Sunday, December 31, 2006

Brilliant Insight

Pretty Lady is, perhaps regrettably, back in The City, which welcomed her with such open arms yesterday that she barely got to sit down. First, the telephone rang at an achingly early hour (ten thirty!) and revealed to her that a Very Old Friend was just down the street, and would be just down the street for only three more hours before flying back to Texas. Naturally Pretty Lady jogged out to see her, and was treated to an incidental tour of the Vinylux Studio, an astonishing enterprise which creates Neat Stuff from Old Records, and which is the brain child of Pretty Lady's friend's boyfriend's brother-in-law.

Next, Pretty Lady did a whirlwind scrubbing of her home, complete with mops, in preparation for the evening's clientele, before racing off to an Open Houseparty in Queens, hosted by the parents of her friend from California, who regrettably was prevented from attending due to her husband's fractured rotator joint. Pretty Lady left plenty of time to cross town, but nevertheless was thwarted by a senseless traffic jam at the intersection of 495 and Woodhaven, and had to apologize profusely to her 5 PM client.

After work was over, at 8:30, the Japanese lady came upstairs with some tofu, some Japanese sweets, and her kitten, who is starting socialization lessons with the Alpha Cat. The initial encounter was tense but promising; no horrific territorial battles occurred. When kitten and neighbor departed at 10, Pretty Lady was practically ready for bed, despite her consuming immersion in "The Hallowed Hunt." Dear L.M. Bujold may only have one story in her, but she does tell it over and over remarkably well.

Nevertheless. During her nine-hour drives, to and from the Rural Homestead, Pretty Lady had time to do some thinking. Her thoughts Roamed Free, over Past, Present, and Future, as one's thoughts are wont to do when making long journeys round about the winter solstice. And since Pretty Lady's thoughts brought her a modicum of the peace which comes with understanding, she will share them with you now.

Those of you who know Pretty Lady, know that she is exceptionally Fond of Men. Nevertheless, she has not seen fit to marry any of them; many theories have been propounded as to Why This Is. Pretty Lady thinks she has figured it out.

You see, darlings, it may be apparent by now that Men are Different from Women, no matter what the politically correct propaganda may have to say to the contrary. These differences, in Pretty Lady's observations, extend deeper than the merely physiological. They are temperamental and intellectual as well. Pretty Lady is not saying, you note, that one gender is superior to another; but she firmly believes that they are different. One of the primary differences she has noticed (Radical Feminists, cover your ears) is that the Nurturance Instinct is not so highly developed in men, particularly younger ones, as it is in women.

Ah yes, you may shout, you may dance, you may rage, but if you will stop to make a few decades of Empirical Observations, as Pretty Lady has, you will see that it is true. There are certain core things that Women Know, and that those poor blundering gentlemen take decades to figure out.

One of those things that women know, in the deeps of their hearts and the marrow of their bones, is that Great Things Take Time. One does not get knocked up on Friday, give birth to a genius the following Wednesday, and take a seat in the concert hall to applaud the concerto, two weeks from Saturday next. Between the Conception and the Great Result, much is required. Much feeding, cuddling, empathizing, dusting-off of boo-boos, encouragement, discipline, stern talking-tos, and provision of education and supplies must take place, before one's child of the soul takes his place in the pantheon of stars. This is how it is. This is Basic Fact.

Furthermore, the Need for Nurturance does not cease when a human turns eighteen, much as societal myth conspires to make it so. Thus, even a childless female, if she is worth the price of her tutu, treats everyone around her with the empathic understanding of a Good Mommy. Even the gentlemen with whom she spends her time. The gentlemen thrive on this; indeed, they require it. If you do not believe Pretty Lady, think to yourself--which woman would I rather come home to? The one who, when my Great Empire crashes into flinders around me, says, "Oh, darling, I am so sorry. I believe in you. You are my hero. You will do better next time, I am sure of it," or the one who declares, "You loser bastard. What about that fur coat you promised me? I'm outta here."


This sort of thing, broadly, may be termed as Being Supportive. Support can take many forms; it can be moral, practical, emotional, spiritual, or intellectual. It can take the form of understanding silence and a well-cooked meal. It can manifest as a well-timed kick in the pants. It is not a gushy, unrealistic, Pollyanna sort of thing; many of Pretty Lady's friends can attest that her support can, at times, take the form of plainly speaking some Unpalatable Truths. Those of Pretty Lady's friends who are still her friends have sometimes even come to thank her for this.

Pretty Lady has come to notice, over the decades, that her Intimate Male Partners are not so good at this sort of thing. They mean well, but they seem to be missing a clue. When their own ambitious enterprises come to naught, due to immaturity, inexperience, poor judgment, lack of resources, bad timing, or bad luck, it never occurs to them to quit; they punch a wall or two and keep on trying, at least if they are worth the price of their flannel shirts. But when the same thing happens to Pretty Lady, for the same reasons, what do they tell her? What is the form of their loving support?

Largely, in Pretty Lady's experience, it has consisted of something like, "That's too bad. But look on the bright side; now that you know you're a failure, you'll have so much more time for taking care of ME!"

