Somewhere between mainstream religion, university courses in gender politics and an emotionally absent male parent I developed a bit of a bad attitude about men. I assume things about them – bad things – and while I know that, intellectually, it’s wrong to judge people on the basis of their gender (what a hypocrite, right?) and I personally know plenty of men who defy this stereotype (my husband, for one) one visit to my gym, the sight of a woman in a burka or having a man drive by me and make a tyre sound with his lips, and these feelings resurface.
But now and again something will happen that slaps me upside the head and makes me realize that the good guys – Per, ex-boyfriends, male friends I love and respect – are as victimized as I am by a system that expects them to do and be certain things. And I’m grateful for these moments because being angry is exhausting. I wish they would happen more. So, here’s what happened: Per’s best friend is a member of what my friend Vanessa calls the lucky sperm club. Looks-wise, he’s something of a genetic freak – dark tan, piercing blue eyes, insanely straight, white teeth. He’s a very good-looking guy. Plus, he’s honest and kind and forthcoming, and he’s like family and we adore him.
So, a few Sundays ago he comes over for lunch and we’re hanging out by the pool when he starts telling us about how, in one day, two different women approached him at gym and invited him out for coffee. But not in a braggy, look-at-me way, rather in a contrite, ashamed kind of way because, as he went on to explain, he was so taken aback and intimidated that he didn’t know what to do, and even though he would have liked very much to go out for coffee (he’s between relationships and a little lonely and would love to meet the right woman), he mumbled his excuses and they went away. Now he’s berating himself for being such a wuss, and while I understand wussdom very well, I would never associate it with him. He is the kind of guy I would definitely make assumptions about. And they would be wrong.
I don’t know who these women were, and again, I’m assuming things, but if I put myself in their shoes, I imagine it took a fair amount of courage to approach the hot guy on the stationary bike, and I can only imagine that when he said no the last thing on their minds was the possibility that he was shy. They probably thought it was because he thought they were unattractive which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve been thinking about this story ever since, and how many times in my life I must have judged men and drawn erroneous conclusions based on my own baggage and ‘stuff.’
Who knew men (never mind hot men) were so easily flustered and daunted by women? I, for one, did not. And I’m glad I do, and I’ll try to check myself the next time I’m tempted to judge somebody because he happens to have a penis. I promise.