February 2009

He Said She Said "The Blame Game"

Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton

He Said

I helped a friend install a home theater system in her den after the Thanksgiving holiday while she was having a small get together with some of her female friends. Her husband and I go way back, and I was pleased to help her out while he was out of town. So, there I was, popcorn in hand, watching Top Gun, the absolute best movie to test a surround system with, when suddenly I found myself surrounded by 10 women who wanted to know why the Lowcountry dating scene is so horrible. They also wanted to know what happened to all the nice guys willing to commit. Who was to blame: Men or women?

They were an attractive group of successful women any man would love to have on his arm—especially that young lady who looked like Scarlett Johansson. Talk about stunning. One of you cats in Bluffton had better snatch her up quick before some smooth talking dude from Boston does.

Anyway, I asked them if I could be brutally honest. They said yes. I asked if they could really handle the truth. Again, they assured me that they would not flay the flesh from my bones when I gave them my brutally honest opinion. I gave the room a quick scan, looking for anything that might constitute a weapon, and once I hid the five remote controls for the various electronic devices, I pressed forward.

I told them that while I sympathized with their plight, they had only women to blame. Well, maybe not the group assembled in my friend’s den per se, but their counterparts back in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Remember the liberated women? They were the women who could not only bring home the bacon; they would fry it up in a pan as well. Now, that seems harmless when you look at it on the surface because, after all, what man doesn’t like fried bacon? Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll see the very fabric of society start to unravel. As usual, when society’s fabric starts to unravel, you’ll find a woman gleefully pulling on the exposed threads.

The women in my friend’s den started to pummel me with pillows, and I saw one woman try to unscrew a table leg. Luckily for me, their arms eventually got tired and I was able to continue. Why do women resort to violence when they hear the truth? Don’t shoot the messenger, ladies.

The fact remains that those women not only brought home and fried said bacon; they also pushed the notion that the modern man needed to become more “sensitive,” be in touch with his feelings and his feminine side.

They encouraged men to communicate with women—to be willing to open up and share their feelings. Alan Alda and Phil Donahue were held up as prime examples of the new modern man. Don Knotts was also celebrated as a modern, sensitive male until he accepted the role of Ralph Furley on Three’s Company.

While these liberated women were encouraging men to wear pastel colored shirts and drink lattes with their pinkies extended, they were busy telling women that it was now okay to date men that weren’t exactly marriage material. They said it was because a woman needed to explore all her options and go through her “bad boy” phase before she settled down with her eventual husband. The memberships in most motorcycle gangs went through the roof when the news began to spread that it was en vogue to date a man from the wrong side of the tracks.

Sensitive men extending their pinkies and sharing their feelings while sipping a latte? Women needing to go through a phase where they dated bad boys before settling down? Do these sound like good ideas to you? Well, it’s too late to close the barn door now; the horse is long gone. But those two notions persist to this day

Those responsible for the current debacle, those bacon frying liberated women… I’m sure if you were to ask them, they’ll stick to their guns and say that their ideas haven’t hurt society, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But don’t just take my word for it; look around.

The men who embraced all that psycho babble about getting in touch with their feelings and being more sensitive are today’s “nice guys.” These guys have not only placed women on a pedestal; they’ve placed themselves up there, too. These fellows believe that they are vastly superior to other men, that they are better at relationships, and because of their “niceness” are more deserving of a woman’s romantic attentions. These sensitive modern men also believe that women should approach them, reversing several centuries of tradition when the man would approach the woman. Because any man who was in touch with his feminine side wouldn’t want to be seen as overly aggressive and macho, right?

So, when women ask, “Where are all the nice guys?” I point out to them that he’s probably right under your nose waiting for you to make the first move and approach him. He’ll be the chap sipping a latte, wearing yellow slacks with his pinkie extended. Is it any wonder these guys have problems meeting women?

Truth be told, despite this being the 21st century and all, women still want men to be MEN. Sure, some women will deny it but, with women, the trick is to not only listen to what they say. More importantly, you have to watch what they do and what they respond to. That means that, just like in the past, a man must be assertive, confident, decisive, action-oriented, determined, aggressive and willing to go after what he wants. In other words, he should be a MAN. These are the traits that the majority of women still respond to.

In today’s society, those traits sometimes come in guise of the “bad boy.” Unfortunately, more often than not, he’ll also be a liar and a cheat which is what the nice guys point to when they say women are crazy for bypassing them. Coupled with the newfangled notion that women should actually seek liaisons with bad boys, you see the nice guy’s dilemma. He’s waiting for Ms. Right to notice what a wonderful and sensitive guy he is. Meanwhile, Ms. Right is on the back of some bad boy’s motorcycle en route to Miami for the weekend.

But I don’t begrudge women for dating bad boys. Women find bad boys exciting. They always have and probably always will. Women like being with impulsive, thrill-seeking men who have an edge—the same way that men desire to be with gorgeous and shapely, fun-loving women. It’s probably hardwired in the genes of both sexes. Nice guys should be fun and exciting and be the kind of man women want to take home to meet the parents, as well as the man they want to run off to Miami with. The bad boys don’t have a monopoly on testosterone, you know. You can be manly without being a liar and a jerk.

I just say that women need to be prepared to accept the consequences of dating bad boys when things go south. I understand that sometimes you get the wool pulled over your eyes, but you ladies have to admit that you generally know who the bad boys are and you still give them the time of day. Men do the approaching; women do the choosing. If all the men who approach you are of the bad-boy variety, remember to thank your bacon-frying counterparts who made it seem like a crime for an ordinary Joe to approach a woman.

