back to the Black Table

 I’m on the job hunt these days, and a friend of mine just quit her job. This piqued my interest because, it occurs to me, I will eventually have to eat. The job isn’t really ideal - six months ago, I wouldn’t have considered taking it - but it’s with a respected publication and would likely be somewhat fun. Plus, it is a job, with a desk and phone and copy machine and everything. It has been a while since I’ve had such amenities.

My friend, however, thinks I would be a fool to take it. “I quit this job to go into this job market. Doesn’t that tell you anything?” She has a point. Right now, even the rats in New York are filing for unemployment. I tried to explain to her that I am tired of being unemployed and simply must find work. She wouldn’t have it. She said the job was demeaning and demoralizing and degrading and any other progressive adjective with the de- prefix, save for maybe detoxifying. It will break your spirit, she said. It’s a bunch of delusional balding men trying to hang on to their waning libidos, she said. You’ll hate it there.

Then she paused. “Well, though, you’re a guy. It might be easier for you.”

I knew immediately what she meant, but I can’t figure out whether or not to agree with her. I know what she was trying to get across: that it was a work environment that perhaps isn’t as accommodating to women as it is to men (which I think is classified as “illegal,” but hey, never you mind). And I wasn’t sure if I should be insulted by the implication. Would I be complicit, a willing party, if I benefited from an environment that excludes women? (And jeezus, boys, the ’50s are over. You can’t even smoke in a movie theater anymore.)

These are all fascinating questions, really - they are, honest - but, me being me, her comment got me thinking about myself, and myself only. It affected me less on the Should-I-Take-This-Job-If-Offered front and more on the Wait ... I’m-A-Guy? front

The concept that there is some fundamental difference between the sexes, something deep down, ingrained, either through nature or nurture, a little pink or blue dot in the middle of our brains that determines how we see the world, is one that has always frustrated me.

It’s always been my belief - and feel free to mock here, because everybody does - that men and women are essentially the same. We all just want happiness, and peace, and comfort. We might go about it differently on occasion, but jeez, we’re all on the same team here. But no one ever agrees with me.

I missed the guy handbook they evidently handed out in the eighth grade, along with the What’s Happening to My Body? book. I don’t think of myself as some member of an enormous fraternity, a man before I’m a human. I mean, I can barely grow facial hair, I really love Meryl Streep and I often refer to my cat as “little kitty-witty-teensy-weensy.” If I’m supposed to be a representative of some guy culture by my very existence, I think I’m doing a very poor job. Heck, sometimes, get this, I even talk about my feelings.

But the rest of the world doesn’t seem to see it that way. And I wonder if I have a choice. I will admit, there are most certainly benefits I have received only because I am a guy, most of which I’ve never noticed and likely never will. But I didn’t sign up for this. I’m just a person, like everybody else.

I fail the guy test in every way. I’ve never been in a fight. I own no weaponry. Wrestling and NASCAR confuse me. I don’t spit in public. I worry about my weight. I’m not sensitive about my penis size (OK, maybe a little).

These are all stereotypes, urban legends, myths passed down through the generations. (When did they become hard, real ways to live our lives?) But I’ll never be able to live them down.

Put it this way: I was out with some friends the other evening, and one of them, a student, mentioned that she was working on a paper. She asked everyone she knew a question. If you found out your significant other had developed a deep emotional attachment to someone of the opposite sex, would it bother you more than if he/she had meaningless sex with someone he/she hardly knew?

The student claimed that of the 50-some-odd people she asked, every single woman said she would be more bothered by the deep emotional connection, and every single man said he would be more bothered by the sex. She revealed this after she’d polled us, and, lo and behold, her postulate proved accurate. The four women didn’t care so much about the sex, and the two guys (myself included) did, quite so. The student was quite pleased with herself, convinced she’d stumbled across a universal truth.

I dissented, strongly. Listen, I calmly explicated, the reason I give that answer is not that I’m a guy. Don’t we, as humans, have the right, no, the duty, to develop as many “deep emotional connections” with as many people as possible? If I recognize someone as some sort of kindred spirit, male or female, why is it wrong for me to pursue a relationship - and by “relationship,” I mean an exploration of another person’s mind and thought processes, not anything sexual - with them? Isn’t it inherently flawed thinking to limit ourselves to enjoying the company of only one person, female or male? Would a girlfriend of mine object to me making a new male friend? Isn’t the real betrayal sex, and cheating, and lying?

For not the first time, the group of women laughed at me. “Guy,” they said. “You’re just a guy, and you’re full of shit, and you know it.”

See what I’m up against here?



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