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What has happened to all the men around me?(20 Posts)
I am early 40s and have a lovely life in many ways. Divorced and dated several men. I am not I think unrealistic but so many many men I have known, not just romantic prospects but colleagues, friends even to some extent DS, plus one of my cousins seem to be going through a massive massive crisis of self confidence. One friend for example who I have known for maybe 2 years does a job which is at least one level beneath him, doesn't seem to have confidence in his ability to do his current job even though his appraisals are always good, never goes out on dates been single for 5 years. The last 3 dates I went on, 1 friend of friend 1 online 1 met through an interest. All were lovely guys, presentable, good jobs, good social skills BUT no confidence in the dating situation and all hadn't been out with anyone for years. In a way I tell myself I am blessed that the women in my life are super string super confident, I even see this though with DD who is outgoing, knows what she wants, sure of herself in most situations and DS who massively lacks confidence and thinks everyone is better than him. Wonder had anyone else come across this?
I am a 41 year old man and I can relate to this big time. More often than not I get the feeling that along with many good, decent people I’m under siege, and that many of the fundamental assumptions upon which I’ve tried to build my life in good faith have proven to be utterly false. I think it can be broken down helpfully into various areas: relationships, work/career, and wider culture.
I had two long term relationships before I met my wife three years ago. One was in my mid twenties and everything was going fine until I came home one day to a “Dear John” letter, an empty bank account, and a pile of bills including a mortgage that my single salary barely covered. I only just managed to keep the roof over my head. It was the first notice I was given that the relationship was anything other than full of joy – we’d never had so much as raised voices between us.
Second relationship was in late twenties and we managed to get engaged, although she wouldn’t tell her parents and even hid the fact of the relationship from our colleagues. We did have the occasional argument, usually because she gave every indication of being ashamed of me and because her parents never thought I was good enough, but her not turning up to the registry office was the give-away that we were in trouble.
Throughout my early thirties I tried online dating. I genuinely don’t think women have the slightest clue how brutal this can be for men, even decent, normal, articulate ones. I am, I was regularly told, good looking: athletic, tall, own teeth/hair/hips etc. My OLD profiles had lots of detail about interests, hobbies and so on – some very mainstream, others less so. All of my pictures showed me fully clothed, none showed my car. Whenever I messaged someone I thought might be suitable I used proper sentences and respectful language, and tried to build a conversation around a mutual shared interest or some such catalyst. And yet whenever I initiated contact I almost never got a reply. I reckoned on perhaps one reply for every 50 first messages, and as many of those were polite rejections or were from women who appeared to have no interest in actually meeting I would probably have to contact a couple of hundred women to get a date. In all seriousness, it is astonishingly easy to spend five years trying to get a date, and failing.
I’ve posted before about my career and the damage my experiences have done to my self-esteem. Long story short: good public sector career path ended virtually overnight because of changing policy. Instead of digging my fingers into the doorframe and being shoehorned into a completely unsuitable non-job I went back to school to do an MBA at phenomenal cost (over US$80k in course fees alone, never mind not working for two years and funding living costs etc) and now struggle to find work of ANY description, let alone something at the level I’m capable of working or even just fulfilling.
My recent career experience has been a litany of constant rejection and frustration, and disbelief at the way people are capable of treating each other with what comes across as such utter contempt. In one memorable instance last year I applied for a job. A couple of months later I was approached by an agency about that very role. The job had gone to someone who couldn’t take it up for a while and they needed interim cover. End result – I get nearly six months worth of interim work at over £500 per day on the basis of a ten minute phone call, covering a job where they couldn’t even be bothered to reply to my application for the permanent position. How exactly was I supposed to feel about this, if not a crisis of confidence?
Then there’s wider cultural attitudes towards men. The pages of MN are filled with stories about how useless men are. The news is filled with stories about how dangerous men are. I get that throughout history men have, as a gross generalisation, held and abused power, discriminated, and generally not been very nice towards people they have regarded as weaker and stacked the decks against. I get that, I really do.
However, I grew up in a world that was rather more enlightened and I have spent virtually all of my (fragmented, disjointed) working life in female-dominated industries. I’m a stay-at-home househusband for fuck’s sake. And yet, as often as not, it sometimes seems that maleness is under attack. There is a substantial proportion of divorce settlements which are grossly unfair. Most people still, deep down, expect men to be the main breadwinner. I learned a long time ago never to try and help a child in public. A few years ago I stepped in to help out a very close friend who was struggling with her children (hence my username), and was rewarded with almost everyone I knew making jokes about me grooming them. I gave up coaching youth cricket because far too many people questioned my motives as a single, childless man. I sit at home all day rather than relax on a park bench and be accused of ogling kids. I gave up being involved in politics because of women-only shortlists.
I really don’t like the word ‘feminazi’ but it does seem quite apt for some of the things I come across, and I cannot help the feeling sometimes that because I have a penis I am being punished - in the mainstream - for the misogyny of the past in a way that 21st century Germans don’t get punished for the Third Reich, or white people don’t get punished for slavery.
