I Married Men

Think of all of the men-bashing, degrading, condescending, unfair descriptions you’ve heard used to describe men. Then add a dress. That’s who I married.

Recently, I came to an important realization. I married men. Well, not literally. I married people who embody biologically female characteristics, but that’s about where it ends. Think of all of the men-bashing, degrading, condescending, unfair descriptions you’ve heard used to describe men. Then add a dress. That’s who I married.

Okay, I was actually only married once. The second time wasn't a legal marriage, but close enough. When I got divorced, I immediately fell into another relationship. Yes, I read all the books that extolled the virtues of letting time pass before getting heavily involved with someone else—giving myself time to grieve the marriage, get in touch with my needs, discover who I am, all that stuff. But I figured I was smart enough to deal with all that. And besides, she seemed so different from the woman I was divorcing.

(Insert portentous organ music here.) But she wasn’t. At first she was nice, maybe for three months. Then she turned into another man, just like the first one. I was an idiot. But what can you do? My marriage lasted ten years, and the next relationship lasted three years—long enough for me to think of myself as married to her, legal or not. Maybe if I keep progressing at the same rate, my next bad relationship will only take thirty-three percent as long for me to figure out that I’m involved with another man. I can dream.

You know those Mars and Venus books? The ones that say men are really kind of judgmental, power-motivated, status-obsessed jerks—then try to say that men are just “different,” not jerk-like? The Mars and Venus descriptions of men show them to be people who are from a planet where the feelings and needs of someone they supposedly love don’t really matter and in fact are simply manifestations of weakness. These are people not from Mars or Venus—but from Uranus, if you know what I mean. These are the kind of people I married.

The typical pattern of interaction went something like this: I would be doing laundry or cooking dinner or painting a nice stencil border in the kitchen, and they would make another overly critical, nasty, demeaning, insulting, hostile remark about what I was doing. I would usually respond by noting that they were being unfair. At this point, the first one (for the sake of her anonymity and so she doesn’t sue me, let’s give her a name, say, “Alyson” with a “y,” not an “i”) would tell me that I was being too damned defensive. In contrast, the second one (for the same reasons we’ll call her “Debbie,” with an “i-e” rather than a “y”) would tell me that I was being too damned sensitive.

Defensive. Sensitive. Night. Day. You can see why it took me so long to see the similarities. I may be a tiny bit slow, but I make up for it by being a slight touch phlegmatic. These were women who would rather spend hours stumbling around in the dark than change a lightbulb. They never cleaned up their hair in the bathroom and didn’t squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube. The sink looked like it was used by some kind of monster that spit hairy, sticky, mint-scented greenies everywhere. Neither of them would even bother to change the toilet paper roll when it ran out. Never. Not once, not ever. Even my male friends, who think I’m giving our gender a bad name by being a bit too nice, react to this news by shaking their heads and saying, “Women who don’t replace the toilet paper ... man, that’s harsh.”

Once, the second one, (“Debbie,” with an “i-e”) gave me her definition of men. We were having what seemed to be a perfectly pleasant lunch together, and she blurted out that typical men are “burping, farting, foul-mouthed, selfish creeps who only care about watching football and reaching orgasm first.” I have no idea where this came from (because I’m nothing like that), but I wanted to be supportive of her and not judgmental. (I’ve actually read those Mars and Venus books!) So I asked her to elaborate. “Screw you!” she shouted back while tossing most of her chef salad at me. By then I had lost my appetite, as I’m sure our lunch guests had as well.

But you know the ironic thing about this whole lunch episode? (Which level of irony? you might ask.) Take out the football from her description, and she could be describing herself. Yep, she burped, farted, swore, and as a lover, she wanted to get off quickly, then push me away and go to sleep. On the rare occasions when she even noticed that things weren’t quite satisfying for me, she would roll her eyes and ask, “What, not done yet?” Then she’d shrug and say, “That’s your problem.” Not done? Half the time I wasn’t even undressed yet. I definitely believe in being a giving lover, but who did she think I was, John-Monica Lewinski?

Come to think of it, that lunchtime tirade could also have been describing the first one (“Alyson” with a “y”). Sure, there were major differences. “Debbie,” with an “i-e” liked watching basketball, and “Alyson” with a “y” preferred baseball. Of course, neither one would ever admit to resembling that description. But isn’t desperately avoiding any kind of productive self-reflection a classic Mars-like trait?

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