Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Case for Maturity

This entry kicks off an entire week of Domesticity for the Men, which focuses mostly on things like good grooming, relationship etiquette, and other cootie-inducing topics... because, as you know, we here at Domesticity just love the menfolk. Read on...

Listen up, young ladies in high school and college: Think your boy problems are significant now? Just wait until you get older.

I was just thinking about this when I tried to watch Laguna Beach not too long ago. (In my defense, it was showing at the student lounge and no one else had control of the remote. Otherwise, five minutes of “The Real Orange County” for me is as enjoyable as sitting through an all-day marathon of The 700 Club.)

Anyhow. It's no surprise why I got very, very annoyed watching all these interchangeable Barbie-fied blonde girls hooking up with the shaving-challenged boys from their high school: None of them seems to act in a very mature way, and yet they're all letting the drama get to their heads so much that they're letting it all out on television for the world to see, like they're the only people in the world who have ever had significant relationships in their lifetime.

At least with The OC, you still get some entertainment value from Mischa Barton's “acting” and “wardrobe” choices, but with this it's just lots of pretty, self-indulgent young people whining about their own overinflated sense of entitlement - and I already get enough of that from hanging out at the mall, thank you very much.

In a certain way, Laguna Beach does mirror the reality of my own overprivileged teen years. At the same time, however, I can't help but compare all that teenage drama to the relationships that I do have now, especially when it comes to men.

In contrast to the intimacy-challenged boys I met in high school and college, most of the men that I've met in the last year or so - regardless of their age, ethnicity, religion, or even marital status - are a lot more open and honest about what they need in their relationships. These are men who have already loved and lost, who have already endured crappy entry-level jobs and very dark moments of the soul. They're a lot more willing to share about their desires to settle down and have a family - or, conversely, their relief about not settling down right away, if only because they don't want to put another person they love (or loved) through so much turmoil.

Mind you, most of these guys that I do meet are older; some of them have steady jobs, or have left said jobs to pursue greater dreams. I also know that there are older men who can't be bothered to settle down, and there are younger men who turn out to be better husbands and fathers than other “babydaddies” in their age group. (Let's not even talk about those who have made me very sad and angry, to the point of entertaining revenge fantasies involving paid thugs, digital video cameras, and the song "My Humps.")

And yet, I still have a tendency to gravitate towards men who are confident in their purpose in life, who are more than happy to take the next big step towards any kind of long-term commitment. Even when I'm on the dance floor at the club, I still end up talking to the guys who are obviously not out to play me - the ones who know that a dance is a dance and not an invitation to other things.

Which makes me wonder: Have the guys gotten better... or do they seem that way because I've grown older and wiser, too? Personally, I don't think I've gotten better with handling my own relationships, but I'm beginning to become more comfortable about my life and my purpose - so it should come as no surprise that the men I meet are no less confident than I am with their own lives as well. Slowly I'm keeping my expectations low and my friendships genuine, even as my patience becomes shorter. Sex isn't even an issue any more - not so much because of my celibacy, but because of the mutual respect that we both have for our friendships and personal boundaries. No mind games, no pressure, no pointless excuses or allowances for “friends with benefits,” and definitely no second-guessing of motives. If they're not giving me a good reason to be closer than I should be, there's no point for me to press the issue further. And vice versa.

So to repeat: Don't worry, ladies. I'm not saying you should go ahead and look for trouble, because that only makes all things more complicated. What I will tell you, though, is that the journey only gets so much better as you move along - as long as you keep on learning and you can see the stumbling blocks for what they really are.

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