Ain't nothing goin' on but the rent? Really?

Bill collectors at my door,
What can you do for me?

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that for all our talk, its possible that some of us (and by some I mean, well, me) have no idea what it is we’re really looking for.  We talk about wanting a good man, then walk right past the many good men out here, and there are many, many good men out here, searching for some elusive ideal that we cant quite put our finger on, and then we turn around and wonder why we’re alone?  Eh?  I must warn you, this convoluted argument is picking up from where Want a man? left off, a post that I suspect pissed some people off as much as the Saturday paper did me.  The reason I’m looking to continue that conversation, and it was a very good conversation, is simply because I have a sneaky suspicion that this is where the answers to our (single) questions lie.  Or not, let’s see shall we?

Today’s rant is inspired by this article (the elusive eligible bachelor) published in last weekend’s Saturday magazine, an article that sought to educate us on the criteria that make men worth marrying.  Now while I love that the author is often playing devil’s advocate, and her occasionally chauvinist views are intended (I hope) as a reply to Mantalk and the equally chauvinist opinions expressed therein, every so often she rubs me the wrong way, especially on the days she decides to bang the ‘men are all shit’ drum.  Its not that I don’t think that there are some shit men out there (clearly I do), I just don’t buy into the ‘men are all bastards’ spiel, and I expect any half serious observer of human nature (that’s what these writers are supposed to be, no?) to do the same.  All I’m saying is it’s a fine line between social commentary and the ramblings of a misguided (and possibly unserious?) columnist, and gems like these tend to blur the line even more: “In the olden days, an eligible bachelor was usually a man of means or one with the right social standing.  Not much has changed; today, an eligible bachelor simply must have means, and a verifiable claim of belonging to a reputable bloodline or gene pool. There must be no doubt about his ability to take care of his wife (should he find one).”  Really?  No seriously, I’m not being pissy, do people actually think like this?  Sweet Jesus!  On the up side though, she gave me something to bitch about, and inspired the soundtrack, so I guess I should be thankful, no?

Folks, it would appear that the single most important criterion in the selection of a husband is his (fat) bank account.  Don’t get all hot and bothered, I’m simply reporting what’s in the mass media, and all those geniuses keep talking about is a man’s ability to provide.  ‘Provide what?’ you ask.  Everything, apparently, everything with a price tag on it. 

‘Cause ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent,
You got to have a J-O-B if you wanna be with me...

The way they tell it, a good man is one who can afford to keep his woman living in the lap of luxury, where luxury is relative to your current station in life, any less and he’s a deadbeat, doomed to spend the rest of his days alone.  These women say they want a man who has the means to take care of them and the 2.5 kids they plan on having?  Brilliant!  Thing is, gone are the days when a good man was defined by his ability to kill an antelope, plough a field and sire many children, these days women are out here ploughing their own quarter acres in Mavoko and shit, earning a living for their own damn selves, and this while the men are out there following their flighty dreams of being artists, or yoga instructors, or backpackers, options that up until the last decade were not open to a ‘serious man’.  The family structure we grew up with, with mama watoto taking care of the kids and baba watoto bringing home the Elliots, those days are gone my friend.  These days mama leaves the house before baba does, and sometimes gets home well after him; baba helps the kids with the homework, because mama’s on a conference call; mama teaches her son how to ride a bike, because baba is out of town all month.  The times they are a changing… 

Now I’m not saying a man is no longer expected to take care of his woman and family, that hierarchy is what we grew up with and therefore all we know (although a certain lovely gentleman I often argue with would argue that its hardwired into us, evolutionary instincts and all that jazz?).  Thing is, after being subjected to years of ‘women are equal’ nonsense, what exactly does ‘being a good provider’ mean?  Is the man expected to pay all the bills, or half, or only the bigger, more serious ones?  Does this mean that a man who has less than we do cannot be considered a potential partner?  Is the issue here his capacity to pay the bills, or his willingness to do so?  Because we all know of wealthy men who are stingy with their money, just as there are poor men who are generous with every little thing they have, yet the wealthy man will have a million admirers, and the poor man will have no more than two, on a good day.  If you earn a decent living and manage to take good care of yourself while single, why the insistence on a man of greater means than your own, is equal no longer enough?  Is this about comfort, need, ego, image, or good old fashioned stereotypes?

