It is a tricky thing, to be a human in the West, during these millennial times (is that what we’re calling them?)
I’m thinking particularly – as I so often do – of the tricky distance between men and women.
Even more particularly, I’m thinking about attractive men. Not pretty men. Not ‘I-know-my-way-around-the-hair-product-aisle’ men, or ‘my perfect abs come from the gym’ men. I’m contemplating men who know where the toolbox is, and the fine distinctions between the flat screwdriver and the one that looks like a star; men who hold open the door for whoever is behind them, defend the smaller and weaker; men who enjoy a beer with the sporting event of their choice, but moderate their language when in the company of ladies.
I’ve read somewhere along the way, about studies into the effect of artificial sterility – ie. chemical birth control – on the attraction between men and women. Turns out a woman looks for different things in a man when her fertility is suppressed. A woman on contraception is more drawn to the delicate, sensitive emasculated lads, while a woman potentially capable of bearing new life is keen on manly men.
Dark hair and blue eyes aside, Zac Ephron in The Lucky One (the latest offering of Nicholas Sparks in cinemas near you) portrayed manliness so well I was in very grave danger. Not of committing serious sin, I hasten to add, but of being drawn into the fairy tale of Prince Charming on his white charger.
Seemingly innocent, happily ever after is a gossamer web, an enticing, glistening snare. Lured by the delicate image of lovers silhouetted against the setting sun, a yearning heart will overlook more realistic possibilities of real love – the companionable, oh-so-wonderful in its very ordinariness kind of love with a companionable, oh-so-wonderful in his very ordinariness kind of man. As a single woman of a certain age, I am trying to live my life in a way that is pleasing to God, according to my circumstances. While I am not morose or bitter about my lot in life, I am aware that something is lacking. I know that I am meant to belong to someone – whether a husband and family, or a religious community. It is my great sadness that neither has been fulfilled.
In order to maintain a level of peace and joy, I have to be cautious of what I am feeding my imagination, which in turn fuels my hopes and goals. My longing for a good man to call my own was dormant until I watched The Lucky One, which awakened thoughts of the man of my dreams. It was a dangerous thing to have done not because wanting to meet a good man is wrong, but because the movie hero is not reflective of reality… or only true to life in very broad strokes.
There are good men out there – I know many of you and am fortunate to count you as my friends. You are trying hard to live Godly lives, just as we women are. I don’t know many of you, though, who are good with children, kind to animals, able to renovate abandoned buildings, serve three tours of active duty as a Marine, capable of disarming a bad guy and tear down his weapon, play the piano and chess, rebuild an old tractor, read philosophy, and walk clear across the country with your perfect dog in search of the girl whose picture you found in the rubble of a bomb attack. All while looking like that. It would be the equivalent of Martha Stewart (uber housewife), and St.Therese (kind and gentle), wrapped up in the packaging of … I don’t know, Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn. The stars in my eyes can potentially blind me to the more subdued beauty of Joe Smith sitting beside me at Mass.
For the married ladies among us, the storybook hero can cause you to become discontented with your own man. Your real life Prince Charming doesn’t stand outside your window holding the world’s heaviest portable stereo, declaring his love for you to the neighbours by blaring ‘In your eyes’ by Peter Gabriel. Your guy needs to be asked three times to bring the garbage out, or won’t change poopy diapers, or chews with his mouth open, or cannot be persuaded to take you to museums or the ballet. Can you see the goodness he does possess? All the ways he proves his love to you and his family every day by getting up at dawn to go to work, the way he always takes time at night to read a bedtime story to the kids, or knows just how to massage your feet at the end of the day?
True fairy tales seldom have a stirring soundtrack, and hardly ever take place in Paris in the Spring, or New York in the Fall. The Prince will almost never look or sing like Chris Cornell. He may be in disguise, but if we have healthy expectations and the right perspective, we’ll recognize him for the hero he is.