When Pretty Lady hears something like that, she tends to think something like, "How odd. The gentleman is encouraging me to quit. He must think I'm a quitter. I shall oblige him; I shall manifest his expectations to the best of my ability. I shall not quit my ambitious enterprises, because this would be impossible; they are a part of the imperious dictates of my immortal soul, and are thus not under his jurisdiction. So I shall simply quit this relationship."

Even if the gentlemen do not openly advocate wholesale capitulation at the first sign of difficulty, they are apt to underestimate and underprioritize the resources necessary to adequately nurture another person's labors. The same man who would never consider going without access to the basic tools of his own trade for an indefinite period of time, is perfectly capable of mapping out a mutual life-plan which omits all reference to Pretty Lady's studio space, while simultaneously declaring, "When you become a famous artist, you can support me!"

Now, Pretty Lady must hasten to add that not all young gentlemen are cast in this mold. She can think of at least one example, right off the top of her head, of a man who is not like this. He lives in Northern California, and Pretty Lady will not give you any more information than that, lest the poor man be even more besieged by wise and appreciative fans than he already is. Even saints need some privacy.

But by and large, in Pretty Lady's observation, a man does not learn the manner of being truly supportive until he has passed his fiftieth birthday, if he ever does at all. Since Pretty Lady maintained the idealistic delusion of a 'peer relationship,' involving mutual growth and support, when she was in her twenties and early thirties, this meant that she was in fact searching for something that virtually does not exist.

And, when she comes to think about it, this was probably for the best. Because, being the supportive, nurturing person that she is, Pretty Lady would undoubtedly have drained herself dry in the attempt to nurture herself, a life-partner, and their offspring simultaneously, and, exhausted by the attempt, would have concluded that she was, in fact, a total failure. Tragic and ugly things might then have occurred. Uglier and more tragic than the ones which already have.

So, my dear gentlemen all, young and old, let Pretty Lady drop a Word in your Ears. She is not asking you to change, darlings; she does not wish for all gentlemen to become pale imitations of ladies, all cooing and fussy in aprons and things. She merely wishes to say, forthrightly, that if you consistently encourage those around you to quit, for whatever reasons, you will find yourself ultimately surrounded by Quitters. And thus, when difficulties arise, they will. Think about it.


Desert Cat said...

What odd men you've had the misfortune of being associated with.

I'm not nearly fifty and yet I have not fit that mold for many years. Doubters are encouraged to e-mail Daisycat for confirmation, specifically asking her how she felt about last Sunday's fiasco and my reaction thereto.

Still, one data point does not a trend make, and you're right generally. Though I have to think there's a lot more men who are a lot more supportive of their spouse's aspirations than this.

Not that they are generally unmarried and available at forty or fifty, however.

Anonymous said...

A word in defense of failing.
I believe failing is a gift of the gods. I heartily encourage people, especially creative and exploratory types, whether artists or scientists, to fail as much as possible. Whereelse does knowledge eminate from?
WHile failing is to be encouraged as a part of exploration and discovery OF ANY TYPE and speaks of a continuum, failure (noun) is final in tone and speaks of stopping, quitting.
Go out and fail a bunch tomorrow.

Pretty Lady said...

Desert Cat, being married to a Good Woman will sometimes cause a decent gentleman to become a faster learner. Perhaps lack of patience is Pretty Lady's besetting sin; or perhaps it is merely bad luck.

Danny, my dear, I happen to agree with you. And I will. And I also happen to know that you are over fifty...

Anonymous said...

Either I'm just odd, or perhaps your views are a function of the men you meet. I'm a stay-at-home father married to a doctor. When she was in medical school and residency I supported her financially and emotionally. When she graduated residency and had our first little girl almost simultaineously I stayed at home to take care of both. Although my style of support is different than a woman's, it is real none the less.

I was in my thirties when I started staying at home. Of course I was thirty when I got married, so perhaps it's a function of maturity going into the relationship.

My church has a SAHM group and I was invited to join. I declined for various reasons. There is another SAHD in my church and so we have our own informal group. We meet every couple of weeks at the rifle or pistol range and make loud booming noises for a couple of hours. It's excellent therapy. I recommend it highly.

Anonymous said...

I will spare Pretty Lady (and myself) the strain of trying to follow (recall) the precise sequence of clicks that landed me on Pretty Lady's blogspot (undoubtedly the result of some gratuitous googling... how I lament the frivolous dances of my fingers on these sticky keys some days), but I must confess that I have found her posts exceptionally pleasant to read.

Much of this particular post resonates not only in full tones but even in half tones and also in polyphonic variations in my own life, hence the comment (a personal first for me, my very first blog comment... and please, do ignore the possibly obscure musical references). The following words are particularly chilling for me, "Because, being the supportive, nurturing person that she is, Pretty Lady would undoubtedly have drained herself dry in the attempt to nurture herself, a life-partner, and their offspring simultaneously, and, exhausted by the attempt, would have concluded that she was, in fact, a total failure." If only I could have escaped my early 20s unattached...

Pretty Lady said...

Darling Venus, I do hope you comment some more, or even provide a blog of your own, someday, despite the potentially draining and time-wasting aspects of such an endeavor. I confess to a consuming curiosity about the details of your life--could it be a mirror image of my own?