Boy, nothin’ in life is free,
That’s why I’m askin’ you what can you do for me?
I’ve got responsibilities,
So I’m lookin’ for a man whose got money in his hands…

Us mamas we can sometimes get a bit caught up in the fantasy in our heads, obsessed with vague images of some knight in shining armour on a gallant steed, who’ll come to rescue us from our lives and sweep us off to his magnificent palace, whereupon he will cater to our every whim and satisfy our every desire.  Madam, when was the last time you saw a man in a metal suit?  Real metal, not metallic, unfortunately there’s a few too many of those in the city these days (really, my brother, you don’t think a suit that can reflect sunlight is a bit too much?), you’ll have better luck finding a man on a gallant steed, even though men on horses are a bit hard to come by in these parts, outside of Karen that is.  I know, the fairytale was updated and now reads a knight in shining jewellery in a gleaming machine, but that doesn’t make the fairytale any more real. 

And before you accuse me of being too simplistic in my approach, let me just clarify that for some women, the standard fairytale holds absolutely no appeal, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t have a picture of the ideal man in their heads, the only difference is that the man in their picture is not the regulation Prince Charming wannabe, perhaps he’s more Marquis de Sade, who knows?  Point is, we have this picture in our heads of the man we’re going to end up with and the life we’re going to live thereafter, admittedly a picture that we keep updating as we grow older, but we keep searching and searching to no avail, because no man will ever live up to your fantasy, probably because its unrealistic, or maybe even just plain daft.  My fairytale, if you can call it that, has me playing Lara Croft, in a manor and everything, with a hot butler to boot and intimacy issues from here to TZ, waiting for my hot former SAS turned mercenary ex-lover to change his ways and come back to me (this makes a lot more sense if you’ve watched the movies, trust me).  Daft, no?  (On an unrelated note, Im starting to see from whence my issues stem…)  The thing about fantasies, as brilliant as it is to have a picture in your head to keep you going when all else fails, sometimes the obsession over that piece of fiction keeps you from seeing the reality all around you. 

‘Cause nothin’ from nothin’, leaves nothin’,
You got to have somethin’ if you wanna be with me,
‘Cause life is too serious, love’s too mysterious,
A fly girl like me needs security...

See, I’m not entirely convinced that this need for a man who will provide has anything to do with the soon to be family, I think it’s a question of expectations of happily ever after, the bloody fantasy.  Dont get me wrong, the hope that by finding a man and/or getting married a woman will improve her lot in life, and (hopefully) by extension that of her future offspring is to be expected, we all aspire to a better life.  Far be it for me to sit here and claim to not want to live happily ever after with a man who could give me everything my material self desires, I want the good life, just like everyone else.  Perhaps there’s something to looking for a man who can ‘provide’, maybe that’s the trigger to finally settling down.  Or perhaps, it’s simpler when you reduce the happily ever after to a simple financial decision, who knows?  What I do know, however, is if you want a better life, then I’m afraid you have to go out there and work for it, just like everyone else, a man/husband in the picture isn’t a short cut, or a means to an end.  Or is he?  

That would explain the problems my fellas keep finding themselves in, no

Folks, I’m not so idealistic as to believe that the decision on what man to pick for a life partner should be based solely on a man’s character, that’s just plain silly, life is hard, and complicated, and it costs (real) money to live it.  I’m simply asking if money is the most important criterion that should be used to make this decision.  From what little I know about contemplating marriage (long story, another day), the choice is based, in part, on the vision you have for your shared future, how you see your life playing out five, ten, twenty years down the line.  You imagine what your life will be like; the house you’ll buy, or build; the neighbourhood you’ll live in; what your kids will look like, what schools they’ll go to, what musical instrument they’ll play; the trips you’ll take to far flung exotic locations… the stuff that we build our life around, but ultimately not the stuff that makes us happy.  While we’re busy dreaming of the mansion in the suburbs, we forget to think about the people in said mansion.  Put differently, there’s more to life than possessions, and there’s a lot more to happiness than the satisfaction of our material urges.  While looking for a man who can provide in the monetary sense is a seemingly sensible decision, it ignores our other, possibly just as important, needs, like the need for respect, love, or, dare I say it, sex.  

By focusing on a man’s wallet, we overlook the essence of the man, and in so doing we overlook the many men who, though lighter of pocket, may be more substantial in other less tangible aspects (I put in ‘less tangible’ to keep your minds out of the gutter, you deviants…). 

Boy, you’re silky ways are sweet,
But you’re only wastin’ time if your pockets are empty.
I’ve got lots of love to give,
But I will have to avoid you if you’re unemployed...

There are good men out here, they may not be driving Audi S5’s and living in Karen, but they are still good men.  Then again if you can’t see that, then maybe you should keep chasing the fantasy a bit longer, no?  By all means, keep looking for your good ‘provider’, your blinging knight in a gleaming machine, but keep in mind that a knight will demand a lady, which then begs the next question, are you a lady?  But that’s a question for next week.