Alexandra Carlton suggests men who fear controlling women should just chill out a bit.
A while back I was considering starting an argument with my then-boyfriend. Turned the idea over in my head a few times. Mapped out the basic areas of contention. Assessed the strength of any counter-attack he might be expected to mount. Ran it past the congress of my friends. Even nutted out an exit strategy. All looked good to go.
Then I played around with the opening line and realised I had a problem. It sounded something like this: “I’m not mad at you for having a drink with your ex-girlfriend. I’m mad at you because you think I’d be mad at you for having a drink with your ex-girlfriend.”
You can see why I decided to shelve this particular war before it got off the ground. Not only was it an ugly mouthful of inelegant English, but also, no matter how I tried to phrase it, it sounded like I was really, honestly, scratch-just-below-the-surface mad at him for having a drink with his ex-girlfriend. When, really, cry issue was not that he’d been out with her but that he’d been too scared to mention it until the next day in case I’d get cross.
Which made me cross.
I’m not a clingy girlfriend. I’m not jealous or overprotective or possessive. I won’t check your phone records. I don’t glower resentfully at your old Facebook photos. And, not incidentally, I have drinks with my exes all the time. By the time you’re in your 30s, everyone’s an ex or your ex’s friend or your friend’s ex. And we all gotta drink with someone.
So to have it assumed that I was so insecure that I needed shielding from my boyfriend having an after-work drink with an ex was vexing. What’s the point of being a relaxed, low-maintenance, non-interventionist 21st-Century girlfriend if I can’t demonstrate it?
My friend Catherine faces a similar affront to her pristine wife credentials whenever her husband heads out on a booze-up. She, too, is a laissez-faire woman when it comes to her guy doing his thing. Yet she often overhears him chortling.’ got a leave pass!” as he heads out. What? What ‘leave pass’? There are no leave passes. Go. Go.
I think I know what’s going on. In our grandmothers’ generation, you guys were boozing it up after work with your friends, yakking it up all over town while we were sitting at home alone, darning your socks.
At some point we started cracking the whip and demanding more attention, respect and time. Suddenly writing yourself off on a boys’ night prompted all sorts of angry remonstrations on our part (shouting, sulking, sex sanctions, etc). In response, it became voguish for you lot to feel pleased with yourselves on the occasions you were let off the leash.
The thing is, most women have moved on and calmed down a bit. The shouting and sulking was part of a transitional phase, necessary and understandable after all that mind-numbing sock-darning. We’re fine now. We’ve relaxed. As long as you’re fundamentally trustworthy, considerate, make a reasonable amount of time for ‘us’ and generally behave yourselves, we’re cool with you having your own life. We don’t need — or want— to be involved in all of it, nor do we want to be made to feel like we’re giving permission for you to enjoy yourself.
So give us a little credit for our coolness. Don’t stereotype us. Don’t make ‘leave pass’ jokes at our expense like we’re all living some cliché from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
Because we may not be mad about you catching up with exes, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to get mad about you thinking that we’re going to get mad and… oh, never mind.