Boys

All my life, I’ve been mostly into “boys’ stuff'”, and not so much into what girls are supposed to like. I was born in the 70s, so that was a big deal. Hell, it still is now, if we care to admit it. I have never given a damn about it, though, because that part of my brain is happily missing. As a result, I’ve followed my inclinations with glorious disregard to gender and found myself surrounded by guys most of my life. They were in the places where I wanted to be doing the things I wanted to do. I’ve worked, played, and lived mostly with guys. Most of my friends are guys. I get on with guys just fine, and better than I do with women.

Every now and then, I think I could expand my guy-related activities. I’m not entirely adverse to the concept of dating some of them. Alas, the inclination never lasts more than three days. Never.

I can work, play, and live with guys, but I can’t date them. I can’t manage the interactions that are designed to lead to dating. I can’t go to the places where people go to meet for dating purposes, either in real life or online. Hell, I can’t even go places where people go for entirely different purposes and out myself as a single woman because of the resulting fallout. Every  time I try, within three days I’ve lost a large proportion of my faith in humanity and I’m spending a lot of energy reminding myself that #notallmen are giant douchebags.

#notallmen. I know. I know better than most women, because my studies and my work and my hobbies and my life in general have brought me into contact with splendid guys. I just struggle to remember it when I’m having to navigate what passes for courting behaviour in this place and time. It only takes so many dick pics, so many “I want to eat your ass” in lieu  of “hello, how are you”, so many ignored nos, so many temper tantrums in reaction to rejection or boundary setting or simply not being available enough, and I can’t even. I can’t even with the guys in question, and I can’t even with guys in general.

I know that my reaction is unfair. Men are no more uniform than women are, and shouldn’t all be lumped together. If you get bit by a dog and that’s made you dog-averse, that doesn’t mean that all dogs are bad. Positive interactions with pooches will help you get over your negative experience.

…except that what I’m talking about isn’t a one-off, an unfortunate exception in an otherwise positive environment. It’s not the one odd dog biting you: it’s getting bitten day in, day out, and being told that you’ve got to keep petting mutts because there are good ones out there, believe me, and one day, if you’re lucky, you’re gonna find the right one for you. You may not have any fingers by then, but it’ll be totally worth it.

It’s a matter of taste, of course, but to me the modern dating world is a stream of shit that I’m expected to wade through in the hope of finding someone who doesn’t suck. And the conclusion I keep coming to, time and time again, is that it’s just not worth it. I’m not unhappy enough on my own to justify the energy, time, and revulsion involved in trying to date guys. The numbers just don’t stack up.

It’s at this point in my rant that I’m normally told what I should do. I should shrug off the assholes. I should accept that that’s how it is. I should remember that it used to be much worse in the Bad Old Days or lament that I don’t live in the Good Old Days. Either way, it’s just one of those things and I should get on with it.

The people doing the shoulding are mostly guys, perhaps purely because of how my life is structured. That’s the bit that surprises me, though. It’s not the pressure on me to fix and accomodate and carry on regardless and generally make everything niiiiiice for everyone: that seems to come as a stock feature when one is even remotely female. What really surprises me is that some of those guys are also having terrible difficulties navigating the dating world, and they seem to think that the fault lies with women like me.

Dude: what if I told you that the reason you can’t give your end away is not the iniquity of women, but the antics of men? What if that woman didn’t give you her number because of the scores of guys who used that opportunity to send her unsolicited dick pics? What if that woman told you to fuck off when you complimented her because the last umpteenth times someone did that he treated it as entitling him to an evening of her undivided attention? What if you can’t buy a nice woman a drink because, in her experience, it never bloody ends there and it never bloody goes well? What if the problem wasn’t that she, they, didn’t like you, specifically, but that they’re just primed for conflict, because conflict is what they get all the damn time? And what if the source of that conflict wasn’t them, or other women, or sociopolitical theories, but guys – guys you see, maybe even guys you know – guys who are pissing in the dating pool to the point that only the most resilient, determined, or desperate are bothered to swim in it?

Obviously, feminism is the root cause of all these evils. I won’t deny it. If I didn’t have access to education, like my grandma; if I was forced to marry the man who made me pregnant, regardless of whose idea the sex was, like my other grandma; if I couldn’t earn enough as a woman to support myself, like my aunt; if I got treated like a fallen woman for moving out of my parents’ home without getting married, like my mother; then I’d probably plug my nose and wade in. I’d need a guy, so I’d have to put up with whatever was thrown at me in the dating process until I snagged one, and pray that it was a good one. But I don’t. Here and now, a partner for me is an enhancement to my life. If I have to put up with a constant stream of harassment, pressure, insults, threats, and general unpleasantness in order to find one, then sorry, I’ll pass. And it’s not about you, dude, or even about me: it’s about them, the douchebags.

I would like to find someone whose company I enjoy more than my solitude, I really would; I just don’t like it enough to put up with all the attending  crap. And I’m not alone in this: I speak to other women who are single and not looking, and we are all saying the same things. We say them loud and clear, in private and in public, and in response we’re invariably told that it’s our fault or at least our responsibility. Our standards are unrealistic, our expectations too high, we chose to muddle up the gender roles and now we’re reaping our just deserts, we did and do this and that, and now dating is a minefield that only a few can successfully negotiate. Our bad.

