My father was a man. My brothers are men. I’ve been married to a man for nearly 30 years, and I spawned a male child.
If through no means other than association, one might think I’d have come to understand men quite well by now. Truth be told, however, my knowledge regarding those of the male gland can be summed up in two statements:
1. In Man World, something is fun only if it a) makes noise, b) hurts, or c) smells bad.
2. The basic difference between men and women is this: Women wear black because it’s versatile, slimming, ageless, seasonless, sexy, and classic; men wear black because they think it’s navy blue.
Sensing many women might be lacking even the slightest comprehension of what goes on in the male mind, a popular men’s magazine offered to shed some light on the subject. The article’s author, himself a man, claimed there are 15 basic fears harbored by all men. They are:
*Hair in the drain (going bald)
*Getting caught noticing another woman
*His father’s death
*Being a lousy lover
*Not being a god to his kids
*Living paycheck to paycheck
*Not seeing his kids grow up
Wow—that’s a pretty daunting list. Who knew men bore the burden of so many insecurities? But I sincerely appreciate the writer’s effort to educate us women, and it only seems fair to return the favor. So what scares a woman? Here, in no particular order and compiled by me and my research department (the women I eat lunch with), is a partial list:
*How we look first thing in the morning No matter how alluring she appeared or felt the night before, a woman dreads her early morning visage. Greasy hair, puffy eyes, blotchy complexion, sour breath . . . intensify those charms with a bladder loaded for bear and the result is something we’d rather you not see. That’s one reason many women aren’t interested in early morning romance . . . who can feel sexy in that condition? Besides, there’s vulnerability in letting him see you in such a raw state. That’s something we’d rather save for later in the relationship, such as when we’re in the delivery room giving birth to his baby.
*His silence It’s no secret many women like to talk out their problems. It’s a system that’s worked for us since the dawn of time, and we see no reason to change. But in a cruel joke, the goddess created many men who prefer to suffer in silence. They disappear to the privacy of the den or workshop to stew and putter, leaving us to wonder why we can’t just talk about it. Oh, we know our men are just cooling off and allowing time for things to smooth over. So what are we afraid of? We’re afraid that in all that silence he’s contemplating a breakup or secretly wishing we would come and fix things with just the right words. We’re afraid because that silence of his can be deafening.
*Hair issues For women, hair is the source of endless drama. The hair on a woman’s head is her crowning glory, and her body hair a lifelong enemy. A man’s fear of going bald is nothing next to a woman’s; at least society accepts a bald man. In fact, men as varied as Yul Brynner, Andre Agassi, Billy Zane, Michael Jordan, Vin Diesel, Patrick Stewart, and Cal Ripken Jr. have proven they can be attractive even without hair. A woman, however, can never have too much hair on her head. On the other hand, the shadow of a moustache is like the kiss of death. Hair on your toes? Ugh. No, from the time a girl enters puberty she will shave, sugar, and depilate. She’ll submit to the stinging electrolysis and the painful bikini wax—even the full Brazilian wax job. Hair scares us. We’re scared to lose it from our heads and grow it on our bodies. Either situation is a self-image crisis!
*Bra or swimsuit shopping Nothing make a woman feel less secure about herself than stepping into a harshly lit dressing room with an armload of garments designed by sadists to make her feel lumpy and inadequate. She just knows it’s going to end badly.
*Our own girly bits Those appendages and accoutrements which make us female are so prone to breakdown and malfunction an entire medical specialty is devoted to keeping our stuff up and running. One body part or another is always developing a suspicious lump or oozing an unpleasant discharge. Mammograms, pap smears, D & C’s, steel stirrups, cold specula . . . all scary stuff. But not as scary as what could happen if we don’t submit to these uncomfortable but necessary health care procedures.
*The Other Woman She’s around every corner, she’s waiting at every social event, she’s the new hire at your husband’s office, she’s someone you’ve known for years. She’s out there, and she’s waiting to take him away from you. And if you and your man are in your forties, you can bet she’ll be half your age. The bitch.
*Guy stuff We’re smart. We’re employable. We’re accomplished. We’re worldly. But many of us feel downright stupid when you start talking about earned run averages and single malt whiskeys. We can’t name our favorite historical battle, can’t rattle off who was named MVP of Super Bowl Whatever, or tell what car was first to use an electrical ignition system. We can’t recite the plot of The Dirty Dozen or prove the best way to defend ourselves during a zombie attack. What really scares us is that you can.
