“Oh, well, you know, men are just bad at that,” she nudges me with a knowing elbow and shrug of her shoulders.
“You’ll train him, ta-ha!” An almost stranger chuckles with seriousness.
“That’s just not how men think. You need to speak his language,” a woman comments to my friend about her husband’s lack of communication.
To borrow a phrase from TV mogul and goddess, Mindy Kaling, exsqueeze me?
I grew up an only child with both an extremely capable mother and father. I’m surrounded by incredibly intelligent, interesting male friends. So, maybe it’s my fault that I think adult men who are of sound mind and body can function like human beings with responsibilities in this world. If you Google, “boys will be boys,” you’ll come across an overwhelming number of articles about how dangerous and misleading that phrase is, for youngsters. Aside from enforcing negative gender stereotypes, the phrase also oversimplifies the behavioral problem and limits the full expression of the child. As a self-proclaimed social scientist and student of human nature for the purposes of this article, I am proposing the hypothesis that the phrase, “boys will be boys,” eventually mutates into, “men will be men and it is their female partner’s fault when said man acts irresponsibly or thoughtlessly.”
Stop telling me that men don’t have to take responsibility for their actions, no matter how small. Stop telling me they don’t care. Stop telling me they aren’t capable. Men are extremely capable; they have, historically, colonized most of the world, taken it for their own, stamped their grubby names on it, and dictated most societal norms. Men are also capable of making dinner plans, cleaning up after themselves, speaking in full sentences, recognizing emotions and not peeing on floor. I have many adult male friends who (presumably) have penises and, amazingly, those sexual organs have not gotten in the way of those men graduating university with numerous degrees, getting full-time jobs, maintaining steady and healthy relationships with friends and family. Tasks that take organization, focus, conversations, and complex thought.
Men, who manage to balance the stress and expectation of being a 20-something college grad in America, are the same men you’re trying to tell me I shouldn’t get frustrated with when they can’t plan a dinner or pick-up after themselves? Men who have fathered children and bought houses? Men who dictate both the de jure and de facto laws by which I must live?
I’m the crazy bitch? I’m the ball-and-chain? I’m the one asking too much?
If a guy friend forgets to make dinner reservations, it’s because “he’s a man and men are bad at planning, ha ha.” If my friend Jennifer forgets to make dinner reservations because she was swamped trying to find Christmas presents for her boyfriend’s family so she doesn’t look bad and had an anxiety attack thinking about it, it’s, “Jennifer is such a flake!””
A person’s genitalia doesn’t factor into whether or not they are adept at organization, cleanliness or general responsibility. You don’t use a vagina to vacuum the house, you use a Dirt Devil. Boobs don’t text your friends to plan dinner, your fingers do. I know women who struggle to put their pants on in the morning and I know women who forget their pants altogether. It’s not a reflection of women; it’s one woman’s personality, her character, her flaws and her strengths. I know men who are more organized than their girlfriends, who are more concerned about cleanliness and clothes. These traits are individual. Similarly, when a man is thoughtless and forgets, leaves the house a mess for his female partner to clean up, or blows off friends, he’s not, “just being a guy” he’s being a thoughtless flake.
I don’t need to train my male partner; he is not a dog. He’s lovely the way he is, and I’m going to get frustrated when he does thoughtless things but his behavior is not my responsibility. It’s not my duty as his adult friend and female partner to somehow make up for his shortcomings or to fix him. That’s absurd. We are all responsible for the way we act, responsible for how our actions impact the humans we love, the humans we live with. Men should be held just as accountable as women for remembering birthdays, respecting living spaces, caring for themselves.
Stop making excuses for men and start holding them accountable.