I mention my friend Marc a lot here — we actually met on OKCupid last summer, went out for BBQ and became fast friends. His daughter is the same age as my kids, we all went to the beach last week and Marc and I talk on the phone all the time – mostly about dating. He’s awesome (any ladies who live in the greater NYC area — preferably Central Jersey — ping me offline if you want more details!), at the same time a normal dude (light beer, college basketball) and a remarkably insightful and self-aware man.
Last night he said something that blew my mind. Marc is currently dating two women – one is a fun, cool social worker who is rather heavy. The other is a skinny, beautiful physician with a tepid personality (I refer to her as The Vulcan – no offense, sweetie!). Both bring out Marc’s insecurities about his income. Marc is a New Jersey public school teacher. You should also know that Marc is a big guy.
Last week he and the doctor went for drinks with her doctor friends. “The whole time I was having an anxiety attack about what they thought about me and my career,” Marc confided.
It should make more sense that he would dig the social worker — who also happens to be tons more fun — right? Wrong. “I know this makes me sound so shallow, but I’m just not that into her physically. I don’t like big boobs.” Say what?!
“That really gets into my insecurities about my income — especially in the tri-state area where guys have all these fat wallets,” Marc said without a hint of shame. “I like to feel like I can take care of a woman. And if I can’t do that with my money, I want to feel like I can do it physically. So I like women who are shorter and smaller than me.”
There you have it. That is everything you need to know about navigating dating, relationships and gender. Men want to feel like they are taking care of us. Maybe it is with lavish sushi dinners and four-bedroom colonials. Maybe it is with remarkable cunnilingus. Maybe it is the sense they could beat off unwanted advances from drunken Colombian World Cup revelers should the need arise. And maybe it is just that they want to feel big and manly when they snuggle us.
Which is exactly why I prefer men who are larger than me. And at least as professionally successful as me. And who — though I may feign disgust — would take down any surly suitors who get up in my grill. I have wrestled with my feelings on this, but Marc’s clear stance liberated me.
This is such tricky business, feminism. If I want to take a bazooka to any glass ceilings, I also have to pay the price that 50 percent of men eventually will earn less than women. Women are making remarkable strides in business, politics and academics — while still maintaining the majority of decisions at home. This trend is both a win and a sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice because I want to feel taken care of –and so do you. And men pay the price because in the absence of any glass ceiling they have 50 percent less opportunity to be the primary breadwinner and rely on that source of feeling masculine.
So we struggle to redefine what “taking care of” means. It can mean many things — around the house, on the dangerous streets of America, and in bed. And the latter is especially powerful for men, who (do I really need to spell this out?) are more sexually inclined and impacted by the visual that we are. In the world we live in, that likely means the woman is physically smaller than the man.
Which perpetuates the skinny ideal.
That is a bummer for chicks like me (and probably you), who are not super-slim. This is a price we pay for our strides in gender equality.
If you’re a big girl, or even a medium-sized girl, do not despair. If you haven’t, please read this manifesto: “I’m 40, fat, single and have no problem getting laid all the time” — a wonderful essay by a 300-lb woman who has mutually fantastic sex with wonderful men on a regular basis. The writer is a testament to how an inner sensual beauty defies body shape and size — and every one of us has the power to harness our own.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.