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"Dear Isaiah Mustafa: Defending Men Everywhere Against Daddy Issues" and "Chick Flicks; An Open Letter to Women With Romantic Issues With Men"
I had been sitting in the doctor’s office awaiting an appointment for my nasty allergies (gotta love springtime!), and I stumbled across a few articles in an old Cosmopolitan Magazine in the stack of magazines on the table next to me. My phone was dead, and with no outlet available to charge my phone, out of sheer boredom, I began to read. Women’s and men’s issues; I was hooked. It was from 2011, but I felt inspired to write about it, to share some of my thoughts and the thoughts in several of the articles I’ve cited from the magazine. Despite the dated literature, this is incredibly relevant today. (As a side note, doctor’s offices seriously need to get some new material!)
With his impossibly fresh-smelling chest, in his recent 2011 article in Cosmo, he assures us most of our men are, as we speak, planning a non-chick flick inspired romantic gesture for you. I recall feeling confused. My man was working from home, probably scratching his ass as we speak. He doesn’t cook, and if I can get him to clean, it feels like Christmas. I love the man, but romantic—I wasn’t seeing it.
Now, the timing of the article sort of struck me in a funny way. Personally, my relationship is in no distress after five years; we live together, we're happy. Sure, we fight, like everyone else, but I have friends who have it much worse. So this timing was not funny to me in regards to my relationship but to something that occurred shortly before my appointment. I have a friend who is chronically difficult to please, and she said to me through text, to paraphrase: she felt like if he could spend his money going out with his friends, he could treat her once in a while. I felt this to be a completely polarized statement considering he fully financially supports her because she’s been unemployed for five months. He buys everything from her expensive makeup palettes to her cute shoes—although this is a statement many of us women can identify with.
As women, we do crave romance. That’s no secret. I’m sure about half the women reading this may be remembering a fight they had where they said: “You never do anything for me!” and probably received the response, “No, but what about ____.” And then we respond, “That’s not the same, that’s not what I mean,” but is it the same? This article got me thinking.
It is what I was talking about, in regard to our arguments past. "Isn't it? What about that time? Think about it. If it really isn't the same thing, then it's not the same thing and he's wrong. Or maybe you're wrong?" And I WAS wrong. Objectivity and seeing things from your partner’s side is so important to a long-lasting relationship. Sure, a deadbeat guy who just gets stoned all the time and never appreciates you SHOULD be tossed to the curb. First though, clear your mind and think about the things he’s done recently.
Here is why. It’s been suggested many times before: men are wired differently than women. This comes in several parts of gender indoctrination based on societal expectations from both women AND other men. In a western society, men are conditioned to suppress their emotions. They are told to not “cry like a girl,” or “hit like a girl,” almost shaming them into the belief that their masculinity is actually compromised by traits deemed as feminine, such as expressing emotion. Society tells women that a good man is supposed to be strong and protective—a Superman figure, impervious to vulnerabilities. We already know how incredibly important gender identity is to some, but it’s important to many others on a deeper level than they know or realize—and that is the process of indoctrination.
Knowing this, you may imagine the pressures men may face in the dating world. As women, we have our own struggles in the dating world, so if we open our eyes a little, perhaps then we can empathize with them on some level, knowing that their struggles are just as valid as ours, though they are clearly not the same. They want to be sweet, but sweet may compromise masculinity. Mustafa suggests in his witty article (full of satire and humor, but ultimately with, I feel, a serious message) that men DO try to give us women "chick-flick moments." They often display it in other ways, especially if you have a particularly masculine gentleman that you’re dealing with.
There are preventative factors to chick-flick moments, though, says our frequently towel-clad friend, Mr. Mustafa. "Does your man have the time or the resources to build you a house like Ryan Gosling in The Notebook?" he asked. To answer him simply, no. But does he make you a playlist when you're down? Does he bring you a milkshake at work when you're having a bad day? Does he make you something to eat just because he wants you to take some weight off your shoulders? And for me, yes, he does. So it struck me that maybe the problem is that many women take these simple gestures for granted.
If he does any of these things to acknowledge your needs, Mustafa says your man is trying, and to give him a chance. If he acknowledges your needs, maybe he is a guy you want around. Men don't always make grandiose actions to show that they love you, and these little gestures when you need him show that you're loved by your man. They don't stand outside in the pouring rain without an umbrella in a field holding roses, but he might show up outside your job with an umbrella and a ride home, and for men, that's a gesture of love.
