Guys, grab a prosecco, have a seat and let’s talk about your feelings. Studies on male versus female relationships prove you’ll live longer. This show is Real Life Survival Guide, after all, and if the information it provides listeners helps you add a few years to your life, all the better. Face it, survival these days is no longer about sticking a bent coat-hanger wire down the drain, pulling out years of hair balls and living to grunt about it neanderthal-style over your pints. (Although—full disclosure: I’ve never been able to resist a man who unplugs a shower drain with his bare hands and saves me a trip to the basement toolbox for the screw-driver.) It’s about digging deep, girlfriend-style, for mutual strength and de-toxing, de-stressing catharsis. Talk to us, men, and talk—really talk—about and amongst yourselves. Tend and befriend.
I ripped off the title of this article from a book by literary critic Ann Douglas: The Feminization of American Culture. Must have read it twenty years ago in grad school (there are lots of underlined paragraphs on topics like “Ministers and Mothers” and “The Domestication of Death),” but the real take-away is the promotional blurb from The New York Times: “Indispensable reading for modern feminists and, indeed, anybody else of serious intelligence.” Progressive men are onto this feminization phenomenon; they’re asking their pharmacists about oxytocin—women’s “tend and befriend” hormone—and they’re jumping on the French-cinema-fan bandwagon. Smart men who seek longevity and want to be serious players are getting in touch with their right-brained, creative, feminine powers.
Girly men can still be successful. Contrary to what anybody claims about creative enterprises in these dark days of recession, one of these days you guys will cash in by embracing your feminine impulses. Daniel Pink writes about this in A Whole New Mind (even Thomas Friedman endorses Pink’s work as his “favorite business book”—so you know the contents will get you far in this flat world). Pink’s gist: “Right- brainers will rule the future” through embracing feminine qualities of creativity and empathy. Success won’t come through beating Asia and automation; we’ve already lost that competition! Success will come to those more creative and empathetic sorts who—literally and commercially—best knit really beautiful yarns and designs that appeal to our sense of story, place and time—yarns and inventions that pull us into a sense of who we are and how we’re connected, why we’re here, where we’re going, and how we can create a more beautiful, truly human and thereby survivable world.
That’s the future of entrepreneurship, of “success,” and the reason we girls live longer. We survive by talking about real life, weaving and letting go all at once, nurturing and storing colors and feelings and visions that will save us when we’ve lost everything but us. We tell our personal stories and thereby dissolve the rust coating our cells; we anti-oxidize through narrative and connection and dissolution of crusty, atheroschlerosis-hardened barriers. Our blood pressure, heart rates and bad cholesterol numbers drop. We last longer.
And sure, there are the frenemies you guys (and girls) fear as part of your feminization, the girlfriend who secretly wants to one-up you, to defeat you, to stab you in the back in the soft places between your cracking, delicate, Vitamin-D-starved bones. It’s all part of the girl thing, yes, the power-struggle for, like, whatever, but it’s so totally seventh-grade and we who’ve been there know it for what it is, and over time as we tell our stories and connect, we’re more and more able to let that frenemy baloney go—because ultimately, we’ve become more compassionate by finding those points of empathy even with our frenemies that lead us to conclude—“yes! I understand her, even her!—maybe I should drop by some banana bread.”
Live longer men. Prosper. Embrace your freneminity. It’s your only hope of real life survival in our evolving, (not so) flat world. Be curvy. You’ll go far.
Mary Elliott is a stay-at-home Mom with four children, one husband and two leopard geckos. She has a Yale B.A., a Ph.D. in English from Boston College, and—in her old life—taught writing, English and American lit courses at B.C., Gonzaga University & Whitworth College in Spokane, WA.
Upon the birth of her twins in Colorado, she perished rather than published, but has written a couple of novels that need serious rework before they see the light of day. She contributes to Real Life Survival Guide’s Guest Editor blog, is active with the Madison Land Conservation Trust and likes to play the fiddle, hike, bike-ride and unwind with good friends.