Rants and raves with a healthy dose of sarcasm and satire. Should be taken with red wine.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Am I Weird Because I Like My Wife?

Originally posted on The Good Men Project

The men I work with call their wives “Bitches”.  A lot.

“What a bitch!” That is how a co-worker ended a phone call with his wife. He turned to me after four very uncomfortable minutes of forced eavesdropping while confined to a car during which an argument ensued about what time my co-worker would be home that night. “I mean what a bitch!” he said, looking to me for agreement knowing I had overheard the whole thing. I mustered some kind of nonverbal gesture that I think indicated “Well, that’s wives for you!” (It was a painful gesture both physically and emotionally. I needed ice afterward. And gin.)
A few days later, another co-worker (out of the blue and with no pretense) told me how much of a bitch his wife was. I don’t remember reason but what struck me more was how matter-of-fact he was about it; like it was a normal thing to say. “Beautiful weather we’re having and my wife is a bitch.”
Then not a day later yet another co-worker chimes in with his assessment of the woman he supposedly loves. But this wasn’t a verbal “My wife is a bitch”, this was the “on-the-phone, rolling-the-eyes-hand-mimicking-yapping” gesture followed by the “love-you-too-hang-up-exasperated grunt-into-the-mouthpiece” gesture.
I’ve known these three co-workers for less than a month, yet they seem to perceive some kind of universal male experience that involves married men calling our wives “bitches”.
It certainly is a common cultural dynamic for men to express exasperation with married life when they’re around “the guys” (it’s stupid, but common), but calling your wife a “Bitch” goes well beyond the “Old Ball And Chain” sentiment (equally ignorant, but certainly less derisive).

Most of the time, I’d rather be with my wife than doing anything else. Yes, I want time to myself and yes I want to go have a beer with my friends and yes at times she frustrates me to no end and I just don’t want to be in the same room with her (and vice versa!). But after twelve years, she is still the first person I want to be with at any given time. She is warm, emotional, sexy, stubborn, intelligent, and infuriating. And each trait makes her the person I fell in love with. So why the fuck would I intentionally put her down in front of anyone? I mean, I like my wife. A statement I’m not sure a man can make if he can so easily slur his wife in public (and behind her back). I don’t hear any of the married women in the office openly calling their husbands “dicks” (maybe they do but I don’t hear it).

Nobody knows what really goes on inside a marriage but the couple involved. So maybe name-calling is part of some couples’ dynamic and there is no real malice behind it. But why share it outside the home? Does a phone call at work from your wife embarrass you so much that you feel the need to deride her so you don’t look like a “pussy”?

Are we men still so fearful of showing vulnerability and emotion around each other that we hide behind the ridiculous notion that we have act unsatisfied with our marriages in order to be manly? Unfortunately, I’m guilty of it. I have reluctantly participated in “locker room” talk at the office because I want to be accepted. It’s peer pressure. It’s stupid. And I know it’s stupid. Yet I’ve done it and I will most likely do it again. Because quietly agreeing how hot “the chick from Harry Potter” has become (“AND she’s smart too!”… Like one precludes the other!) is fairly harmless in my little corner of the world. I’m not proud of it but I it’s something I could easily admit to my wife (and because she’s awesome she’d probably joke with me about it.) Could these co-workers tell their wives they told the office what “bitches” they were? You supposedly love this person but it doesn’t even seem as if you LIKE them!
Marriage isn’t for the faint of heart. It is wonderful and awful and beautiful and ugly. And contrary to some goofy movements out there, it is not outdated and it does not run counter to some biological blueprint that tells us to fuck anything we can under the guise of survival of the bloodline. Marriage (or “Committed Relationships” for those of you who aren’t allowed to be married under the laws of our wonderful land that have been absurdly influenced by religious dogma…sorry that’s another tangent) is one of the characteristics that define our humanity. Joys are heightened and sorrows more quickly abated when that person we’ve found to share our lives with is there.

But maybe you married the wrong person. And maybe you have two young kids. You feel stuck. And resentful. And hateful. Does the prospect of divorce really sound worse than a life of misery and truly hating your spouse? Would you really rather look like a pathetic loser by calling your wife a “Bitch” and constantly griping about how awful marriage is and what you would do to the 23 year old receptionist if only you weren’t tied down? Because that’s how you come off when you act like that – pathetic. And you perpetuate the stereotype onto all of us making the convention harder to break.
I wish I had the courage to go against that convention more forcibly. But lucky for me, I’m able to go home each night to my best friend and share all the stupid details of my day, including a discussion on how hot Maggie Smith is now. Or…wait…was he talking about Emma Watson?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Would Not Be Proud If My Daughter Posed For Playboy

My son is 9 and my daughter is 7. They’re getting to the ages where I’m starting to get concerned about how the choices they make will affect their lives, my daughter in particular. Not because I see something wrong in anything with her, but because I remember all the dumb ass things I did and if fathers knew what their daughters were really doing… let’s just say there is not enough wine in the Napa Valley to help me cope.
And it’s a daunting responsibility to teach my daughter to be the best woman she can be based on her intelligence and not on how she looks (she’s gorgeous by the way and I’m not just saying that because I’m her father!)

