When she takes the wheel

Although I had planned to write on a different topic today, the feedback on last week’s column, “Throw water on that, Man,” was much more, and more critical, than I had anticipated, forcing me to properly close the issue (I hope) today.

Coming from women, the first and obvious criticism of my friend rejecting the invitation on the grounds of concern about his cleanliness, was a very skeptical, “Yeah, right! Like any healthy Antiguan man is going to refuse sex because of a little sweat….”

Another response, a bit more cynical this time, posited that he’d declined only because he had already indulged earlier that day or was conserving his strength for a different engagement that night. But, either way, his not getting “down and dirty” had nothing to do with the fact that he might, already, have been dirty.

The most interesting response, however, came from my fan up the road in Barbados, via my girlfriend who sends the column on to him. Nostalgically, Baje recalled that, back in the day, after a night of heavy partying, a guy taking a girl home would “pull off de road and get a ‘nite cap,’” with nary a thought being given – by either – to bathing. Hence, he expressed his doubts about the feller’s excuse and gave another possible reason for what happened.

To put it delicately, since I know how sensitive you are to these matters, Sisters, Baje believes that his un-showered brother read the situation differently and excused himself not so much from the bedroom as – ahem! – from the table. His feeling is that the woman issuing the invitation had that, and not the other, in mind when she took herself off to the bathroom and came back squeaky clean. Hence, in that case, what did she care that he smelled like Antiguan summer instead of Irish Spring?

I must be losing my intuition, because, Sisters, you know that hadn’t occurred to me; I was simply taking my friend (let’s call him Tony) at his word, never expecting him to deceive me. (Which just goes to show that I don’t learn, right?) But what Baje says makes so much sense. I was born in the 60s, just in time to be counted among the generation of women who are liberated enough to actually speak, even in mixed company, about these things. So I know, first and secondhand, that sisters these days feel free to have preferences. We are not in that unfortunate bracket who had to put up with men foisting their own predilections upon them and suffering in silence, or boredom, because that was a woman’s lot. And so the sister last week might very well have been saying, albeit subtly, that all Tony needed to bring to the table was his appetite.

Now, I didn’t have the benefit of Baje’s input yet when I relayed to Tony the criticisms of my female readers. But, interestingly enough, he said some things, along similar lines, that made me go, “Hmmmm.” He might have been a little defensive – you know how fellers can be touchy when women talk about their lack of feely – but he said that he and most of the men he knows are not attracted to a woman who wants to be the “bedroom boss.”

He had had the experience of a sister telling him not only how and for how long, but calling out which stroke to use and when to use it. The encounter had left him feeling that he had been in a military parade, more or less, with the drill master calling out, “Left! Left! Left, right, left! Now, sharp turrrrrnnn!” As a result, he never wanted to see that woman again and would warn all of his pardners against a field marshal like her.

I had to agree that it all sounded rather off-putting; for unless a feller is trying to go from constable to corporal overnight, who needs that kind of regimentation? That would make any young body drop like a recruit at an Independence Day parade or, worse, cause a wounded soldier to die.

Further, that kind of petticoat tyranny leaves no room for impulse, for bonding, for the type of cooing and petting and even laughter that can make coming-together so memorable that couples can’t wait to repeat it. So, Sisters, the challenge of the age, for men and women of our age, seems to be how to get what we want without having to demand it. Or, you could say, how to direct without appearing to control.

And that, really, is what it’s about: control. So you might have free rein running the house, and disciplining the children, and even being in charge of the cheque book. Men can even bring themselves to smile indulgently at all that and put you in perspective with a patronizing and ironic “Is she run things” to their friends.

But these same smilers believe that, in order to protect their manhood, they must take a stand in the bedroom. They will determine how often sex is had (“Again, Michael…?” “Yes, Carol. Again!”) and, usually, what kind of sex is to be had – even if a bit of force has to come into play. And so you concede to him because, we-e-e-e-ll, he concedes to you (you don’t ever say he’s lazy or doesn’t want the responsibility) in everything else. …

It’s not fair, as I’m always saying, that even when we are so-called liberated, women still are not free to be themselves. If one of us wanted to borrow our man’s car, he would think nothing of saying to us, “Ok. You can use it, but don’t go above 40 mph, because it has a speed-wobble and you mightn’t be able to control it. And don’t bother going over by your sister, either, because the roads in that area not good, and I just got new bushings. And, last thing, don’t adjust the settings on the driver’s seat; it’s not my fault that you’re short.” By the time he is done, we would want to say, “Don’t bother. I’ll take the bus.” But it’s the man’s vehicle, and he has a right to control what is his. Right?

Well, if he is right, how can that same feller get all bent out of shape when his woman says, “Ok, you can make love to this body, but don’t do such and such, because I, the owner, don’t want it done.” Or why she can’t say, “No, not there; here. I said here. Because I know, better than you, what makes me feel good.”   How does that become a matter of women bedroom-bossing when it’s a woman’s body we’re talking about? And why would a feller feel undermined by being given a little direction to prevent him from getting lost?

I’m the first to throw in the towel on this one, though, Sisters, since I haven’t quite worked out the control thing, either. For while I’m a good driver, I do enjoy being in the passenger seat when I get the chance. Still, I would have to advocate that, since you know the road, you take the wheel and drive straight to the destination yourself. After all, the price of gas is rumoured to be going up… .

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