A 21st Century Woman

E. B. Gallardo

It was mid-afternoon on a Wednesday. I was very happy where I was. It was warm. It was safe. There was chocolate. There were Cheese-Doodles. And the covers felt really good over my head.

Then the phone rang.

It was my friend Mark calling to console me. I'd been dumped. By a guy who wasn't nearly good enough for me. By a guy who treated me like shit. Yet there I was weeping as if he were chocolate incarnate. It wasn't pretty.

In an effort to buck me up, Mark told me that, hey, I had nothing to worry about, the world was open to me, anything and everything was possible for me - because I am a 21st century woman.

Yeah, whatever, I said. A 21st century woman with a 35 year-old uterus. Great.

I promptly hung up.

Wrapped safely under my comforter again, I pondered. I didn't want to ponder. I didn't even want to bathe. But there I was, a 21st century woman with almonds in her teeth and orange Doodle-dye on her fingers, pondering.

A 21st century woman? What is that? Just what the hell does that mean? After much thought and another bag of Doodles, I began to understand. Oh, yes, I thought. I see. It means that I am allowed to make my own living and to pay for my half of a date with those wages. It means that I am allowed not only to buy the condoms but also to insist that they be worn. It means that if the condom breaks, I am allowed to run myself ragged trying to raise a child alone. Best of all, it means that I am allowed to have a string of mediocre relationships with emotionally handicapped men who can't commit because they have a "Fear of Intimacy." I'm so lucky.

"Fear of Intimacy," or F.O.I., as I like to call it, is just plain silly. How should any respectable woman respond to that? Well, a good right hook might be a start. But you can't say "Be a Man!" anymore. First, because it's not politically correct. We should always remember that men are a marginalized group; they've been treated very badly in the past; they need to be treated gently. Second, "Be a Man" has lost its meaning. What constitutes manhood nowadays? Where are the role models? Who are the icons of this new breed of man that we've created? Yes, I mean we. Ever since we beat it into their heads that they can have feelings and that it's okay to cry, men feel compelled to rely on psychobabble in their relationships. It's their fallback position. "I have a hard time expressing my feelings," they say. "I'm afraid," they say. "I have a Fear of Intimacy," they say.

Get over it, I say.

Bah. From feminism to Iron John, over the last 3 decades men have been given a new arena and a new lingo from which to make excuses. Think back to Orwell's 1984. Remember double-speak? Same thing. Despite the language they use, there will always be men who will do exactly what they did before they realized they were allowed to have feelings - that is, whatever they think they can get away with.

Not that I'm bitter. And I certainly don't want to deter the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens from seeking help for the horrible and devastating F.O.I. disorder. Nor do I want the psychoanalytic community to fold from lack of funds earned from the survivors of F.O.I. relationships. Let's be clear. Fear is natural. Fear is good. Fear pushes you to get off your butt and move to a better place. Like the sofa. But to hide behind nonsense like F.O.I. is ludicrous. It becomes just another man-made tool to get booty-for-free.

Here's how it works. Man meets Woman. Man wants to have sex with Woman. Man does not want to be bothered with a commitment to Woman. Man alludes to wellspring of sensitivity hidden below his surface, using certain cultural catch phrases that Woman will inevitably recognize. Man claims this sensitivity pains him, he struggles. Woman, aroused, nurtures and supports Man. Man continues to struggle, asks for more time. Woman increases nurturing and support. Woman looks at watch, wonders when her turn will come. Man claims he is not good at relationships, asks for even more time. Woman opens floodgates of nurturing and support. Woman gets fed-up, points out flaws in Man's world view, tells Man she has needs, too. Man breaks up, claiming F.O.I.

It's a perfect scheme. Man not only gets free sex but he also gets loved, nurtured, and supported. Man gets his mommy and gets to screw her, too. All without spending one dime of emotional energy. Freud would be proud.

I, myself, have developed a scheme. I've found the antidote to the plague of F.O.I. I know exactly what to do the next time I find I'm dating a man who suffers from "Fear of Intimacy."

I'll shoot him.

Because I'm a 21st century woman.

© E. B. Gallardo

E. B. Gallardo is a writer of both fiction and essays, and not nearly as quick to the draw as you might think. Her short story "The Waiting Room" was published in the Winter 2000 edition of DUCTS (www.ducts.org). She is currently at work on a novel that explores the ramifications of incest, other fun traumas, and the healing process. It is, of course, a Fairy Tale, as things of this nature do not exist in the Real World.

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