A handsome male is now an accessory. Even the not-so-handsome ones: women dress them up, choose their haircuts, and put them in silly little outfits that compliment ours for the silly little events we fill our evenings with. Like a gender reveal party. Honestly, whose idea was that? They should be held accountable.
Some time over the last twenty years, we have decided that a man is no longer someone we choose to have around. He’s an extension of ourselves. He doesn’t agree with you on literally everything? Sounds like a narcissist. He forgot your half-a-year-aversary? Honey, he’s gaslighting you. Or maybe his mercury is in retrograde or he has a different love language. At least you know he’s not screwing the neighbor. Men don’t do that anymore.
The truth is that we are now so sensitive as a society that we can’t bear to hear anything negative. Your husband telling you he doesn’t love the pasta you’ve made every day for two weeks is now tantamount to abuse. God forbid he lets you know that your new dress makes you look like you’ve gained a few pounds. But he wouldn’t do that. There’s just no way anyone would say stuff like that now. Partners don’t say the word “no.” When you ask him if he wants to come to Gloria’s house party, you aren’t so much as asking but telling.
Look at poor Ben Affleck. At the Grammy awards a few weeks back, the melancholy man looked like he had a gun to his head. Blink twice, Ben. The cameraman obviously reveled in his misery, as throughout the whole awards ceremony we bore witness to what looked like cross words between him and his new wife J-Lo. You know, the ones spat between gritted teeth and clenched fists. Within minutes, he’d turned into a viral meme. “Ben Affleck is every husband dragged to a work thing by his wife,” one person tweeted. Another added: “Ben Affleck is me as a kid being dragged somewhere I didn’t want to go.”
So why do we do it to them — and to ourselves? Are we really better off dragging an unwilling man along to a glitzy event in the name of “partnership,” when what he really wants is to be left at home to watch a football game or read a book? Does it make us better for doing so? Most people I asked said it’s about showing solidarity. “If he loved me, he’d take a few hours to do something I want to do.” Maybe it’s just me, but watching a man twiddle his thumbs wishing he was somewhere else is far from what I’d prefer to spend my time doing — which is taking full advantage of the free bar and not worrying about whether anyone else is enjoying their night.
I learned this the hard way. I once had an ex-boyfriend who I shouldn’t have taken anywhere, but unfortunately for me he wanted to be on my arm at every opportunity, and I wanted him there. He was an alcoholic, and not one of the fun ones. The type who would fall through tables or call your best friend chubby after a few vodka and cokes. He had no boundaries and I was too in love to notice. Girls night? Sounds great, meet you there. Work thing? No problem, I’ll fit right in. That ended in tears and I vowed never to drag anybody anywhere again.
There are usually very valid reasons men don’t want to come. You work in PR and your husband is a plumber. Does he really want to sit around listening to Helen talk about crisis communication or SEO? That’d be like me taking my non-media boyfriend to a media dinner, where he would inevitably be sat next to some Guardian employee who uses the word “obfuscate” instead of “lie,” and when he says he doesn’t know what that means, they’d shame him for it.
Another ex of mine was better with this stuff. He was pretty vocal about places he didn’t want to go to and reliable at events that he did. And he would never call anyone fat to their face. But I trusted him like I trust my toaster. I knew it would work out in the end but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to pop up the bread a hundred times to make sure it isn’t burning. It’s this uncertainty that makes me think that I’m better off leaving the men at home.