A Diary of Unsolicited Advice From Men
Things men tell women but would never say to each other.
Women are no strangers to responsibility. You’ve seen the stories about women being responsible for the mental load of running an entire household regardless of their employment status. Let’s face it. Our society expects that women be the child bearers, child rearers, housekeepers, family cooks, career women, personal assistants, and personal shoppers. On and on it goes.
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Parenthood is a partnership, but sometimes it can be a bit uneven. As many working moms will tell you, some husbands…
We’re stressing ourselves out with everything — like making sure our baby has pooped today, and that everyone gets their dentist appointment scheduled, and wait — do we have enough toilet paper in the closet? Soap for the bathroom and kitchen? We’re busy planning birthday parties and holiday get togethers, doing the laundry and making sure our kids have the right shoes and wardrobe for each season.
Across the country, women are doing all of these things — and more — in addition to their own careers and volunteer service. We’re multitasking mavens.
And single women or single moms? They’re doing these things too. There’s definitely no one else to do them.
As all of this is happening — a.k.a. the world keeps turning — we women are told that we can be anything we want to be. Which sounds like a pretty sweet deal until we grow up and discover we’re more or less under the pressure to be everything everyone else wants us to be. As it turns out, anything we want isn’t even enough. We’re supposed to be even more than what we want!
But men? Oh, we give a man a medal for taking his kids out for ice cream. Dads get a freaking parade for braiding their own child’s hair.
Sadly, this is just the setup of our world. I don’t think most men even realize the disparity between our life experience and their own.
And I certainly don’t mean to downplay a dad’s importance to their children and household. Nor do I mean that every single family is setup this way. It’s just that… many men have been coasting for a pretty long time knowing that women will take responsibility for the mental load.
So why is it acceptable for men to give women unsolicited advice about what they should or should not do?
The sheer amount of advice that’s been handed to me by men regularly takes me back with the absurdity. Things most would never bother to say to their fellow men. And delivered to me with enough pomp and circumstance to suggest I ought to be incredibly grateful.
These are words that often swirl between my ears for years, although I try to forget, pulverize, or sweep them under a rug of useless information.
Strangers, teachers, boyfriends, bosses, pastors, and friends’ husbands — all men with an endless wellspring of wisdom for me, a clearly broken and needy girl. There has yet to be a drought of advice from these men even though I didn’t ask them for anything.
Words that make me lucky because they have chosen to bless me with guidance, as if they were the gatekeepers of all knowledge.
As if they know these truths that I never could have realized on my own:
How I’d be so much prettier if I smiled more and I’d look happy to be there — as if I owed them the demeanor they wanted to see. As if I wasn’t here for myself, but specifically for the male gaze.
That I’d catch way more flies with honey — so I should be a little less opinionated about what I see as “injustice.” It didn’t matter that I wasn’t being rude or unkind. I simply said something a man didn’t like.
When was the last time you heard a man told to be more sweet just to be taken seriously?
That I should dress differently to accentuate my small waist. As if it isn’t creepy to have a man comment on my body when he has zero reason to do so.
And I shouldn’t worry too much about my body because some guys like my thighs. It didn’t matter that I was in eighth grade and didn’t even know why anyone was looking at me like that in my jeans.
That I should eat this, and not eat that. As if you knew what I was eating anyway.
You just want me to know I am coming across to men as way too aloof.
But on the same day a different man told me I seem too flirty, so tone it down.
And why hadn’t they seen me in church — didn’t I want to get married so I no longer had to be a single mom?
And my favorite piece of male advice: That I should really make sure I’m more than a mom. “Don’t just think it’s okay to be a mom. You need to be more than that.”
I still remember my eyes rolling into the back of my head when he said that. As if he had any clue what life is like for a single mom. Or apparently any mom.
Like anyone would tell a father to be more than a dad.
That’s when I realized how little most men understand that women are already carrying this huge load they can’t envision.
That’s why you hear “mom guilt” all the time, but not “dad guilt.”
We’re already more than moms.
And unsolicited advice from men is just one of the realities of being a woman. We smile, nod, awkwardly laugh through our teeth and silently pray that they will stop talking and let us be.
And while I know that no, it’s #notallmen, that doesn’t change the universal experience of women. That we as women are no strangers to unsolicited advice from men.