I met my wife in 2013 and our relationship brings happiness and stability that I could only dream about, and had frankly given up on, at the time. She has been wonderfully supportive of my career position and struggles, and extremely grateful for the contribution I do make – for example all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, fleet management, looking after her parents, household administration – but while she is probably the difference between looking ahead and trying starting a family on the one hand, and taking my own life on the other, it is still very difficult not to feel judged as a useless failure by almost everyone else. Worse, I can’t see an end in sight.
I also wonder if it’s something about my age too. I made my peace many years ago with the idea that I was never going to be a professional sportsman, but how many men hitting 40-ish also wonder if they’ve missed the boat in other life-long dreams: having a family, a career, matching their parents’ standards of living, owning their own homes?
Welcome to the slow dismantling of the patriarchy.
Otherpeoples that is a long and sad story. Brings me some insight although I guess everyone's is different. I think perhaps you are focusing too much on the age thing 41 is not old and there are many things you can do with your life. If I am honest some of the post did come across as a bit feeling sorry for yourself. I guess all adjustments are difficult but many men may yet come to see the benefits of the patriarchy's end.
Otherpeople - you could always apply to sit on the Women's Equality Committee. Sounds like you'd fit right it.
So the upshot of your long story is that you are a happily married father with a role that suits you at home and a supportive wife.
So I'm sorry if I missed the part where 'nice guys are under siege'
Lots of women can do that and tell their long stories of broken relationships and difficulties in the job market.
It's an individual experience, though, so not all that relevant, I don't think.
Gorgeous, it was meant to be long (too much time on my hands!) but not sad. I was born and brought up in the developing world and am very conscious of the privileges I've had as a result of my background, gender, skin colour and sacrifices others made for me. I think about it all the time, and every night I go to bed grateful that I have already experienced a life that many others in this world can only imagine in their wildest dreams.
I wholeheartedly agree that the patriarchy has not worked well for a lot of people, and its replacement with a balanced model will be a major advance in society. The issue, I guess, is that the dismantling or adjustment described above isn't happening with any kind of consistency or predictability, and the role men should play now and can play in the new order is unclear. It's great that women can have professional careers, drive cars and all the rest, but I have been publicly shamed and ridiculed for having to leave work at 7pm (imagine that!) to sort out children in a way that simply wouldn't have happened if I'd been a woman, and the sneering judgmental looks I get from almost everybody when they find out that I'm not the current breadwinner is very cutting.
I don't set out to feel sorry for myself or my individual situation at all, but I am concerned for society as a whole when people make supposedly wise choices, try to contribute to their communities, do everything they're supposed to do to make progress in life, and achieve nothing in return. Isn't that what all your male friends are experiencing? It will eventually snuff out any kind of aspiration, and that is not good for anyone.
aw...maybe a bath, some scented candles and a glass (or ten lol) of prosecco will help
I just kind of wonder if it is that I have too high expectations of a man to be confident, or if I have just happened to coincidentally encounter solely men with confidence issues. Not sure..
Men aren't fighting in wars anymore, instead tied to desks and sending emails. Feminism has emasculated them and they don't know who they are anymore.
Do men need to be at war to feel masculine?
otherpeoples sounds articulate and imo lucky now with good marriage.
I was brought up to believe i could have a relationship but there are no available men who will commit. My life is less sociable and more isolated than i thought it would be.
I worry more about my daughter's futire than i do about my son's , and myy dd is more intelligent academically
Feminism has tied men to desks and sending emails?
I don't think this is specific to men OP, I think there are a lot - potentially similar numbers of unconfident women of the same age. There are plenty on here - attractive women with good jobs who should feel confident to date, and yet don't.
I think modern life is partly responsible. We're not living in small supportive communities any more - although that had its own price.
Marmalade isn't preferable to be writing emaIls than dying in war. Nothing to do with feminism either. I actually have and do quite like many of the confidence-free men I met but I couldnt ever date someone like that.
I am in my late 40s. I have not met any of these non-confident men. I would have thought lovely guys presentable, good jobs and good social skills would be snapped up quickly. Would not say my colleagues are super confident, usual insecurities, but they are partnered up.
I agree with blueshoes. Personally I meet far more over-confident men than under-confident. Especially in my working life.
I have been publicly shamed and ridiculed for having to leave work at 7pm (imagine that!) to sort out children in a way that simply wouldn't have happened if I'd been a woman
My ds regularly left work at 6pm to do bath, book, bedtime routine with our children, even though I was home at that time too. It was his time to be with them and he didn't feel ashamed of that. If anyone attempted to ridicule him for it he brought them up sharply.
Likewise this 'the sneering judgmental looks I get from almost everybody when they find out that I'm not the current breadwinner is very cutting' happens to women too. What do you do for a living? I'm a stay at home parent. End of conversation. Many women in that role are regarded as less worthy. Even by their own partners sometimes.
I don't think this is society, as such, it's more about how you handle these situations as an individual.
I felt very judged for not working when kidsx small. I was a single parent and i grew a thick sk8n along the way but i was judged for not earning.
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