Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memo to Gentlemen Over 39

Pretty Lady is delighted to confirm that the vast majority of her gentlemen friends appear to hold no quarrel with her definition of feminism, at least in theory. But as she was discussing just this weekend, over a pitcher of pseudo-margaritas with some dear colleagues from Pittsburgh (none of them could figure out what was in those 'margaritas'--half a liter of Triple Sec was anyone's best guess) understanding that Ladies are People, Too is merely the beginning. And that this fact, all unwitting, plays a major role in the Nice Guy Dilemma.

But perhaps she had better clarify.

You see, despite her reputation for dating Losers, Pretty Lady's romantic history is by no means confined to them. She has consorted with a fair number of Nice Guys as well. When she looks back on it, now, from the safe and starry-eyed comfort of present circumstances, a certain clarity emerges; a certain Pattern, if you will. And so she will share with you now, all you Nice Gentlemen, the real reason she rejected all those decent fellows.

Once upon a time, many Nice Guys of Pretty Lady's acquaintance were drawn to her. What drew these fellows (besides the obvious) were her qualities--of expressiveness, intelligence, creativity, and a simultaneously gregarious and introverted amiability. Specifically, they liked her because she was a talented, outspoken artist with a cadre of close and well-chosen friends.

The trouble arose when, after a time, it became apparent that these qualities were not only genuine, they were permanant. After a certain time-frame of halcyon acquaintanceship had passed (perhaps three months, perhaps six), Pretty Lady did not change a whit. She continued working assiduously in her studio, speaking out in public, and socializing with her friends.

It never seemed to Pretty Lady, feminist that she is, that her essential stability of character ought to create a problem, particularly when consorting with gentlemen whose Niceness veritably radiated from their stolid core. She was never deceptive about her goals, habits, or intentions; neither was she selfish or neglectful in her dealings with these splendid friends. She merely continued being exactly the same person she was before she met them.

Gradually, she came to suspect that the gentlemen suspected that her personality was All An Act. Certain comments they let drop, as well as certain assumptions they acted upon, led her to believe that they didn't believe she meant it. For example: While attending art school, at a party in San Francisco, she once met an editor from Berkeley--presentable, humorous, and Catholic. This editor took her number and asked her out. Over drinks, he inquired as to her preferred painting medium. Acrylic?

"Oil," Pretty Lady replied.

"Oh, you're serious," he responded.

Pretty Lady nearly got up and walked out. That any gentleman should assume that she would throw up any semblance of financial stability, move halfway across a continent and take up residence on Haight street, merely to dabble in an amateur endeavor, struck her as clueless in the extreme. If a man is living in California, and he asks a lady out who makes no secret of the fact that she has moved there from Texas to attend art school, he ought reasonably to expect that he is dating an artist. QED.

But it was gradually borne in upon Pretty Lady that, whatever this fine fellow thought of artists, he didn't actually expect her to be one. He assumed, that once relations between the two of them had come to a solid understanding, all her creative attentions would naturally redirect themselves toward his affairs. "I need to go to the studio" was consistently treated as a coy, trivial evasion, when it came down to a choice between this and playing hostess to his cadre of editorial friends; "artist" was all very well when it came to cocktail conversation, but the practical discipline of such struck him as superfluous.

Pretty Lady dumped him immediately after the Christmas party.

This was by no means an isolated circumstance. Verily, it seemed to Pretty Lady that every time she attempted to consort with Nice Guys her own age or older, something similar would happen. Initially attracted to her style, they ended by ferociously attempting to change it, either by main force (breaking in on best friend tete-a-tetes and demanding that she renounce the Ramones, right now) or by blithe dismissal (planning a long-term Future Together that included world travel, darling babies, and glamorous residences devoid of studio space.)

In sum, it was as if these earnest, faithful, committed swains had been taught from the cradle that charming ladies acquire their charm solely for the purposes of attracting a mate, and thence for brightening the path of that mate, forever and ever amen. They believed this so implicitly that they were honestly deaf to other interpretations, such as that lady artists make art. So when Pretty Lady revealed her inner self to be none other than Pretty Lady, as advertised, they were horribly betrayed.

Interestingly, Pretty Lady has never had this problem when consorting with gentlemen born after 1970. These darling boys accept her at face value, and love her for it. She hopes it is not an indiscretion to allow that her current G.F., born in 1971, not only accepts and applauds her for who she is, but would be seriously disconcerted if she suddenly became someone else--i.e. an agreeable Wifey who hung around his theatre, straightening his tie.

