husband and I got together … he at 26, and me 41 … a relationship that thrived for a long time and brought us two great kids.
No, it’s only been the last few years that I’ve come up against the challenge presented by men over 50, my chronological peers ostensibly sharing boat space on the sea of singledom.
Finding myself newly single in my 50s came as a surprise, it’s true, sneaking up on me, then leaping from the clear blue without any time to prep, and although I had grown accustomed to sharing life with a 30-something, I was under the impression that age range was now behind me and my future would have a couple more decades under a belt.
I set my heading toward what seemed to be the more settled, but kept running aground on shoals more newly formed. (Yes, there was one 50-something guy who showed up for a while, but he was as close to lifeless as someone still drawing breath can get, so didn’t last more than a few weeks. I think I made him dizzy, and he bored the shit out of me and was terrified of bugs. Sheesh!)
Surprisingly, it’s been the 30-somethings that have wooed me and won.
Why the wooing? No idea.
Why the winning?
As mentioned in my comment response, younger men are neither shocked at the way my mind works, nor do they begrudge vacating the teacher’s chair and letting the class run amok. The very fact that I am older appeals and perhaps makes it easier to accept that along with the years of experience comes knowledge and wisdom and a perspective that may be different.
There’s a give-and-take, mutual learning, that is effortless over broad territory, and although maleness does rear its testosterone-powered head when it comes to who drives and washes dishes and such, few assumptions are made in discourse.
This seems to present quite the challenge to men over 50, and I’m trying to figure out why. Is it arrogance that prompts guys to mention they notice I’m smart and expect me to be flattered … swept off my feet, even … go all girly and ooze gratitude? Habit? Genuine surprise? Detritus of previous relationships?
If it is arrogance, fuck ’em. If habit, someone needs to start busting their chops and get them to give that one up for Lent. Genuine surprise can be overcome by spending more time with smart women. Baggage could be set aside.
A question I’ve posed has to do with the changes to families that happened between the generations, the increase in the percentage of moms who work outside the home and the number of single moms. Does having a doting mother whose entire life revolves around her children produce a different man than one whose female model heads into the world daily, has her own money and often runs the whole shebang? And does this go anywhere near explaining why men of a certain age have a harder time not being sent into apoplexy when presented with a woman who can kick their ass in Scrabble?
I mention Scrabble because of the frequency of “HEY! you’re a smart cookie/sweetie/dolly” moments. I play online when my brain needs a rest, and the number of times I’ve heard some version of that is astounding. It usually comes 4 or 5 goes in, often after a series of questions on my life … Where do you live? How long ago was that photo of you taken? Will you friend me on facebook so we can chat? … and just before I pass along the information that I don’t give out any part of my life story to anyone until they beat me by 100 points. (So far, I’ve given out not even one detail.)
So, what is the deal? Will 30-somethings eventually morph into the shock-and-ahhhh generation? Is it a loss of flexibility, the impact of society during formative years, an inevitable response to women dumbing-down in hopes of getting a date? (I have seen that happen, yes.)
Feel free to discuss, and if anyone should choose to flatter me … it’s okay to mention I have great tits.