I don’t know if anybody saw this article in The New York Times a week or so ago. It says that men’s testosterone levels drop after they have children. This study prompts the Old Gray Lady to ask, “Dads, are you no longer manly?” That’s right, it’s official, according to science. Being a dad has also made me a woman.
I have friend, a new father like I am, who answered the proposition that we’re not macho anymore with one word: “Good!” What’s not to like that we don’t pick fights or try to pick up other people’s chicks anymore? What’s bad about the fact that my maternal instinct has kicked in around my newborn son Xander, who doesn’t, I think, need a football coach at this point?
Sorry to sound like a shrill feminist, but on one level, the questions the paper asked are insulting and set up a completely false dichotomy. If men really are more nurturing, less aggressive, less randy and less territorial after they make sprog, then there is obviously some biological imperative at work, right? Some good reason? Yet we’re supposed to get our panties in a wad, says the paper of record, because this biological phenomenon doesn’t accommodate the totally cultural concept of masculinity. In other words, the paper asks, shouldn’t we be protecting the image of ourselves as macho ass-kickers at all costs, even if nature doesn’t even think it’s necessary? What the hell is that all about, New York Times? Whom exactly, I ask, are we doing this for? Our relatives in the military? Clint Eastwood? Arnold Schwarzen-lecher? Our dads? The other guys in the locker room in junior high?
Nature, we’ve got to admit, really mocks us when it comes to reproduction. Our mandates, science suggest, are not static, but change. We are attracted often to people who are not good for us in any way. We often want someone badly who we later don’t want at all. Researchers have found that women like macho guys at one time of the month and girly men at other times–when they are not ovulating (the story I read said Sean Connery is more attractive during ovulation and Leonardo DiCaprio at the other end of the cycle. Put that on a movie poster! How about we call it “Moon Men”?) And while evolutionary biology has explained a lot of things, it still doesn’t explain why some of us are born attracted to the same sex and can’t be changed under any circumstances.
What in the hell kind of lessons are these to take from
our vindictive Hebrew deity evolution? I remember an Esquire article written years ago called “The Big Dog Gets the Girl–The Return of the Alpha Male.” I loved the writer (a manly man himself who actually offered me a job once) but hated the ideas. He forced the reader to confront the thought that certain attributes generally considered “male,” including the randiness, the out-of-control lust, the aggressiveness, etc., were necessary and useful in a world of animals, which of course we are. You don’t have to go much further than your corner bar to see that females, regardless of education and despite all their bitching, respond to aggressive behavior and turn up their noses at the weaker protein (and these patterns don’t necessarily disappear if you’re gay). I have to admit that these are points hard to argue with. But then you get in trouble with your generalizations when you encounter people who don’t adhere to the rules. There are lots of guys who are effeminate (not homosexual, which is a different thing, FYI) and women who want to join the Army and go kill.
I think we lose our way when we think these mix ups are a bad thing. We err when we draw broad conclusions about what a girl or boy is. In fact, in a perfect world we could share, switch off, take turns at being boys and girls when the mood strikes us. The diversity among us–and within us–is just part of the imperfection of the sex drive, whose hallmark more than anything else is its drive to diversity (Thank you, Mr. Kinsey.)
This doesn’t have to be distressing news to you douches out there with your proud douche heritage. Nor to women who revel in the rich rewards of their feminine wiles and all the free margaritas that come with them. Because being only an alpha male all the time, guys, or being only girly girls all the time, girls, are limitations that can rob you of the richness of experience, whether you have a dick or not. This is what the sexual revolution was partly about: playing the rigid roles 24/7 was making us all assholes. Haven’t you watched Mad Men?
So, if you have read The New York Timesand feel confused, I personally give you a dispensation. Go be a boy. Or a girl. Or not.