So, as advertised: Gentlemen over 39, this is a memo from the Future. The Future would like you to know, chiefly, not to be afraid. Not only is it perfectly possible to have an intimate relationship with a lady who is a fully realized peer, it is actually comfortable and functional to do so. You will find, after you adjust, that your sense of personal worth can withstand close, daily contact with a lady whose sole purpose is not to bolster it. You may find, that without the pressure to Dominate and Steer, an unwonted sense of Freedom may take hold of your soul. You may discover that your intellect becomes keener, your spirit becomes brighter, and your future more adventurous, with a lady by your side who offers you more than the dead weight of a passive Adorer.

Because the opposite of survival is not failure; it is to thrive.


Anonymous said...

I would suggest you never can know what you will get out of someone until a period of time has passed. Well, let me put some limits on what I just said... I for example was attracted to a fairly independent woman who seemed almost too independent at times... however, as time went on she of her own volition started behaving entirely the opposite. One could assume she put on a show for my benefit, but I was more attracted to the former and in every capacity of her life the former was what she put forth. It was only after time with me that it changed. I suggest through this that the way people behave can sometimes establish in the interactive dynamics that come into play between members of a couple.

Anonymous said...

Just because someone was this way at one point does not mean they will always be that person with someone else... or at all points in their life.

My experience with women seems to find the situation I described fairly common. To some extent I even resent the false advertising, but I recognize that I myself am not always the same either.

Anonymous said...

It also occurs to me that there is more than a fair number of people of both sexes, though I tend to think women are the bigger offender (see Chris Rock), who put on a facade to bait a mate and then become someone else after the deal is sealed... oooh bait/mate... deal/sealed... while I suppose one should be able to see through such fakery or perhaps immediately detach from the person when it becomes evident it is not in most people's nature to want to analyze themselves out of a happy or content state. More often we look for excuses to be static. Once things start to change you tend to feel you have much invested in the situation and perhaps even hope they will 'change' back.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the gentlemen of your acquaintance thought you would change because in their experience others have. I would suggest that someone who truly walks a continuous path is rare. Perhaps some of these gentlemen also were divorced and saw their loving wives change into something else... who can know from this side of the screen... just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

jsin -

get alife. or at least a blog.

Pretty Lady said...

Actually, jSin, I suspect that many people mindlessly repeat the patterns they observed in their own families, regardless of whatever precepts they may think they hold to the contrary. I have known many persons who talked a very convincing talk--all about feminism and sensitivity and equality and partnership--until after the wedding, when they instantly morphed into the domineering, chauvinistic parent that they loudly purported to despise.

Anonymous said...

Anon... I have both a life and a blog... reading here and posting is a part of that... takes a little less than 10 minutes to write the thoughts I have in most cases... hardly an unreasonable time commitment to engage in conversation with the Pretty Lady.

Anonymous said...

Many do this... many do that... hard to say. There is a saying of sorts... 'A man marries hoping she won't change... a woman marries hoping he will'... Yet we all seem to change to an extent and who can say into what. I just state that in my experience the women who advertised themselves as being a bit more like you did in your piece totally changed apparently based off their interaction with me. I think perhaps there is something to what VD says about the alpha male... in so far as that in a relationship a dynamic will be formed that is quite possibly different than how one would have planned it.

I see there is health care to talk about...

Carol Diehl said...

Thank you for so aptly describing this sociological phenomenon, one which I've consistently observed.

An example was a friend who I used to read with at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. She was the life of the party, always yelling out funny retorts to what was being said onstage--a kind of interaction the venue encouraged. One night we were sitting with a guy who I could see was attracted, as many were, by her guts, humor, and brazen style. They ended up dating and a year later I was again at a table with them. She was still her loud, funny self but now he was embarrassed, asking her to hush, practically pulling at her sleeve. In that moment I could see that the relationship was doomed and yes, I thought it was hilarious that the very qualities that attracted him to her were those he was now so eager to suppress.

Carol Diehl said...

PS...hilarious but also sad. Regarding your age marker, this is not something that happens in the brain with the process of aging, but represents a rough demarcation between men who were brought up by parents whose orientation was the fifties and those whose mothers were the feminists of the sixties and seventies.

Pretty Lady said...

Yes, indeed, Carol--I started noticing the difference as early as college. Boys who were nineteen in 1989 had a radically different attitude than those just a few years older; I remember attending 2 Nice Girls concerts where the audience was half raucous lesbians in their thirties and half adoring male sophomores.

Pretty Lady said...

What I found particularly discouraging, at the time, was that men who were the exact same age as me seemed mired in knee-jerk chauvinism, despite having been brought up in the same sociocultural atmosphere which produced moi. It is as if the message 'you are free' reached women about five years before the guys tuned in.

Anonymous said...

I think this whole "you're awesomely independent, now let me chain you to my ankle" thing ties in with something else you talked about - the sense of competition some men have.

As in, when encountering a smart, funny and capable woman, they start to compete with her and feel threatened by her, instead of falling on their knees and thanking heaven for a great companion.

It just seems like part of the same phenomenon, which is "my woman must be littler than me in order for me to feel full-sized."

All I know is, the first marker of character I look for is a man's reaction to my artwork and my vocabulary. Resentment of either = "Smithers, release the hounds".

Wollf Howlsatmoon said...

Oh *Piffle*. I am considerably outside the Pretty Ladys' acceptable demographic. I shall place my well planned "Strategy of Wooing" back up on the shelf where it belongs. *sigh*.

Not to mention geographical unacceptability and the fact that I am now....falling myself.

For a Woman, a musical artist and teacher, whom I would not wish to "change" in any way...none.

She needs to do what calls to her, as must I. We are different in many ways, though at core, quite similar.

I open doors and walk on the street side, et al, not out of a need for dominance, but out of a deep seated deference for her "difference". If she reaches for the check, so be it, even though I am much more financially sound than She.

I see your point, Pretty Lady, but it seems to me that you should long ago eschewed the Losers, the Nice Guys and the Darling Boys....

And held out for a Gentle....Man.


Anonymous said...

I think a line needs to be drawn in a more women's minds... not all of your quirks, interests etc make you an interesting person. If so many things about a man need changing then it is reasonable to assume that some things about you could probably improve to make you more agreeable to him also... and let us be honest... women are as guilty if not more so of wanting to change a man than the reverse.

I will somewhat just accept Spatula's assertion that men are competitive with this great collection of "(fill in this spot with all the things I should be on my knees for)" and instead turn the attention on the fact that women are much less likely to marry beneath them. That is not just an expression of the male need to be above his mate as it is the desire of the woman. Articles galore... and I suppose I can go try and find them to link... show this. They want a man with more money, more education, more status etc... where are all the complaints about that?

Men desire to feel needed. One way a man can feel that is by believing he is a provider.

I think it is more to the detriment of women that there is a growing trend of men who look to their wives and gfs as another mule to hitch up to the tractor of life...

Anonymous said...

And as for the issue of finding some traits desirable at one point and undesirable at another... circumstances change... not just in the dynamics of male/female relationships... that drinking buddy whose clueless nature was so amusing in your college days is now a irksome loser to you as you approach middle age. Sometimes we expect people to change as our situations change. A multitude of things can bring this about... a marriage, children, growing older, health... whatever.

More of my two cents... That might put me up to a dime by now...

Pretty Lady said...

Jsin, I feel compelled to warn you that here, posting on this blog, you are NOT in company of a group of trashy, whiny, interfering, gold-digging women. You are in company with the créme de la créme.

And you are in danger of making a rather poor impression.

Anonymous said...

I fail to understand how presenting an opposing point of view leaves a bad impression? Are my experiences less valid than others... the things that I have read and observed? Disagreeing is not disagreeableness... if the points do not apply to your female posters then I see no reason why they should personally be offended by them.

I merely point out that not every reason that a woman thinks a man is not into her is wrapped up in her life accomplishments. Is that opinion so awful?

Additionally, I mostly post for your thoughts... I have no idea what the rest of this population is composed of as of yet... seeing some of the verbal jabs you have taken at VD and apparently continued in your association there, it never occurred to me that I would be out of bounds...

Since my presentation doesn't strike me as rude, in all seriousness, what points of view are out of line?

Anonymous said...

Jsinsatx, I've seen one theory about why some people are more likely to change after a while than others beyond dishonesty or insecurity. If you've ever looked at the Meyers-Briggs temperament test (yes, it is over used but sometimes relevant) it looks at four categories, two of which kick in here.

One is whether a person is an introvert or an extrovert. Because a less known aspect of what that means is that we all possess all those less dominant traits on the flip 'shadow' side of the coin. The test says which of those other traits are our dominant ones. But we use our dominant traits in that aspect of life to which we are most connected - engagement with the outer world at large, or the inner world of our thoughts, feelings, those people and things we hold closest. But the other arena gets the flip side, our shadow traits.

Provided a person grows, these two aspect begin to integrate with time, changing us with age. Until then 'getting to know you' can be confusing. Young introverts can expect 'more' from their partners at home. Extroverts can try to freeze their partner in place, in the form in which they were first seen. Both can be a form of torture. Charges of 'deception' or 'lack of depth', 'you're not the person I married' can begin.

When one does find a Pretty Lady or Gentleman Friend who has learned who they are and is thus integrated and consistent - be thankful. They tend to be healthy and mature. The rest of us are still banging into walls and in training reaching for that.

Shakespeare put it well, even if in the mouth of a pompous character. "This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as night the day; thou canst not then be false to any man."

Anonymous said...

The second trait is what they label Thinking vs Feeling. When T types fall head over heels they truly morph for a while. Their feelings are in charge, they are released to a state of excitement, emotions, newness. The first flush of infatuation or love can be intoxicating. Of course, a person who is high as a kite in love eventually returns to ground. Even if still deeply in love.

Obviously a whole new field of issues can kick in, to be faced or not. But it is still natural and honest, not a case of dysfunction or deception. Just human. Though the dysfunction, dishonesty, abusiveness etc. can be layered onto anyone. It's just not the same thing.

Anyway, that's my argument for enough time getting acquainted before declaring oneself. And my theory for why whirlwinds - while not my thing, being both and I and a T - have better odds in middle age when people are more securely who they are, more integrated, know what they want, are more up front, as opposed to straight out of school before one or both parties have figured it out. Sorry for so long a post.

Wollf Howlsatmoon said...

Heh....Anon...male or female Man,man,Woman or woman....excellent comment. MB...sheesh, I have spent nine months pondering the results and insight from this excruciatingly introspective test.

My wife of twenty years is a true INTJ....whoo-boy, and I am ENTP. Not a match made in heaven...without disparaging Her, so much as laughing at myself.... She matches up with a fictional character as Hannibal Lecter...and Bugs Bunny.

A lot of depth to botth characters albeit extreme, and I have learned from meditation on it the truths that I was never able to see.

Jsin...take the can find it on line by searching, or in the sidebar of my site. You might just get to know yourself better.....and others as well.

It's painful if you look at yourself. All of us, Wollf, Pretty Lady, Anon....know yourself.

So true.

Anonymous said...

To all concerned: Yes... I have heard of the Myers-Briggs... I have taken it... ISTP with a 53 3 65 37 Preference Score... Obviously my S/N preference is not well defined... I spend a great amount of time in self analysis... I believe I know myself fairly well. Knowing my tendencies is what helps me make certain decisions or avoid putting myself in other situations.

While personality and how it expresses itself and relates to others is a fascinating topic, I am still not sure how or if this relates to PL's statement to me.

Anonymous said...

Nor was my attempt to imply that dishonesty or deception are the only or even most common reason for change. I believe I made the point that circumstances tend to influence our relationships (both male and female). As we grow we relate to other people differently then we might have in the past. And not all, and in fact it is probably a poor metric, growth is measured in age, careers and parchments from degree mills. Growth can take the form of movement from intellect and simple belief in certain philosophies to the development of wisdom and the ability to apply those philosophies in a complicated world. Life steps such as marriage and children certainly change the expectations we have of others.

I think of relationships in my own life as a series of circles around me. The farther a person falls outside of the center circle the less I would ever expect of them... the person who would be my wife would be in the inner circle and would be whom I would expect the most of. Who else would I have given such access to who I truly am? Who has ever made a bigger commitment to me and to whom have I ever made a larger commitment. My expectations of myself are also reflected in these circles... for whatever impression that leaves.

Wollf Howlsatmoon said...

Memo to Self...."zip It".

Thank you Pretty Lady for your patience.


Anonymous said...


Yes, sometimes men reject women just as women reject men. Their reasons for doing so may be other than because the woman is too accomplished for their comfort level. But what Pretty Lady is discussing in her article, and what I am responding to, is the very situation in which a man says, "please reduce yourself so I may feel bigger."

Such a demand is pathetic and makes the man unworthy of an accomplished woman's company. That is my point, however uncomfortable it makes you.

Feel free to disagree with it until sated.

Pretty Lady said...

What Spatula said.

Additionally, regarding the scene at VD's--surely it is evident by now that I regard conversing over there as a spiritual and intellectual exercise in engaging with unregenerate chauvinism, boorishness and fundamentalist rigidity, not genuine socializing. The characters there are, for the most part, not people I would ever introduce to my actual friends. They judge all women by the characteristics of the trashiest and most irrational, to the point of accusing anyone who posts with a female moniker of trashy irrationality, regardless of the content of her words. There's not an F in the bunch.

Anonymous said...

Either of those two responses seem more reasonable to me then simply saying I am at risk of making a poor impression... (shrug)... I can certainly refrain from this type of topic... others to post on... other forums to do it in...

And nothing about Spatula's post made me 'uncomfortable'... what type of projection is that? The whole reason I came here was to interact with PL as I found her an interesting person. I think it would be obvious from that alone that I enjoy interesting people regardless of sex. Disagreeing does not = disagreeableness nor does having a different point of view in any way mean you are uncomfortable with someone else having another. Points of view can be agreed with, disregarded or disagreed with or discussed. I was aiming more for the last... apparently failed... next topic.

The Aardvark said...

Crushed, I tells ya. I'm truly crushed. But I'll be OK. :^)