Life Advice



Single File: Put-downs and Silence

Susan Dietz on

DEAR SUSAN: The propaganda that hurts us by race, religion or gender often comes from a small number of people, but when shared, it infects many. For most, it might not lead to hatred of a group or religion or gender, but it does cause many to feel animosity, whether they would admit it or not. There are men who would put down women but are quickly shot down by other women and men. When men are put down by women, too many of them approve, and too many males are afraid to speak up for one reason or another. Our society allows women to express their pain and their rage, whereas men are still taught to suffer in silence. -- From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER: Funny thing about propaganda: The most virulent kind slips into our thinking virtually unnoticed, infecting our language silently, its power coming from repetition and mental numbness. The thing is that we simply have to put our minds on automatic pilot when unpleasantness barges into the dialogue. And many times, the object of the discussion is the male. He happens to be the most misunderstood, maligned and mentally ridiculed specimen on the face of the earth. And for the most part, men suffer in silence. Women weep, moan, flail and broadcast their suffering; but men are expected to suck it up and be a man.

And currently, this new generation of 20-somethings is free to put down the man of the moment for no particular reason. I'm thinking of a 31-year-old unmarried woman who is efficient at her desk and good at handling business problems but whose expertise ends there. At a dinner last week, the conversation was heavily one-sided, she being more talkative than her date. But the air on his side of the table was heavy with guilt. His. The poor young man was constantly apologizing and explaining, over and over in so many ways, about one or another decision he had made that came back to bite him. She was relating stories about him, it seemed to be one a minute, in which he was always the wronged or ignorant one or the butt of some tasteless prank. For each one, he was trying to explain himself, but it was no good. She would have none of it. And I knew how she felt about him, that she was hoping he would be her husband. (Sigh.) This was not an evening that ended well. But the relationship itself? It ended. The next day. Moral: Think about your true feelings for a beloved, and make sure they include respect. Comments?

DEAR SUSAN: I met a wonderful woman a few months ago. She is genuine, warm and honest. She recently announced she had to stop seeing me because if she let herself go, she would fall in love with me; at this time (three years divorced), she wants only a casual relationship. We've talked about this before, and I've been patient but persistent. We agreed to see each other exclusively. I think most of her problem is fear of being hurt. She says she doesn't want to hurt me if she never decides to make it permanent, but I think it's my responsibility, not hers. How do I handle her fears? -- From the "Single File" blog


DEAR BLOGGER: By leaving the scene. Sounds drastic, I know, not what you wanted to hear. But people have to deal with their fear in their own way. And interlopers, no matter how well-intentioned, are a prime target for the confused person. So my best advice in this unclear situation is to back off. Not forever -- and certainly not totally (phone calls from time to time are fine) -- but in the main, your role is to stay away. Yes, it's a tough call, demanding gobs of self-control, but it's a gamble worth taking. This is a thinking-over stage, and she'll either realize her strong feelings for you or be glad of your absence. Tough call, I admit. But you deserve a clear message from her, and it may take this draw-back strategy to get it into focus.


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