*Ruined relationships A woman’s world is defined by relationships, and leaving a trail of fractured friendships, broken romances, and estranged family members is a sign of failure. Oh, we know it’s not possible, or even desirable, to get along with everyone all the time. But since conflict resolution and comfort giving are seen primarily as feminine traits, something must be wrong with a woman who’s followed through life by a wake of hard feelings.
*Finding purpose The path of our foremothers was predetermined. They reached puberty, got married, managed a home, and reared however many children nature chose to send. It was hard work, but it was in the cards for just about every woman. Nowadays, women struggle to find meaningful careers and balance them with the demands of their personal lives. Yes, we know men have always wrestled with job stress and God bless them for it. But culturally speaking, the whole thing’s still rather new for our gender, and the thought of never meeting our destiny is scary! Plus, guys, you have to admit no one ever argued that the fall of the American family can be blamed on the emergence of working fathers. That’s a heavy thing to lay on us.,
*Ultimate Fighting Championships This is a concept so scary to women, most of us lack the words to describe our aversion. Can there be any doubt this debacle was some man’s idea of fun?
*Getting naked Most women enjoy a relatively narrow window of comfort for getting naked in front of someone else. It’s likely to be soon after our 19th birthday, perhaps between 7 and 8 pm on a Tuesday. That’s about it. The rest of the time, the thought of letting another human being—especially a male human being with amorous intentions—see us in the altogether can be extremely disconcerting. We’re painfully aware of our flaws (even the ones invisible to others), and usually prefer to keep them hidden by clothing or dimmed lights.
*Gravity As the saying goes, Rome fell and one day, Honey, so will you. After the age of 28 or childbirth, whichever comes first, nothing on a woman stays in its original location. Our eyelids, jowls, breasts, bellies, butts, and knees all start to sag in what can only be explained as a terrible design flaw. And since we can’t all pay to have our droopy parts relocated, the fear of gravity and its effects contributes heavily to the previously mentioned fear of getting naked, and to the next item on our list.
*The gift of lingerie Unless she happens to be within that previously mentioned narrow window of comfort for getting naked in front of another person, nearly every woman cringes at the thought of opening a gift from her man to find some lacy, transparent, completely impractical garment. Yes, we know it’s the thought that counts. Yes, we know in his own way he’s trying to be flattering. But good lord, does he really expect us to strap on that silly deal he found at Skanky Ho’s “R” Us? And does he think that when we do, we’ll look like the woman he saw in the Victoria’s Secret catalog or perform like the one he saw in a porn movie? Does he realize we’re going to feel like a right fool when our non-surgically-enhanced, non-airbrushed parts are flopping around with nothing to support them but a couple of pasties and a few , strategically placed lengths of floss? Now that’s scary!
*Sex OK, this one’s a wash. I don’t think either gender holds a monopoly on bedroom insecurities. Everyone suffers from performance anxiety, no one wants to pale against the memory of a former lover. Life would be easier if we’d just cut each other a break, but because we’re humans that’s not like to happen any time soon.
*The whole mother thing This is it: the big ticket item, the whole package. Motherhood is the queen of all womanly fears. It represents the biological purpose of being female, and is at the core of our most intense human connections. And a woman doesn’t even have to be a mother to experience mother-related drama. There’s the fear of his mother. Deep inside, women are afraid they will never measure up to the woman who raised him—especially in his eyes! Then there’s the fear of becoming your mother. That fear has nothing to do with love. Even a woman who idolizes her own mother will die a little on the day she looks in the mirror and sees her mother’s face, opens her mouth utters her mother’s favorite platitude, or realizes she just bought a handbag that would look at home on her mother’s arm.
Becoming a mother affects each and every aspect of a woman’s life until the day she dies. What’s there to be frightened about? Motherhood is beautiful and natural, right? The fear is of not knowing how to be a mother! What if I don’t bond with my baby? What if I’m too strict or too permissive? What I have no more sense than God gave a goose when it comes to parenting and I ruin this perfect little heaven-sent angel? Being a mother, even a first time mother, is supposed to magically transform a woman. What if it doesn’t happen? What if motherhood swallows up my relationship with the man I love?
So there you have it: fifteen things that can scare the bejeezuz out of even the strongest, most capable woman. My crack team of researchers and I invite your comments. What have we misjudged? What have we left out? What scares a woman?