I was listening to the radio this morning on the way to work; a particular morning team based in Philly that I have been listening to for years.  And although I love 90% of what they do, there’s the 10% of the show that focuses on strip clubs/hot women/boobs etc. that I’m not all that fond of. In my twenties that kind of stuff piqued my interest but now, it just makes me feel creepy. And as I get older it amazes me more and more that women in this day and age would subject themselves to being strippers or posing nude in Playboy, which was the subject of this morning’s radio show: an interview with a local Philly girl who appears in next month’s issue as Playmate of the Month.

The interview was of course extremely juvenile, peppered with questions about the current state of her pubic hair, the authenticity of her breasts, and what actors she was dating now that she’s “famous”. She, of course, had the prerequisite “helium-pitched voice” (What is it with that anyway? Does that just automatically develop once you have a naked photo taken of you or is it faked because that is what women are taught men want? I doubt Marie Curie sounded like Alvin the Chipmunk.) She had a non-surprising work history: the flirty bartender, the country club cart girl who danced in the sand traps, etc. - she basically sounded like someone who lived off her looks her whole life. And how did she end up in Playboy? Her regular bar customers encouraged her. No doubt concerned that bartending was a dead end career path and for the security of her future she should explore something more suited to her talents. I wonder why they weren’t encouraging her to go back to school? I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that Playboy would be the only way they would ever see her naked!

The interview left me feeling sorry for her. She’s probably making more money than I’ll ever see, but I felt sorry for her. And that’s my problem. Is this young woman a product of male sexual dominance or is she empowered? Is she being victimized or has she truly taken the reins of her life with confidence and strength and I’m just projecting my own issues onto her?

I’m no angel by any means. I look at beautiful women (hell, I look at beautiful men! Beauty is beauty!). I’ve watched porn, I’ve gone to strip clubs, and I’ve had my share of romantic indiscretions based purely on physicality.  But I like to think I’ve grown and evolved to the point where I appreciate women on a more mature level. Don’t get me wrong, if the doorbell rang and Diane Lane stood before me my eyes would pop out of my skull like a Looney Tunes character! But I find there is a line I won’t cross anymore out of respect for my wife, my kids, women in general and for myself. (And that line seems to get more prude-ish the older I get!).

One thing that Miss August mentioned was how proud her dad was of her. Really? Is her dad a Lohan? I’d like to think I’d love my daughter regardless of what she does, but choosing to appear naked in a magazine that is purchased for the sole purpose of ogling women (and the other stuff that is done while looking at those  kind of pictures!), I just  don’t think I could be proud of my child for doing that. I want her to be empowered by her mind, not her body.

I've heard the argument that women who embrace their physicality and use it to their advantage are the true feminists. It’s the women who try to de-gender the sexes so that men and women are the same that are the misogynists.  

Here’s what I think. Any empowerment a woman (or a man for that matter) gains from a purely sexual pursuit is misguided. True self-respect cannot be attained by being used. Let’s face it, if you take off your clothes to pose for Playboy or do porn or even work at Hooters you are being put in a subservient position under men. I don’t care how much you cry out that you’re in control and it’s your choice and you’re just free with your body and sexuality and you’re financially secure, you’re being used. To me, sexual empowerment exists only by not being used for your sexuality.

But that is just my opinion. If a young woman is happy and healthy and secure then who am I to say that she’s wrong in how she gets that way? Well, I’ll tell you who I am:

I'm a father. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

First Drink

I grew up in a culture of alcohol. At the dinner table, dry chardonnay for mom and Absolut Vodka on the rocks for dad. After weekend chores it was cold beer. Over holidays it was beer during the game and wine with dinner.  It was as much a part of our household routine as washing the dishes. I opened beer for dad and would pour mom a glass of wine.  I made my first martini when I was 13. 

My dad gave me my first beer when I was 12.  We had just finished our day's gardening chores. The intense afternoon heat of the summer sun made the air heavy of earthy mowed grass and sweet black mulch.  I was dirty and tired and sweat soaked my "AC/DC" t-shirt.  I sat on the patio under the shade of a giant elm when dad came out with two Budweiser's in hand.  The cans were already sweating from the cold metal meeting the hot July air.  To my surprise he handed me one with no warning or pretext.  He popped his open and took a long drink.  I looked down at the tab - the old kind that you had to pull off completely. I snapped the loop and out rushed the whoosh of fizz.  I had smelled the aroma of beer before but this was different.  It was lighter and fresher.  I pulled the tab completely off and dropped it inside the can (like I had seen dad do numerous times).  I felt cool knowing the proper ritual.  My first sip was, well, intoxicating!  Fizzy like soda, but dryer and cleaner. It tasted real. It tasted like adulthood. Halfway through I felt a numbing warmth spread throughout my body. By the time I finished it I felt cool and relaxed. Then he got up and said, "Don't tell your mother" and went into the house.  It was our secret and I felt like I had just been admitted to the club.

The years that followed were peppered with similar indulgences - some parent sanctioned, some not so much.  Trusting parents and an unlocked liquor cabinet are what good '80's movies are made of.  But never once before I was 21 was I disciplined for drinking.  I got my ass chewed out for reeking of cigarette smoke.  But drinking, as long as I wasn't driving, was an unspoken "O.K".

Now I'm in my 40's and have two young kids of my own.  And every night, without fail, I enjoy a deep, robust glass of red wine.  

Maybe two.