Yesterday I had the good pleasure to post on my recent ruminations that ‘love’ had taken a distinctly ‘feminine’ turn since who knows when. This generated a fair bit of response, including some remarks from women themselves who really resonated with what I said. Some responses were of the sort that I feared, though. Taking them all together, I felt a follow up was in order. Unfortunately, the first draft of this ran over 1,500 words, crying out for revision, so it still isn’t going to cover everything that a reader may want.
One of the things I noted about the responses was that it was believed that women were the target of the post. If there was a target, it was the men.
In my post, I had said that the hero in Twilight had the advantage of having real dangers to fight off. I noted, “I mean, I’d hunt down and slay marauding vampires for my wife, too, if only they existed.”
Many of the comments that I heard from women addressed how their men take the time and effort to protect them. Don’t misunderstand me, I think it is great for these things to be recognized as loving. It isn’t only the women that I wanted to get that message, though. We men need to know that these things represent aspects of real love. You see, my hunch is that changing the oil and locking the doors, etc, are a weak replacement- from the point of view of the men- for the glorious battle that they’d prefer.
In short, a ‘man’s expression of love,’ which is what I ponder in the post, is all geared up for slaying dragons in defense of his wife and family and friends… but there are no dragons left to slay for we live in a society that has successfully eradicated dragons. Who can complain? Who wants to live in a world as dangerous as one with dragons? But in truth, I could really use a dragon or two.
Typically, love stories end with, “And they lived happily ever after.” In reality, it is the ‘ever after’ part that really matters. Even if there were a dragon for me to slay, and I did it, and won the hand of the fair maiden, there would still be the years of actually living with her where I would still have to exhibit love. In the story, we see the knight slay the dragon. We don’t get to see the next scene, where the knight wanders around in circles looking for the next dragon.
What does love look like at that point, for a man? The woman is happy enough by the outcome but the man’s warrior instinct doesn’t go away. Now what? That is my question.
I said in the original post that men, even theologically inclined men who should know better, tend to hear the word love and think panzy. I think the reason is that our societal paradigms of ‘love’ tend to focus on the pursuit of the woman and assume that after the pursuit, it’s time to put away the sword and settle down. This paradigm leaves men feeling domesticated, which is ironic since we so often hear about women being drawn specifically to a man’s wildness.
It is my feeling that the actually living out of the ‘happily ever after’ when resting on such a paradigm tends to breed disappointment for both men and women, but for different reasons. The story gives women the opportunity to re-live the thrill, but can they avoid comparing the movie-stud-hero with their couch-spud-husband? Men aren’t as keen on re-living this thrill. Is it because they know it is impossible to measure up to? Or do they feel, perhaps that flowers and sonnets and swooning have their time and place but if the feeling is that romance calls on them to feel that way all the time, they would be, well, wusses?
But that can’t be what real love is like. For us men who care about ordering our lives around the Christian scriptures, for example, we see that love as represented there is, for lack of a better phrase, kick ass.
heh sorry, but it is. How can men be ashamed of loving in that way? But you tell them to ‘love’ and they think you’re going hippie on them. Why?
In one of my replies to the commentators, I said:
“I have a feeling that if we got to the bottom of the issue there wouldn’t be a manly love or feminine love there would just be love, and it would be a term that was robust enough to speak to the deep parts of both genders.”
I believe this. By allowing society to conflate ‘love’ with what happens in just one phase of our existence, the romantic pursuit, we’ve managed to raise up as ‘love,’ something that is completely valid- love as it resonates with women- and treated it as the exhaustive and final treatment of the subject and the ultimate goal. But men experience love differently. Will their feelings be counted as valid, too? I think that men feel a pressure to understand love through the same lens as women do, and this, I think is why men tend to dismiss ‘love’ so quickly. In sum, a ‘feminine love’ is fine for women, but men rebel against it for themselves.
If I’m right, I’m not even sure other men would explain it in these terms. I don’t even know if I’m right. That’s why I’m putting this out there. I believe that it is foolish to dismiss the differences between men and women and their experience of the world and believe that both can add insight that is valid. At the same time one gender will generally appreciate some insights more than others.
But that means that if men are going to share their own unique perspective, they actually have to… you know, talk about it. 🙂 It is my hope that we can get some ‘manly men’ to dispense with their knee-jerk dismissal of ‘love’ as weak and wussy and contribute to our collective understanding of the one love a perspective that we, by virtue of being men, might glimpse or grasp differently than women. We have some really good clues that lead us to realize that there is nothing wussy or panzyish at all about love- not even ‘feminine love. That means we won’t mean discounting the insights that women can offer, too.
I don’t think we’ll be able to recognize the things we have in common until we appreciate the things that are different, even if those differences are only of emphasis, perspective, and expression.
Now if you will pardon me, I’m going to go out in the yard and listen intently for the barbarian hordes. 🙂 Assuming I sense no danger, I shall take out the trash. And I’ll even remember to put a bag back into the trash can. 🙂 Cuz that’s true love, too, and that’s the way I want to roll.