Our washboard ab possessing spokesman for Old Spice says, "Men become gun-shy when you ignore their gestures of love." So maybe the reason he used to do things for you is due to the fact that playlist or that milkshake when you were having a bad day was ignored, taken for granted, and you told him he never does anything for you. That was sort of like telling him it wasn't good enough.
Even worse, when he DOES do something chick-flick moment worthy (such as proclaiming love on a billboard or a marriage proposal on the scoreboards), he faces the prospect of humiliation if he gets rejected. Men feel they need to be strong, and rejection hurts anyone—yes, even your man that doesn't cry. The stakes are too high sometimes for men to take, and honestly, I really don't think I'd have the cojones to propose to someone in such a public capacity. So, give 'em some credit.
Mustafa says that we expect big things from men because of chick flicks. I did happen to disagree with him on that one. I don't think it's specifically chick-flicks. That would be ridiculous. The problem is, in my opinion, that more and more men are absent from their daughter's lives. There was another article in the same May 2011 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine, by author Anna Davies, that show that the role their father played (be it absent, doting, neglectful, drunk, etc.) affects the way that women behave in relationships.
The article dives pretty deep, starting with women's lib in the 1960s, when women began to enter the workplace and successfully began to build their own lives without being dependent on a man for financial stability. This meant that the number of women in the workplace is on the rise. That being said, so is the divorce rate, and Davies seems to link this fact to our perception of relationships. Women were now, for the first time ever, able to support themselves. Just like Beyonce, many of us are independent women (but it's ok if you're not, that's all personal choice). Subsequently, this has led to women shedding toxic relationships with men and choosing to raise children solo. While there is nothing wrong with raising a child alone, most psychologists still believe that a partnership is the best way to raise a child (and this partnership absolutely includes same-sex parental units). From this partnership, children learn everything from love and sex to conflict-solving. Not to mention, it helps take the weight off a single parent financially and emotionally, because children have a lot of needs and can feel neglected if their single parent works all the time to support their child.
It can be damaging to a child to grow up without that second figure, speaking from personal experience of growing up without a father. My mother did the best job that she could, and I am so grateful for her, so proud of her for being so strong and playing both roles. She was busy a lot though, despite her best efforts, and she did not date. I was pretty unprepared. This article sort of explained why: the studies show that women with absent fathers, such as having never met them, or not really getting to know them due to a premature death (from illness to anything else), surprisingly, imagine their fathers as supportive, understanding, and never criticizing. Anna Davies says that the fantasy helps girls with no father to cope, but leaves them damaged in the way they expect the men in their lives to act. Oftentimes, these women will become upset when their men don't live up to their perfect ideal image. They may feel men are being more critical of them. They may feel that their man just isn't doing enough perfect things. Everything has to be perfect. I could relate to this profoundly. I really had much to figure out myself in the realm of conflict resolution because, in fact, I did idealize my father as just being so perfect. Alternatively, the studies show if their father was a jerk, they'll just expect all men to treat them poorly and often suffer from extreme abandonment issues.
Not surprisingly, according to the studies in the article, women with fathers who spoiled them and "princessed" them, so to speak, will naturally see men in a role of a protective figure who gives them whatever they want. They may expect men to forgive everything they do with the puppy eyes or a little "I'm sorry," often becoming frustrated when the men in their lives don't bend like their father did.
I am not saying that every woman has daddy issues, or that every single woman is damaged, or that if you have daddy issues, that you are not worth someone's time. What I'm saying is that we all have flaws and that relationships are work. We all have experienced things that have made us "gun-shy," or a "perfectionist," but these are, frankly, excuses. The issue is to stop finding things wrong with your relationship. Couples need to find productive ways to handle their relationship problems, without blaming it on things in the past. I was told once that you will never be able to drive properly if you are constantly staring in your rear-view mirror. Furthermore, if you have to blame it on something, you should be aware of that problem in yourself and trying to fix it. Open your eyes to see a new perspective. Ultimately, how you handle your relationship is your responsibility, but being aware of these flaws can help us to better resolve conflicts. My advice after five years: just enjoy each other. Love is work, but the payoff is better than any paycheck.