When a girl goes through a breakup that she did not initiate, it is expected of her by society to go a little crazy. When she gets very needy, depressed, or plays Adele on repeat and lives on a diet of red wine and Marlboro lights, nobody winks an eye. Men, however, we expect to silently and privately sulk. We do not ask too many questions, a tap on the shoulder will suffice. So, in order to avoid putting on 15lbs and watching sob movies, I threw myself in this project, long lasting dream of mine, to tell my stories. Well my story today starts here, on a patio overlooking the Mediterranean, in the mere company of a bottle of Bordeaux and a pack of cheap Marlboro lights. My head full of thoughts and my heart ready to crawl back into its shelter, are both fighting for control of my being.
I would like to start by telling you who I am, but words are very peculiar creations that one needs to be very careful with. As such, I will leave you the liberty of deciding on your own which characteristics you would like to assign me. See when you go through a crisis that shatters even the smallest part of your identity, as a woman, you try to define yourself anew. Who am I now? What has this experience taught me? What has changed? You repeat whichever rationalization suits the day: everything happens for a reason, it was not meant to be, etc. Then you start your new mantra: I will be stronger for it, I will love like I have never been hurt before regardless, tomorrow is a new day! Everyone has its own version of this self-taught healing process, protection mechanism.
In my case, my head decided to ask my heart what it was that made me unworthy of this last failed relationship. After having been so careful, even subconsciously so, not to enter into wasteful, meaningless relationships that serve the sole purpose of filling a void for five years, my heart finally deemed someone worthy. And when that happens, your heart blocks your head from all these years of expected disappointment and you are left powerless to this intrusion. Blissfully vulnerable, you see the red flags, but no matter. You are powerless. Thus, when it comes crashing, due to no fault of your own, your head becomes this hotbed of guilt, remorse and over-thinking, whilst your heart wallows in sadness. So you cut your hair, shop yourself a new style, or start writing that book you always said you would.
Well, my stories revolve around the people I have had the fortune of encountering in my life. So I decided to ask them, you, what it is they looked for, saw in their ‘someone special’. Since my heart could not tell me what the hell it was thinking, my head took over and wanted stats. This experience was ever-so fascinating. You have to keep in mind that my research pool, however biased, was mostly university-educated, Western liberal, and open. These are men from various generations and socio-cultural backgrounds, who have seen the world to greater or lesser degrees. They have overwhelmingly said that the number one quality their ‘one’ had to possess, was intelligence. My cynical edge cannot help itself to ask whether this result is due to a consensus amongst men that not enough women seem to show this quality. Equally at second place, men showed to want their woman to be attractive, confident and have a sense of humor. They also wanted us energetically adventurous. Further, most men said they needed us to show a sense of drive, but also kindness and compassion. Strangely, the same number of men told me that they need their woman to have eyes that saw through them, as those who spoke of the importance of breasts. Cooking skills came before honesty, or passion. Many other qualities were mentioned but not to bore you, I will summarize. Sex was almost never directly addressed. Connection and compatibility where completely ignored. Patience and understanding were barely mentioned. Some appreciated great smiles and culture, whilst others required creativity and nice legs. Inner beauty was formulated in many different ways, as was a certain ability to dream.
And? So what? How many women do you know that fit that bill? Oh yes you know plenty. At least, I do. And what happens to those women? Well, they suffer. These women are the ones who do not take all your money after the divorce; they do not want or need anything with your name on it. See, as a good friend of mine said, I call bullshit on the part of men. Malcolm Gladwell said something like everyone wants strong black coffee, but who actually orders it? See I think that mean forgot to think about what they need from their woman. They thought of what their woman should be. You know, that checklist. That stupid remnant of another century that we were taught by our parents, who were taught by their parents, that your partner ought to fulfill a certain amount of needs so that the townspeople would be satisfied with your marital union. Guess what! Their divorce rates were low, because no one would grant them a divorce. You would be shunned. I think, and this is my humble opinion, that men do not know what they want. I think they think they want something, when what they do want is something else, but in the end they cannot be sure, so they do something totally other still. They lie, but they lie to themselves. They want their women confident, smart, funny. But when they are, they cannot deal with it. I think, the number one quality men should have asked for is, for their women to be missing something. This infamous savior complex consumes our society, from colonialism to relationships.
