Thursday, May 18, 2017

In Love with Herself; Resentful of Men

Let’s hope it’s a good omen. In yesterday’s Ask Polly column in New York Magazine Polly does not tell the letter writer to feel her feelings. It’s progress, I would say. Better yet, Polly does a very good job of seeing the problem and offering a way out of it. Credit to Polly.

The letter writer, naming herself “Resentful”, has fulfilled most of the culture’s predicates for what constitutes a good person. She is a wonderful, fulfilled, successful, intelligent, competent woman who can talk about her feelings and who knows what she wants.

Unfortunately, men know what they want too, and they know that they do not want Resentful.

She counts herself among the… :

… intelligent, capable women who talk about how they feel and what they want scare the crap out of men.

The men in her life all tell her the same thing:

I love the men in my life, including when they say, “You’re great, but you’re going to need a special kind of man.” or “You have to admit: You’re a homeowner, you’ve got a good career in a glamorous business, and you know who you are. Most men don’t know what to do with that.”

One understands that Resentful has not merely succeeded in the world. She has also done enough therapy to be in touch with her feelings and to know what she wants. Of course, such a perfectly self-contained, self-sufficient, self-absorbed individual might as well have doused herself with man-repellent. All of that self-involvement works as a protective shield. Men stay away because she is signaling that she does not want or need them for much of anything. She can do it all herself.

You might be thinking that she needs love, but, truth be told, her self-description tells us that she feels so much love for herself that there is nothing left for anyone else to love. If she goes to San Francisco she will, I am advised, be allowed to marry herself.

One might ask about Resentful's femininity, but one supposes that the question is verboten. Every woman who has not had her brains addled by Betty Friedan knows that what attracts men is the feminine mystique. No woman should be forced to display it, but she abandons it at her peril.

Resentful resents men for not accepting her on her terms. Of course, she does not accept them on their terms, either. So it feels like a fair exchange. She does not even consider that whoever told her to become independent, autonomous, self-contained, self-sustaining, self-sufficient, and liberated, in touch with her feelings and knowing what she wants… has misled her. She does not blame the therapy culture and perhaps even the Siren Song of feminism. Being ideologically committed, she blames men. Unable to question or challenge her beliefs, when things do not work out as promised, she blames men. As Polly will astutely point out, that attitude will certainly not attract very many men.  

She might not want to resent men, but she does. She might not want to see them all as misogynists, but she does. Nothing about it causes her to question her choices or her decisions. She continues to see herself as awesome:

Why on earth should I have to hand-hold another grown adult through acceptance of my awesomeness? I just want to be an awesome, messy, wonderful, horrible person alongside someone else doing their version of being awesome, messy, wonderful, and horrible?

Just in case you did not get how awesome she is, she tells us.

Anyway, Polly has Resentful’s number. She hones in on the simple fact that Resentful’s contemptuous attitude is not likely to attract very much male attention. She suggests that Resentful examine her own attitude. Polly adds that men see it just as clearly and, given the choice, would largely prefer not to deal with it.

Polly says:

It’s downright dehumanizing to a man you don’t know for you to enter the interaction assuming that he’s so fucking weak that he can’t handle a beautiful, confident woman who knows her own mind and heart. As long as your contact with men is clouded by this assumption, you’ll be subconsciously blocking them from getting to know you as a real live human being. You’ll think that you’re smoothly presenting your best self or whatever the hell, but underneath that smooth exterior there will be a conflicted, roiling, angry sea of premature assumptions about who you are (great, rejected) and who he is (afraid, weak, rejecting) and how it will all play out (crash and burn).

Polly also notes a point that I raised on this blog a short time ago. It’s not so much how you feel about yourself. It’s how you look to others. See my post on True Self-Awareness.

Anyway, Polly suggests that Resentful is to fragile, so incapable of hearing the least discouraging word—i.e. microaggression—that the men in her life seem afraid to tell her what she might be doing wrong or what needs improvement:

These people are the ones who are afraid to give an original answer, like, say, “You’re really fucking bossy sometimes,” or “You come straight out of the gate acting like a guy owes you something.” They’re seeing something about you that’s probably off-putting at the outset, but since they don’t want to get into the specifics of that with you, they just use the closest proximal one-size-fits-all dipshitty cultural cliché and package their real feelings inside of that, leaving them and you blameless.

One understands why no one is allowed to tell her she's bossy. Sheryl Sandberg launched a campaign to rid the world of the word "bossy." Anyway, it’s not about anyone’s real feelings. It’s about offering an honest view of how Resentful looks to other people. She is so into her own feelings that she seems incapable of accepting it.

Polly makes another salient point. If Resentful thinks she is hiding her insecurities from the world behind her veneer of self-sufficient self-satisfaction, she is fooling herself. Somehow or other people know. The only person who does not know how she looks to other people is Resentful herself:

People see each other clearly. They see each other’s true desires and fears. They know when someone is afraid, and when someone is conflicted, and when someone is pretending. They know when someone is suspicious or annoyed or sure that nothing will ever work out. They know when someone is willing to fuck but wants more. They know when someone is willing to date but really just wants to fuck. And they know when someone is too anxious to see them at all.

Polly explains that Resentful is so anxious that she does not see men as human beings, as real. She sees them all as a threat to her well-constructed persona. They seem to be running away from her, because if she actually had to deal with one of them she would run screaming into the woods.

Again, for emphasis, a good job by Polly.


trigger warning said...

"Omen" is a sexiss word, just like "niggardly" is a raciss word. Watch your language, Xir.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Polly does a very good job of seeing the problem and offering a way out of it. Credit to Polly.

Really? I see the letter writer used 358 words, while Polly 1707 words in her reply, almost a 5:1 ratio. It looks like someone else could use some brevity.

What exactly is the way out? Realizing that people who are afraid try to control everything, and push others away who don't want to be controlled?

Or as Stuart says "Polly explains that Resentful is so anxious that she does not see men as human beings, as real. She sees them all as a threat to her well-constructed persona."

Or as Polly writes: "People who are afraid of their feelings like to tell very clear, sad, predictable stories to explain everything that’s happened and everything that’s going to happen. People who are afraid of their feelings are everywhere. Fear them. But don’t fear men. Don’t fear rejection."