If those liberated women of the ’70s were really smart, they would have encouraged men to be bold, adventurous gentlemen instead of telling women that it would be okay to go through a bad-boy phase. They also should have canned the sensitive man nonsense. Talk about a load of rubbish. But Alan Alda and Phil Donahue laughed all the way to bank.

Dating, like fishing is relatively easy for those willing to put in the time and effort. Does the fisherman argue with the fish over what kind of bait the fish responds to? No. The fisherman gives the fish what the fish wants to get the fish on the hook. In dating, you win when you give the opposite sex what they want.

The truth is that dating was easier before women got involved with their tinkering and trying to improve things. Men need to be men, warts and all, and women need to be cool with that. Women should date the men they want, but they should stop all the whining when the man they picked turns out to be a dud.

But don’t try and tell an angry bunch of pillow wielding women that.

She Said

In writing this month’s counterpoint, I realize that I am a spoiled columnist. Because of Keith’s dedication to a deadline and my chronic procrastination, I nearly always get to write my perspective on the given topic after reading his submission. After penning this month’s rebuttal, I returned to the beginning to add this caveat, because Mr. Kelson’s point of view is so skewed and baseless that I felt I needed to exempt him slightly, explain my debating advantage and then proceed with wiping the floor with my rhetoric on the topic of “Who is to Blame”.

I abhor hearing dialog regarding the disadvantages to the women’s liberation movements of the last 100 years, and I trust that Mr. Kelson included that particular jab in an effort to get blood boiling. Hey ladies, buy the bacon, fry it up, serve it with a mimosa at brunch with your friends, raise the pigs if you’d like. It’s not a matter of having our proverbial pork and eating it too… it’s a matter of EQUALITY!

Although it feels like a stab to the jugular each and every time, I am often asked, “Why are you still single?” To which, I answer “ugh, hum, well, jeez, oh, ah?!” There is no answer which placates the nosy inquirer. I could come up with countless excuses and rationale for why girls like me are still single, but the most logical is that we want to be.

This is not to say we don’t want relationships, because many of us do. I think that most of the single girls I know keep their status that way by choice. I’ve often said that if I wanted a boyfriend, he wouldn’t be that hard to come by; it’s a matter of getting the right person at the right time. Women who are fully capable of taking care of themselves do not need to settle for a man who isn’t the right one. A sentiment echoed by Beyonce’s new anthem for the single girl, “If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.” Most of us have the memory of the one that got away and remember the sting, the one who broke our heart. But the bottom line is that it really only takes ONE, and many women hope that one is forever.

There is no such thing as a “bad boy phase.” So called bad boys make a great boyfriends and husbands to women who meet their needs and whose needs are met in return. A “bad boy phase” is just a polite way of explaining that you made some poor decisions at the time. When you know better, you do better. The term “bad boy” is defined on a sliding scale; what seems like a bad boy to one woman is another women’s knight in shining armor.

Pop culture has elevated the stereotypes of what it means to be “good guy” or a “bad boy” to such a ridiculous level that men should be insulted these simple categorizations. There are countless examples throughout politics and history of those who possess traits of a “good guy” screwing you over just as quickly as the “bad boy.” On the flip side, “bad boys” who make a change for the better or step out of their naughty role to help, love or save someone else make the best heroes both in and out of the movies. But let me be clear: Women aren’t looking a cliché of a man. Regardless of what type of bad he may be, just don’t enter into the relationship with the notion that YOU are going to change even one dirty sock on a man. American playwright Jean Kerr wrote, “The only thing worse than a man you can’t control is a man you can.” Any women going into a relationship with the expectation of change, is always going to be disappointed one way or another.

This brings us to the matter of dating in the Lowcountry—a topic that I, as a single woman, have analyzed over numerous glasses of cabernet on countless occasions with my other single friends. We have drawn much the same conclusion as Mr. Kelson’s friends were left pondering. However, the sweeping generalization, “There are no guys on Hilton Head,” does start to become a self-fulfilling prophecy when local ladies get together. It is my belief that you get from the world what you put out there for others; so if you are indeed authentically looking for the right person (not just a fling), than he or she is, in fact, on some level looking for you, too.

A single girl New Year’s resolution should be that anything is possible if you have the right attitude about yourself. Your mother knew best when she said, “You’re never going to get anywhere with that attitude.” Ladies should banish talk of looking or feeling fat in exchange for a long walk together and a sweet compliment to one another. Curb nights of bar hopping in the hopes of finding the right guy for the weekend or a lifetime; instead evenings motivated by friendship, shared interests and entertainment should prevail. Women’s lib did teach us that we can have it all. Depending on what defines “all” for you, the right guys are out there.

But please remember that this is a small island and many single girls roam the streets on Saturday night. Pointing fingers in an effort to pin the blame on one gender or another is certainly a typical pastime among local singles. Cases can be made and defended from either perspective. I’m not sure if Phil Donahue or Alan Alda have as much influence on the current generation of bachelors as Mr. Kelson would have you believe, and I’m sure some fellas reading this right now are probably Googling Alan Alda to figure out who Mr. Kelson was even referencing.

Iconic single girl, Carrie Bradshaw (whose status became married at the conclusion of the Sex and The City movie) said it best, “…the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

I couldn’t agree more!

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