“He has to be funny!”
“He has to be strong to fight for me”
“Sweet and caring”
“Tall! Must be tall!”
These are the common responses I hear when you ask a girl “what do you look for in a guy?” However, what happens when you meet a boy that checks off everything on your checklist but surprises you with a non-gender normative trait?
It becomes a deal breaker.
Take for instance this experience I encountered this weekend:
It’s 7PM on a Friday night, my friend and I were heading to BJ’s to eat a pizookie that we so badly were craving. On our way there I asked her for an update about this boy that she has been talking to. As far as I knew they were really connecting and it seemed to be heading in the right direction.
She responded, “Ehh it’s like whatever…he asked me on a date.”
I was so excited but at the same time so confused regarding her lack of enthusiasm and indifference towards the guy. I asked her why she was acting so indifferent and she responded, “Check the texts.” As I read through her last conversation with him I couldn’t find anything wrong, everything seemed fine. She then tells me “He’s a wimp.”
Apparently the fact that he told her that he doesn’t like spiders and is actually afraid of them was the ultimate deal breaker. When I heard all of this nonsense coming out of her mouth I couldn’t help but to think of Joane Nagel’s writing in “Masculinity and Nationalism: Gender and Sexuality In The Making of Nations,” where she reinstates Horrocks words; “Patriarchal masculinity cripples men. Manhood as we know it in our society requires such a self-destructive identity, a deeply masochistic self-denial, a shrinkage of the self, a turning away from whole areas of life, the man who obeys the demands of masculinity has become only half-human….To become the man I was supposed to be, I had to destroy my most vulnerable side, my sensitivity, my femininity, my creativity, and I had to pretend to be both more powerful and less powerful than I feel.” To further explain, my friend was reinforcing society’s ideal gender role of a man. In this girl’s eyes this boy cannot be scare of spiders, it is unacceptable and thus he is not worth dating. Listening to these phrases of “he’s a wimp,” “what kind of boy is scare of spiders?” “He can’t be scared of spiders, killing spiders is a boys job,” “I’m scare of spiders too but that’s okay because I’m a girl,” etc. was annoying and disappointing. I don’t like to think that I hang around with misogynists, conservatives, and patriarchal idealists, but this just comes to show that there are a lot of amazing people in this world with great personalities, that it is hard to believe that they’re way of thinking can be so narrow-minded and ignorant. I always considered this generation of youth to be more open minded and accepting, however I just came to a realization that there will always be those few individuals that will always think in a patriarchal way unless they themselves want to change their way of thinking.
Similarly, as I was experiencing first hand this whole nation construction of masculinity and what it means to be a man, this episode of Sex and the City popped into my head:
As you can see, Charlotte was disappointed at the fact that her new love interest lacked in masculine traits. Charlotte’s beau is just as afraid of the mouse as she is, and in her eyes she wishes he could “man up” and dispose of the mouse in a calm, collected, and chivalrous matter. However, instead of getting the made believe dragon slaying knight in white armor that most girls read about when growing up, she got a normal human being that just like her has fears, even if that fear is a baby mouse. Joane Nagel clearly states that, “the phallus is master-signifier, and femininity is symbolically defined by lack.” Nagel’s words tie in easily with Charlotte because this is exactly how she feels, she feels her love interest is too feminine, thus lacking in masculinity and therefore becoming the deal breaker of their relationship.
I always knew being a boy has its advantages I hardly thought about the difficulties. However, I just realized that perhaps men and women are equally suffering trying to be something unattainable in order to meet society’s ideal. We may all be suffering in different ways, with different pressures, but in the end WE ARE ALL SUFFERING.