Or "Why I Think John Gray is Just a Nice Guy Who Has His Head WAY Up His Ass."
This all started with that book. That damned book. Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Venus. A seemingly innocuous little tome, written by a former monk-turned-psychologist, who was only trying to help by pointing out to us that men and women are so totally different in every way that they could have come from separate planets. And we bought into it.
No, wait. I bought into it. I won't include you all in this, since some of you had the supreme good sense to call a crock of shit a crock of shit when you saw one. I bought into it because I wanted to find the simple reason why my relationships had been so unequivocally disasterous up to that point. I bought into it because it was important at the time for me to believe that it was just a matter of finding out the right words, spoken in the right order, of understanding what my man's frame of mind was -- that he wasn't leaving me when he "went into the cave," but that he was a rubber band that needed to stretch back into shape before he snapped.
And I bought it. Hook, line and rubberband ball. Because it was easier to tell myself that I wasn't the one being abandoned. It wasn't me he wasn't communicating with. It wasn't me he wasn't talking to. He was in the cave. He was a rubberband that had been overstretched by the demands that life makes on men that taxes them so substantially that they simply cannot function without some downtime. It wasn't me; it was him. "I'll leave him alone. He's in the cave." Nothing wrong with me -- he's just a man being Martian.
Upon further reflection of this concept, from a position of advanced age and sultry wisdom, I say this: Fuck off and die, John Gray!
Sorry. That was strong. I actually think Dr. Gray means well. I don't think he ever meant to be condescending and insulting. I think he set out to explain why we weren't all getting along. I also think thatwhat he knows about women you could make dance on the head of a pin.
Here's the thing. Is there really anyone out there who has ever known a mother, working or at home, married or single, who believes for an instant that there haven't been at least fifteen times in the course of a day when she wants to pack it in and go hide in a cave, thereby being left alone to do as she pleases for a specified period of time, without being bothered by her 24/7 job of wiping snotty noses or poopy bottoms, refereeing sibling boxing matches, listening to the incessant whines from a napless, overtired, can't-sleep-now-its-too-close-to-bedtime child? Is there anyone who knows a wife, at home or in the workplace, who wouldn't at some point, like to kiss her husband good-bye and go spend a week or so away from the incredibly wearing task of bearing the responsibility for the emotional end of an entire relationship, handling the spiritual and psychological baggage, making all the excuses, looking after someone who may or may not reciprocate affection in a way that rewards her? He is leaving her when he goes into the cave, even if its just for a day or so. He's leaving her to flounder in a sea of both of their making, while he reclines on the beach and gives himself a little break from the struggle commitment requires.
Men are NOT from Mars. Women are NOT from Venus. We are all from HERE -- the planet Earth, and while it spins and whirls and tilts on its little axis, we all have things we have to do. We have jobs to go to, people to conduct business with, classes to attend, papers to write, partners and spouses to emotionally connect with, children to raise and nurture, dishwashers to load and unload, laundry to do. And it's exhausting. For everybody. And I refuse to believe for a second that the male sex is so frail and unstable that it isn't up to the task. One, because that lets men off the hook far too easily. And, two, because I have a couple of men friends who are far more capable than I of keeping all the balls in the air.
The only non-anatomical difference between men and women that I can find is that men give themselves permission to go into the cave, while women just stick around here and plug it out, because that's what we're taught we must do. We don't have permission to retreat and lock ourselves away to watch sports or play golf or nap. We're busy being okay and making everyone around us okay, because that's our job. It's what we do. It's what makes having a "wife" far more desirable to me than having a "husband" at this stage of my life (more about this in future blog posts).
So to every man who has taken to his cave, secure in the knowledge he's rightly entitled to it, then actually thrown it in the face of a woman he knows by telling her it was all becoming too much for him to bear, I say here and now, "Knock it off and get back to work, mister. I don't care what planet you think you're from, you're here now, and the trash needs taking out!"
(original artwork by Ted Nasmith can be found, full-sized, here.)