Man hating and fatherless kids
I recently had a falling out with a good friend of mine (I know, I’m on a roll!). I don’t really want to get into it much here so the short version (my take on things) is that logistically it is hard if not impossible for us to maintain a friendship as she has allergies to some of our living things so struggles to spend time in our house and doesn’t feel comfortable inviting me to hers. She doesn’t feel comfortable inviting me to hers because, in her opinion, I hate men.
I don’t hate men. I hate patriarchy. I hate mansplaining. I hate manspreading. I struggle a lot with men’s complete unawareness about these things. I actually like said friend’s boyfriend a lot. I don’t know him well but have always had what I thought to be pleasant interactions with him. In talking to Lesley about this conversation with the friend she pointed out that she is positive I have said the words, “I hate men” to my friend. And you know what? She’s right. I can’t tell you when or in what context I did but I am sure I have said it. This friend is my closest talk to about anything friend. I know I have talked to her about a particular guy friend of mine. A big time mansplainer who, in my opinion, is sometimes kind of crappy to his wife (not abusive necessarily but the kind of guy who says, “No, I won’t help with that. That’s your job.”). I’m sure in those conversations I have let out an exasperated sigh and said, “Ugh, I hate men.”
I have been thinking a lot about this and what it means to have a child, particularly a boy one although some of these themes are present no matter what your child’s gender is. The biggest lesson here is to be aware of my language. While I know I don’t hate all men, and Lesley knows that, and many of your know that, would my child? If I said I hate men in front of my four year old son in the future how would he feel about that? I have no issue saying “The patriarchy is so screwed up” in front of him though which is really the point of my statement. This whole thing serves as a great reminder to choose my words carefully.
The other thing it has me thinking a lot about is the men in our lives. (I think I have talked about this before but if I don’t remember I doubt you do so here it is again!) I want Gus to have good examples of men in his life. Often times when I meet men I subconsciously size them up. Am I a harsher judge of them than I am of women? I wonder sometimes if I really only like men with quiet and submissive personalities – if I find fault in loud, outgoing and outspoken men when I value these attributes in women. I feel as though I am constantly combing through people to find 3 or 4 good examples of men to keep in Gus’ life.
I hung out with men at three different points this weekend. We had another game night with the craigslist folks. (It was all fine and then, at the very end of the night where it was after midnight and I just wanted them to leave, he talked about a new sushi place they went to and how to service was terrible. He said, “We were in a room where everyone else was oriental and they all got better service than me did.” I thought calling folks “oriental” was something we all knew wasn’t okay by now? Maybe not?) While the man of this couple is nice they have a weird relationship dynamic. She mentioned at some point that she had not drank since last time we were together except a few glasses of wine with a friend one night. He was upset because he did not know she had had wine with a friend and they are working on having more open communication. I am sure there was more to the story than I gathered but it was weird. I never expected to have him around Gus a lot but it has really made me wonder if I am too harsh on men – to quick to dismiss them for minor flaws.
The next place we hung out with men was at a friend’s kid’s birthday party. It’s interesting to watching moms and dads together with kids. In this scenario many of the moms chatted while the dads watched kids play outside. There are a few dads who I have met before who I think are awesome dads. I have a bit of a friend crush on one of the dads. But in this scenario am I doing something I really hate – giving huge props to dads for being awesome for interacting with their kids? When looking at men am I less harsh of a judger when they have kids and appear to be good dads? Am I looking for examples of good dads for Gus or good men? Are all good dads good men? Will all good men be good dads?
The third man was a dinner/playdate at our house with a couple we’ve done one on one stuff with a few times before. They are newer friends but we really like them. Our boys are a month apart and play well together. The adults are nice and fun and we have similar interests (beer). And the dad is a great dad. He’s great with his son and read Gus book after book as Gus crawled in his lap. He’s a good husband and they have a nice dynamic together. He’s a good dad and appears to be a good man. But what are the criteria I use to decide this?
Ultimately one of the most important things for me is that Gus has stable people in his life. I want to develop friendships with people that he knows like he would know extended family. I want that circle of people to include men. To build that maybe it doesn’t matter if I think they are good men because they are good dads. Maybe it doesn’t matter if I am a harsher critic of men then of women. All that matters is if folks, men and women alike, don’t annoy me so much that I want to hang out with them regularly for years. While my language does matter the root of my preferences does not – I want stable men in Gus’ life and I am sure as hell not going to hang out with ones that annoy me.