As much of an introvert as I am, people fascinate me. They things they do. The things they say. I consistently strive to understand the complexity of the rhythm of life and how it plays out through the lives of those around me. More often than not, I can be found on the sidelines, an observer of humanity, taking notes.
One of the more intriguing things about which I tend to fixate is the dance between women and men. An over-arching social dynamic which ebbs and flows between the sexes determining status and responsibility, opportunity and reward.
It’s a real thing.
For the most part, it is played on a subconscious, or at least, on a lower level of consciousness.
There seems to be a social hierarchy in men which is implausible to and absent in women. It is sort of like a pyramid scheme of who is in charge and who isn’t according to personality, drive, and success rates. There are names for the roles that don’t really seem to make much sense to me, but they do make sense to those who have spent a lot more time on this than I have. I won’t fumble my way through their definitions, I just offer my own observations.
First, you must know, while an element of romance is present within most interaction between men and women, none of these scenarios are based on romantic attraction. That’s a story for another day, if I were to be inclined to tell it.
This line of thought revolves around social interaction and the complexity of the dance.
Here are the players:
There are men I’ve met who will absolutely and fundamentally repulse me. Within seconds of meeting, I’m eying the door and scooting across the sofa to get to a safer space. As nice as they may seem, there is something unsettling about them. I cannot stand to be near them. Perhaps it’s a tone in their voice or the way they eye the room. Maybe, they offered a limp handshake, giving off a faint, but unsettling, apologetic air. As though there is always something undone which is never to be completed. My response is visceral. Unconscious. This man will never be someone I will welcome willingly into my social circle. Even at extended range they reek of weakness.
Sadly, as I get older and older, this type of man has become more and more common. As though life has beaten them into submission and all they have left is a whimper and a whine while practicing the crippled art of subversion.
On the other end of the spectrum, are the men I find fundamentally compelling. Within moments of meeting them I want to know everything about them. How they think. What they believe. Why they do the things they do. I am very nearly mesmerized. They speak with confidence and boldness. Perhaps they aren’t relatable at first, but their strength of conviction and willingness to appear dauntless make them larger than life. Fascinating He is the man every woman wants to know and the man every man wishes to be.
He gets all the Dos Equis.
Just as the weak man leaves nothing but relief in his wake upon leaving the gathering, the compelling man leaves a hole his companions immediately feel and regret. Often the group will dissipate in his absence or pursue him in order that he might be convinced to return.
It’s not about physical appearance, necessarily. I’ve met very attractive men who became significantly less so by merit of their absence of character and strength. I’ve also met men who were initially unattractive but whose value increased as the conversation progressed due to their confidence, articulation, and an unwillingness to be compromised from their own singular identity.
From Marmalade man to Marlboro man there lies a spectrum of becoming that men seem to fall in line with, somehow. As some men are becoming compelling through rising to meet life’s challenges and enduring the cross-fit of personal experience, they have been made stronger, more determined, more focused, more intriguing. They stand out. They are stepping out. We admire them.
Yet, there are also those who have been strong before but now, settling for weakness and complacency, have faded into the shadows. Where they would have once defended and stood for principle and ideal, they are now cowed and fearful. Eager to please in the infuriating way a dog whimpers and wets itself when the shrill voice of the owner says, “No!” they exist in a perverse state of submission which makes them easily despised.
Women pity them. Men avoid them. They languish in a wasteland of regret and jealousy.
And the women….
Oh, women aren’t exempt from this dance.
We just do it very differently.
More often than not, women rate each other’s value and social currency on things like dress size and financial ranking, circling and snipping at the Christian Louboutin heels in front of them until those deemed less valuable are shuffled off to the side and those found worthy are presented like debutantes.
The pecking order must be established and then maintained. There is often no genuine understanding of personal cost, only the consensus of the group and the will of the strongest female present.
Not the kindest female. Not the one with the most integrity. Simply, the one who can dominate all others to her will. No matter how benevolent she might be, she is the woman in charge. No one is allowed to forget it.
The top female dictates the rules. She runs the coop, so to speak, and orchestrates the acceptance and rejection of the lesser females as well as where they fit into her plan.
While the advancement of male hierarchy tends to favor merit and achievement based betterment, the advancement of female hierarchy tends flourish or languish on the emotional stability, or lack thereof, of the lead female. Every movement of the group becomes contingent upon how she is to be appeased.
Perhaps she is a kindhearted woman who wants to see others succeed? Best case scenario, she will still have her favorites and raise them up, based not on individual accomplishments and effort but on personal prejudice and a strongly desired conformity to what is considered the acceptable and preferable behavior of her particular social preference.
No matter how benevolent or vitriolic the Queen may be in her heart, she will establish her court around her according to the value system of her own personal preferences. You are either in or out.
And then? Then they dance.
Dos Equis men tend to choose to engage with the dominant female unless one of the sub-dominate females is more physically attractive to him or somehow makes herself specifically noteworthy. Conversation swirls around them as an amen chorus and tinkling laughter oiling the gears of society.
The repugnant man will loiter on the outer edges doing his best to interact with as many low ranking females as possible. Quantity over quality. And who knows, maybe he’ll catch a naïve one who will believe his card tricks and endless braggadocio.
Perhaps he thinks he can improve his status if, perhaps, a particularly pretty or dynamic woman takes the time to engage him. And he might be right. He can learn.
Finally, the lowest level females and males will huddle and commiserate about their woes and degrade the status of the compelling man and the queen and her court. Pulling down what they envy in their hearts.
And on the fringes, are some of us, who, without the proper guidance and movement, clumsily navigate from space to space with limited success. Eye contact is awkward. Handshakes are fumbling. Hugs take our breath away for a moment.
I find myself fascinated by the most gregarious and charming, eager to mimic their behavior and modify it to suit my own particular voice and inclination.
That compelling man speaks and I am drawn to him, like a moth to a fly. He is provocative and unpredictable and utterly riveting.
I envy the queen her easy laugh and casually affected posture winning the affection of the group. See how effortlessly she moves through the dance, without a misstep.
It is an intricate movement, this social caper, and it fascinates me with all the moving parts and unconscious design.