A damaged woman you can save. One that saves you reminds you of your mother, and god knows we have mother issues. In a society where patriarchy is a relic of the past, and matriarchy is unfathomable, we have no ground to stand on when it comes to care and authority. My life is as testimony of a generation so misunderstood, trapped in the fastest-changing era the world has ever seen. Call us the millennials, the crappy, self-involved generation that will never achieve anything. How different are we really? We have just been granted our parents wishes. We live in a world constructed by the dreams of our elders. Yet we are told our lives are spent wondering about useless, trivial segments of living. I do not wish to blame the generations previous, or assign blame of any kind for that matter. They have achieved miracles for us. I am just noticing that our stars stopped pointing north and we are left to ourselves. So if we do not talk to each other, something so easy to do nowadays, no wonder we fuck up.
I think I suffer from this lack of compass pointing north most when it comes to my sexual expression. My mother was with a handful of men at most. My other female role models were also what we would today call prudes. If they were not, I certainly never heard a word of it. The problem is we still celebrate Don Juan’s and call a woman with a high number of partners a slut. However too few render a woman a prude. So where is this idyllic middle ground? Anyway, the answer to that question does not really interest me. I was never one for middle grounds. You are in or you are out. Naturally then my number exceeds most those I know of. The fact that I am proud and confident in that matter actually puts me into trouble. I am smart about it too. There is no drama due to my sexcapades in my life. The trouble then, is in precisely men’s lies. I have nothing missing.
“…our stars stopped pointing north and we are left to ourselves.” Beautiful!
That list you obtained from those academic men you interviewed about what they want in a woman was fascinating. I agree with you here:
“I think they think they want something, when what they do want is something else,”
“They want their women confident, smart, funny. But when they are, they cannot deal with it.”
But I disagree with you that men would particularly want or need the savior role in relation to their women partners, other than for the occasional heroic gesture. I think MOST men DO want one or more things lacking in their mates, but I believe it is because most men still need to feel confident in their superiority over the women they share space with–no matter if these men claim otherwise.
I agree with you as well. 🙂 glad you thought it was thought-provoking! Yes, and I am interested in finding out what the women would say vs really want to! Perhaps another chapter!
Good point on women’s expressed vs.actual wishes–I, too, would be curious–even about my own! : )
I’ve arrived here long after your chapter was published, but still find it relevant to the very second I type this. As a man that was responsible for the lives of other men, in an environment that killed them quickly and violently, often before they knew true love, either received or given, we found ourselves sharing the tiniest and darkest details of our lives. I was often 20 years older than those I lead. In this decades long journey, I came to realize a few simple things when it comes to what young men want from a woman. They want what they least deserve from her, what fills any perceived emptiness and yearning. Their ache for companionship, adulterated by lust and conquest, causes them to put their list away and love a woman they know they should leave in peace. They love hatefully like road rage or softly like a feather on sensitive skin too accustomed to the constraint of modesty. When their loneliness and ache for companionship and sexual release is sated, they find themselves with an obligation for the well being of a heart they coveted but no longer want or need. Young men are captivated by a perfume that, once evaporated, leaves them with the scent of reality they didn’t seek or knew existed. The dream, created when the list of wants and needs was lost, leaves them with a choice; to ease away and hunt again or let the love continue and try to find a way to get to know this mysterious creature that gives him such unfathomable pleasure and such mind searing pain. And then, you have what his woman wants in a man, creating a soup of emotion with such complexity it’s difficult to describe as good or bad, savory or bitter. It just is and to ease the hunger of loneliness and doubt, the couple must partake of it often. Before I was their mentor, I was one of them. My early failures drove an overwhelming desire to destroy myself before my or another heart broke again. I love your writing because it finally explains what evaded me in those early years.