I recently read an article that listed out some insulting ways that products are advertised for men. Before I get started, let me recommend you go ahead and read it. Here’s the link: The 5 Most Insulting Ways Products Are Advertised To Men
Go ahead, I’ll wait…
So in case someone is reading who doesn’t know me, let me state that I have been married for 4 years as of the writing of this post. And even before marrying her, I told the love of my life that I never wanted to be that sitcom buffoon husband.
Yes, he’s always supposed to be lovable. His antics are always with the best of intentions, and in the end of the episode, the wife always smiles and shakes her head and hugs him anyway. His kids decide to do stuff with him even if he did break their toy in the first act. His friends forgive whatever blunder caused the friction halfway through the episode, and in the end everyone’s back to the status quo.
But frankly, it’s demeaning. It doesn’t matter that in the end everything’s back to normal because that’s what sitcoms do. That’s TV formula #1. Something bad happens, someone goofs up, they go through 15 minutes of advice and hijinks to fix it, and then in the end, everything’s OK. That’s not life. Yes, everyone may know it, but for some reason, when it comes to the lovable buffoon husband/father, it’s just an accepted, forgone conclusion that that’s what being a husband and/or father is like.
And you know what the worst part is? Men, we do it to ourselves! It starts when we accept the societal assumption that when we get married, we settle into a perpetual drudgery. How many men refer to their wife as “the old ball and chain”? How many jokes are made about how marriage is the end of life?
For some reason, we just blandly accept these things as factual, and frankly, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We assume that our wives are smarter than us in every aspect of life and don’t need us for anything other than to be comic relief. And so that’s what we become. We sit there on the couch and watch sports or play video games and grumble when our wife asks us to do anything, then whether by intent or apathy, we screw it up, leading the exasperated woman to “do it right”, thus allowing us to do whatever thing it was we were doing in the first place.
I think this is a knee-jerk overreaction to the realization women had a few decades ago when they realized they were much better and smarter than the early 20th Century stereotypes themselves. They began to assert their strengths. These are good things. What wasn’t so good is that men apparently decided it was their turn to be the helpless stereotype and turned into fat lazy buffoons.
Seriously. Go back and watch some really early sitcoms, and the obvious woman-as-a-meek-housewife stereotype shines through. Then watch 90’s sitcoms and suddenly the man doesn’t even know how to install a light bulb without causing mayhem that the exasperated-but-still-loving wife has to fix. Just as two quick examples I can think of off the top of my head, compare the bumbling Lucy in “I Love Lucy” to Tim Taylor in “Home Improvement”.
So somehow, being a Real Man these days involves lots of beer, driving a big truck, siring 2-3 kids, and when it comes to home life, just bring home some money and act like an idiot enough, and your wife will take care of everything else, leaving you to have big Guy Parties and make huge messes in the living room that your wife will clean up.
Well, you know what? Screw that.
A Real Man knows the value of love and expressing it. He takes care of his wife without suppressing her, and the same with kids, if he has any (which isn’t a requirement of being a Real Man, by the way, but that’s a topic for another post). He isn’t afraid to show emotion. It doesn’t make a man less of a Real Man if he doesn’t have a full set of tools in his garage or wants to pay someone to mow his lawn instead of doing it himself.
No, I don’t claim to be perfect, and that’s OK. My wife loves me despite the times I’m clumsy and do make a mess of things, just as she loves me when I have a flash of insight or a really good idea or do something really helpful and make her life easy.
Maybe you think I’m comparing real life too much with sitcoms, because everyone knows sitcoms are exaggerations on life for comedic effect, right? I’m not so sure. When I was engaged, and even right after I got married, I can’t tell you how many of my coworkers told me to enjoy the things I loved to do in my spare time while I still had it, because everything would change after tying the knot. To hear these men who’d been married for a decade or more talk, you’d think marriage was some sort of prison, where everything you love is withheld and your masculinity is crushed (which, interestingly, is pretty much the way marriage is depicted in many sitcoms). If that’s the case, why are these men even married? If your marriage is that suffocating, get out! I won’t make any claims that my marriage never has bumps or arguments or even shouting matches, but at least my wife respects me and I respect her. We both treat each other like human beings, not slaves.
So, my fellow Men, I urge you to break these stereotypes, because a stereotype is only a stereotype if a lot of people follow its mold. Stop being a bumbling idiot! And stop looking at marriage as the end of your life! Guys, you can still do things you love and make your wife happy by doing things she loves! It’s called compromise, and that’s part of being a husband. And the greatest part is that the better you are at compromising, the less you actually have to give up, because your wife will probably be more willing to do things you like (or at least let you go off on your own to do them without giving you a hard time) if you’re more open to her. And who knows, you may find something you can agree on, like a video game you can both enjoy, or a TV show you both can watch. I can promise you that it’s human nature to do nice things for people who do nice things for you (that’s the easy part, honestly), so the better you treat your wife, the better she’ll probably treat you.
So many of these things, as I type them, feel like such obvious statements that I almost feel ridiculous for feeling the need to say them, but these days, society makes me wonder if we haven’t gotten to the point where boys don’t learn them as they grow up. Frankly, if someone learns how to be a husband and father from a sitcom, it’s no wonder that husbands think their marriages are lifeless prisons, and half of all marriages end in divorce.
Now, Men, the ball is in our courts.