The price of being a male is 5.4 years of life. At least that’s the bottom line for males born in 2001 according to InfoPlease. If the projections are correct then the average male born in 2001 will live to be 74.4. The average woman will live to 79.8. For men close to my age born in 1960 (I was actually born in 1957) we can expect to live 66.6 years vs. 73.1 years for women. So the price for me for being born male is about 6.5 years.
It’s unfair! It’s sex discrimination! In my case had I been born a woman I could look forward to a life that is nearly ten percent longer. Instead because I have male genitalia if I want to even the score with the other gender I need to lead an accelerated life. Perhaps that explains why men tend to be more assertive than women. With our candle burning quicker we have to make the most of our limited light.
Or perhaps there is more to this issue than simply chromosomes. That’s my belief. I think men die earlier for lots of reasons, and I doubt having XY pairs of genes is one of them. I think men die younger because we are conditioned to die young.
For example a woman finds an unusual spot on her skin. Most likely the first thing she will do is call the doctor and get it checked out. What will the typical male do? My bet is he will not notice it at all until it is the size of a dime. If they do see it they will probably ignore it. “It will probably go away,” is what passes for thinking for many of us males. And it often works. But sometimes the spot is a melanoma. Had we gotten it checked out right away it might have been safely removed. But since we didn’t and it’s a dangerous form of cancer we are dead within a year. For similar specious reasons we are likely to avoid physicals, prostate exams, visits to the dentist and psychologists.
It’s things like this that I believe skew the favorable mortality statistics toward women. Men are conditioned to minimize life’s trials and tribulations. Mostly we shrug them off. But what we really do is internalize them. In extreme cases the Mister Rogers among us go postal. Or turn into Jeffrey Dahmers. Let’s face it when it comes to causing sick crimes men have women beat at least ten to one. For many men sports is a good way to let off a little steam. But these days this doesn’t mean that we are actually out there playing basketball. Instead we are parked in front of the TV watching basketball while eating Cheese Its and guzzling beer. Or if we consider our tastes more refined then perhaps we are watching tennis while enjoying Brie on crackers and wine.
Life comes with different expectations when you are male. For a woman it’s okay to go home and take care of a sick child. If you are a man your boss often gives you a jaundiced look. What’s the matter with you? Don’t you know your work is important? Don’t you know your job is your life? The message for men is that the business world is more important than your family because after all you are a breadwinner, dammit. If you are running home to take care of Timmy’s earache you may join your wife in finding there is a glass ceiling in your future. Or you may be out of a job.
Men in fact often lack common sense. I plead guilty to this myself. I can’t count the number of times I’ve dragged my sorry and sick ass into work, coughing and sneezing and likely infecting half the floor because I convinced myself (as my wife tells me) that I am not really sick. For you see for us men sickness is a sign of weakness. We can’t be sick, even if we really are sick. When the ambulance carts us off to the hospital then we know it’s time to call the boss to tell him we won’t be in. When the hearse carts us off to the cemetery then we know we are dead. Oh wait, we won’t know that either. We’ll be too busy convincing ourselves that we are not really dead that we’ll never even know we are dead.
I think that we men die early in part because we become experts at denying and repressing our feelings. While I’m sure it’s no bed of roses for women either, men think that survival means rigorous oppression of your true personality. You must project an image because you don’t want to be seen as a wimp or effeminate. God forbid that people should see you as a Jimmy Carter. If you have to be religious then you better darn well be righteous.
In fact we men love to be righteous. It’s one of our primary skills. It’s a neat way to let off some psychic steam. In general the more we oppress ourselves the more righteous we are. While there are certainly fine examples of righteous women out there, they are relatively few and far between. Righteousness is about projecting influence and strutting your certainty. When you are righteous you are a human peacock. I love being righteous. I enjoy few things more than writing blog entries castigating my fellow males on the other side of the political spectrum. Just step across my line in the sand, big boy! I’ll sling some choice metaphors your way. Writing entries like this is a lot harder. It forces me to be circumspect. Humble even.
