Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Reruns: Where Women Fall Short

(original post-date: July 7, 2010)

Born in 1957, I was perhaps uniquely fortunate to be raised by a feminist. And what might surprise you is that, in making that statement, I am thinking about my father.

I can’t say exactly what informed my father’s perspective, but he clearly admired women and seemed most comfortable in their company. It is probably for this reason that he chose to teach at a women’s college. It also is probably for this reason that my memories of him at social gatherings place him more comfortably chatting among the women than the men. Dad was just never one of those “guy” types. He was entertaining, conversational (when he would acquiesce to my mother’s encouragement that they go to that evening’s party), artistic, and well – I think he just always had tremendous respect for women. He believed in our power and our minds. He never short-changed us as a collective group.

While this is a wonderful aspect of my upbringing, it’s made it a bit tough in the marriage and dating departments. I’ve done both, and at the moment, I’m doing neither. It could be that I’m at once too picky and too capable of being complete without the benefit of a partner. It could be that my father helped build my own sense of a woman’s tremendous worth. We are a remarkable gender. We can handle multiple tasks with intelligence and compassion. We don’t necessarily get caught up in – nor are we therefore thwarted by – oneupsmanship. We are damn good company, and our craving of damn good company makes our gatherings fun. Women rock.

But in my years of observing our behavior and of comparing it to the behavior of men, I have to say there is one area where we are absolutely stupid, and where men’s perspective, in comparison, is highly evolved.

Here’s where women fall short: We believe that we can change men.

And here’s where men shine: They don’t give a moment’s thought to believing that they can change women.

I’d be willing to bet on it: any woman who reviews the relationships she has had will remember times she thought that her man would change. Not only that, he’d change for her.

I doubt men entertain such futile musings.

… Several years ago, I was involved with a man who was remarkably good company until we hit the expiration date on our relationship. Which is to say, we had a great couple of years. I enjoyed what appeared to be his absolute respect for women. We were on the same page 99% of the time. In addition, because he was a movie enthusiast (and because his enthusiasm was contagious), I raced with him one afternoon so that we might get to the local theatre in time to see the very first screening of Kill Bill 2.

I had seen Kill Bill 1 on DVD a few weeks earlier, so I was up-to-speed. I also was excited to see how the story would play out. I was learning that Tarantino is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

I loved Kill Bill 2, and because I own a copy of the movie, I’ve seen it a few times. But even before I had the chance to absorb its story through subsequent viewings, the underlying message of the movie leapt out at me: None of that mayhem – none of those bloody, violent killings – would have occurred if the lead female character had understood that men don’t change for anyone. The entire plot of that two-part masterpiece revolves around the place where we women fall short.

In the final chapter of the Kill Bill series, after he has injected her with the truth serum and before she finally ends his life with Pai Mei’s Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, Beatrix Kiddo (aka The Bride) admits to Bill that, while she knew he was a killer, she never thought he would do it to her.

Guess again, sister.

For many of us women, the need for male companionship is basic and the rewards can be quite enjoyable. But: we need to let go of our belief that we are so special as to be given different treatment. We need to let go of thinking that “our man” will change simply because we’re in the room. We need to abandon what is perhaps a natural instinct to nurture (and therefore help grow/develop).

In its place, we just need to appreciate. Among other things, we should appreciate the fact that men never look at us and imagine who they might create from the assortment of characteristics we present. (Forget Henry Higgins, gals. He’s fictional.) Men don’t envision our potentials. They don’t hear of our past shortcomings and think, “Oh, she wouldn’t do that to me.”

Men see us for what we are and they take it or leave it.

They’re smart that way.


Cheryl said...

I can't buy into this belief. It's less about gender and more about personal growth. Most humans don't fully understand they can't change anyone except themselves. It takes a crapload of hard work and practice to accept this and live it.

The traditional stereotypes of men as "fixers" isn't any different than women as "changers." Under the guise of making things better for someone else, a fixer is, in reality, trying to change something so the other person's attitude or behavior changes.

Linda Medrano said...

I wrote a piece a long time ago saying something quite similar, but I didn't write it as well!

I cannot tell you the times that I have had women friends tell me "He says he's not looking for a relationship, but what he means is he's afraid of being hurt...he's too wounded right now to understand that we could be so happy together, blah blah...

No, Honey, what he means is he is not looking for a relationship. He may be looking for someone to go to the movies with, or to have dinner with, or to go to bed with, but he is NOT looking for a relationship.

He'll change if he loves me. No he won't. I'm a firm believer in the old Popeye statement "I YAM WHAT I YAM".

Sioux said...

I agree with you, Katie. Men have only evolved so far; they've reached their evolutionary potential.

And women DO rock!

Kristy said...

I also loved the Kill Bills. What a thoughtful way you discussed some of the themes here, in relation to men/women. I now have a new way to think of it all.

Theresa Milstein said...

I've heard that our fathers are the most important people in forming their daughter's self esteem. Looks like you lucked out with your dad!

I think my husband wants to change me sometimes, just as I do with him. We all have our ideals and then we have what we've got. Hopefully we've got what we can live with. I think my husband and I are more like as human beings, and what makes us different in gender is complimentary.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I sneaked a look at the comment I left when you first posted this. I wanted to see if anything had changed in the way I answered it. I don't think it has, I still believe that meeting at aged 19 and 20 (him the younger) we changed together but never tried to change one another. That was 35 years ago and we are still together so maybe we were just lucky!

Your father was a man ahead of his time and gave you a brilliant attitude to life though gave your partners much to live up to! :-)

Gina Lee Bean said...

Women may want to 'change' things, but men always want to 'fix' things.

Great post Katie! xo

Jules said...

I guess my only opinion on the matter is... I have dogs. :) Neither of us try and change the other. And your dad sounds way cool!
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow