Tuesday, October 29, 2013

No...Everybody DOESN'T Know That....

I haven't blogged much about relationships. I don't think they are all the same and most of the "relationship experts" seem to be giving you advice that would make dating THEM easier (there's a market in setting people up for the okie doke). But...I was discussing something today online and I wanted to expound.

During a conversation about nagging and the importance of having shared definitions of simple terms, i shared a story from a previous relationship. I was dating a young woman for about a month. Things were going ok...just ok. We weren't arguing, but there wasn't really a spark either. "Treading water" is what I'd call it. (yes i used a swimming term. Melanin doesn't prevent me from being able to...nvm) One day, I asked her if something had changed (she was extremely affectionate when we first met). Her reply? "You aren't being a man". Admittedly, I was burning up inside when I heard that. But...I chilled. I asked her to clarify her statement (partially because nothing anyone says ABOUT me changes who I am, and partially because I knew that whatever she said would be hilarious). She said "you don't take my car and fill it with gas, and you don't cut my grass". I was right. Hilarious.

Now, for all the women saying "but for real! if you don't do that, you're not a REAL man", I hear you. If THAT is what a man is to you, most definitely you should go find that man. Here's the problem...that's bullshit. Being a "man" is different to different people. If you grew up in New Jersey, NOBODY pumps their own gas. If you grew up in an apartment complex...or condo...you didn't HAVE grass. Would you say that there were no real men there? Of course not. And if you grew up there, those wouldn't be things that naturally occurred to you to do in a relationship.

Those are superficial things. I believe her bigger point was, I didn't make her feel taken care of. To which I also say...bullshit. I instinctively walk on the outside, open doors, pay for dinner, take out the trash (even at her house), help you with your coat, etc...but...i didn't pump her gas. To be clear...i DID pump her gas, but her expectation was that i would take her car and fill it up while she was at home. Not only was that the first time she had mentioned that...but...that was the first time ANYONE had ever suggested to me that being a man was connected to THAT.

But, before the men start high fiving each other...that's what HER father did. So HER definition of a man came from what she saw. Instead of arguing, I did explain that while her mother was able to stay at home and raise her family while her father did all of the traditional "man" stuff, my mother always pumped her own gas. I DID cut grass, but...I never associated that with "men's work" because I also saw the women in my neighborhood cutting grass. Point is...we make a LOT of assumptions/judgments about what is common knowledge. Rarely is it as common as we believe. (plus...fuck you MEAN i'm not a real man?!?!?)

I'd also like to point out that we live in a time where gender roles are shifting. Men cook. Women work. There are more stay at home fathers (still not a LOT...but more). There are more women who are financially (and otherwise) the heads of households. It's foolish to assume that your beliefs/experiences are everyone else's. Try discussing with the person you're interested in what your beliefs are. You're a feminist and you think gender roles are stupid? I should know that upfront so I understand why you hate it when i rush to open your door. Your father never went in the kitchen because "that's your MOTHER'S kitchen"? I need to know that upfront so I understand why you got pissed at me for trying to surprise you by cooking your favorite meal (no...it's not because i can't cook...hating asses).

It is the same for men. People usually have friends who share their values. That reinforces what you already believed and may give you a false sense of "correctness" when in fact, there is more than one "correct", here. You think a woman is supposed to cook every night because your mother did? Your mother had to cook every night because if she didn't, she wouldn't eat. Did you know your mother couldn't afford to eat out? Did you know your grandfather was a chef and did most of the cooking around the house? I'm not talking about preferences, I'm talking about believing that someone is a "REAL" man/woman based on how YOU were raised. Talk it through. You might find out that you're putting pressure on yourself to do things she doesn't even care about while neglecting things that are important to her. You ALSO might find out that people are individuals and you might mess around and like someone that doesn't fit your "preference". Or you can just keep bitching about how there are no real men/women out there. With your bitching ass.


  1. "RIGHT On B", Our various backgrounds and influences effect how and what we do, see and perceive. People should expand the scope of their views before fixating on their idea of what the problem is. Good Words Sir.

  2. The whole concept of defined gender roles annoys me. I grew up with no father, so I have no idea what a dad is supposed to do. I mowed lawns, repaired things in the house, cooked, cleaned, etc because my mom worked two jobs. My husband does the lawn, not because it's a man's job, but because I hate mowing the lawn, and he hates washing dishes (which is a chore I do).
    that chick is just silly. why on earth would you just take her car to go fill it up? Crazy.

  3. A very wise man once told me that if you "dress like a man, act like a man, cuss like a man, fight like a man, then on the bus you can expect to STAND UP like a man"...no whining about chivalry allowed. I also think that women who act like ladies and not just women will get treated like a lady and a woman. I am a 53 year old female and I have lived my life by this and have found it to be true.

  4. I love this article. I also love an articulate black man! (but that's neither here nor there.) I grew up around families where the women did practically everything and my father wasn't around until I was nearly an adult. The guy I was dating was always confused and sometimes agitated that I wouldn't wait for him to open the door for me or ask him to carry something even if it wasn't very heavy, or fix something that I could easily fix myself. I communicated to him that growing up in the hood with just a mother and three sisters makes you responsible for all kinds of chores including car maintenance, repairing toilets, constructing bookshelves, etc. I took pride in becoming a very well rounded woman, not out of some attempt to be the radio description of "an independent woman" but out of necessity and struggle. Thankfully he communicated to me why he felt these things were important to him and it was a simple and we arrived at a simple compromise. A little communication prevented a lot of frustration.

  5. I love this! Experiences really do shape our expectations- and we seem to accept that about ourselves, but not so much about other people. I have a father, and he did all the things one would assume- he provided, protected and sheltered. But even now, I do a lot of things for myself because HE taught me to. He never wanted me to be dependent on anyone. I take pride in the fact that I can take of myself- and I've had friends treat me like it's some kind of deficiency in my womanhood- because THEIR experience was different- they didn't have a dad like mine. And it's been brought to light in other ways too.

    I was having a conversation with a friend and he and I were discussing relationships. My dad was nearby, so when my friend asked me what kind of guy I wanted in my life, I pointed to my dad as a model. My friend was kind of skeptical about this. Then he said that my dad was an amazing guy, and one in a million, and that he was a lot for a "regular" guy to live up to. This surprised me- because I didn't think my dad was anything other than a normal, good dad. I love my old man, but I never saw him as doing anything other than what was normal for dads. But my friend who didn't have a dad growing up, and didn't have an example, saw my dad as some extraordinary being that "regular" guys couldn't live up to. So yeah... experiences. They shape our expectations. Great post.