The commenters wailed about the lack of decent men over sixty. “Almost every man in my age range seems very bigoted, racist and mysognistic, as well. I promised myself long ago to avoid contact with anyone like that. Those traits rarely change,” said one woman. Others complained about other aspects of older men, and then men in general. Men at any age.
It’s the universal complaint. As though there was a time in our history when the country was chock-full of “good men” and suddenly they all went down the tubes.
A tube that big, someone would have noticed by now. Disappearing good men being sucked into Infinity by a vacuum tube somewhere in downtown Manhattan?
Surely some wag would have reported it. “Hey Joey!!! Lookit the big effin’ TUBE! Holy cow. So dis is where all da good men go, huh?”
No tubes. The “good men” didn’t disappear.
Nor did all the “good women.”
Good Old Days
The universal notion that there was some magical time in our distant or recent history when men were men and women were women (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean any more)is as much a lie as the notion of Prince Charming. Or the so-called “perfect woman.” There never was nor will there ever be any such thing. There is, however, the perfect person for us, right now, as we are. Whatever we draw to us- whether in marriage or in mad sexual abandon or purely in friendship, that person is perfect. Like it or not. That includes abusers, harridans, people with one oar out of the water.
Women who wail about the lack of good men are all too often, IMHO, setting the bar so high that no one can possibly meet that standard. A “good man” is variously defined by a thousand thousand characteristics. What makes a guy good for me makes him an asshole to you. For example, my guy, who is 17 years my junior, puts in major gym time. For someone who isn’t a gym pig like me, that can be time taken away from togetherness. It’s the same time I’m punching iron across town. We both have very high standards for our physical fitness, and that’s part of what makes us perfect for each other. If you are jealous of time that a man spends taking care of himself to be fit, you might see that as being selfish. For my part, that’s what makes my guy sexy as hell and interesting to me. I’d rather French kiss a bulldog on my couch than be with a sloppy guy with a big belly who hasn’t seen the gym in forty years. But then, that’s me. My guy likes a woman with serious muscles and a flare for flinging herself out of airplanes, off bridges, and taking epic chances. He has no interest in coming with me (fine by me) but he loves my stories.
Men- especially older men who grew up in the fifties and sixties, are all too often in search of the Mrs. Cleaver model of womanhood. While I’m sure some exist, that expectation is not only a little out of step with the times but also likely to lead to a lot of frustration. Many of today’s older women have been living independently for years and aren’t likely to want to start cleaning sh*t stains out of your underwear. Let’s be frank, folks, people have better things to do. At any age. Sometimes we have to give up our notions of what we think we are owed based on gender roles and join the 21st Century. The rules have changed, and if we don’t adapt we can become very bitter.
Women who live in that La La Land of the Perfect Man have seen way too many Disney movies. We’re all flawed. We all fart. We all suffer from our various idiosyncratic habits that can drive someone to distraction. We slurp our food or leave our clothes scattered all over the house (this isn’t such a bad thing if wild sex is involved, I’ve tripped on many a discarded thong and my partner has nearly impaled himself on a five-inch stiletto).
Taking Someone On as a Project
Nobody likes to be seen as in need of an overhaul. Women too frequently see a man as a project to be finished at some future date. That’s patently unfair. He is what he is, and if you don’t love that right now you’re going to be wickedly unhappy. You can’t fix someone. You can grow together, with life carving and changing and forming you both. But neither partner has the right to force change on anyone else. We want to be enough as we are, right now. If we ourselves decided to evolve, grow, develop, then the invitation is for you to come along. I don’t want to be seen as little more than “scaffolding,” and neither do you.
By the same token, it’s not fair for a man to decide he wants a woman to be someone else. I had a boyfriend who wanted me to become the woman he loved before me. “Be Mary,” he demanded. Really?
Another demanded that I starve until I looked like Cher. Um NO. Grow the hell up.
Plenty of Good Men Everywhere
There are many good men left. I can testify. Having been single most of my adult life I’ve dated plenty of them. Each was perfect in his own way. Deeply flawed, just like I am. Each one of my exes is a prince. That we didn’t work out is meaningless. The beauty of each of these men is that they decided to share a chunk of their lives with me, and with that came a number of gifts: life lessons, insight, perspective. Perfect for the time we had.
They still are.
The answer to where are all the good men lies in the question. That anyone needs to ask the question in the first place implies that most men aren’t worth knowing. I’ve had my share of first class abusers, jerks, and even rapists. Those men taught me a lot too, and the only way to heal instead of hate is to understand that each of those experiences have made me who I am today. Just as every relationship a man has in some way sculpts and forms him, hopefully for the better.
We are surrounded by plenty of good men and women. Part of our challenge is to stop seeking Perfect and be open to Perfect for Me. I seriously doubt that my guy, who met me at 38 when I was just turning 55, ever imagined himself with a 65-year-old woman. But here we are. I am what he was looking for, I just didn’t come in a younger package. In fact, he has a very hard time keeping up, and every so often he comments that he needs to read more to be able to keep up his side of the conversation. I don’t put that on him. That’s his choice. I like him just the way he is, right now, the whole package. After eleven years I still get the chills when his car drives up into my driveway. Man, that’s something else again. By this time lots of folks have lost the excitement. That’s not luck. That takes work. Work we’re both willing to invest.
We are Under Construction Our Whole Lives
My best friend Paul is a wildlife fireman. I had a serious crush on him for a while. We were roommates for three years. He had a terrible alcohol problem and got busted for his fourth DWI just as he was completing his fireman training. He spent six months in jail and nearly committed suicide. Lots of folks would have given up on Paul. However he not only pulled through, but he also pulled himself up by his bunkers and got sober. He’s now the wildlands supervisor, a much respected leader, and a bona fide hero.
Anyone else who might have met him back when I did would have considered him a loser. These days, Paul is fam. I’d take a bullet for the man. He saved my life one day when I had serious heat exhaustion riding my bike in the mountains. He really is a hero. We never know who we are going to become, and how the shit we pile into our lives is going to become fertilizer for the people we are meant to be. He’s a very, very good man.
I might note here that part of what makes him such a good man is the price he paid for his mistakes. When his crew has alcohol issues, he’s been there. He understands. That’s priceless. His past crap made him who he is today, which is a much beloved leader. You earn that. As a one time military leader I get that.
There are plenty more out there just like Paul. Just as there are plenty of good women. Many of us are good-people-in-training. We get better by virtue of those relationships which provide the crucible on which we learn. Some don’t. Those who spend their time blaming previous exes and wallowing in bitterness are doomed to repeat past mistakes if for no other reason than they want to be right about how “all women” or “all men” are assholes or bitches.
You can be right about that, or you can be open, soft and curious about what the river of life delivers on your emotional doorstep. My guy and I have had wicked ups and downs. We’ve broken up ten times. And yet here we are. We’re perfect for each other. For now. We don’t know what’s coming and neither do you. What I do know is that making a blanket statement about the other sex is guaranteed to color your view of the “perfect man” or “perfect woman” who shows up next. You won’t even see them. (The update? He left for someone else. Life goes on.)
And what a pity. Just think of all the fun you could have had in the meantime while you were searching for something that patently doesn’t exist. You might discover that Perfect was right under your nose.