I have not yet lived a long life, but I feel that I have lived enough of one to have a relatively firm grasp on the human species, especially within my age group, especially of the female persuasion, given that I am, in fact, a female human being.
For most of this young life of mine, men have been a mystery to me. Not a grossly unsolvable mystery, not a murky mathematical or scientific problem, but an esoteric, magical fantasy. They were unusual, strange beings whose presence always filled me with that perfect mixture of excitement and nausea.
While my female friends and I seemed to grow and develop in perfect unison, our male counterparts seemed to be taking life in drastically different steps, alternating between exposing and concealing various aspects of their personalities as they hit hurdles that we, the women, seemed to get over much more easily.
We were running through our early twenties like it was a marathon, while they were stopping and starting in torturous sprints that seemed both ostentatious and idiotic. We, in response, were alternately impressed and/or repulsed.
The steady pace of early womanhood, the constant sense of community, friendship and sisterhood has been the main backdrop to my life. Every event in my life, both good and bad, has been set against this safety net of fellow women. At times when life has baffled me, made no sense to me, presented terrifying prospects to me, my women have always been there.
And so, as men continued to be a mystery to me, I always had this pool of similarly confused yet amused women to soundboard with. We talk. Oh, man, do we talk.
As teenagers we passed notes that would have made Austen proud with their anguish, detail and romanticism of daily life. As college students, we talked loudly over cheap beer and cigarettes, flirting with new ideas of sexuality and feminism, watching as women we idolized began to take over the world.
As women in our twenties, we converse on a new level of forthcoming honesty. It’s brutal, it’s harsh, it’s downright cruel at times, but there is nothing we feel we cannot say. We have realized that we have the freedom to say anything in our blessed circle of female secrecy and solidarity.
Gossip is a dirty word. We are truth-tellers, truth-spillers, truth-talkers. We will not be silenced.
Our favorite TV shows are Girls, Broad City, Orange Is the New Black and so on, and so forth. Women, talking about women, being dirty and loud and absolutely loving it.
While we’ve been busy forging our new relationship with language, what have the men been up to? Ending relationships, apparently. In the past 18 months, I have witnessed countless breakups in my closest circles of friends where the woman has been completely and utterly blindsided.
He was harboring doubts for months, never told me, then ended it. Out of the blue. He was panicking about his past, present and future, so decided that he couldn’t maintain a relationship. He was jealous of my success, so figured I would be fine without him anyway. He feared I would leave him eventually, so is leaving me now. The list goes on…
I always chime in with my regular doses of support, aggression, compassion -- whatever is needed to get my woman through the inevitable dark patch that swoops in after a breakup.
But what about these men? What has happened in the growth and development of young men that they cannot vocalize or communicate their problems until it’s too late?
Why is it that we could tell our life story to a hairdresser or a bartender or any human willing to listen, but men appear to be unable to discuss minor details with the person they allege to love?
I have seen too many cases of men hitting 25/26 and deciding to start dropping bombs on their lives because they’re suddenly terrified of everything. I have consoled and been consoled because women are blindsided by men who create illusions that they have everything together but are secretly falling apart.
If my calculations are correct, this is a symptom exclusive to the male quarter-life crisis, and I’m not sure I can take part in it any longer. As much sympathy as I feel for those who cannot articulate their own minds (something which is practically a hobby of mine) I also find it to be a terrible nuisance and quite a hindrance to forming meaningful relationships.
In my last two months of singledom, I have declared many obscenities that have since been retracted, but there is one thing that remains unchanged. I need a man who can talk.
The earlier version of this was “I need a man with no problems,” but that’s not the issue. Everyone has problems, fears, doubts, moments of total insanity.
But keeping those bottled up is what causes hurt, pain, and chaos. So I need a man who can talk like a woman. A man who can talk like me.
When discussing this theory of mine with my mother, my guru, my guide to everything in life, she rolled her eyes, sighed and said, “Oh, they’ll be fine when they’re finished.”
To which I replied, “Finished what, mother?” She set down her mug of tea (glass of wine) looked me square in the eye and almost whispered, “Growing up.”
Is that all it will take? If that’s the case, we need to be aiming for men over 30 who have gotten all of this nonsense out of their system, or just camp out for the foreseeable future until the men we have grown up side by side with have made it past this seemingly insurmountable hurdle.
For now, there have been too many cases to ignore. What is happening with men in their mid-twenties, and why do they seem to have been previously fitted with time-bombs?
Why are they so good at concealing the truth and not so great at revealing it? How is it that so many brilliant women are having the rug pulled out from under them by the brilliant lies of men?
Someone, please shed some light on this miserable mystery.