“Your mom respects me,” my Dom told me a few days ago. “I can tell.”
My mom, if you haven’t read much of my blog, is what you would call a Strong, Independent Woman. She was more of a man than my father was when we were growing up; not only was she the nurturer and loving, emotional one, but she was the protector, the brave one, the one who would fight tooth and nail for her kids.
She is also something of a man-hater.
I don’t think she means to be. But I was raised with the subtle, unspoken attitude that men are weak, men are stupid, you can’t trust men to do anything, and if you want it done right, you need to rely on a woman. They need the direction of a strong woman in their life to be worth anything. Basically, men are good for cooking and cleaning and doing service around the house, but for the big things, like bills, child-rearing, getting kids fed and clothed, and protecting the family, you need to rely on a woman.
I know, it’s backwards from what most people are taught.
I don’t blame her for this attitude, really. My dad was sweet and helpful, but he wasn’t strong or fiery. He didn’t fight for their marriage; he just let it slip away slowly while he was busy watching golf on the tv. To her, he was good for doing menial chores, like cooking and dishes and laundry, but she had to be the one who stood up for her kids, planned the dates, managed the checkbooks, and made all the big decisions.
So of course she thinks most men are useless.
Therefore, she treats most men like servants. She’ll boss them around (“Why don’t you go help the kids with their toys? Bring me a Coke with three ice cubes, please. Did you finish cooking dinner? Good, now set the table and then you can clean the dishes”) and make fun at their expense.
My Dom got tired of this. He comes from a more traditional family, where women are seen as weak and men are seen as strong.
He was not happy with my mom’s attitude toward him.
He started responding with emotional jabs back when she got bossy or high-handed with him. He acted like he was the king and she was lucky to be in the room with him.
She never said anything. I was afraid she was going to start hating him.
Instead, to my amazement, the strong man-eater started seeking his approval. She would laugh at his jokes. She didn’t boss him around. When she did, she added a “please.” When he hugged her or laughed at her jokes, she would beam, like she’d accomplished something. She likes to joke with him over a bottle of wine.
She seems to respect him.
When we got engaged, she appalled and worried me by crying “I just didn’t want you to settle!” Those words–and her seeming disapproval of my choice–haunted me.
A few days ago, I brought it up. I asked her if she thought I’d settled.
She looked surprised. “No!” she said. “I just wanted you to be sure.”
Warm waves of my mother’s approval washed over me. She likes him. She respects him. She doesn’t think I settled.
Neither do I.
“Are you making me into a weak woman?” I asked.
My Dom seemed confused. “Why would you think that?”
Why would I think that? Because now it seems like I’ve become used to relying on him to make every decision I don’t feel like making. I can’t decide between the chicken and the fish. Which one do I want, babe? I’m not sure if I’d like fries to go with that for only a dollar. Do I want fries, babe?
If I want something, I say so. And he doesn’t care. But if I’m hesitating, I turn to him. Even on the smallest things.
I’ve noticed an alarming pattern to my answers when my parents ask me questions. “Getting a new car? I don’t know if we’ve started looking. Ask him.” Or, “Utilities high this month? I have no idea. Ask him.” Or, “Are the bills paid on time? I don’t know. He always takes care of that.”