I am pretty sure that, even as I embark on this post, that I am going to want to hone it in a few months time. But here goes anyway…
As a female, I have grown over the years and changed my view on the men in my life many times over. Some have simply come and gone without so much of a murmur in my life. Some created waves, the ripple effects of which are still around if I sit still enough to perceive them. Some have been as steadfast as rocks, imperceptively moving with me as I have shifted. Some ‘gods’ have fallen and some heroes grown from the ranks.
As a female, I have always gravitated towards male friends. Men who are not of the same ilk have always treated this with suspicion, cynicism or derision. I am sure that, in some of their eyes, it has made for a life of orgies (or something just as sordid). But I have gravitated in that direction in both respect of what men tend to be and away from what particularly younger women tended to be. I found, especially when younger, the men in my life would be straight with me, wouldn’t talk about me behind my back, and (though it pains me to say it) generally talked about less fatuous things. It seemed that hanging out with male friends has always meant less politics, factions or fictions in my life, and I adore(d) that simplicity. I am blessed to have some beautiful ‘sisters’ in my life now, but my long-standing friendships are, historically, with those from the other side.
From that perspective, I find myself sometimes feeling sorry for men these days. I genuinely think they have it tough. They stand on such shifting sand. It has somehow become questionable as to whether or not men should be chivalrous – getting verbally slapped down for offering a woman a seat on public transport. And yet, if they don’t hold the door open for a woman, they almost invariably get glared at. If they offer to buy a drink for a woman, the gesture may be accepted, entirely abused or warrant a speech about financial independence. If they become a stay-at-home parent, they are celebrated but at arms’ length; if they work, they may be told they are not earning enough to support the household.
If that wasn’t enough, we are ALL learning to be open but not naive, vulnerable but not needy, strong but not closed and equally valued in or outside of our differences.
These are complicated times. There is much to recalibrate, some wrongs to be made right, and some boundaries to be re-set. I also know that I write simplistically only about our most ‘privileged’ of societies where this dance is even possible. This is not a post about equal rights or double standards or more.
It just seems that, seeing and hearing the world around me, it feels like someone muddled up the definitions for independence, equality and manners a couple of decades ago. So from this little niche that is my life, to the gentlemen of the world, I thank you for your tenacity in the face of women who are reconfiguring their femininity. If, whilst you offer something chivalrous from a place of good, women forget decent common courtesy and understanding, I thank you for forgiving us.
There are some of us out there who see the shifting sands for both men and for women. As we shuffle our way to better understanding our own stance, we cast a grateful glance to you as you do the same on the other side.