The world seems to think men are supposed to be assertive yet deferential, aloof yet emotionally supportive, a conversationalist but also a beast in the bedroom. Every time we speak to women, whether at a party, at work, or in the privacy of your thin-walled Greenpoint bedroom, we are expected to put on a perfect show: to be charming yet genuine, to draw you in, but not too hard or too fast. It seems like women are always complaining about men, because a irresolvable conundrum has been established: Be A Man but don’t be That Kind Of Guy. Desire us sexually, but not just for sex, treat us like an equal, but Take The Lead. It can sometimes seem like an impossible and tedious chore pleasing you.
For so much of our romantic life, we are treated like prizes. You brag about us to your girlfriends, you trawl our Facebook photos lustfully, you demand our attention through text and through increasing demands on our time. You want us to be by your side at whatever event you’re attending, so people know “I’ve got a man.” If we don’t feel like being turned into a Boyfriend Prize, if we’re not sure we want to commit to you, then eventually there’s a fight, and phrases like “you just wanted me for the sex” and “apparently you don’t really care about me” are thrown around.
How many relationships become increasingly tedious, regrettable Friendships With Benefits? A new girl can become essentially an activity partner. Chief among those activities: sex. With ambiguous relationships becoming more and more common, and with more men unwilling to be turned into a Boyfriend Prize, and always curious to see what else is out there, there’s a temptation to never move past this stage. For what? To be pressured into moving in together or to get married? Who really wants to spend thousands of dollars to Show The World that you Really Love a woman when every girl you really love tends to be the kind that doesn’t want a relationship, doesn’t want to be tied down, and has wayward eyes much like your own?
Sure we want to be loved, but it’s difficult to see love happening in the context of a committed relationship with someone who believes in archaic institutions like marriage and seemingly wants validation and social status more than love. You don’t want to be The Single, Lonely Girl, and you care more about what other people think about you (read: other girls) than you care about me or any guy. That’s how it feels sometimes. You’re trying to win in competition against other girls. Well, as I’ve already stated, me, and many other guys, don’t want to be a prize. Who’s really getting objectified?
But in the love I dream of, that I don’t know if I’ll ever have, I’m a human, interacting with another human, and it’s not about who’s The Man and who’s His Girl, and it’s not about Our Relationship or Where This Is Going or Taking The Next Step. I’m sure I’m not the only man who feels this way. We want to be valued whether or not we are confident and funny that day. We want you to understand that just because we sound sad, negative, and cynical right now, that doesn’t have to define us. Sometimes we want to talk about it, and sometimes we don’t. If you can talk with us as humans, with philosophical viewpoints, and be realistic about life, and how hard it can be, and stop trying to paint over the shittiness and the lustfulness and confusion and maddening darkness of being a human, not paint over that with some romantic narrative for our lives that you borrowed from an inane romantic comedy, then we can have real conversations, and we can have a real relationship, and maybe, just maybe, we can have real love.