“I am tired. So very tired,” says my friend. “I’ve never been enough for any man and I’m tired of trying. I’m just going to take my walks and read my books and live my life.”
Not really, right? Many women play the game even though it’s exhausting.
This is the kind of blog that gets me into trouble. I’m going to share a few experiences in my life with men who are supposed to be my friends, to care about me. And they’re lovely people. But I may not be showcasing their most enlightened side. Yes, I’ll just say it: I’m using their misguided bits to make a point.
But so be it. My blog, my story. And when they call to either berate me or to apologize, I’ll figure it out. Writers write. I don’t know how to process life in another way.
Men. Women. The dynamic is changing with the new generation (thank God) but in my generation, still plenty of Neanderthals. Men who want to make more money than a woman, know more than a woman, be the final say on all major decisions. Even those who are seemingly “modern” still hold some antiquated views. I don’t think I quite understood this until I had to enter the dating game in my mid-forties. It was just a reminder of what I learned in my teen years. If boys liked me, it certainly wasn’t for my ability to ace a test. It was the way I looked in a bikini, how well I batted my eyelashes, and a host of other inane bits.
Enter middle age. I’m soooo not bikini ready. I know I’m not supposed to admit that but let’s just lay it all out there. I also find batting my eyes the least enjoyable form of exercise. Doesn’t really burn any calories and doesn’t really do anything else for me either. Just stokes the ego of the man across the table from me.
On to the stories that will have me raked over the coals. I visited a male friend, and we were having a conversation in which I really think he was trying to help me sort what my next steps in life were. He is wise and I always appreciate his input. But he prefaced our conversation with this: “Those boots you’re wearing. Not very flattering. You should wear elegant clothing. When you’re in a dress and heels, you look so feminine and graceful.”
Are you processing that? I bet you’re all processing it in different ways. I’m sure I’m going to have some male readers say, “He was trying to give you a compliment.” To which I would say: “What compliment starts with ‘not very flattering’?”
Here’s the deal, for those who care. Men feel entitled to comment on a woman’s appearance as if judging a beauty pageant. Why is the hair so short? Higher heels on the boots, please. I’m tempted to ask if he wants my measurements so he can then “encourage” me to do daily calisthenics if they’re not up to par.
Second situation, different male friend. I recently shared with a couple of male friends that I wanted to lose 25 pounds. That I’m struggling (still) with post-Covid fatigue that has come and gone for the past 18 months. It feels like chronic fatigue at times and I’m depressed about it, frankly. To go from energizer bunny to not enough energy to cook dinner some nights—it’s hard. And no doctor has any answers for me. They haven’t solved the long-haul mysteries yet.
I shared openly and vulnerably that I wanted to shed 25 pounds and because of the fatigue, was having a hard time with cardio and other exercise. These friends shared with me their love of the Peloton bike. I said I’d consider it.
And then began a string of a few forwarded ads for the Peloton bike. From one of these friends. If you knew him, you’d know he’s an athlete and prizes being in shape above most things. And that works for him and is fine. But, forwarding me the ads with a note about “subtle encouragement” didn’t feel encouraging. It felt like instead of cheering me on, he was judging.
I don’t believe what I’m about to say is where his head was at, but it’s out there in the zeitgeist and it makes me, my female friend who began this blog, and sooooo many other women effing tired many days. Women, you see, aren’t supposed to carry 25 extra pounds. It makes us unenticing to the opposite sex. I felt that of all the things both of my male friends could have focused on—my wit, humor, smarts, grit, ability to support my family financially, professional accomplishments—they chose the lowest common denominator, the one Neanderthals use all the time—my looks. And as I age, those will fade. Only a truly enlightened man—one who appreciates a woman for all she brings to the table—will be able to appreciate me.
I could do what an acquaintance is doing—working out 2-3 times per day and eating fewer and fewer calories. Does that sound like fun? I didn’t think so.
I could do what another woman I know does—nips, sculpts, tucks and then lies about doing so. Does she really believe we all think it’s just good genes?
Or, I could do my own thing. I choose what’s behind Door #3: be myself. Live my life. Show up and applaud at my son’s play. Listen to the other son’s stories about saving lives as he trains to be a firefighter and paramedic. Create a few new stories of my own with travel and books and interesting people. I will likely be doing all of the above in a pair of comfortable boots. I will likely be doing all of this anywhere but a Peloton.
If my female friend didn’t live across the Atlantic, I’d join her in her daily walks by the seaside. Maybe it’s the company of sensibly-minded, smart women that will make us all, individually, less tired.
I’m not sure. I’m still figuring it all out.