The New Man
Anita Othman, WEEKENDER | Fri, 01/06/2012 1:57 PM |
What do women want? A metrosexual who is sensitive and impeccably dressed, who gets facials and is in touch with his emotions, or the strong, passionate but silent type? Brian Scott McFadden, an American comedian, perhaps hit the nail on the head when he summed up that women want contradictory qualities in a man: one who is sensitive but not neurotic, passionate but faithful, dependable but fun, intelligent but not nerdy and career driven but family oriented.
Is this confusing? You bet! Because ultimately we want everything: the man who has all these yin and yang qualities. After all, women have evolved over the years and can transit from the boardroom to the bedroom with ease. We have raised our standards. We can do much more today than our mothers ever could. It is only logical that our expectations of men have changed, as our own skills and opportunities have expanded.
When I was growing up, I loved romance novels such as the Mills and Boon series and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. These stories filled my girlish head with dreams of meeting tall, dark and handsome men – men who were strong, passionate but silent about their feelings, their tight embraces and tortured expressions the only signs of their ardent love.
My perception of men, then, was clearly one-dimensional. This image was reinforced at home because my late father was every inch a man’s man. A high-ranking member of the police force, he had zero tolerance for emotional displays or any form of weakness. Indeed, my siblings and I often felt that he was very one-dimensional. He literally brought his work home because he policed us as well. But he was one of millions of men who behaved in a similar manner based on generations of social norms dictating that men should be strong, dependable, serious and intelligent. My mother and millions of women like her probably found such men highly attractive in those days. Any less and they were seen as weak.
When I started dating, I subconsciously shied away from overly chatty young men, men who were pretty or short and men who paid too much attention to their appearance or were too expressive about their feelings. It would be an exaggeration to say that I was looking for someone like my father because I certainly didn’t want a disciplinarian, but the fact remained that I simply wanted a manly man.
Fast forward 20 years, and how things have changed. Recently, a girlfriend of mine told me that her 19-year-old son was confused about the expectation that he call a girl the very next day after a date. When he didn’t, he was even more baffled when she ignored him at university. It wasn’t enough to be confident, intelligent, funny and handsome – qualities that he thought he exuded. Like many women today, she expected him to be sensitive and in tune with her feelings. She appeared to be looking for the male described by McFadden.
Does he really exist? Indeed he does. Many of my girlfriends have partners who display those conflicting qualities. These men are confident and comfortable in their own skins and have no qualms changing the baby’s diaper while watching football or donning an apron to cook a gourmet meal for dinner. In fact, I even have a girlfriend whose husband chose to be a stay-at-home dad for three years when she was posted overseas. Mind you, this was no stereotypical wimpy guy. He was as comfortable lifting weights as doing household chores.
These men can appreciate a chick flick with their wives and then put on a suit to manage a multimillion-dollar company. They are not rare finds that are the preserve of my girlfriends. See, for example, on the world stage, US President Obama, shaking hands with world leaders one minute and then holding his wife’s hand on a date the next.
Yet a man does not have to be typecast his whole life, playing a single role. My father-in-law is a perfect example of someone who has evolved over the years to become the McFadden man. Although strong and silent when I first met him, he is now more comfortable taking care of his grandchildren and expressing his emotions. Indeed, I have heard him say “I love you’’ to my daughter countless times – something he would not have done before and which my husband continually laments was missing in his childhood.
So who is the new man? It might seem like women are looking for perfection. But in fact the new man is not perfect in any one trait – that is perhaps his most attractive quality. He has a mixture of conflicting characteristics that will complement the women of today. Perhaps, the new man may now turn the question back on us: Who is the new woman?