Here are some our most common male nightmares. Being Jimmy Carter is not half of it. What really scares us? What really makes us break out in cold sweats? Being downsized. Forced to go from a position of power to being a peon. Going from banker to pushing a broom – most of us would prefer suicide rather than suffer this fate. Living in your brother’s basement.
Some lesser sins include not following the male stereotype. Crying? Not good, unless your team lost the Superbowl, and maybe at your mother’s (but not your father’s) funeral. Hugging is okay, providing it is largely limited to the other gender. Generally guys aren’t supposed to hug other guys. But if you do it should for a special occasion like your team won at the bottom of the ninth being two runs down. Hugging Dad on his birthday is okay, but do it quick and don’t linger for more than a fraction of a second. If you do you might be exposing an effeminate feeling. And that means you are potentially vulnerable.
Perhaps worse than showing unauthorized feelings is to actually disclose unauthorized feelings out loud to another guy. Here are some feelings you should never disclose to another guy, unless maybe he is in your support group. Never discuss how depressed you feel. Never disclose that you are in hock up to your eyeballs. Never disclose that you are impotent. Never disclose that you haven’t gotten any in years. Never disclose that you prefer fat women to skinny ones. Never disclose that you have a tender side. Don’t tell another man how beautiful a bouquet of flowers look. However it is okay to say how majestic a mountain range looks. Go figure.
Of course we know in our heart that this stuff is bullshit. But the price of not conforming is perceived to be so steep that we have to go along. We cannot afford to be ostracized by our own sex because we could lose power and influence. And so we project appearances but bottle in life’s other honest feelings. Much of the time even we aren’t aware of how we truly feel. Every time we find a socially unacceptable connection between our true feelings and our behavior we have to quickly find that connection and snip it.
Thank god for women. Thank god for our wives. For most of us men, our wives are our best friends. They may not totally understand us. But if there is one person on the planet with whom we can be ourselves it is our spouse. Secretly we admire our wives and girlfriends. We smile when they are doing girl talk with a friend on the phone. We think it is cool how they weave intimacy into their lives. We are often tickled pink to have a meaningful level of intimacy with a woman. But sometimes we blow it. Sometimes we cannot even be a teeny bit vulnerable even with the opposite sex. In many cases we express this anger in physical, sexual or emotional abuse of the women we claim to love.
I can’t speak for all heterosexual men but I will come out and admit that the men I admire most are usually gay. I cannot be gay because at best I am a 0.5 on the Kinsey scale. But gay men intrigue me because the ones I notice are usually breathtakingly alive. They overflow with honest feelings in all directions. They seem not afraid to be themselves. Heck, I don’t just admire gay men. In some way I envy them, even though I know the cruel discrimination inflicted on them by us so called “normal” people like me add a lot of pointless misery to their lives.
Men are ever vigilant. We are on our guard, waiting, ready and prepared. We are not sure why we are so vigilant but boy we sure are prepared, though we can’t necessarily explain why we need to be prepared. But no matter because we are impregnable. We are not human beings. Human beings are allowed to laugh silly. Human beings can cry. Human beings make mistakes. No we are not human beings. We are beyond feelings. We are men. Many of us cannot even be authentic to ourselves. On the inside we can be a mass of conflicting feelings and emotions. But on the outside we must be calm yet aggressive and powerful. Ideally we have a row of hot looking women swooning behind us.
And so it goes until of course the façade no longer works. And then like salmon after spawning season we croak, usually pretty suddenly. Of ulcers. Of alcoholism. Of obesity. Of cancer. But perhaps we really die from righteousness, crotchetiness and from living half a life when we could have lead an authentic life. It is our façade that usually kills us. We leave behind the women we love who perhaps on some level are also relieved. For while they loved us they also knew a part of us was false. And perhaps they are not sad to see that part die.