The good news is that I don’t feel the need to go Corporal Klinger on my family. I have no desire to dress like a woman. I spend no time in stores admiring feminine attire. I have no wish to own more shoes than Imelda Marcos. I am indifferent to a lot of things feminine, including flowers, kitchens, Martha Stewart and make up.
Emotionally though I am the woman of the family. I say this because lately I’ve been reading a lot of relationship books (a signal right there, I suppose). I am always puzzled when I get to the part where they talk about what women want from men. Why? It is because it’s exactly what I want from a woman. And because it bears little reality to my experience with women I’ve known intimately, which is 95% my wife. Nor does it bear much relationship to my sisters, who come across as independent and assertive overall. Some of my sisters are much more man-like than I could ever be. Not one of my sisters is the proto-feminine type. I don’t usually see them in dresses, or made up at all, or gushing over relationships, or getting weepy over receiving some flowers.
But the things I want in relationships seem to be exactly what women claim they want from their men. I want a deep level of connectedness on all levels. I want to spend time with my spouse: meaningful, connected time doing dopey things like taking walks, sharing how our day went, exploring how we feel about things, seeing movies regularly and perhaps eating out regularly. It’s not about me; it’s about us.
These things aren’t as high on my wife’s priority list and probably never will be. We are both fairly introverted but in retrospect she is likely to always be far more introverted than I could ever hope to be. She is happiest in quietness and solace. Give her a computer with Microsoft Word and a large hard disk and she will fill it up with her writing. The ideal weekend is one where the kid is away, the laundry requires little effort and she can curl up with her computer and her online friends. It’s not like we won’t go to a movie or a show every now and then but it takes persistence and a bit of serendipity for it to happen. She sees time as finite. When she has free time it should be HER time to fill in ways that make her happiest. Sometimes that is with me, but mostly her attention is elsewhere.
But this is not a wife-bashing screed. My wife Terri is being who she is and always has been and I married her knowing this was probably the way she always would be. But there have been other alarming things that make it difficult for me to fit in with my own gender. There’s my lack of interest in pretty much anything related to sports. (Exception: I can enjoy the Olympics.) I don’t like beer. I don’t like shallow relationships. Since most relationships between men are shallow I tend to gravitate toward having relationships with women instead. I do have an appreciation for geek culture so I have that in common with lots of men, not to mention my wife. So all is not hopeless with my sex.
Particularly with people I love, I am very nurturing. The reality was that I was the mother for most of Rosie’s childhood. It is only now in the terrible teens that Terri seems to be getting into this parenting business full swing. I was the one who usually kept Rosie fed, and changed, gave her baths, read her stories, took her to the playground, made her play dates and shuffled her to and from ballet classes. I didn’t mind at all. I felt it was not just necessary but it was my calling to infuse a sense of wonder, possibility and knowledge into my daughter. It was also neat to watch her grow up. It infused me with a sense of wonder too.
I often ponder if it’s not so much that I have a feminine side as I have a human side. Males in our culture are trained to be superficial and to stonewall when the pressures of life get too severe. And I certainly have learned how to do that from experience. But it never feels natural for me. I reserve for myself the right to be fully human. I am not always successful in expressing it, but I resent it when I feel circumstances won’t allow me.
Although I am not gay myself I often look on gay men with envy. Is it just coincidence or are gays usually the most talented people in any room? When I think of the openly gay men I do know they are passionate, creative, overwhelmingly alive people. I am sure even today it is difficult to be gay in our society but it seems that most gays have a gift that can only come from the liberation of being outed: the freedom to be themselves.
Meanwhile I assume I simply have a feminine side and that’s just the way I am. Since I am on a reincarnation kick at the moment it seems perfectly logical that if I have lived lives before, I probably lived most of them as women. Maybe this life is a gender experiment for me. If I get another one I will probably choose to be a woman again. It would feel more natural.