Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Patriarchy Lives!

My mother treats men and women differently. At first glance, it might seem that she reveres men and thinks women rather stupid. But that is not actually the case.

She treats men as if they are gods; when asked to describe her approach to a man, I've said in the past ( I was probably drunk too, at the time): "Well, she'll kiss his ass ."

And indeed she does, verbally, at any rate. She flirts, she lavishes outrageous compliments, she bats her eyelashes and sticks out her ample breasts.

I remember being acutely embarrassed by her antics when I was a girl. She'd pull out her routine for any man who dropped by the house, including my boyfriends. Upon sensing the imminent approach of a man, no matter what age or attachment, she'd run to renew her lipstick, then she'd go full blast flirty, giggly, gross.

After the age of 3o or so, I dropped the embarrassment and confusion for nausea.

She still does this now, to my husband.

The funny thing is, I have yet to encounter a man who didn't buy her message and swallow it hook, line and sinker.

She can say the most inappropriate, out-of-place, just-darn-silly things, and as long as she's stroking their ego, they get this stupid grin and do just as she asks.

But here's the thing about my mother's approach to men... To their face, she tells them they are the most fantastic things since sliced bread. And they all react the same: "Uh gosh, golly gee. Here's a woman telling me I'm great, and she shore seems to admire me!"

Out go their chests, in go their guts , and she can ask them to lift the heaviest object, across several miles of quicksand, and because why? "Well, because I want it so." (giggle)

And off they go, lifting and sweating and risking a coronary, all for an obese, condescending 90-year-old woman.

Then, she praises them, not unlike dogs, and sends them off with half-a- dozen cookies. Everyone is happy.

In truth though, behind their backs, she ain't quite so complimentary.

Behind the backs of the men who lift things, my mother says other things. She says the kinds of things I had to listen to, for years, about my father. She talks about how "hard" it's been, for her women friends, with their crappy, drunk, abusive, etc. husbands.

And she tells me, over and over, "Why would I ever have wanted to marry again? Would I want to have to wash some man's dirty socks and underwear?"

I know I'm generalizing, but I really believe this anecdote sums up my mother's, and many of her generation's, relationship with men.

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