Stuart is a friend of mine and he always has an opinion. They aren’t always completely thought out, but then, that’s the way it often is with our opinions; we form them out of instinct and then seek factual support.
Stuart has always had definite opinions about men and women. The fact that he has had two official and two unofficial marriages, and continues to forge his way through one failed relationship after another has not blunted his faith in his grasp of the matter.
I recently wrote a blog about the difficulty most men have in multi-tasking (https://richardnilsen.com/2014/02/17/keeping-life-simple/), and Stuart brought it up when he came to visit on another one of his cross-country trips, unsure of where he would settle this time.
Stuart did, in fact, have a theory. Like all his theories, it was more about spouting off than about solid sociological, theological or scientific research.
“OK, here goes.
“Men are all fetishists. This is the primary distinction between men and women,” he said.
“I don’t mean all men are into leather or vinyl, but that men localize their interests. It all comes down to a focus on a single issue, and all others can fend for themselves.”
“You mean men can’t multi-task?”
“That’s a good way of putting it.
“Think of porn. Why do women not respond? Why do men? People say it’s because women are not visual and men are, but that’s not the main problem. After all, women don’t respond to verbal porn either. It’s because men localize their sexual interest in one spot on their bodies. And, believe me, it’s always the same spot.
“By the way, if you attend to that spot, it doesn’t matter what else you do, they’ll be happy. It’s really rather simple. Everything about men is really rather simple. I know that’s hard for women to understand, because women are wired for complexity.”
“That seems like a stereotype,” I said. “As in: Women can multitask.”
“But it’s true,” he continued. “Look at D.H. Lawrence. He adds a religious layer to the whole thing, and makes a god of that spot on his body, and believes that both men and women worship that dangling deity. But it’s really only a man’s religion.
“It colors everything in a man’s life. But it especially colors his attraction to women. Not only does he believe that women care about his equipment, he actually believes women go around talking about it in hushed, worshipful tones. Is it big enough? Am I man enough? Very little thought goes into anything else that might be thought manly.
“So now, when a man looks upon a woman, that same single-mindedness makes him pick out a single attribute of the woman for worship. It is seldom her equipment. Why? I don’t know. Ask Freud. Wait. No, don’t ask Freud.
“You see it all the time. A man loves a woman because her hair is blond, or because she has a turned-up nose, or pouty lips. She can weigh 200 pounds, but because her hair is curly, he sighs and pines.
“It can be something less tangible, like a sense of humor, but it seldom is. Mostly it is a physical endowment. Some like saggy boobs, some like a high arch on the instep. Some like just the hint of a mustache on her upper lip.”
“But it’s true.
“When in the act of love, it is usually this one particular that the man is obsessing on. He is wildly in love with her hair, or the mole on her cheek, or the way she cuts her fingernails short.
“It can be perfume. It can be the fact she wears short pants. It can be the one button left undone on her blouse. But it is one thing.
“Women, on the other hand, tend to see the whole man, to see him as a person. When women complain about the objectification of themselves by men, they are right to do so, but they also miss a central truth of existence and the propagation of the species.
“Men simply don’t see the counter-indications: If that blonde in fact does weigh 200 pounds, or is a shrieking harpy, it doesn’t figure into his erotic calculations.
I objected, the way you do when presented with something you know is true but don’t wish to acknowledge, hoping that denying it will make it go away, at least for the moment.
“It can’t be that simple,” I said.
“It isn’t. And I always make room for the standard disclaimer: Individual variation trumps gender variation. You can find exceptions to every so-called rule, but in aggregate, women and men have their ways. There are women who could beat me to a pulp, and I wouldn’t want to tangle with one of them, but on the whole, men have greater upper-body strength.
“I’m not saying you should make laws based on this. Should you outlaw women from operating bulldozers or backhoes? Of course not. Individual variation is greater than any difference between men and women as a whole.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that after living with a woman for 20 years, a man finally learns to see the whole woman, to access all the other parts of her personality and personhood that he was blind to in the first rush of ‘let’s-make-babies.’ She grows in his estimation. What he should have seen from the beginning, he now understands. The fire has spread into a circle, leaving the grass in the middle burnt, but a wider horizon of concern and interest expanding.
“By the way, learning more about the woman isn’t always a good thing. It also may lead to divorce.
“But the reverse is true for the woman. After living with the man for years, she is likely to latch onto the one thing, the one attribute, the one saving grace he has that makes up for all the failings.
“So, his appreciation for his wife grows, her appreciation for him narrows, but deepens.”
“At some point, though, it would seem there should be a crossing of the lines on the graph,” I said. “There should be a point when her narrowing and his expanding meet at one perfect moment of mutual understanding.”
“Well thought. I don’t know,” Stuart said. “That’s what you will have to find out. I never got there.”