I’m wiped out this morning. Yesterday was unusually strenuous, and my night’s sleep was less than satisfactory. But I want to post something every day if possible, so I turned to my Archives in search of something my Gentle Readers might find refreshing.
Long, long ago, I knew a semipro editor by the name of Pat D’Artagnan. She and I collaborated on a few things back at my first sashay into writing for the Web, the old Palace of Reason. The following is a piece we put together after a rather melancholy conversation about modern marital miseries. It rings as true today as ever.
Curmudgeon Emeritus — Francis W. Porretto
August 23, 2002
We, the “oversigned,” have decided that the world needs to be reminded of some home truths about itself. The gender wars have entered a chaotic phase; there is danger of much ruin, but there is also hope for a truce, and a return to understanding. In pursuit of these things, we offer the following, highly traditional observations in the hope that they’ll prompt each sex to see the other according to its nature, instead of through a lens of combat or wishful thinking.
1. To Men, About Your Woman: by Pat D’Artagnan
She is not what you think she is. She never was, and never will be.
Whatever her rhetoric about independence and strength, she needs you, and she knows it. Smile and nod at her spiel, allow her to preserve her self-respect, but never forget this.
She will bond to one man only. If you are not her principal protector, you’re close to being irrelevant. When she is hurt, lost, or afraid, if she thinks of any other man’s name before yours, you are in serious trouble. Especially if it’s her father.
No matter what she actually looks like, she thinks she’s homely at best, ugly at worst. Only you have the power to change that, and there’s only one way to do it: by loving her without reservation.
She is high-maintenance. All women are. It’s your privilege to complain about it, but only if she and everyone who might ever speak to her are all well out of earshot.
She talks when you’d rather be thinking of something else. So? Women are talkers. That was one of our original functions: to sit around the tribe’s communal fire and compose and perpetuate its oral history.
Her moods are unpredictable. Yours would be, too, if you had her glands. The endocrine chemistry of the female body seethes with enough power to put a satellite into orbit. Don’t expect her to be constant and imperturbable.
Her drives are primarily for security, comfort, and progeny. The world will judge you by your accomplishments, but it will judge her — and she will judge herself — by her home and children. Let her lead in those areas, and stop complaining about the closets.
No, she does not have enough shoes. Or lingerie. Hint, hint!
Don’t even think about proposing to her if you don’t want children. Never mind that she says she doesn’t want them. She’s lying to keep you happy. Without children, she’ll shrivel and die. Literally; the female body must bring forth children and suckle them, or it becomes vulnerable to several kinds of systemic failure. Besides, marriage is entirely for the protection and nurturance of children.
You can treat her like a queen but still make her feel like a scullery maid by belittling the way she keeps house. If you dislike something about the way she runs the household, gracefully offer to help — and take it gracefully if she declines.
No matter how much you love her, she will hate you if you neglect or mistreat her children, and she will be right to do so. After your eight hours of wage labor, put the job behind you and be a father.
There should be two absolutely unbreakable schedule commitments in your life: dinner every evening, and church every Sunday. Your whole family should be in attendance at both. Only extreme illness should excuse absence. Anyone who seeks to have you slight either of these obligations is not your friend.
You don’t have to make her happy; you just have to provide the raw materials: security, loyalty, and husbandly and fatherly devotion. She has a natural gift for making happiness from these things, sufficient for both of you. Stand out of her way, and she will enrich you beyond your uttermost fantasies.
2. For Women, About Your Man: by Francis W. Porretto
He is not everything you want him to be. No man could be. Don’t try to change him.
If he thinks you’re beautiful, you are. Who else’s opinion matters? Certainly not yours.
You will never, ever gauge the depth of his anxieties. He worries constantly — and if he loves you, you’re at the heart of it.
A man’s body is a thing of little beauty, but much power, even if it’s not apparent. The least of men, if excited to the proper pitch of rage, could fell a charging rhino with a single punch. Like all high-performance machines, the male body must be properly maintained. In this, you have a critical role:
- Don’t feed him garbage. Carbohydrate-laden meals will sedate him and weigh him down. Salt-suffused foods will destroy his osmotic balances and make it difficult for him to digest.
- Don’t allow others to disturb his sleep. If you want him to be able to rise to the important occasions, you have to guard his sleeping hours against trivial interruptions. Corollary: No phones in the bedroom!
- Encourage him to do the things that exercise and energize him. Gently! Don’t nag, or his natural resistance to being bossed will propel him in the opposite direction.
- Now and then, he’ll need to see a doctor. For psychological reasons deriving from the traditional male role as provider and protector, this will always be hard for him to admit. Once again, don’t nag him about it.
He’ll never be as forthcoming about his emotions as your female friends are. Therein lies one of the classic reasons for romantic dissatisfaction. There’s no help for it; you can only adjust.
Remember this at all times: He lives to achieve. His biology is optimized for focus on a goal and purposeful aggression in pursuit of it. If he’s a decent man, he strives so that you and your children will be comfortable, safe, and proud of him. He doesn’t put in all that overtime for toys for himself. If he forgets your anniversary, it’s not because it’s unimportant to him, but because the ongoing fact of you is far more important.
He’ll always judge himself according to how well he does by you and your children. If you want him to be happy — you do, don’t you? — you will contrive to let him know that he has given you abundance and safety, and that you are content with it. Regardless of what you might think, that won’t cause him to slack off; it will spur him to new efforts on your behalf.
Resist the temptation to generalize about “men.” All the circulating generalizations are demeaning and contemptuous. That’s no surprise, as they were formulated by women who dislike men. Just love yours, and everything else will fall naturally into place.
3. For Everyone: Pat and Fran Together
You don’t have to understand any of the above, as long as you live by it.
Sounds to me like you don’t have enough amphetamine in your diet. Take one with your morning vitamins and your day will be brighter and you’ll get ever so much more done.
I can definitely relate to feeling wiped out after a strenuous day and a less-than-satisfactory night’s sleep. It’s impressive that despite feeling this way, you still want to post something every day. I enjoyed reading about your collaboration with Pat D’Artagnan and your piece on modern marital miseries. It’s unfortunate that those issues still ring true today, but it’s important to acknowledge them and work towards solutions. My question for you is: have you noticed any changes in the way society approaches and deals with marital issues since you wrote that piece in 2002?
Thanks for writing. I’d have to say that things remain largely as they were — unsatisfactory in the extreme — with rays of light breaking through around the edges. There appear to be the beginnings of a rejection of militant feminism by young American women. (American men have certainly had their fill of it.) As a writer friend has said, teaching women to be perpetually wary, critical, and hostile toward men is not a formula for loving, enduring relationships. Perhaps if the Republic should be spared, we’ll see more motion in that direction in the years to come.