Sunday, March 28, 2010

They don't appear to be in Target.

Where are all the men?

This is a question I ask the universe multiple times each day. Often I'm wondering where the MEN are because I'm surrounded by boys. Toddlers with cell phones. I'm trapped in the movie Big without the giant piano duet. (Please continue to enjoy my topical references from the 1980s.) (I should get out more.)
Other times it's quite literal--where the hell are they? I've been hanging out with the same guys for years. (Who continue to insist that they don't know any tall eligible men, the lying assholes.) I work in a school; the only new men I meet are the fathers of my students. WHERE ARE THEY?

Enter "Where Are the Men?" by Bobbie Mostyn. The Twin found this at the library and thought it would be amusing. As I generally trust her judgment, I gave it a shot. And it has left me rather confused.

To entice the readers, Mostyn's introduction is chock full of statistics. As we get older, the ratio of single men to single women shifts gradually out of our favor. This is used as a scare tactic--go find them before it's too late!! (She literally tells readers that she is writing "with some urgency" because of this.) This put me on shaky ground with the book. I'm much more of the "I'd rather be alone than deal with the wrong man" school of thought. She seems to be on the side of "find a man any man any man will do as long as he will go out with you." However, I pressed on.
She throws out some generic social advice. The kind of stuff that can be located in your average issue of Seventeen magazine. (Don't stand against the wall at a party! Mingle! Talk to people!) I'm sure it's useful to some. Moving on.
Furthermore, she suggests trying new activities. I could possibly get behind this. I'm on board with a push to be social. You won't meet anyone if you don't leave the house. Fair point. Cats may be great listeners, but they don't talk back and you can't go see a movie with them. And you're really limited to how many cats you can interact with, if you think about it. Nobody ever says, "What's too bad is how many friends that woman has!" Cats, though...cats are different. You come close to the socially acceptable limit and suddenly you're the talk of the neighborhood. In a bad, hushed tones over the fence kind of way. My point? Making more friends is not a bad idea.
But the more I read, the more my jaw dropped. This was not what I expected. Oh, no. I'm supposed to do "male" things. I won't meet men doing "female" activities. Apparently it doesn't matter what I actually matters that I find a man before I'm too old and all the men are dead, gay, or taken.
The author lists places "crawling with men"--and sends her readers there, even if they hate that particular activity. THERE WILL BE MEN, she seems to insist. REMEMBER THE PRIME DIRECTIVE. Faking an interest in something to snag a there's a plan with no flaws.
Let's imagine an example, shall we?
Maybe you hate golf, but you know who golfs? MEN. Therefore, get thee to a golf course! Then you can have conversations like this:
Man: "What's your handicap?" (Non-golfers, this a golf term that I've heard my father say and I just googled to confirm.)
You: "Oh, differentiating bad dating advice from good dating advice, mostly."
Man: "...huh?"
Like I said, no flaws.
Why not try new things that interest you because meeting new people can't hurt, especially if you have some shared interests? Why not a wider social circle will help you meet new people? And maybe you'll want to date some of those new people, because clearly the ones you already know aren't working out? Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage single women to venture outside the dating confines they've given themselves?
Nope. GO WHERE THERE ARE MEN. It reads like a map of the zoo, with each location housing a different sort of man.
My real problem with this book is that it is an exercise in gender stereotyping. Mostyn focuses on finding men in their "natural habitat" (the sports bar! Home Depot! rustic hunting lodges!...I am not joking about that one) on the generalization that you would never think to go there, being a woman. As women, our job is to smoke them out of these man caves and glom onto whatever appears.We can't continue to troll our "feminine" haunts...unless, of course, we're ok with ending up alone.
This book was published in 1999. From where I'm sitting, it feels like it's primarily catering to those frenzied women who, just a few years earlier, desperately bought "The Rules" as they felt their ovaries drying up.
I don't like that this advice could fall into the hands of young women navigating dating for the first time. I'm lucky; I was raised surrounded by family members who insisted that I had plenty of time and that I would find someone when it was right. My aunts used to tell me that I was too young to settle down; that there was no sense in being with a man just for the sake of being with a man. To this day, they tell me that I will find someone when I'm not looking.
I was taught to hold out for someone who was worth it. And maybe that man DOES golf, but we'll have to meet on common ground.


Jason said...

Toddlers with cell phones... reminds me of The Office. I bet Angela would appreciate that poster.

Anonymous said...

Just remember the phrase, "I'm new at this, can you show me how it's done?" Men like helping women, especially if they're interested in said woman.

Saying you're new can also lead to conversation, and men like talking about stuff we enjoy. But, if they guy only talks about whatever you're doing and doesn't shift the conversation to you, or ask to move the conversation elsewhere, he's probably not that interested.

In short, I agree with the book. Just don't pretend you're a regular.

Amanda said...

Jason: That's true, she probably would!

Anon: I want to be really angry about your assessment of men. But then I thought about the men I know and realized you probably have a disappointing point. Men do like talking about themselves.
I think the important distinction is that he's a self-important douchebag if he doesn't turn the conversation to something else.
I'm still not hitting up the golf course.

Anonymous said...

No, I didn't mean men "like talking about themselves."

To put things in another perspective. Guys like sports, so you can strike up a conversation with a guy by talking about sports.

The point I was trying to make is that you don't have to do, know or like something to talk to someone, you just have to be willing to go there and talk to someone.

Amanda said...

Anon: I was editorializing with my comment that men like talking about themselves. Because, well...they do.
It's one of those "tricks" you can find in magazine articles about talking to men. As if letting him talk about himself enough will create positive memories of you. "Oh, her? I had an AWESOME time with her!" And then you can suffer through a whole relationship with him.