Aren't you bored of the "men are intimidated by smart, successful women" meme? Okay, having never been a particularly powerful or successful woman, I wouldn't know firsthand, but I've certainly been with my share of men with less going on than me in the career/bank-account department, and none ever seemed to have a problem with me chipping in half our bar tab. I mean, it's 2011 and we're in the midst of the worst recession since the depression--shouldn't we all be stoked just to have a solvent partner, regardless of tired, outdated gender roles? Yet today, the New York Times ran yet another version of the same old story, wondering "Is female empowerment killing romance?" Sigh.
"It is amazing how even many liberal-minded men end up having sexual and emotional difficulties being with more obviously successful women," said Sasha Havlicek, the 35-year-old chief executive of a London research group. A high-flying friend of hers resorted to ritually feigning helplessness with her partner to promote his sense of masculinity. "The male ego can be a more fragile thing than the female ego, which is used to a regular battering and has hence developed a sense of humor!"
I understand letting your partner know he's needed, but feigning helplessness? I'm getting a headache. Do you really want to go out with the kind of guy whose delicate ego requires you feign helplessness?
"Take care of me because I'm just a widdle girl!" Cue sound of my brain exploding.
For a reality check, I quizzed men from all sorts of worlds (okay, mostly publishing) and asked them their thoughts on dating and/or marrying someone who made more bank than they did. Maybe I have a more enlightened focus group (or more broke group, considering how crap publishing salaries are these days), but none of my guys had much of a problem with it. Here's what they had to say:
"Are you kidding? Success is a huge turn on to REAL men. I wouldn't even care if my girl was more successful than I was in my own field, I would be proud of her and hopefully learn from her. I thought we were past this ... this is complete crap that only affects men with dicks smaller than their brains, and megalomaniacs like Maureen Dowd who think her Pulitzer intimidates men. Well, maybe if she stopped lubing it up and bringing it to bed with her ..."
"I'm always happy for someone to earn loads of dough."
"When I met my wife-to-be, I was a broke freelance writer living out of a backpack. Which, fortunately for me, is romantic to the right woman. But even once I put the backpack away, my paychecks could never compare to her corporate-PR payouts. My ego hasn't suffered a single bit. In fact, I'm proud to have a wife who takes her career seriously and can hold her own in every way. It can be tricky. When my fiscal cupboard has run dry and we want to take a trip, she's forced to pony up. But we do track our money, so I just about always put that dough back into our joint account. It's not about ego--it's fairness."
"I really would be thrilled to date someone who had enough money to pay for a decent vacation for herself, and take me out for a nice dinner once in a while. I'm not in the slightest bit intimidated by a woman making more money than me. Any issues I might have are how it reflects on my own success or not, not anything to do with her. I suspect if she made a lot more than me, there would be some jealousy, just as there can be with male friends--I'm competitive but lazy."
"I like a successful, professional woman. If she is one, she's pretty likely to be making more than me, given the field I'm in. I'm all for it. The idea that such women are 'intimidating' is a defensive fiction dreamt up by successful women who aren't getting laid."
"If Hemingway could have a sugar mama, why not me?"
I can't pretend that my small group of men is indicative of all men everywhere, but I would say their answers are heartening for us women who'd sooner gnaw off our own toenails than feign helplessness. What about you other guys out there in the ether? I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.