It was a week when many questioned how far we have actually come in the fight for gender equality. The news became the news as the firing of New York Times editor Jill Abramson took center stage in the press, not so much for the “what” but more for the “why.” And everything from Abramson’s management style to her salary to her “pushy” approach with the higher ups was offered as evidence that women are not viewed or treated with the same deference as their male counterparts. While there are always two sides to every story and one example does not necessarily represent the entire universe, it was difficult not to feel disheartened by the evidence pointing to society’s lack of progress.
I wondered how men would react if they ever found themselves routinely discounted, silenced or patronized. Would they simply accept their lesser lot – or fight for equality? And is there even ANY realm of society where such a role reversal exists? Well, my friends, it turns out there is. Big time. It took Chase’s 8th grade dance to enlighten me to an injustice against men that has been pervasive for centuries – and one of which I have been a part. Allow me to explain.
About three weeks ago, upon learning that Chase had an interest (and a date) for this year’s dance, I offered up our home as a pre-event gathering place for the kids and their parents to take pictures. With the flowers in bloom, our small lane is a beautiful venue and Dave and I enjoy entertaining. Chase was happy to play host as well. I encouraged him to invite all of his friends – those with dates and those going solo. The more the merrier.
With one week before the dance, the RSVPs weren’t going so well.
Chase had diligently put out the verbal invitation to a broad swath of friends, but had no commitments. Our home often welcomes his friends over during the course of the year so I was perplexed regarding the lack of response. And Chase was frustrated with his friends who seemed to be inexplicitly scattering in different directions for their pre-dance activities. Granted the fact that all this planning was done via text message didn’t help, but he was making an effort as best he could so I backed off. The morning of the dance he had three friends who were going stag scheduled to stop by before the event – and his date, who deserved a ton of credit for showing up to take pictures with a bunch of guys. But that soon changed as well.
At noon a text message arrived from his date informing Chase that they were invited to join several other couples to take their pictures in the Rose Garden at the nearby college. A dilemma, to be sure. Bail on his buds, or join his date? Ever the problem solvers, Chase and I figured out that we could snap a few quick pictures with his guy friends and then race over to the college to join his date and the other couples. It wasn’t remotely the relaxing pre-event garden party we had envisioned at our home, but we made it work.
The last minute change ups and racing around took its toll on my mood and after all the gorgeous photos were snapped and the adorable, happy kids were safely ensconced in the school gym for a great evening, I sat in my kitchen in the dark as Dave poured me the vodka that I now needed.
“I don’t get it,” I whined. “How did it happen that despite the genuine attempt of advance planning did we get so whipped around tonight?”
My husband, who had wisely chosen the role of “spectator” during this episode of the “Best Laid Plans” poured his own drink, sat down next to me, and just listened as I processed my frustration.
“I mean, CLEARLY Chase had no clout, no control over the plans tonight. Neither did his friends. They simply had to go wherever their dates decided would be the chosen venue. What was the sense in trying to organize something when the boys have no voice or say in the matter? They couldn’t plan – all they could do is react. That’s why they couldn’t respond to Chase’s invitation. They were waiting for their marching orders! And it’s not as if they minded! They were perfectly happy to be told what to do and where to go. When it comes to making social plans with women, these guys have absolutely no power!”
Dave just smiled. “Welcome to our world,” he said softly.
He then went on to gently explain to the challenge which many (not all) men face when trying to assert themselves in making plans that involve their significant other, when that person is a woman. It went something like this:
“Most of us gave up the fight a long time ago. Maybe even in eighth grade when we realized that your confidence in our ability to make acceptable plans approached zero most of the time. Sure, every now and then you throw us a bone and ask us to play cruise director for an afternoon or evening, only to swoop in at some point during the planning process to tell us we are doing it wrong – and then take over. It’s really just easier to let you do it.”
And there it was.
It was a lesson that my sons were in the process of learning, my husband had long understood, and his father and those before them had accepted and allowed without protest. Women may not yet be equal in many places where the time for such parity is long overdue. But godammit, when it comes to making plans, we rule the roost.
The realization that the hectic and personally unfulfilling evening was the product of blatant reverse sexism rather than a serious social fail on my part lifted my spirits considerably. The night was young, so I suggested grabbing dinner with Doug and Mo whose son Ben was also at the dance. Dave made the call to Doug, and then they quickly passed their respective phones to Mo and me to set a plan. We nimbly arranged to meet up, with our spouses in tow.
For once, I was not ashamed to be part of the problem.