Sunday, 6 a.m. on a subway in Hamburg. I'm sitting in a four-seater compartment reading my book on my way to the main station. Three young women in their late teens, maybe early twenties, come in and take a seat in the remaining spots next to and across from me. Judging by their tired pink faces and vapor of liquor around them, they are heading home after a night of heavy partying.
The sweet brown-haired girl sitting across from me closes her eyes and leans her head on the tall girl's shoulders, beside her. The cool girl sitting next to me leans back in her seat. She starts talking in a deep and raspy voice: „Well, what did he say?” The sweet girl gives her a sad, drunken look. „What a shame.” the cool girl says. „We all thought there was something more going on between you two.” „So did I,” the sweet girl whispers, scarcely audible. „Maybe he needs more time?” the tall one with the pink glasses suggests. „No.” the cool one shakes her head. „I texted him. He says, he's sorry. He feels really bad about hurting you. He had no idea you had feelings for him. He thought it was only physical.” The sweet girl gives her a bitter grunt and the tall one rolls her eyes in annoyance: „That's the way men are. That's how they think.“ „It was just a misunderstanding.“ the cool girl says with a shrug.
If I had a dime for every time one of my friends has said: „That's the way men are!“ ...
It is true. Whether we are single or whether we are in a long-term relationship, we love to talk boys. And we love them - as long as we’re happy in our relationship or enjoy being single … but oh, how fast the rhetoric can change.
I can’t stand it, when I get into a fight with a boyfriend, and he says: „Stop being such a girl!” Excuse me? What is that supposed to mean? I am not crying because I'm a girl, I'm crying because you hurt me! I am not yelling because I'm a girl, I'm yelling because you are making me mad! Stating that I am being „such a girl” completely undermines my individual personality and disregards the seriousness of the situation. I do not want to be thrown in a pot with the airhead girl from next door, or the bitter old lady across the street or the annoying talk show host on TV. I am more than just „a girl”! I am me! Right Ladies? Give me an Amen if you hear me! Alright!
Then how is it, that in our fight to be recognized as precious individuals, we so automatically generalize the other side?
Men only truly love technology. Men only want one thing. Men don't talk about their feelings. Men can't handle secure women. Men don't listen ...
I read an interesting article a few months ago, about why mass shooters are always men. Instead of insisting on the idea that men are simply more violent than women, the journalist said that it had a lot to do with the fact that men did not have the revolution that women had. That new discovery of oneself. That breaking free of society's views and expectations. And while I don't believe the answer to mass shootings is quite that simple, I do believe she has a point.
Yes, we had to fight for our right to vote. Yes, we are still fighting for equal pay. No, no man should decide what we do with our bodies, and no, no man should force us into doing something we don't want. Women and men should be equal. Equal. That means women should have the same rights as men. But it also means that men should have the same rights as women. I'm not talking about participation and money. I am talking about our simple, every day understanding of what it means to be a man. Because really … today … what does it mean to be a man?
I am a strong, independent and proud young woman and I would like that to be acknowledged, but don't you dare not hold the door for me or have the nerve not to pay the entire bill on our first date! I want a guy who is sensitive, but don't be a wimp! Be a man, but please don't go too crazy over soccer or football! Be nice, but not too nice! Have a masculine physique, but don't spend all your time working out! Be successful! Make money! Spend time with your kids! Cook for me! Surprise me! Be my Prince Charming, but don't spend more time in the bathroom than I do! Make me feel desirable, but don't expect me to have sex with you whenever you want me to! Have sex with me whenever I want you to! Come on, man, just be a man!!!
We want a jack of all trades device in a man – a Greek god combo, so to speak - a tall, well-read, well-built Adonis, with the talent of Pan, the romanticism of Eros and the dangerous debths of Hades, who has the temper of Hermes' harp and who like Narcissus only had eyes for himself, only has eyes for us. Is that really too much to ask?
We (rightfully) consider a man to be superficial if he says he doesn't want to be with a woman who is overweight. Yet, on the other hand, it is fully acceptable and understandable for us to say we could never be with a man who is too skinny or – god forbid – shorter than us!
We excuse ourselves for dating men who are a few years younger because – everybody knows – women are more mature than men. Men who make less money than their wives are sneered at … ain't he lucky he found himself a sugar mama?!
We all need a purpose in life. We often get that purpose through whatever role we choose to take on: the teacher, the artist, the mother, the entrepreneur. But where do we fit inside the bigger picture? Women have fought to get away from the idea of being „solely“ a housewife and mother. But have men really broken free of their strings? It's not that men don't have struggles. They might just be less visible.
I have male friends who are wonderful partners, who have patiently waited for and love their girlfriends. And I have female friends who swindle and cheat.
I have met women whose only interest is getting the best profit for themselves in any given situation, and I have met men who spend all their time fighting for the rights of others.
I know women who have been sexually abused and assaulted and I know of just as many cases where women have not only used their sexual appeal to get what they want, but have threatened to make false claims against men.
I have seen broken female hearts and broken male hearts. I have seen lonely women and lonely men. There is no plain black and white. There is a Yin in every Yang and a Yang in every Yin.
I do believe there are differences between men and women, but we need to keep in mind that the exception proves the rule and that it is okay to be different. Differences are an opportunity for growth that we can learn from, so we can help and complete each other. And we should not use these differences to diminish each other's values or feelings.
I love the women and the men in my life equally as I am sure most of us do. So let's apply that distinguished understanding we have for the men we know, to the men we don't know.
Curse that guy who dumped you, not because he's a man, but because he sucks! Hate your boss, not because he's a man, but because he's a jerk! Be angry at our politicians and CEO's, not because they are men, but because they are greedy, selfish bastards!
We can't drool over abs and arms and be mad at them for drooling over legs. So let's stop expecting more of them than we expect of ourselves. Let's stop expecting men to magically know what we want and say what we want. Let's stop picturing Prince Charming and start seeing real people. Let's stop making all men responsible for what one man does to us.
It was obvious from the way the tall girl said: „That's the way men are.“ that she had had one or two disappointments and she was projecting her own experiences on every man.
It's a lot easier to say that men are wrong than admitting to ourselves that we might be chasing the wrong men. The cool girl was right. Sometimes there are misunderstandings. Sometimes we fall in love and the other person doesn't. Sometimes a person who loved us, stops loving us. Sometimes there is no villain. Sometimes it is just life.