I've read a couple of posts about the upcoming Katherine Heigl engine, The Ugly Truth. It got me to thinking about the premise and some advice I've been given in my own life.
One of my education professors once said to me, "Go for older men. You intimidate boys your own age. You're too smart for them." I was a little hurt by his statement because it was presented as a "this is why you'll be alone for the rest of your life" analysis. I was also mildly insulted on behalf of "men [my] own age", but it wasn't the first time I'd been told to aim higher (read: older). A number of older friends had already told me that I was wasting time on boys in my own demographic.
I think I stuck to my guns, but it's true that I've never had much luck with guys my own age. In fact, every guy I've dated has been incrementally older than the last. I don't think that necessarily fulfils the prophecy of my professor and friends.
May-December romances abound in movies and in real life. Usually, the man is older (since it is a huge joke for an older woman to be considered attractive); and whether that's because of an iteration of what my professor told me, or because younger men in this culture are socialized to spread their seed while they can is probably up for debate. Younger women are still socialized to settle down and raise a family, even though they can still get what they want out of a career and social life. There still seems to be something abhorrent about unmarried women in their 30s.
As an unmarried woman who just entered her 30s, I'll admit that there was a time when it sounded OLD to not have a husband and be starting a family. But when I review my 20s, I'm pretty glad that I didn't settle for what I could have had (although, I was dangerously close a couple of times). But the message I often got was about fitting in with a partner's needs and wants. I was told to accept things and suck it up, without reciprocation.
Enter Hollywood. In it's latest schmaltz, The Ugly Truth, we're told that Heigl needs to learn what a man wants in order to have a successful relationship. Of course, all men want the same thing.
Here's my question: If these men are so vastly different from her beliefs and expectations, why would she want them? This isn't the first movie to introduce this premise, either. Even an old fave of mine, Grease, trumpets the same moral: once Sandy sheds her "good girl" image and falls in step with Danny's much cooler crowd, then they can be together. (Yeah, yeah; Danny makes his effort too, by lettering in track, but it's quickly tossed aside when Sandy shows up in skin-tight polyester.)
Insulting to women because we can expect better. We can find life partners (of any gender, depending on your sexuality) without resorting to trickery, gimmicks, or subterfuge. And I firmly believe that a relationship that employs such tactics to get off the ground is a relationship based on a lie. I don't recall being at any weddings recently where the friends and family of the couple told hilarious stories about how the bride tricked the groom into thinking that she was some kind of sex goddess by keeping her hair long, and throwing double-entendres into the conversation, or how she pretended to like soccer until the ring was on her finger, but she secretly hates it and is only waiting for the ink to dry on the marriage certificate before getting the HD disconnected so he can never watch it again. Yet, these are strategies that we're supposed to believe work? And I guess I mean believe in the sense that I've also been led to believe that, during my summer coma, a prince on a horse is going to ride up, cut his way through my overgrown hanging plants, and whisk me away to a life of leisure and luxury: I'm not actually meant to believe in that literal interpretation, but it normalizes the underlying premise.
You know, it's a premise that's insulting to men, too, because they're painted as pretty ignorant, boorish, and vapid. Yup, my boyfriend likes hockey and sex, but I think he'd be pretty chapped about being painted as so one-dimensional that he only wanted a flesh-and-blood blow-up doll and someone to bring him a sandwich during play-offs. Most guys I know would likely joke about wanting that, but quickly stress that it's not what they want long-term.
Which brings me back to the age component. Was my professor (who taught psychology, by the way) trying to tell me that men "my age" (I was 24 at the time) hadn't learned that the blow-up doll wasn't satisfying long-term? Was he saying that their young egos were too fragile to brook oppositional thoughts from a mere woman?
I still call bullshit. I think that it's time for men to do some adapting and accept that women are not going to be the soothing, placating sandwich-makers of yore. I'm sure there will still be women willing to do that for a long time to come. As for me, watching women jump through sexist manufactured hoops in hopes of landing a husband is no longer entertaining.