Last night the Russian lover and I took one look at the pile of dirty dishes in the sink and went straight out for beer and wings. It was Quizzo night at the the local bar we holed up in, and I wanted to give it a try. The Russian lover is a walking encyclopedia and I remember stupid stuff all the time, so I figured the two of us could form a formidable team.
I was entirely wrong. We did get at least one question right that I recall; the answer was “electromagnetic spectrum” and that gives you some idea of what huge nerds we are. But on matters of American pop culture the Russian lover was no help, and my answer to every sports question was a frowny face and a question mark.
Once upon a time women were not expected to know anything about sports. That was part of the man’s world, and women were meant to stay out of it. While I don’t wish us back to a place where a woman would feel socially marginalized for caring about a baseball team, I’m sort of weary of the new culture where we’re all supposed give a damn about the world of professional athletics.
I’m constantly amazed by all the people I know, but especially women, who are sources of endless stats from various sports leagues. If you ask me about my city’s championship team, you’ll just get a long stare followed by a slow blink. I don’t know, I don’t care, and I only go to games if someone else is paying for my ticket and my beer. In a sports town like Philly, it’s almost difficult to find women who are apathetic to the local teams.
My theory, though, is that most of these women care about as much as I do — which is to say, not at all. But in the quest to find a mate, or the next ex-boyfriend, or even just some guy willing to pay for dinner on Friday night, women have had to start faking their interest in sports for the sake of wooing a suitor. A woman who possesses knowledge and passion about something a man loves as much as his home team may be able hold his attention a little longer than if she confessed she’d rather watch chick flicks than football.
For as much has been made about the ranks of metrosexual men avowing interest in home decor and excessive grooming, there must be as many if not more women now playing it up as enthusiastic tomboys. One ill effect of feminism’s hangover is that we keep trying to seduce the opposite gender by acting more like it.
I think part of the nostalgia we feel for the romance of those old black and white Hollywood movies is that there we see men attract women by acting like men, and women attract men by acting like women. The hero doesn’t pretend to care what pretty objects the woman collects, and she doesn’t get mad when he doesn’t. The heroine doesn’t pretend to care about the man’s rugged, competitive pursuits, and he doesn’t think less of her when she doesn’t. Both are charmed by the other’s idiosyncratic behaviors and interests, not looking to conform to them.
This isn’t to say that men can’t love scented soap and women can’t love sports. Just that we all seem to be facing more pressure to pretend we do even when we don’t. Whether it’s because we’re ashamed of being gender stereotypes or desperate to find favor with the opposite sex, it’s not an improvement over the days when what we could or couldn’t do was dictated by our genitalia; we’re still allowing the societal expectations to define our interests, only now we’re obligated to reject our own gender norms instead of exclusively embrace them.
In our culture today it’s OK to be yourself, as long as yourself is some convoluted and preferably mismatched construct of gender and genitals. It’s the girly-girls and the manly-men who now feel a bit lost, like Vanilla and Chocolate ice cream trying to hold their own in a world of Ben and Jerry’s options. But they’ll be just fine, because regardless of the trends that come and go, the classics will always prevail.