Saturday, October 02, 2010


Last week, my teenage son broke up with his girlfriend. Apparently, at one point, the process involved her calling the house over and over and over and my son telling his sisters to tell her he isn't home.  Half of me was saying, "Good lord, honey, put a damper on the crazy behavior, you are making yourself look foolish and reinforcing the hysterical stereotype of women." The other half of me was saying, "Oh hell, what did he DO? Women don't go nuts like that unless men have pulled some sort of noncommunicative, game-playing bullshit. Tell me my son isn't one of THOSE guys."

As in all things, it's probably a little from column A and a little from column B, especially given the lovely combination of general clulessness and raging hormones that comes with the teen years.

Still, I figured it was a teachable moment that I ought to seize. I struggled for a moment with what to say, though, with how to explain to my son something I've found beyond the grasp—purely innocently in most cases—of most of the men in my life, friends and lovers. Call it Mars-Venus or whatever, but it just doesn't seem to compute.

I hemmed and hawed and stumbled about the conversation for a moment until I remembered the many protective comments my son has made in reference to his younger sisters. Epiphany. It could be summed up in a short statement: "I don't know exactly what happened here, but I want you to consider, in any interaction with the young women you date, whether your behavior toward her would be something that you would be OK with if a boy acted in a similar fashion toward your sister. If not, then you should probably adjust your actions."

He seemed to get it. Later that evening, I was thinking about our conversation in the context of my own experiences. I hope my son gets it, but I have my doubts. Most men don't seem to. They are fathers and brothers and sons and demand the highest level of consideration for those women from other men and, in most cases, from themselves. Yet in their romantic relationships, they do the very things that they have deemed "not good enough" for their sisters and daughters and mothers. I wonder why. I wonder if women do the same thing. Does sex really change things that much?

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