When I grew up in the 1950s, everything was clear. Men and women were very different creatures. Women cleaned the house and watched soap operas and cried. Men worked and watched sports and had no emotions (unless their team won a big game or something).
Everything changed in the ’70s. Your sex didn’t matter, really! Men and women were all the same, apart from an anatomical curlicue here and there. They had just been acculturated into thinking they were different. As usual, society was to blame.
About that time, women learned they were oppressed and stopped shaving their legs for a while. But men were oppressed, too! some bright guy opined. They were tired of working and being strong and manly all the time. To compensate, they started wearing leisure suits and gold neckchains and choking up on a regular basis.
(Do you understand now why the 70s were one of the least appetizing decades on record? How many women truly yearned for a man who cried more than they did and asked to borrow their jewelry?)
Thirty, 40 years later, we are so enlightened about the differences between the sexes that we now call them genders, instead. Soap operas are gone and everybody gets to hug and men can can cry sometimes, assuming they are Republicans and like to start wars.
Anyway, we may not have regressed to the 1950s, but sometimes I do have a startling realization that my parents’ generation got a few things right when it came to men and women. Namely, when I see two of the main men in my life — that would be my husband and son — go into one of their A Man’s Gotta Do What a Man’s Got to Do moments, I could close my eyes and it’s 1955 again.
A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. You know what I’m talking about. The male’s jaw tightens, his eyes narrow, his stance is on alert. The more dire the circumstances, the more ridiculous or outrageous the cause, the more he won’t be argued with. The more any woman wails, the more righteous his cause and implacable his desire. He rebuffs any arguments that what he’s planning to do is:
2) not worth doing by any competent, sane human being;
4) did I mention stupid enough times?
No. Mention any of these complaints and his jaw gets tighter, his eyes slittier, his ears completely deaf.
A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do! Just think about it. If we didn’t have this cultural ethos, we wouldn’t have had the bloodbath at the Alamo or John Wayne movies or shock-and-awe in Iraq or violent video games or professional football.
I thought about all of that recently, when it was cold and wet and windy. The perfect day to stay indoors, I thought. How wrong, how very female I was. That day, it turned out, the men had to do what the men had to do — and what the men had to do was play golf.
Raining, freezing cold, stupid, miserable, ridiculous, golf? Were they crazy?
As a veteran of the battle of the sexes/genders of the ’50s, the ’70s, and the 21st century, I knew what I had to do. Sometimes, what a woman’s gotta do is keep her mouth shut and bide her time.
The road to I told you so can be long, but oh, so rewarding. Generations of female forbearers have taught me that.
(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Please! Read about a few of those delicious I Told You So moments.