Thursday, November 03, 2005

Maureen Dowd's Lament

In Biblical times, and even now for some women, it was a curse to be childless. Many women, childless because love never found them or they never found love, or worse, because they felt, like Queen Elizabeth, that their duties to humankind would suffer attached to a man on the side and a child on the breast, wake up mid-life and wonder what they might have lost.

She can only wonder of course. Except for nuns and other service to God, all other callings seem superficial next to motherhood. This a mother, a true mother, knows. Childless women wonder.

This does not mean that every woman who choses to avoid motherhood, choses badly. On the contrary, many women chose motherhood thinking that the adoring eyes of their children will make up for a lifetime bereft of lovingkindness. It won't. Any lack a person has reveals itself under the stress of parenthood. Parenthood won't fill a need.

But Maureen Dowd's lament, "What's a Modern Girl to Do?", does not even touch motherhood--which would be her consuming sadness if she possessed one wit of sense. Since she lacks sense, she laments the loss of a mate. She laments young girls playing "the game" to get married. She laments that men don't like intelligent women.

My feeling, after reading her piece, is that Ms. Dowd laments her need for companionship, not just sex "Sex and the City style", and that her choices have left her alone. She laments that selfishness has been its own reward. The Anchoress has more.

Choosing to become a couple might start as a selfish endeavor (I want sex, I want my needs met, I want, I want, I want), but it can't stay that way if it will succeed. My husband and I met in college, dated other people, were friends and found much common ground to build a life together. We loved each other then. The bigger accomplishment is that we love each other today.

Even with that enduring love, speaking for myself here, I find loving my children infinitely easier than loving my husband. They are part of me for one. It might be annoying to hear an uncomfortably familiar turn of phrase with my exact inflection bleating back at me, but who can I blame? Well, there is always the huband to blame, but not if a wife possesses even the least measure of self-awareness. Which on my good days, I sometimes possess.

After a woman works so hard to get a child in the world, love almost seems automatic. (Not for everyone, I know, but it does tend to grow and bloom.) This miraculous being kicked inside of you, shared your chemistry, felt your thoughts, and came out as a person. Childless women get sick of mom's yapping incessently about birth stories. Who cares? Every woman who has gone through that passage and come out the other side. That's who cares.

This process protects a child, because it needs a mother's love to grow healthily. A man, the man you chose to marry? Well...


Do the cliches need to be listed? Simple. Uncivilized. Yup. And the ones who aren't, the dandy with the foppish good looks seem less than reliable when a manly man is needed. Metrosexuals might sound like a good idea, but a woman prefers to complain about her boarish, manly mate rather than be the strongest one in the room should danger come.

Do the primal make-up and inherent needs and weaknesses frighten Ms. Dowd? They must. She looks beautiful, she's intelligent (though lacks some sense), and she's well-put together. Her distress at the DNA and drives have created a force-field no chaos can penetrate.

One of my male friends shared Ms. Dowd's angst. "Melissa, you lose all freedom when you're married."

I countered, "Sometimes boundaries allow us to be truly free."

Have you heard that research? Children who play on a playground without fences stay closer to the school than those who have fences. Why? Because when we feel protected, we can venture further out. The best marriages are like this.

It would be a lie to say that not always getting my way isn't frustrating. It is. I want everything to be my way all the time. Paradise. Or not. Two heads often prove better than one. And sometimes I give in and sometimes the results are better and sometimes they are worse. To think that as a single person, all my decisions would be good ones, though, is delusion. That's the position that must be taken to cling to singlehood as sacred.

And then we get back to parenting. Choosing single parenthood...why? Why would someone choose to do that to him or herself? How many days have I handed a baby to my husband, if even for a moment, to pull myself back together. Parenthood strains every fiber of a person's being some days.

The woman's movement veered wrongly when equal rights for women became the end of men. Some women still believe this. Ms. Dowd didn't think she believed this, but her actions speak otherwise.

A woman cannot, by strength of will, change the essential nature of man. The hormones that shape and change the brain, that make a man twice as strong in his upper body, that create impulses which he must work very hard to contain, don't make a man anti-woman, but they do make him different.

Is the choice then to abandon men wholesale and become lesbians, because women are "safe" and "good"? Please.

No, women like Ms. Dowd, will have to make peace with mankind. They will have to surrender to their own needs and desires, just like a man must to couple with a woman. Oh, just that word, surrender, sends chills up a person's spine.

But truly, the surrender is to be okay with who we are, not who the opposite sex is. I am a woman, fragile and strong, capable of many things, legitimate on my own, desiring companionship and comfort with a man.

Feminists will never win the battle by being pint-sized versions of men. Our strength is not in butch hair-cuts and flannel. It isn't for men, by the way, either.

Our strength is not in youth and beauty alone, but that's part of it (sorry, but it's true). A woman's strength like a man's strength is to recognize her mission and live to the best of her ability to achieve that mission--to truly be herself as a woman.

Marriage to a good man will help her rather than thwart her. Together, they will care for one another, lift one another up, have children together if they are fortunate and desire it, and be better human beings than they would have been alone.

The way of a man with a woman is a mystery, says Solomon. Always has been, always will be. Recognizing the obvious won't set women back to the stone ages, Mo. I promise.
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