Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Sensitive Caveman

I have a soft spot for Jersey boys. It started when I lived in New York. I am such a sucker for a thick Jersey accent. I don’t mind hair gel or muscle shirts, though I could certainly live without the gold chains and shaved chests. Jersey guys are hyper-masculine, real guys’ guys, and they’re so forward and honest. That kind of confidence is always sexy.

I also enjoy how complimentary they are. Always telling me I’m “gorgeous” or calling me “babe.” They seem totally unfazed by the prospect of rejection and always come on strong like they’re either so certain their attentions are wanted or truly wouldn’t mind being shot down. It’s perplexing really.

I don’t know what it is about New Jersey that breeds these ideal men, but I have a harebrained theory. There are a lot of Irish and a lot of Italians that settled in The Garden State, and I think over the centuries the strengths of the two have combined to make the perfect man. Muscley, masculine brutes from Ireland and romantic, eccentric lovers from Italy joined together to create "sensitive cavemen."

This isn’t always the case, of course, and it’s just a generality. I’ve dated several guys from Jersey and would say that all but two fit that description. One guy I dated for a month or two had too much of the sensitive and too little of the caveman. And another didn’t even have a Jersey accent, nor did he exhibit anything especially sensitive or caveman. So it's not an exact science.

Years ago, a friend told me I was looking for a sensitive caveman and warned me that no such man existed. I want someone who’s tough, into sports, an alpha male but who is also caring, thoughtful and open with his emotions. That just sounds perfect to me. Maybe I am searching for someone who doesn’t exist, but that still remains to be seen.

I was thankfully at my grandfather’s house the day he passed. His wife and her daughter were there, along with my parents and my aunt and uncle. It struck me that day how different men and women really are.

I would never call myself an essentialist, but I do believe there are distinct differences between the sexes. Generally, men are stronger and bigger physically, and I honestly believe that women are emotionally stronger. Though there are always exceptions.

The women on that day were content to sit and cry, sit and talk or just sit and think about everything. But the two men had to be doing something. They took walks outside, made phone calls, my uncle turned on the television, and my stepfather filled the birdfeeders. It was amusing to me how different were their reactions. It was almost as though they had to find ways to distract themselves from their emotions, like maybe they couldn’t handle it all. I mentioned this to my mother, and she laughed, saying men just never know what to do when women cry.

Do you ever notice, ladies, that when you have a problem or are upset about something, the men you speak to about it immediately try to find solutions and offer suggestions? It can be infuriating because all we may want to do is talk about how we feel, but they seem determined to find a way to fix whatever is the matter. Men and women are different.

I am not much of a crier. I almost never cry in front of anyone and can count on one hand how many close friends in the course of my life have ever seen me cry. I only breakdown when I’m alone. So I don’t know what to do when someone cries in front of me and usually try to make them laugh in whatever way I can find. But when a man cries in front of me, I am frozen and stupefied. I don’t want to be cold or bitchy, but I have to admit I usually hate it when guys cry.

There are good reasons, of course, for a man to cry. Weddings and funerals are acceptable and expected. But when my dude cries when we’re fighting, I find myself only capable of feeling annoyed. Ew or when they cry when you break up with them, that’s really hard to take.

I was in my first long distance relationship recently, and of course it was hard being apart because I really loved being with him. But it wasn’t all-consuming sadness or misery. We saw each other often, the distance wasn’t that great. So I was always weirded out when he cried at the end of a visit. I remember one time he cried, and I felt like there must be something wrong with me because I felt nothing and thought he was silly. I just kept thinking, “Buck up, dude! I’ll see you in a week or two!” He loved me and missed me, and that’s why he was crying – all that I understood, but the crying just never seemed merited to me.

As much as they tried to distract themselves, I saw both my uncle and my stepfather tear up that day. And it moved me. When a man cries only rarely, it is very affecting when you see it happen because you know his feeling must be great. A man that never cried would be as odd to me as one who cried freely. So a sensitive caveman it is. I’m far from Jersey now, but I have hopes the breed exists elsewhere.


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