Ok, dude. So you think the problem isn’t that men send dick pics; it’s that women are so quick to take offence. Whatever. But I’m telling you, your friend Steve who does that, and you know it, and you shrug it off because he’s a nice guy, really, and it’s not as if he’s hurting anyone; he’s the reason I didn’t give you my number. Your cousin Michael who responds to every no with a “don’t be like that” is the reason I didn’t talk to you in that bar. Your uncle Bob who likes to dress formal and talk dirty to strangers half his age is why I don’t trust ‘old-fashioned gentlemen’. It’s not feminism, Hollywood myths about romance, Channing Tatum, or the articles in Cosmo putting me off you: it’s the men I have to deal with every goddamn day. They stand between us, and I’m too fed up with their shit to be bothered pushing my way through. And maybe, just maybe, if you put a fraction of the effort you spend lecturing me on how it’s on to me to get over it into getting Steve and Michael and Bob to cut their fucking crap, in five months or five years we may reach a place where the prospect of trying to find someone like you wouldn’t fill me with dread.

 

[For all those men who are upset by my rant because men have horrible dating experiences too, and I’m ignoring their plight:

How about you write your own?

Blogging is not a zero-sum game. I’m not filling up the internets and leaving no room for you. If you have a problem you want to air, write it out and press “publish”. And I promise you, if you do it well I’ll link you on here. But don’t you dare tell me that I shouldn’t talk about my shit because you can’t be bothered to talk about your own.]

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4 thoughts on “Boys

  1. I get it. I’m glad to be old enough to have got married (happily, durably) almost 30 years ago, before the joys of courtship in the age of cellphone cameras arrived. My daughter though, 26? Not so lucky. Nor my two young adult sons.

    It’s lonely to refuse to participate in this particular dance of bullshit and objectification; it really does set a person outside popular culture. But there are actually other people who share that particular rejection of meaningless bullshit and objectification, who a person can meet. The daughter’s getting married to a brilliant guy in a couple of months, who had no more use for the bullshit than she did (or you do). She was willing to be alone if need be, but (as it sounds like you’re doing) invested quality time in what she loved doing, and more importantly, doing things which most reflected and grew the values she aspired to have as a maturing human being. That conscious choosing acts as a sorting-screen, pre-selecting the people you spend time with. One of them is more likely to be a really intriguing partner than some random dude at a bar. But you have to be OK with the risk of not knowing if, or when, you’ll not be alone.

    Sounds like you’ve already made that choice; the other will follow.

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  2. I really want to argue with you (and I’m pretty sure that’s male pride talking), but I find that I can’t. I can’t because I’ve spent my dating life dealing with the damage other men have done to the women I’ve ended up with, to the point where said damage did ME damage. As in, I was overwhelmed, did not react well, and ended up in a situations I had no clear answers to. Like you, I’m still wading through the mess of a life best characterized as “other”.

    Even now that I’ve found myself in a nice, stable, healthy relationship with a woman who treats me wonderfully and makes me deliriously happy (and I’m SOOO glad I found her), I’m still dealing with her trauma at least once a week. Trauma dealt to her by men who weren’t me. There’s a lot of it. I sometimes get rather peeved at the men who treated her as poorly as they did, mostly because a lot of what they did seems so pointless to me.

    But I remember the moment when I was introduced to just how much the dating game sucks.

    My partner works as a caregiver for the developmentally disabled. Its a tough job, and one of the “tough” parts of it is being called in at a moment’s notice. The other is sometimes having to work stupid hours because a person who is supposed to relieve her can’t show and there’s no one to cover. One time she was called in for a surprise shift…she scrambled, I scrambled, we got her out the door with what she needed. I went to bed hoping her shift went okay.

    The next day was my day off, so I woke up looking forward to a lazy day of sipping coffee, arguing on the internet and maybe writing. She texted me at 10am to tell me that her relief had fallen down and broken her ankle, so obviously she couldn’t work. Management couldn’t find a replacement, and long story short she needed to work a double shift. Since she couldn’t leave (caregivers have to be present 24/7) could I possibly bring her food and coffee?

    Without much consideration I said yes, I totally could. So I packed her a lunch and headed for the local Starbucks in search of the biggest, most caffeinated latte they’d make. While whipping it up, the very cute barista asked me why I wanted such a creation. I told her. At that point her face took on a very wistful expression. She sighed and said “my boyfriend would never do that for me.”

    Me: “Seriously?”

    Her: “Nope. He’d tell me to call for pizza or something.”

    Now, in addition to being attractive the barista seemed both intelligent and sweet-natured, at least as first impressions go. She didn’t come off to me as the sort of girl whose dating life ought to ring with the sound of the bottom of the barrel being scraped. But apparently it did, because I’d call backing one’s partner up with victuals in a clinch-type situation part of a good relationship’s ‘balanced breakfast’. And apparently a nice, good natured and attractive girl considered it both romantic and out of her reach.

    I left the coffee shop surprised, appalled and disturbed. I’ve never forgotten that, nor its implications.

    So yeah. I’ll be the first to say that there are a lot of problems with how women treat men, but there are just as many issues on my side of the fence that NEED addressing. Men, especially younger men, need to up their game to “basic human-person interaction level” when it comes to women. Otherwise, they ought not to be surprised when people like you decide to opt out of the game.

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