Saturday, December 20, 2003

Ancient detente

A real estate appraiser, the beautiful redheaded Heather often spends her entire day behind the wheel. This mitigates the underlying guilt she and I feel for recently purchasing a luxury car, a used 1994 Mercedes. Mercedes is also a durable car, after all, and this one, despite its age, is a wonderful car, most certainly a Benz.

I never fail to tell her that she looks great in her Benz. She does. Just for kicks, we like to say to each other every once in a while, "Want to take the Benz, baby?" For a fleeting moment, the question helps us feel important, like those people we see on television. This is juvenile and against everything we hold dear, which is pretty much why we say it.


It needs attention, this Benz. The engine and transmission are fine, but the front end has felt loose for a while. Heather doesn't notice it, but I do, and I've always been good at catching things on my cars before they become bigger problems. Heather doesn't believe so, even though I mention this knack of mine often.

I reflexively attempted to take charge of the front end alignment matter about a month ago. It was my duty, after all, as the guy, to take care it. Perhaps I learned the virtue from my father or grandfather, but Heather should never have to deal with car repair when a perfectly able man is around.

Heather didn't see it this way. In fact, she saw it quite differently. She told me I was paranoid. The car was fine. The early weekend morning appointment at the qualified service station that I spent the good part of my lunch at work to find and schedule was silly. I canceled it.


Of course, far from going away, the front end problem has progressed slightly. Heather now notices it. The problem is still a mole hill and not a mountain, and I have scheduled an appointment for this coming Tuesday. But Heather and I are now just beyond the 60-day bumper-to-bumper warranty, and she fears that it will cost "thousands of dollars to repair. Honey, if we hadn't procrastinated, this wouldn't have happened."

I stared at her. The irony screamed. Doing my best not to entertain my vindication, I responded, "It won't cost thousands of dollars."

Perhaps I raised my voice. Who knows? Her response said it all: "Why do we have to fight already? We just woke up!"

True, we had just fought the previous evening. That quarrell had been an extension of one that began on Wednesday out of a miscommunication that I have since relentlessly endeavored to set straight. I am officially blue in the face.
Her ensuing march to the bedroom and the slammed door's reverberation throughout the house completed the cycle that will probably repeat, and soon.


Certain things just scream, "That's the man's job." In the vast majority of instances, women are just as capable as men are of doing these things. Any man worth his salt, however, will undertake these tasks himself. He will commandeer these responsibilities, owning them as acts of devotion for the woman he loves.

His significant other can decide how to respond to her man's devotion. The best thing she can do is encourage him. It is not chauvinism in his eyes, and it hurts him to no end if she perceives his love to be a form of control. Most of the time, he is showing her how much he cares for her, is devoted to her, and wants to be there for her. In short, he is revealing, the best way he knows how, his love for her.

How does he prefer to go about showing how much he loves her? He takes charge, by displaying an admirable purpose of mind and carrying out a goal unwaveringly. She is his inspiration, and that inspiration frequently moves him spontaneously. This spontaneity with a purpose, together with an ability to persevere and achieve the goal, is a man's love, manifest, for the woman he adores.

Immeasurable good has come from women's liberation. We should never return to the mistaken Neanderthal days of old, when men pulled their women around by the hair and relegated "the fairer sex" to the kitchen. Women are right not to tolerate such rude notions and behavior.

But feminism has also exacted catastrophic consequences, and we are remiss to disregard the damage done. The ancient detente, the wisdom, that has mediated the sexes' coexistence for millennia is adrift.

A pall has descended over men's confidence, their belief in themselves. This uncertainty compels them to doubt their motives when only they wish to express devotion, the best way they know how, for the women they love.