It is becoming a constant, like gravity: Maureen Dowd opens her mouth, and I get email from guys saying, “Fred! Geez, man, how much do apartments go for in Guadalajara?”
Maureen is the resentment columnist for the New York Times. She serves as newsprint megaphone for the angry, selfish, wretchedly unhappy career woman who can’t understand why she is living alone in an apartment with two cats. (I understand the alone part. I question the judgement of the cats.)
Maybe I can explain.
In a recent column, headed “Men Just Want Mommy,” Maureen tells us, “A few years ago at a White House Correspondents’ dinner, I met a very beautiful actress. Within moments, she blurted out: ‘I can’t believe I’m 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women.’”
Here we have the eternal cry (at least it’s beginning to feel eternal) of the unhappy feminist: “The whole world can’t stand me. What’s wrong with the whole world?” If men don’t want to marry a self-absorbed menopausing ocelot, there is something wrong with men. I listen to this stuff and I want to marry someone’s personal assistant, just to be sure I don’t get drunk and marry a very beautiful actress.
But more of Maureen and the personal assistants. She continues observantly, “I’d been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with the young women whose job it was to tend to them and care for them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.” Men want to marry Mommy, she implies, with forty-weight passive-aggressiveness you could lube a diesel with.
Actually, what men very much do not want is to marry Mommy. The problem for Maureen is that she is Mommy: censorious, moralizing, self-pitying, endlessly instructive, and so achingly tedious that men find themselves thinking of moldy bath sponges. I have never seen her and don’t know how old she is. She may be twenty-three, radiantly gorgeous, and have seven husbands. She writes as if she were fifty, a tad overweight and, having grossly overestimated her value in the meat market, missed the train. (I have a federal license to mix metaphors like that.) Since nothing can be her fault, that leaves men.
Now, why might a man want to date his secretary instead of some virile pit-viperess of a lawyer, forever coiled to strike? To start with, twenty-five is more appealing than fifty. Sorry, but there it is. Second, secretaries usually lack the misandry, vanity, and abrasiveness of the viperess. (Think Alan Dershowitz in drag, but hostile.) Which leads to, Third, the secretary is likely to be lots more fun. You don’t have to spend time comparing penises with her. She won’t always be looking for discrimination, like a chicken clucking after bugs in a barnyard. You won’t get the throwaway snotty remarks about men.
I can’t imagine doing a fast double-step jitterbug in a dirt bar in Austin with a warlike partner from Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe—you know, Little Richard shrieking Long Tall Sally, skirts flying in the twirls. A secretary is likely to think it is a hell of a good idea.
Maureen pretty much answers the question of why these creatures stay single. In another column she says, “When I asked a 28-year-old friend how he and his lawyer-girlfriend were going to divide the costs on a California vacation, he looked askance. ‘She never offers,’ he replied. ‘And I like paying for her.’”
Maureen knows lots of these. “Carrie, a publicist in her late 20′s from Long Island, is not unwilling to dig into her Kate Spade bag. ‘He can get the jewelry, the dinners, the shoes and the vacations,’ she says. ‘I’ll get the cab.’”
Who would marry that? Carrie is a parasite, like a screw-fly larva. You could find better leaning against a lamppost. Honest prostitution is preferable to dissimulated. (Incidentally, Stanford did a genetic study in which they found that a New York career woman shares ninety-five percent of her genes with the common tape worm. The remaining five percent, speculated the scientists, explains why tapeworms, though parasitic, are not uncivil.)
Maureen’s women are forever nattering about sexual equality. Maureen, speaking of some movie: “Art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection, rather than affection.” Actually art isn’t doing anything. A woman who wants a man to pay her bills is already a selfish narcissist.
I find myself wondering what parallel universe Maureen inhabits, and how she found the door. In fairness to at least some career women, maybe most of them, I dated mostly such for a decade or two in Washington, and expected them as a matter of course to split the bill. They did. It didn’t seem to bother them. And—surprise—I thought of them as equals. They acted that way.
So little of what Maureen says tracks with the world I know. She thinks men don’t like smart women. I know a lot of bright guys, and they all look for bright women. They just want agreeable bright women.
Further—am I alone in this?—I don’t think of women I date in terms of superiority and inferiority. Sally is my date, not my competitor. Does it run through Maureen’s tiny little mind that I walk along with a secretary thinking, “Hah! Mere secretary. My inferior. Hah!”? Actually I think, “How’d I get so lucky? Hope she doesn’t think of that.”
This erosion of pecking order by mating explains why the military doesn’t want officers to date enlisted women: A cute corporal is on equal terms with an admiral by virtue of seeing him. Hierarchy doesn’t survive romance. But, as Maureen’s status-obsessed women discover, neither does romance survive a relentless concern with hierarchy.
Thing is, the times have changed. The age-old bargain was that women exchanged sex for whatever they wanted, and men exchanged whatever they had for sex. Part of the deal was that the woman would be reasonably agreeable. A career woman today, being independent, no longer has to be agreeable, and frequently isn’t. On the other hand, a man doesn’t have to commit himself to anything to get sex. So the man dates his secretary, and the career woman sits in her apartment with the cats.
I’m going to move to Mexico. (Though come to think of it, I already have.)