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I was sitting next to two women and hearing snippets of their conversation. The married one was uncertain and disillusioned in her marriage, full of complaints about her husband. It seemed as if he couldn’t do much of anything right: he didn’t do his share of housework or childcare, he always seemed to know when his favorite sports team was on TV but was clueless about anything related to the day-to-day goings-on of making their family tick etc. Her friend, a divorcee, was sympathetic.

The poor guy wasn’t there to defend himself, but the scene resonated with me because I’m in the middle of reading Laura Kipnis’ The Female Thing: Dirt, Envy, Sex, Vulnerability and she addresses this very thing — women’s utter dissatisfaction with men and the friends who will indulge her:

As masculine failure mounts, female disappointment builds — though at least there are the consolations of female solidarity, meaning that when a woman vents about a man, another woman will invariably cheer her on with her own tale of frustration or disappointment, a comforting female-bonding ritual. What’s problematic about women’s scorn for men isn’t that it’s necessarily undeserved, it’s that it’s so steeped in disavowal. Disavowal not only takes a lot of useless intellectual effort that could be devoted to other things, but is self-deceiving. Self-deception is deforming. tweet

Q: What is this crucial quality men are meant to supply, to plug up those fissures in female well-being? A: Whatever’s being asked of them at the moment. which is to say: more commitment, more sensitivity, more “I love you”s; more housework, togetherness, attention … What do women want from men? More. tweet

Is that true? Do we gals  just want more?

Are single women upping the ante?

Women certainly want more from marriage, as studies have shown. We want a partner “in every sense of the word.” But what about women who aren’t married or who may not even be interested in marriage, or were married and are no longer interested in marriage but would like to have a romantic partner, either live in or live apart? Are women upping the ante on the men they date and become romantically involved with?

For sure, we want an employed man and even if he makes enough to support himself, we often want him to make more than we do. The later may matter more to women who want to have children, but at my age a man who can support himself is all that really matters for most — not all — women. Oh, and his man parts have to work. Really! And, we probably aren’t too interested in becoming a nurse with a purse.

I am recently back in the dating world and so a friend introduced me, via texts, to an age-appropriate man she’d met and thought was attractive. Fair enough. So, he and I spoke on the phone and within three minutes I learned about two huge purchases he’d just made, including a vacation home; within a half hour, I knew all about his house (huge and multistory), financial situation (well-to-do), the boat, the multiple road and mountain bikes, the six-figure sports car, and etc., etc. It really turned me off and I was hesitant to meet but I decided to be open minded. He was a nice enough person, but was either clueless, which is somewhat forgivable, or someone whose identity is wrapped up in his money and stuff, which is to be avoided at all costs.

Looking through some online dating profiles, I found similar disappointing displays of men’s wealth and stuff — with hopes (dictates?) that the women who contact them (or at least the ones they respond to) shouldn’t be overly controlling (I guess a little is OK?), or high maintenance, or high drama. I can’t speak for the controlling thing, but I can pretty much guarantee that if a man’s profile speaks more to his financial situation versus who he is as a person and what he believes in, he’s destined to attract women who want him for his wealth and stuff, and thus may indeed involve some maintenance and drama. I love my sisters but I also know how these things go.

Taking responsibility

It seems like some — many? — of us are still stuck in an unhappy mindset of wanting someone else to give us what we want, or think we need. Which, of course, just sets us up for disappointment and frustration — whether you are a “masculine failure” or are involved with one, or are a man whose self-worth is about glitz and stuff or are a woman attracted to that.

And that’s where Kipnis’ discussion of disavowal — our refusal to take any responsibility in our decisions — speaks loudly to me. I think it works both ways, though. Yes, women do want more from men. Men have their list of wants, too, and men who have power and money seem to want less of women (well, less drama and maintenance for sure, and often less ambition); more femininity may be fine, however.

Which means men and women have upped the ante. Shouldn’t men and women own up to that?

Want to get what you want from marriage? (Of course you do!) Then read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore or order it on Amazon.


2 Responses to “What do women want, Part II”

  1. Jono says:

    As a joke with some truth in it I would answer the question to other men with, “They want it all and they want it now.”

  2. Rob says:

    As this article illustrates, middle-aged American women are totally unrealistic and have a very inflated opinion of their worth to men – at least in the online dating world where I tend to hang out. I avoid them like the plague – except to use them for short-term fun. No way I would ever marry one of these entitled princesses. Foreign women are much better and way less entitled. Some of them are worthy of an LTR but, of course, not marriage since there is nothing in it for men.

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