Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Case of the Forty-Year-Old Teenager

Desire or desperation… what’s the difference and how can you tell?

When someone says that he cannot live without you, he is not showing how much he wants you. He is desperate.

Our culture has taught us that good things come to the people who want them the most. Yet, it fails to distinguish between those who desire and those who are desperate.

After all, the man who desires a woman desires the woman. A man who is desperate to have a woman believes that she will cure his desperation.

It’s a fascinating psychological puzzle, made slightly less puzzling by a letter sent by a 52 year-old man to Emily Yoffe, aka Prudence.

The letter dates to 2007 but Yoffe reposted it on her Facebook page yesterday.

Here it is:

I'm 52 years old and divorced. My girlfriend is 40 years old and divorced. We are in love, and our relationship of nine months is serious. My issue is that when she dresses casually it is often too provocative: midriff exposed, low-cut top, bra-less. I find her clothes embarrassing at times; I wouldn't feel comfortable with my college-age daughter wearing these outfits. My girlfriend is very pretty, has not had children, and is thin, which she is clearly flaunting. She is a wonderful, loving person, and I don't know how to have the conversation without hurting her feelings. How do I start this conversation?

If the letter did not show you that this man is “whipped,” you will know it when you learn that he signed his letter: “Feeling prudish.”

Clearly, this man has a problem.

Allow me to say what everyone is thinking: if your significant other—masculine, feminine, or neutered— makes a habit of publicly embarrassing you, it is time to disembarrass yourself of said significant other.

If he, she or it does it once, the problem is correctable. If he, she or it keeps doing it, conversation is a waste of time.

A woman who willingly and willfully embarrasses you in public should not be part of your life. She is not a “wonderful, loving person.” She is abusive. You are desperate.

Involving yourself in an abusive relationship will undermine the respect you receive from others and will ultimately make you feel like you are lacking in human dignity.

At that point, you will be very easily manipulated.

If we want to be honest here, we must note that the woman is going out of her way to look available, but not to be someone’s girlfriend or wife.

She is dressing up like she is for sale. She is putting herself on the market. Maybe this “prudish” man has an unconscious wish to be a procurer but when you go out in public with a woman who looks like a hooker you look like her pimp.

More nicely, if you look like her "john" she is telling the world that the only thing you are really good for is money and that she would not be with if you didn’t have lots of it.

Worse yet, this man has a college aged daughter. He whines about how he would not want his daughter to dress as his girlfriend does, but still, what example is his girlfriend setting for his daughter and what message is he communicating to his daughter when he continues to be involved with a woman who dresses like a hooker?

I find it sad—make that, pathetic—that this man believes that the two of them are “in love.”

I assume that this man overdosed on therapy. He is feeling badly about her behavior so he believes that he needs to have a “conversation” with his girlfriend. But, he does not know how to broach the topic without hurting her feelings?

This letter goes from sad to sadder… it’s embarrassing to witness it.

A “conversation” about what, exactly? Would he want to chat about her disrespect for him, her overt hostility to him, or her appalling behavior?

If he had, at the beginning of the relationship,  stated that such behavior was unacceptable, she would have been given a choice: to dress as she wished or to have a relationship with him.

As is, he has allowed it to go on for so long that he has lost so much face that he can barely function. He thinks the relationship is "serious."

It is good, however, that he wrote to Emily Yoffe. Speaking for women Yoffe is having none of it.

Yoffe is a nicer person than I, so she would want the man to engage this conversation. She tells us what the girlfriend would reply: “She will probably huffily point out to you that she is a grown woman and free to dress however she likes…. Open with ‘I love you, you're gorgeous, and you're sexy,’ then tell her that sometimes you're uncomfortable with how revealing her casual outfits are. If she accuses you of being jealous of how other men look at her, explain that you think she'd be even sexier if she revealed less.”

As I say, Yoffe is a much nicer person than I am. Placating someone who has made a habit of embarrassing you in public is generally a bad idea.

Yoffe is correct when she says that the girlfriend will surely defend herself by saying that she is free to do as she pleases. She is a liberated woman, after all.

In truth, she is free to do exactly as she pleases. Those who come in contact with her are also free to think what they want of her.

Trust me, no adult woman will be impressed by such a performance.

The girlfriend will surely also say that she is expressing herself through her appearance and that if people find it enticing and alluring that is their problem. She feels good about herself. She feels good about the way she looks. She refuses to allow anyone to judge her.

Of course, this is blather.

The correct response is for him to say that while she may do exactly as she pleases, he may also do as he pleases, and it pleases him to allow her the full measure of her freedom… without him.

If he cannot bring himself to think this, that can only mean that the therapy culture has taught him that he must be man enough to allow his girlfriend to walk all over him. 

If he has not had an experience of therapy, perhaps he learned these values by watching Sex and the City. Where else do you find forty-year-old teenagers doing as they please, when they please, with whom they please… regardless of what anyone else thinks?

Women who behave this way are not showing how sensual they are or how desirable they are.  They might believe that they need to show everyone that they still have “it” or that they are modern-day Aphrodites. They are really showing the world that they are desperate.

Yoffe explains it more nicely than I would: “And surely, at age 40, she's already begun to wonder how long she can get away with dressing like this before she looks more desperate than desirable.”

Does this woman have anything to be desperate about? Is she trying to say something through her dress?

Let’s indulge a bit of speculation.

We have a forty-year-old childless woman who is dating a man who has a grown daughter. If they are going to have a conversation they should discuss whether or not she wishes to have a child and whether or not he wishes to be a father again.

If they have already had this conversation he might have said that he is done running after toddlers. And she, feeling desperate, might very well have stated that she does not want to have a child herself.

And yet… she is dressing so provocatively that she is clearly putting herself on the market. It may be the case that she has not really given up on the idea of having a child.

She may be pressuring her boyfriend, trying to make him jealous, so that he will change his mind without her having to impose her will on him.

If that is true then she is not out looking for hot sex. She is advertising her fertility, and is looking for procreative or generative sex.

Somehow or other, contemporary culture considers the connection between sex and reproduction to be a relic of a bygone era.

As a result some couples cannot even think about the issue. They act it out.


Anonymous said...

Stuart, hope never dies, especially among the foolish. Clearly this man likes being abused by his girlfriend or he wouldn't stay in the relationship. On the other hand, maybe the gal has found a sugar daddy and knows that she can flaunt it without repercussions.

gm roper said...

Whoops, that was me.

Phillip said...

I knew a divorced woman one time who liked to flaunt it. She had four kids, the oldest one 18. Her shrink said her behavior stemmed from her need for male validity.

The Ghost said...

2 words ...

Demi Moore ...

Brugiere said...


Why does the commonsensical (your reaction ton this 40 year old teenager) sound like something revolutionary?

Because it's 2012. In America.

Regardless, thank you for having the courage to speak the truth.