Anne Marie-Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”, has the internet, blogosphere, and all the other cyber-cliches completely atwitter (pun!). When I first read it, the article made me a bit grumpy, then sleepy, then for some reason, a little sneezy, until I finally settled in on feeling doc. (Note to reader: “doc” is Disney-slang for “aroused,” one of their many not-so-subtle sexual innuendos in “children’s” classics).
Actually I’ll confess: I didn’t read the article in its entirety. It’s 15,000 words, and as I’ll try to explain in my response, men don’t exactly have the longest of attention spans, especially for topics that don’t fall within the usual trifecta of fast women, fast cars, and fast….something else (sorry, spaced out for a second). Yet with that said, I did read the various comments and responses to it on my Facebook, Twitter, and Weibo accounts. And of course, I read Juliet’s thoughtful and masterfully-edited response. So as the token man here at The Wheelhouse Review, where I serve as objectified eye-candy at best and sugar daddy at worst, I feel it’s my duty to offer the male response to this trending topic. Try not to get too bashful or “doc” while reading.
Can I have it all? Do I really have to?
As Juliet rightly noted in her post, the question of whether one can “have it all” doesn’t really enter the male psyche at all. When she first asked me this question over lunch, my initial thought was, “Of course. I’m really hungry and this is only a 6-inch sub.” But then when she corrected me and explained what “it” actually was, I wiped my mouth, looked down at the table, and said, “having ‘it all’ sure sounds like a lot of work. I think I’m content with my sandwich for the time being.”
Now this attitude may be evidence of some sort of three-decades-old malaise I’ve personally settled into. Or maybe it’s evidence of Peter Pan syndrome with which I alone am infected, inhibiting my desire to grow up where I would rather pass the time with magic pixies and strangers in green tights. But thinking of the conversations I have with my bros, I don’t think this topic makes it into the old skull box for us much at all.
Juliet does offer some keen insight into gender differences that might account for this when she notes that men’s choices are often unwise, and that as a female, she rarely “encounter[s] a group of women saying to each other, ‘look, you can totally jump from the top of that roof and into the pool. It will be awesome! Just do it! Nothing bad could ever happen.’” Upon reading that I immediately climbed atop my roof and pulled off a sick cannon ball into my neighbor’s hot tub/time machine, and after regaining consciousness was reminded of a quote on this very subject that a wise and humble man once wrote:
“Women are all about subtlety, indirect but powerful signals, and beauty products that make their hair smell worryingly delicious. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more direct, a bit dense, and attracted to shiny objects like glow-sticks and breasts.”
-The Collected Works of Ryan White, Skymall Edition
Not that there aren’t some go-getters amongst us who do think about these things and want to have it all. I’m sort of at a loss for defining what the typical male version of “having it all” would even mean. I suppose there’s the American Dream scenario: marry your high school sweetheart, settle down in a quiet suburban town, in a house with a white picket fence, have 2.3 children, and live off the money earned from charging gawking townspeople to see your freakish one-third of a child. Though between myself and the Neverland brethren I seem to keep company with, I get the impression that we need to be dragged into adulthood and its corresponding responsibilities kicking and screaming.
You’re pregnant? Are you sure it’s mine?
I can think of two reasons we’re not as pressed to think about the whole “having it all,” planning-for-the-future stuff. And they both come back to the b-word: babies. Maybe also boobs…
Dammit, sorry. I seem to get sidetracked and think about stuff like that every 7 seconds or so. Let me get back on track.
See, the first reason why we don’t think about “having it all” is straight up biological. Men simply have a different biological clock. It ticks much slower, has a built in snooze button, and as the barrage of commercials and pop-up ads inform me, can even be set back with the help of a pill (covered by insurance, no less! Obama!).
There probably comes a time in every man’s life when they decide it’s time to procreate and have a baby–as Luca Brasi, would say, may your first child be a masculine child–who can carry on the family name, keep their legacy alive, and provide an outlet for them to vicariously live out their unfulfilled athletic dreams. I’ll admit it’s even in the back of my mind. Like way back, stuffed in the crawl space with the parts that remembers birthdays and table manners. And I would certainly like to have kids before I get to the age where I’d be eating the same kind of soft foods and canned purees as my children—and that’s to say nothing about wearing matching diapers. But so long as I keep remembering to shut the microwave door when in use and not stand directly at crotch-height of it, I’ve got plenty of time.
The second reason is societal. Having non-matching chromosomes I can’t speak to the social pressures women feel to have children. But after reading Juliet’s article and knowing several women myself–at least one of my parents is one, if memory serves me correctly–there certainly does seem to be a push to settle down, get married, and most importantly, crank out some babies if you’re a woman. Otherwise you get tagged as the Old Maid, spinster, or as Juliet said, you’re “doing something wrong.”
If you’re an old and childless man, on the other hand, you’re not some social pariah. Best case scenario people think of you as a swinging bachelor–someone who, even in their twilight years–is unable to be tamed by even the most intoxicating of women. Or worst case scenario, you’re the somewhat unsettling, asexual guy who goes away on an annual vacation the same week each June that family members don’t know and don’t care to know the details about.
So to get back to the question at hand, how do men factor into the whole “having it all” debate? When you look at how “it all” is defined I don’t know if we can or even want to bear that type of burden. I mean we have a pretty sweet deal as of now. We can remain career-focused if we so choose, and as long as we don’t get grotesquely unattractive or lack money to replenish our libidos and/or hair, we’re pretty much set. We can still date younger women who are drawn to the “more mature,” distinguished-looking or professionally accomplished men. In the immortal words of Matthew McConaughey, “That’s what I like about these high school girls; I get older, they stay the same age.” Creepy? Yes. Having it all? You tell me. Dazed and Confused came out in 1993 and Magic Mike opens in a theater near you this month! That’s two decades of Hollywood longevity and truly having it all for the shirtless wonder! I might sell Connie Corleone’s first-born son just for half of that.