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Is It So Wrong to Want A Man?

"I do not, do not, do not need a man. But man do I want one, and I am tired of feeling guilty for doing so."
 
 
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I do not need a man. I do not need a man. I do not need a man.

I have a great job, financial independence (complete with debt), fantastic friends, a supportive family. My future is downright dazzling.
 
I do not, do not, do not need a man.

But man do I want one, and I am tired of feeling guilty for doing so. There is something about a male presence that is unlike any other comfort, and his absence is unsettling. I appreciate my roommates immensely, but they cannot salve the stresses of my day with a long, slow hug and a reassuring pat on the ass. My roommates will not pull me to the couch and rub my feet as we zone out to a basketball game. I do not watch sports when I am single. No one but my man can get away with tickling me, and he is the only one besides my teddy bear with whom I can cuddle at night. Not to mention my vigorous sex drive and the fact that vibrators, while handy, cannot kiss.

I have gotten good at listing the reasons why I want a man. For years I have defended my choice to have boyfriends. My mother and sister have long observed—with a hint of accusation—that I always seem to have one. I used to object—I have rarely been in love. But when I look at the timeline, it is true that I tend to keep guys around: The total numbers in double digits. Clearly, I prefer male companionship.

But why, dammit? I have been single now for a record two months, and I really wish I did not mind. I am a fully functioning adult. I am not looking to find myself in a man; I have already learned the futility of that endeavor. I have self-confidence, and I am not co-dependent. Even if I were, I have roommates. I know I want to get married, but I am not anxious to do it soon. By all logic, there is no reason I cannot be happy and alone.

Yet, at the end of the day, I still want a warm body next to (and inside of) me. I decided to find out why.

Henry Makow was a feminist in his first marriage, which was long before he started his website, www.savethemales.ca. I found him while Googling around, looking for intelligent posts regarding woman’s need for man. And while he’s got plenty of questionable beliefs—like, oh, that feminists are working for the government to destabilize society—Makow is a doctor, in the sense that he got his Ph.D. in English Literature. The Canada-based theorist has been writing for a long time, has taught at the university level, and he makes a good argument that my troublesome urges to play the role of sweet, loving girlfriend are right on target with the natural way of things. He says men and women are complements, and so it is no wonder I feel incomplete without mine. He believes it is only right that I should crave a man's comfort. Happily settled in his third marriage, he is, obviously, no longer a feminist. But after a good, long chat with Makow, I learned that conspiracy theorists can also make some excellent points (and also that phone calls to Canada do not qualify for free nights and weekends).

Despite his passionate anti-feminism, Makow is by no means a misogynist. "Women provide the intangible that makes life worth living," he tells me. (Go on, I'm listening … ) The intangible to him includes qualities like love, beauty, laughter, and other stereotypical notions of the feminine spirit. Yet I am flattered, because he is right. I can admit that it is generally the ladies who arrange the flowers, wear the flouncy skirts, and bat the eyelashes.  And aside from those superficial "girl things," we know that guys need us—something about our womanly wiles turns them to mush behind closed doors. The power of my come-hither smile is exhilarating. I am proud of my femininity, and I was pleased to hear Makow acknowledge its significance.

I was less pleased to acknowledge his accompanying assertion—that because women have such distinctive abilities in the realms of charm and domesticity, we should not be competing with our male counterparts in arenas like breadwinning. At heart, he says we desire a protector and a provider, and that is what men are for. Simply put, the boys are supposed to take care of the girls. We like to be pampered, and they like to make us happy. (Um … duh?) In his book, Stern goes on to define a lot of what women are in the process of vehemently disproving: the idea that men are best suited to have power in the physical and social environment, and that women flourish in loving relationships (a thinly veiled suggestion that we belong barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen). I want to tell Makow that he is wrong, wrong, wrong. I am well-suited to have a career, and not a woman I know would be content to bake cookies all day. Well, maybe one woman, but she really, really likes cookies.

Before I can interject, Makow continues: "Women balance men." If women let men fulfill their roles as providers and protectors, men will make us feel safe and loved. In return, our safe-and-loved selves will be content, cheerful and productive. This harmony between man and woman does not necessitate strict gender roles, says Makow. In his marriage, he does the cooking and she mows the lawn. I take this to mean it is okay to keep my job as long as I do not brag about making more money than my theoretical boyfriend. The key, he says, is to respect our instinctive strengths.

Sure, he’s a little out there. But at a gut level, I not only understand his logic—I agree with it.

But I needed proof beyond some Canadian who launched a website to espouse his ultra-traditional views. So I tracked down evolutionary biologist Jay Phelan. He would say that I agree with Makow at a gut level because of the DNA in my gut. When he told me that my desire for a boyfriend was "fairly unavoidable," I had to slap my hand over my mouth to keep from screeching in triumph. Even so, I pumped my free fist up and down, and for the rest of the day sporadically muttered, "I knew it!" Phelan is a doctor, in the sense that he received his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard in 1995. He is a biology professor at UCLA, and he specializes in evolutionary genetics. He would perhaps find fault with Makow's beliefs. But he does agree that many of our natural desires pre-date modern society.

Whether you want children or not, your body is wired to bear them. And success, in evolutionary terms, is defined by your ability to produce offspring and raise them to reproductive age. Personally, I would have been one hell of a success as a cave woman, but my urges to carry the children of every man I date seem out of place in the 21st century. Eventually, however, I will need a man to have kids. (Preferably, a respectful, high-earning, laugh-loving man who will not ditch me when my tits start to sag.) So maybe that solves the puzzle for me: I crave a man because my reproductive organs quiver every time I see a stroller. But there are plenty of women who want men, yet do not want to sacrifice their minds, bodies and bank accounts to offspring. So what gives?

Sex gives. It gives, and gives, and gives, and we all want to get laid. Turns out, you do not need to want kids to have this urge (again, duh). As Phelan explains, "the biggest factor in accounting for the 'need' women feel for men (and vice versa), even when it would seem that they oughtn't 'need' them, is the fact that our brains and emotions evolved in a world that was different from today's modern world." (Take that, Maureen Dowd.)

What worked then, works now, no matter how much we wish otherwise.

I am not a doctor.  I have gotten pretty good at healing my heart, but that is about it. What I heard from Makow and Phelan confirmed the lessons my heart has already learned: I want to be loved, and I want to be laid. Two guys, telling me why I feel like a girl. So what do my female peers have to say? Some women find it traitorous for me to verbalize these desires. I am encouraged to plan my career: I get enthusiastic approval when I outline professional goals. But mention marriage, i.e., my long-term plan for being loved and laid, and it is rolled eyes all around.

Why don’t these bitches want me to be happy? Perhaps they lack the pesky genes that push me onto Craigslist, or maybe they buy the idea that professional success can be as fulfilling as raising a family. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I need a man. Maybe not yet — maybe now I merely want him. But it is only a matter of time till the need kicks in, and there should be no shame in a need that is natural.

Christina Bryza moved from Texas to write and live in New York City, where no one is supposed to need anyone.

 
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