Archive for August 2010
I think Russell Smith’s criticism of this recent viral hit misses the point—he seems to think that the video is indicative of women’s fixation on romance, not, you know, about getting over exactly that. (I guess we’re supposed to transition from dependence to Smith’s brand of empowerment instantly, or at least in private?) But that’s okay; I’d just as soon sail through to a peripheral issue myself.
And the reason this video’s popularity irks me is that I see this backsliding everywhere around me. I see all the blogs and books about being single and finding a husband and surviving divorce, written by educated women in this world in which women can do anything and I wonder if the 1960s ever happened. There is an obsession with romantic commitment in the air again.
If it’s true that women are more concerned with finding the right mate than they used to be, and I don’t know how you would measure that, I wonder if it’s a natural consequence of our expanded opportunities. Smith’s ideal modern woman, as I understand her, has ambitions and desires at both work and home. We want, and are expected to want, more than a nice guy who makes enough money to put us up in the suburbs.
We want to do something that matters, maybe something that requires extended training or time to get established. We need to fit in kids while we’re relatively young, but we can’t or don’t want to quit our jobs at that point. So we need a partner who can share housework and childcare; someone who might consider moving for our job, not just his. We want someone who is emotionally available to us and the kids. We have come to expect a fulfilling sex life, but most of us also want a mate who won’t harass us or cheat in the years when we’re most exhausted from the second shift.
It isn’t easy to strike a balance between these sometimes contradictory desires and the similarly contradictory desires of the ideal modern dude, who (we can hope) has his own ambitions and desires at work and home and is also (we can hope) figuring out what a kinder, gentler, more fulfilling masculinity might look like. Nasty break-ups, serial cohabitation, divorce, couples’ therapy, vapid self-help relationship books—maybe this is just what happens while we figure out what love and marriage is supposed to be, in world where, as Smith says, “women are just as capable of being busy and distracted by histology or the futures market or electoral reform.”