There seems to be a growing sentiment among many of today’s men and women that, romantically speaking, we no longer need one another.
Ding, ding, ding! In one corner: The “I-am-woman-hear-me-roar” variety, the kind who touts female independence above all else and trots out anti-male books and articles with titles like “Are Men Necessary?” and “The End of Men.” In the other corner: The “fed-up man,” the kind who feels dicked over (no pun intended) by what he feels is an increasingly misandrist society, so much so that he decides to forgo the “trappings of male servility” altogether for a life of blissful bachelordom. Fueled by past and present societal resentments, the boxers defensively yet defiantly retreat to their respective corners.
I’ve seen evidence of the latter mentality on various Web sites, in which men write about their frustrations and anger. Despite the feeling that they’re being castrated, they’re, well … pissed off. They argue: I don’t need a woman in my life. Why would I subject myself to an unjust court system and a nagging wife who professes to not even need me, when I can be perfectly happy having no-strings-attached sex and eating my Wheaties in peace?
I’ve also seen the former attitude proudly on display at a “Battle of the Sexes” event, hosted by Steve Santagati, author of the bestselling book “The Manual.” The premise: three men on one side; three women on the other; Santagati in the middle moderating. At one point during the debate, one of the female panelists shouted: “This is what you guys don’t get. We can take care of ourselves. We don’t neeeeed you in our lives. We want you in our lives.”
Is it so awful nowadays to admit that we need—not just want—one another? I used to think so. For years, I bought into the aforementioned female panelist’s mentality but perhaps not for reasons in which I firmly believed.
A few years ago, when I was around 30, during a summer jaunt to Nantucket, I met a guy out at a bar. We hit it off and decided to take a stroll together around the cobble-stoned streets. Eventually, and I don’t know how we stumbled onto the subject, we began to discuss dating and gender relations. I can’t remember exactly what it was I said that prompted his response but it was a response I’ll never forget: “Oh no, here we go again. We get it: You’re independent and self-sufficient and you don’t need us.”
That moment has always stayed with me. I was surprised. All that time, I thought men wanted a woman who proudly admitted her independence and self-sufficiency, a woman who could rely totally on herself for everything. Don’t get me wrong, I was (and am) proud of being an independent, educated woman, but it dawned on me at that moment that while men surely appreciate women who have these qualities, they also want women who need them and openly rejoice in that sentiment.
Women, too, need men, and we want men to need us.
Of course, I’m not talking about needing one another in obsessive, insecure ways, but I am saying that it should be socially acceptable for men and women to admit to ourselves and those around us that we need one another. Maybe it’s not in the same way we needed each other 60 years ago—women can change their own tires and make their own money; men can cook and clean for themselves. But we still and will always need each other for companionship, emotional support, intimacy, to feel special and valued and cared for and safe, to be inspired. We don’t just want those things. We, as human beings, need those things.
I am reminded of a scene from the inimitable movie “Say Anything,” in which a distraught Diane Court (played by a wonderful Ione Skye) seeks solace in the arms of her ex, Lloyd Dobler (an unforgettable John Cusack character). Diane has just been betrayed by her father, whom she adores, so she rushes to the only other man in her life for support. “I need you,” she implores. Hesitant, Lloyd asks, “Are you here because you need someone, or you need me?” only to follow up his question (he knows the answer) with, “Forget it. I don’t care.” Diane doesn’t want Lloyd. She needs him. And he needs her.
The bottom line is this: We should celebrate that we need each other and say and do everything we can to convince one another to take off the gloves.