I hope all is going well for you, and that life is treating you well.
I had one of those Hmmm…..moments today, when I ponder one (or several) of the mysteries of life, or the differences between men and women, or I just contemplate my life and question what I think. One of the differences between men and women that I’ve always noticed, other than the obvious ones, is that you can vent to a woman friend sometimes for hours, share what’s bothering you, and she’ll listen. She may make some suggestions, or just listen, but it’s rare for a woman to impose a solution on another woman. She may tell you how she handled a similar problem, which can be helpful, or offer her thoughts, but it’s rarely done forcefully, a woman friend will remind you of the options, but most women figure that the solution is your decision. But if you tell a man your problems, in just the same way, at the end of what you tell him, he will tell you what you should do in very definite terms. I’ve rarely known a man to be tentative about his suggestions. And most men seem to believe that you are telling him, not just to get his advice or opinion, but so that he can tell you what to do. Most men seem to feel totally frustrated if they can’t suggest a positive action, and his thoughts may be relevant, but not necessarily adapted to your style. And most men also seem to feel slighted if you don’t take their advice and put their plan into action immediately, just as he outlined it. It can create some very awkward situations, where you don’t want to hurt his feelings or insult him, but his suggestion may just not be what you want to do. Most men do not seem to ‘get’ that you may just want to whine, complain, or vent for a bit, and you’re not asking anyone else to solve your problems. It can be a real dilemma between men and woman, and I’ve been in some awkward spots myself, where I really didn’t like the male advice that was offered. I thanked them for their concern, but went on to solve the problem in a way that worked for me. This may be why a lot of women talk to other women about what’s bothering them. There are no ruffled feathers or hurt feelings if you don’t take their advice, or modify it to suit you. Men are more solution-oriented but in a very male way that doesn’t always suit us, even if their advice is full of good intentions, and male solutions. (“Just tell your kids (or husband) they can’t, or should, or have to….etc.” Good luck on that. Just ‘telling’ one’s kids, or husband, or ordering them around is rarely a viable solution for us. It takes a lot more psychology and finesse than that, in my life anyway). And I know I’ve really annoyed some male friends when I didn’t take their advice and follow it immediately, just as they outlined it to me.
I don’t consider myself a feminist, and never have, although I’ve kind of backed into the life of one. I’ve worked since I finished college early at nineteen. I have lived in a male dominated world. I’ve had a career where I’ve had to fight for what I have, and am still doing it. And I was a single mother of nine kids for a long time, and have dealt with all the situations and challenges and made all the decisions that go with it. But basically I was just doing my ‘job’ and what I had to do, at work and at home. It has never been political for me, and I love having a man in my life, and sharing my life. I don’t need to ‘run the show’, to prove a point, but I shoulder my responsibilities. I like the idea of being equal partners, but come from a generation where that was not the norm, and was married to men much older than I who expected to be ‘the boss’. But I really do expect a semblance of equality now, a give and take of ideas and responsibilities, and I balk at being told what to do—-again not out of politics, but simply because I’ve been independent for a long time, and manage decently on my own. But as Winnie the Pooh said to Piglet, “it’s so much friendlier with two”, and indeed it is. As long as one of you isn’t ‘telling’ the other what to do.
Even more annoying are the men whose advice you didn’t seek, who tell you what to do. Men you go out with, or work with, are friends with, or simply know, or barely know. It has really startled me when that happened. Notably, I had my first lunch with a man who worked in finance, and somewhere between the soup and the sandwich, he was telling me how to run my children’s lives financially, what kind of allowance to give them, when to cut them off and make them survive on their own. Maybe good financial advice, but really none of his business, and he didn’t know me well enough to have any idea how I deal with my kids, or my ideas on the subject. I saw him for a second (and last) lunch a month later, and he asked me immediately, “So did you do it?” Did I do what? I had no idea what he was talking about until he asked me if I had followed his advice about my kids’ allowances, how I doled out their money, and he wanted to know if I had made plans to cut them off. Although he was very attractive, I had no desire to see him again, and didn’t. Another male friend I’m very fond of told me and one of my woman friends that we should start charging our kids for meals from the age of 15 on. (Mine would probably have headed for MacDonald’s immediately, which they preferred to my cooking anyway.) And another man I found seriously attractive also had very definite ideas about how I should raise my kids and just how tough I should be. Interestingly none of these three men had children of their own, and I had been managing nine (without too many complaints) for several years. But they had plenty of ideas about how it should be done, and weren’t shy about saying it, and had very black and white (impractical) ideas. The last one in fact complained that I just didn’t do what he “told me to do”. Very observant of him, no, I didn’t. And I realized that I really don’t want to be told what to do.
And more recently, a man I don’t even know, while trying to lure me into a relationship was telling me that he would tell me how to run my kids. Really?? Sayonara and happy trails to you!!! I don’t even ‘run’ my kids at this point in their lives. They run themselves, and I’m grateful when they ask for my advice, and are interested in hearing it.
I have a fairly gentle style, and am not confrontational. But I don’t think I seem incompetent, and as though I’m desperate for free advice. Besides by now I know my kids, their personalities and needs, better than any stranger, or even a friend. But it’s not just about our kids, men seem to offer a lot of unsolicited advice about our finances, our jobs, our homes and our lives, and they often seem to assume that we can’t figure it out on our own. Why is that? Women are surprisingly resilient and strong, and these days we work as hard as any man, and succeed in our chosen fields. We do our jobs, come home and manage our kids, often handle the family finances (more responsibly than our men at times). We keep track of the kids’ vaccinations, help with homework, get the dog to the vet, work until we drop, take care of aging relatives, we do an incredible number of things in a day’s time, handle endless problems, comfort our kids, answer constant emails and texts, problem solve all day long, make decisions, and our day doesn’t end until all the jobs get done. I worked until the day I gave birth with every child, and went back to work not long after. And a lawyer friend of mine just had a baby and was back in her office, and in court four days later. So why is it that we are supposedly the weaker sex? I took my kids trick or treating one year with a fever, but I couldn’t let them down for one of their favorite days of the year. And I manage to keep birthdays and important days straight. And I’m no more unusual than a lot of women who do as much as I, and more. One of my daughters has a grueling hospital job, and goes home to help her kids with their homework, and sends me emails at 3 am, after she gets everything done at home, before leaving for work again at 8 am the next day. We do a double job every day, if we work, both on the job and at home, and that is the norm today for most women, while a man has only one job to do, at the office, and nobody expects him to get the Christmas cards out on time. And somehow we do it. That doesn’t mean we never need advice, or don’t need a good suggestion from time to time. But ‘telling’ us what to do because they think we can’t figure it out really underestimates us.
I have no idea why we’re thought to be the weaker sex. I can’t change a tire, or carry a couch across the room, (although I did carry a hugely heavy chair on my head once when I had no one to help me, put my back out and was in bed for a week!!). I just think we deserve more credit than we get, for being able to do a LOT of things, and many of them well. And yes, we want advice, but not necessarily being ‘told’ what to do. Suggestions are great, and may be followed or not. But I don’t think “the weaker sex” applies to us. We’re all weak at times, but we are incredibly capable too. It would be nice to get credit for that, and all that we do, and the strength that we demonstrate every day, and the endurance. So when we complain, it would be nice if men could listen, and not solve the problem for us. I guess what I’m still seeking is more equality, and acknowledgement for all that we accomplish and tackle in a day’s time, even without free advice. It would be nice….one of these days….have a great week!!