Over the last three plus months I have mainly been in the company of men, in the real world and on TV, due to the exigencies of age. It is wearing. Things have improved since my mother’s day thanks only in part to women’s liberation. I fell deliriously in love with automatic washing machines in 1971. My father took one brief look at mine after inquiring about when and where I washed the nappies, and promptly bought my mother one. Hooray for the engineers who designed them, mainly men?
A heap of gratitude is also owed to the mainly male researchers who developed the contraceptive pill a decade earlier. And also to women (me, too) who were and still are guinea pigs trialling newer forms of contraception. The male impregnator remains almost completely off the hook, and sexually transmitted disease is still a serious problem. I can’t help recalling a 1950s hit ‘It was an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini that she wore for the first time today‘ and then ‘she was afraid to come out of the water‘. Modern man fears a little loss of sensation from itsy bitsy prettified condoms and still manages to climax! It is highly unlikely that he will face a cheering, jeering crowd of women.
Here’s the biggest gripe I have with men. I’m convinced most still have a superiority complex. Fundamental narcissists, they fail to develop self knowledge even in regard to activities traditionally regarded as their fiefdom. Lots can’t look after tools, lose them, fail to return borrowed ones, fail to read instructions, rarely listen to instructions proffered by a woman. I couldn’t count on two hands the number of my irons they broke. I can count on two fingers the expensive saws they broke. Way back my parked car nearly went off the Rimutaka hill road, the male driver left it in gear but failed to put the handbrake on. (I opened passenger door, reached brake). A parked, brand new scooter was comprehensively crushed by an inebriated male driver who drove off. A later scooter, motorbike demised while in the care of men. I had no accidents of even minor significance. Certainly there were far fewer cars on the road.
Male measuring skills are often woeful. We all come to hate painting, men scorn paying a professional, you just know they will knock over the tin. Family pretties, artefacts, heirlooms suffer in their proximity. Even the kids got more damaged on expeditions with Dad. “Keep your eye on them ALL the time especially when playing with older children” wasn’t clear enough advice?
I’m seriously slow at learning how to use tools, constantly recheck, file instructions, the latter a skill many men can’t master. I’m a whiz at diagnosing car problems, religiously check water, heat, can’t recall ever leaving too little petrol in a car to get to a service station or insisting on driving down some less than car-friendly road. Oh how I’ve pushed and pushed, blinded by a stinging mud shower, from behind the back wheel.
To be fair my sons, set an imperfect example by their self-employed, time-constrained but kitchen-skilled father (unusual for the times) proudly report on their domestic contribution and lav cleaning skills. Ageing lad admitted to furiously grabbing towels to clean loo floors at posh London parties! ‘Men are such pigs!’ I take that as homage to my belligerent training skills.
Later, I’ll look at the look the cost of men and their incompetence in the wider world which they still dominate. They may prove humanity’s undoing if climate change rolls on, male dictated opposition to contraception and abortion is not challenged by more enlightened world leaders, population numbers reduced, dwindling resources shared more evenly. Propping up ailing western economies by selling arms to potential enemies is an astonishing feat of dimwittedness. Men claim they built the big civilisations, overlook women’s rejoinder that they also bought them down. The remarkable contribution of women who laboured, raised children, ran farms, businesses didn’t rate serious (?any) mention in the history texts I read fifty years ago.
I don’t like to think one future disses with age. I do know women can be destructive. I also know my parents and their contemporaries who had the experience of two world wars and a long depression felt they contributed to building a better, fairer world. I liked to think I was following in their footsteps, challenging their mistakes, advancing a more inclusive agenda. I wish I could say I helped build a better world. It grieves me that I can’t.