What do women want?
That question, like any other, is easiest to answer when asked properly.
I was watching TV the other night and saw a Helzberg Diamonds commercial. The husband, presumably a stay-at-home type or otherwise stereotypically 'weak' male, blows on his wife's toes, pleased with his work in painting them.
"How do they look?" he asks.
"They're beautiful," she responds, glancing down, before quickly returning to her more-interesting magazine.
"I don't know," he says, "I think they may need another coat."
The Voice of Helzberg brings us back to our senses. "Because you're not that guy, the narrator intones, in 'real man' voice, "there's Helzberg Diamonds," all said during a montage of the season's newest earrings, necklaces, and rings.
Advertisers have crafted three images of the modern male: oafish, subservient, and subservient in an effort to excuse their oafishness.
Between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, men are golden. Christmas offers the hope of a Get out of the Doghouse Free card if we buy a big shiny diamond in return for all the time we missed since last Christmas and that year's big shiny rock — the equivalent of giving big tithes to a church the one time you go, rather than doing something from the heart each and every week.
But between February 15th and Thanksgiving, men are simple beasts, existing solely to pay the mortgage, do home-improvement projects (always at their wife's behest, but okay because it means a trip to Home Depot), scream at the television during football games, and drive the minivan during family vacations.
Tear Down that Wall
Lisa Solod Warren's latest effort, Desire: Women Write about Wanting, thankfully reveals a female gender that's more complete, complex, and tougher to please than the materially-validated women depicted in advertisements.
The women writing the essays in Desire run the experiential gamut: from old women with still-powerful sexual urges (S.S. Fair's "Still Horny after all these Years"); to mothers obsessed with providing for their children -- even at risk of questioning the assumptions of their left-liberal upbringing (Janice Eidus's "The Root of All Evil"); to women whose sexuality knows no bounds, not even familial ones (Vicki Hendricks's "The Ketchup-Lid Skirt"). The selections in Warren's collection are diverse, to say the least.