Feminine Virtues: Grace

This post took a long time to write.

Not the actual post: I’m just starting that, and it won’t take me more than half an hour.  But the thinking behind it.

The reason is that I have been trying to do something very difficult: think about what it’s like to be a female, as a male.

The Manosphere, in its various forms, has been around for…well, at least ten years.  Probably fifteen.

In that time there have been a lot of dudes writing about masculinity.  It would be hard not to have covered everything.  Perhaps not everything is arranged correctly, but I don’t think any new words have to be invented.  If you want to know how to be a man, there’s a lot you can read, and you can probably piece it together.

The same is not available for women.  Much less available, I feel.  That may not be the same obstacle to women that it would be to men—masculinity is earned, much of feminity is innate—but I have to believe it’s some obstacle.  What do I tell my little sister when she wants to know what boys like?   I can tell her, of course, but “be hot” is not actionable, or if it is, it’s often not, err, righteously actionable.  I am very aware of the dangers of trying to teach swimming to fish, as a fisherman.

But the fish, you see, are not nerds who spend a ton of time thinking about the meaning of fishiness, and write long screeds about it.  That, as it happens, is one of the traits of fish.  Worse, the ones who do spend a lot of time on this end up writing guides suspiciously like, “Being a fish is bad and don’t be one, or: Down With The Fishermenarchy.”

So if someone has to do it (if only to satisfy my curiosity), and if it’s me, then I will try, but: very cautiously.  I am out of my element.

So what have I come up with so far?  Not much.

The first two posts will be about charm and grace (of Rhett Butler fame), in reverse order.  Frankly, they’re the only two I’m sure enough of to write about right now.

Worry Less About It Than A Man Would

Masculinity is very much something that is performed.  A man not paying attention can find himself losing his manliness.  The upside of this is that one can very much be a 13-yr-old or 80-yr-old man; the downside is that one can be a 30-yr-old boy.

This is less true for women.  Puberty, marriage, childbirth, menopause—all these things happen to women, and are things to be negotiated or endured or appreciated or dealt with, but not made to happen.

(Puberty happens to boys too of course, but it just doesn’t have the same life-changing effect.  22-yr-old girls [or 14-yr-old girls for that matter] did not give 14-yr-old me a second look.  22-yr-old-men do give 14-yr-old girls second looks.  Puberty happens to boys, but “becoming a man” is not something that *happens* to you)

This is why the relative paucity of information is less of a problem than it would be for men.  To paraphrase Moldbug, paraphrasing Trotsky: you may not be interested in femininity, but femininity is interested in you.

Grace

While women are certainly not exempt from work, much of femininity is not deserved or worked for.  To tired housewives bristling at this: would your husband let me take your place if I did what you do?

Some women are plain, but many—perhaps even most—are quite pretty.  This is inborn, free, no strings attached, a gift.  Even those who are plain will be shown greater courtesy and consideration than men of a similar station.

The point is: women often find themselves receiving more than they perhaps “deserve,” and it is a skill to deal with this situation.  It is not trivial or easy.  One the one hand she can refuse what is offered on the grounds of militant, principled fairness, or to avoid being in another’s debt; on the other hand she can take it into her head that these things are her natural right, which they are not.

The challenge is to do neither; to recognize and accept gifts as gifts, while discerning strings-attached gifts as such and refusing them.  And all of this is to be done gracefully.

An anecdote:

A friend of mine went to a university in a different state than her home.  After college, she took a job in her home state and moved home.  An awkward guy she had known drove 800 miles, showed up at her door, and proclaimed his love for her.

Reader, what do you do in this situation?  What should she have done?  There’s no easy answer, but I think everyone would agree that it’s not easy.  It’s not difficult in terms of effort, necessarily, but it does require: adroitness, tact, social dexterity.  Grace.  Like walking a tightrope.

Things happen to women more than they do to men*, for better or for worse, and adjusting to that, taking it in stride, reacting well—that’s grace.  If any young women are reading this blog, they might want to be told: it is a very attractive trait.

How to be graceful?

Congrats, reader!  Some of this is inborn, similar to my penchant for punching things.

But the rest of it comes down, as I think of it, to awareness and preparation.

I used to work at small software startup trying to sell our services to big clients.  At one point we only had one potential client, but it would be a lot of money if we could land them.  So sales meetings were a really big deal.  I didn’t actually participate in these meetings, but I did help prepare for them.  So, the night before a meeting, I would routinely stay up until four in the morning, fall asleep in some corner of the office, wake up around eleven and ask how the meeting went, then get back to work in my day-old clothes.

This should not be you!

I was a zombie after those nights, or at least I looked like one.  I had no reserves.  If there was any situation requiring the minutest bit of thinking on my feet, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I did my thinking!  The night before!

Men can (and should) do this, because the upper limit of what we can achieve is usually higher, especially in bursts.  And frankly, the expectations of our tact are generally lower.  And finally, we just get blindsided less.  What if a girl had asked me out on a date that night?  Ha!  Not a concern.  But for a woman, it might have been.

So: pace yourself, keep a reserve.  Be prepared.

For awareness, there’s no magic here.  This may even come naturally.  But find yourself either offending people by accident, or daydreaming, then either is a sign you might want to work on this.

I am still thinking about this, but it was well-formed enough in my head that I thought it was understandable.  I would invite comments.

 

 

*Why?  Partly, because there are no men that look like this:

pretty-girls-with-blonde-hair-and-blue-eyes-tumblr-hdwnql2g

Once when I came out of a movie theater a girl came up to me and said I had pretty eyes.  That’s happened once in my life.  How many compliments on her appearance has this girl received?  I have received no creepy emails, ever.  How many has this girl received?