Ihave. I still do.
So, when I read this part of Greta Christina’s article, “Wealthy, Handsome, Strong, Packing Endless Hard-Ons: The Impossible Ideals Men Are Expected to Meet,” I laughed. Because it sounds completely ridiculous when you put it in writing.
So, behold. This is the male ideal:
We have ideas “in American culture about what a ‘real man’ is and does. You know: strong, competitive, dominant, wealthy, good at fixing machinery, lots of sexual partners, enjoys sports… Guys? Listen up. The world is telling you to turn yourself into a unicorn and start shitting diamonds… You will never, ever be man enough. So stop giving a damn.”
Humorous? Yes. A bit. But only if it’s hyperbole. If not, it totally sucks.
Are we really holding men to a standard of complete impossibility? When we’re out there in the dating scene looking for a potential match, are we searching for someone who doesn’t exist; a figment of our warped imaginations?
Christina’s article touches on the pressure society puts on men to be contradicting forms of everything. Guys better make a CEO paycheck, but work with their hands because that’s the sexy job. (How many mechanics do you know who make six figures?) Men better be strong in the right situations, but be sensitive the rest of the time (and it’s up them to figure out which situations require which trait, and then continuously walk that fine line). Christina argues that men can’t live up to that.
For the most part, I agree. But I don’t necessarily think it’s society who puts this pressure on men. I think it’s women.
It resonated with me when Streeter Seidell wrote that pretty much every single thing a guy does is fueled by one goal: to impress women. Our world runs on sexual tension, romantic entanglements and a never-ending search to find The One. Men dress up, work out, make money and become the “ideal” because they think we might like them a little more. And sadly, we allow that. But what guys don’t know? Every single woman has a different ideal, and she probably won’t readily admit to what that ideal is. Because it’s absurd.
Until we meet Mr. Right, our ideals all read like this: Perfect. Whatever “perfect” means to us individually.
That’s the hitch. Guys don’t know what “perfect” means to each and every woman. So, men start to get the idea that they have to be absolutely everything—just to cover all the bases—and that can’t be done.
I am guilty of keeping to my ideal. I’ve always just called it “high standards,” but maybe it’s more like “the standards that could likely sabotage your love life.” Maybe I’m not giving guys enough of a chance. Maybe we’re all not. Maybe we’re just too hard on them. And maybe we need to stop making all these stupid lists.
If I sat down and tried to describe what The Perfect Guy looked like, I could never do it. But I could list the sorts qualities that man would have all day long, because I have created the standard of perfection in my head, with so many intricate quirks, since I’ve been little girl. You probably have, too. And as time goes on, we constantly add to the list based on our changing needs and wants. Athletic prowess may not be important, but a high-profile job might. Maybe you used to want a guy with tousled blond hair, but now you favor men with a darker look. And your best friend? She could want the exact opposite. How do guys keep up? That’s right. They can’t.
Single women, I think we need to throw the lists out. For the sake of these impossible male ideals, and for the sake of our own love lives. (Married women, you probably ditched the lists a while ago. And when you did, when you realized your “perfect” wasn’t attainable, you found your match. Props.)
A friend once told me that she was always afraid to make it official with a guy. There was always something in the back of her mind that kept her from total happiness. And it all had to do with the list. Why wouldn’t she commit to a guy—even if she really felt the spark?
“Because what if there’s someone better out there?” she said. Translated: What if there’s a man who fits my Perfect Guy description better? Nonsense. Don’t we all know love doesn’t work that way by now? Even me. I should know better, but I always seem to forget.
Another reason to toss the list? Because you’re making it a lot harder for yourself to meet The Perfect Guy. And what else? When you do meet him, the list isn’t going to matter anymore. So, why live by it now?
Be honest: Do you hold men to impossibly high standards?