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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A salient point

From an old Florence King review of Wendy Shalit:

Women can’t tell men how to behave — they either inspire or fail to inspire. Today we inspire them by slamming doors on their fingers, pushing them away when they help us with our coats, and then, when they learn their lesson and begin to treat us with equal-opportunity boorishness, we change our minds and seek to enforce by fiat the respect which was once grounded in custom.

This is one of the most significant concepts a woman needs to understand about men. Most men absolutely loathe being told what to do and will barely tolerate it from an authority they recognize as legitimate, they will not accept it from a would-be substitute mommy. If you see a man respond to a direct female order by blinking, remaining silent and looking very blank, he is almost surely swallowing the vulgar suggestion that he would give to another man by way of response in the same situation. And the chances are very high that he will somehow manage to forget to obey.

It never ceases to amaze me how some women don't realize how they are inspiring - or if you prefer, training - the men around them. They attempt to exert control by only being pleasant when the man is doing what they want, then are confused when the man begins avoiding their company rather than meekly altering his behavior. She ratchets up the unpleasantries in an attempt to control the situation and the relationship spirals downward.

The truth is, regardless of sex, when people reliably demonstrate a reluctance to be around you, the problem is very rarely with them, it is almost always with you.

However, as much as I respect both King and Shalit, they are both inclined towards romantic idealism instead of more dispassionate observation. Consider the following passage:

Shalit sees signs that modesty is making a comeback. Antioch College’s much-derided guidelines on asking permission to kiss and touch are not very different from The English Gentlewoman (1631) and the many Victorian chapbooks about men who “take liberties.”

Considering that the concept of the cam whore, Jenna Jameson and the delectable Brazilian wax were just entering mass culture at the time of King's review, one has to say that as a trend spotter, Miss Shalit leaves somewhat to be desired.

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