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
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.
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,
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
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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