Bob Franken: Mate expectations

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, June 7, 2014 10:42am
  • Opinion

There’s an axiom in journalism to the effect that if you’ve antagonized everybody involved in a story, then you’ve probably done a good job reporting. That’s overly broad, of course, since sometimes it’s because you did a really bad job, or that the subject is one of those where no matter what you say is it’s wrong.

This is one of those where the question might be put this way: If a man who hates women is a misogynist, is a woman who hates men a mistersogynist? Why not? Let’s face it, we are at each other’s throats. Mars and Venus always are colliding, and now in our supposedly modern times, the impact is worse — on many occasions, violent.

Much thought is being given right now to the guy part of this frightful equation, and properly so. The deadly rampage by Elliot Rodger, rooted as it was in his murderous frustration over his failure to achieve delusional sexual expectations, has inspired a full-throated discussion of all the ugly ways males treat females. As we’ve fitfully emerged in the past couple of generations from a culture of outright subjugation, we’ve submerged into confusion. Paradoxically, our so-called liberation has been construed as a license for a demeaning objectification that permeates the macho fantasy. Finally, we’re finally hearing from the “macha” side that the burden forever suffered as inevitable can no longer be tolerated.

Furthermore, as many commentators have reminded us, it’s not just up to women, but men as well to put a stop to this. While obvious, it’s just not that simple. Even in this day, when females are no longer viewed as breeding stock, we’re all totally hung up on sex.

How incongruous it is that the ultimate getting together is so much of what drives us apart. In times when either gender can make a move on the other, we are held back by the fear of rejection. Or we’re not held back if we can pull off masking our insecurities with a show of bravado, often crude. When this incredibly clumsy maneuvering misses, the next step is often anger, or worse.

Where is the line, though, between introducing yourself to someone attractive and hitting on her (or him)? Even when two people connect, when the chemistry somehow overcomes the confusion, then what? If the sparks fire a romance, what happens next?

Forget for the moment the demeaning and juvenile depiction of all this in the movies and other entertainment outlets. How about those gentle romance films, which end when the new couple has endured and begins a life together.

Let’s face it, in real life, “happily ever after” is just the beginning. In fact, the insanity that brings two people together has relatively little to do with keeping them together. Those of us past the dating and conquest phase will agree that the initial heat is replaced in relationships by the warm glow of familiarity that actually can breed humor, sharing and stability, the real ingredients in a romance that lasts. The early rush has little to do with it. In fact, it’s a fraud.

If somehow we were taught that life lesson early, maybe we could reduce all the hate that surrounds love. Ripping decisions about sex away from the control of the moral Luddites has been a good thing. The fact that we no longer are ruled by prudish prohibitions about who can do what to whom and when should have freed us. Instead, we have gone from one prison to another.

Far too many of us approach romance as if it were a meat market, with hookups the only game. It’s formulaic to the point that it’s computerized. That may or may not be better than singles bars, but it’s all frustrating and usually a waste of time. We can do better.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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