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Food For Thought

If you’re a mystified male wondering what to give your lady for Christmas, this is probably not going to be much help. Not, that is, unless you’re not out to impress her with something expensive, or any of the other consumer goods everybody envisions when they think of wrapped goodies under the Christmas tree. Those high-end, traditional extravagances, while they no doubt signify some measure of devotion or regard, have little to do with what women really want, or with what the average mate is able to sensibly provide.
Diamonds, expensive perfumes, designer hand-bags, gleaming sports cars, tickets to exotic vacation destinations, luxury cruises, art masterpieces, they all have to do with money and their worth as gifts is relative to what the recipient already has and to what the giver can afford. Maybe it all boils down to the idea that, if he can afford those things, they’re no big deal– to give– or to receive. So, just what is it that women want?
I’ve long pondered that dilemma and the best answer I can come up with is that women want to be rescued.
As children, we all need to feel safe, and girls by their very natures, never quite outgrow that need. As time progresses, girls want to be saved from a long list of perceived dangers and difficulties. They want to be saved from the neighborhood bully, from skinned knees and cold, rainy days. As teens, they want somebody to make the pimples go away, turn the impossible, frizzy hair into long, silky tresses, their awkward bodies into sveldt goddesses. What they want is improbable but not impossible. They want to be rescued from boredom, braces on their teeth, loneliness, boys who don’t know they exist, shyness, homework, having to unload the dishwasher after school. And eventually, they no longer expect, or want, their parents to be the ones to rescue them, they want to be rescued from their parents. This is when they start wanting the impossible. They want a knight in shining armor to come charging up and take them away from their childhood and turn them into a talented, beautiful princess who lives in an ivory tower and is forever adored.
Then, one day they see the folly of all those fairytale dreams and begin to realize what they really want. It turns out to be the same things they started with. They want to be safe. They want to be cherished. They want to be allowed to be themselves. They want time to learn and develop interests. They want support dealing with the tough things. Things like the loss of a loved one, a threatening illness, damage to their self-esteem. They want a chance to find success on their own rather than as an appendage to a successful man. They want to be safe from abuse, be it sexual, emotional or the financial abuse of having no funds available for their own discretion.
Women who hold jobs outside the home these days are the rule rather than the exception. But there is still a measure of inequity in the notion that the money they earn is not their own. There are very few men who don’t believe that the money they earn is theirs and that whatever they lavish on their wives and children is by choice. If they want to spend a few hundred bucks on their buddies at the country club, maybe play the big-shot once in a while, it is their right. Women feel guilty if they buy a new blouse and make tuna casserole for dinner instead of buying that expensive steak. They want to share, not to serve. They want a partnership, and by the very nature of men, that is the one thing they are unable to give honestly and unconditionally.
Some men manage to do a passable, sometimes admirable, job of it, but most manage it only sporadically, as if they had had a sudden attack of sentimentality and remembered how it felt when they first fell in love. That resolve to “climb every mountain and swim every sea” too often gives way to “if it isn’t too much trouble, or if I can still watch football all day Sunday and you keep the kids out of my hair.”
There are some men who bitterly complain that the only thing women want from them is their money. Since life these days seems to be reduced to what everything costs, they may be justified in this attitude. It’s an expected product of the way we live, with everybody paying someone else to do the things that we all used to do for ourselves. Maybe spending money is the only way we have left to show how much we appreciate someone’s role in our lives.
As Harlan Miller used to write in his newspaper column, “There is no solution, seek it lovingly.”