I miss my nerd boys. Let me tell you why.
If I were to poll a random sampling of the people throughout my life that know or have known me fairly well, it would not surprise me if most of them thought I hated men. I don’t remember starting out this way, but at some point in junior high or high school I learned that my world view of female equality was shattered. I had believed up to that point that most men didn’t really think I should spend my life barefoot and pregnant and would happily share the work load of hearth and home so that I could have an equally rewarding career. This topic came up in a class. I wish that I could remember the class or the teacher or even which school I was in. I can hear the young man’s voice and see his face, but I can’t remember his name. Maybe that’s for the best. Anyway, I voiced the above opinion that men had come out of the dark ages and regarded us as equals and this young man (supported by noises of assent and nods of heads by the other boys in the class) shot me down.
From then on I noticed that the world around me and the world’s history leaned heavily in men’s favor. Despite the fact that (in my experience and in this country anyway) we had the same opportunities of education, overall men would be paid more than women for the same job. In other countries, there weren’t even the same opportunities for education. A woman was considered property, or worthless unless she killed herself and took “infidels” with her. If a woman made the decision to be a stay at home mom, the world looked down on her. If a woman decided to have career and a family, her spouse didn’t equally share the load of the house or family even though she worked as much as he did outside the home. There were even modern American fathers (as in my or my parent’s generation) that would provide an education for their sons but not their daughters.
In popular culture a woman’s value was based on her age and looks. Even the thin beautiful models weren’t thin or beautiful enough, their pictures had to be airbrushed for Pete’s sake. A female vocalist would rarely appear modestly dressed on the cover of her album. It wasn’t enough that she had a beautiful voice, she had to be pretty and shown in revealing clothing. Women have expiration dates. Male actors were allowed to age but females could not. Year after year, the same (admittedly drool-worthy) men would make movies, but the females leads would be constantly changed out for younger women. The men around me seemed to not see any problem with this.
I viewed most marriages around me (including my own) with disdain, thinking to myself that for a woman to be miserable in marriage was par for the course. I didn’t know any women that were in what I would call good marriages. Their husbands didn’t seem to respect their wives opinions. The husbands didn’t seem interested in treating their wives like equals. Important decisions would be made without consulting the wife. Even the women that were in marriages that were on the higher side of the Good/Bad scale were married to men that had horrific faults. I could go on and on about how life was unfair to women, the world was unfair to women, that marriage was this colossal joke played upon women by God. Most of the men I knew didn’t speak kindly about their wives in public. I constantly heard complaints about wives or ex-wives. Disrespect, ignorance, general ignoring of their wives concerns and desires, intolerance of or no appreciation for opinions or talents… all of these things I would see around me. While I was sure there were good men out there, I hadn’t run across any.
Then something changed. I got a new job and suddenly found myself surrounded by good men (I called them my nerd boys, even though they were grown men. We all worked with computer software and were nerdy to various degrees). I mean real, honest to goodness good men. Some older than me, some younger than me…all good. They spoke respectfully about women in general. They seemed to appreciate intelligence and talent without it being attached to beauty or immodesty. They spoke kindly about their wives. They were full of praise for the things they did and the ideas they had. They spoke kindly to them on the phone. I rarely overheard a phone call that didn’t end with “I love you”. I worked with these men for five years and I realized that for whatever reason, I was being shown that there are men out there that honestly love and respect and honor and cherish their wives. They spoke about teaching their sons to respect women. Time and time again they broke my hard earned notions about the general sliminess of men. These men have done something for me that they will probably never realize. They taught me that not only did good men exist, that not only is marriage not this joke or cruel punishment for women, they taught me how to recognize a good man when I found one. I learned, and I grew and I was able to say I was wrong. A good man did find me and I was able to recognize him for what he was and treat him accordingly. I was able to view him without distrust.
For that, Adam, Dave, Max (hon, you really could stand to be a bit nerdier), Nathan and Zack… and I can never, ever thank you enough. I love you guys.