Originally posted on my men’s group blog, The Slanted View.
Ok, I’ll admit it: I really like Oprah.
I mean, I never set out to INTENTIONALLY watch Oprah. I’ll tell myself, “I really want to watch David Letterman today” or “I wonder who’s on Charlie Rose?” but for some reason, I’ll “stumble” upon her show, and I will stop channel surfing and focus on whatever issue O will present to us that day be it profiling family members of serial killers, Jessica Simpson’s near break-down or watching Morgan Freeman sign up for the “No Phone Zone.”
Case in point: This morning at the gym I was engaging in some rigorous, very rigorous, cardio and Oprah happened to be playing on one of the flatscreens. It was one of the episodes that immediately gripped you, Tim Gunn was a guest on “Oprah, Make Up My Man!!!”
I found myself laughing along with the subtitles (unfortunately no sound at the gym) and smiling at the awful outfits and then, after getting a little too into it, I was a little embarrassed and looked around to see if anyone else was watching. No one, thank the Lord. Sports Center was playing on the next TV and, I kid you not, for a brief moment I tried to watch Oprah out of the side of my eyes, but had my head turned towards ESPN out of shame.
Now, friends, THATS the power of Oprah… and I think also, THATS the power of women! Yes, women, I’m talking to you!!
Allow me to explain by telling more of this story.
So I’m watching this episode on girlfriends/wives bringing their men to get made over by Tim Gunn and his team of stylists.
First of all, all the “before” pictures of guys had clothes that I think I own in my wardrobe, so immediately I’m getting a little insecure. Thoughts like: “What would Tim Gunn think of my jeans? They aren’t dark-washed? Are they too baggy? Should I lose the pleated pants to look slimmer? What if I like white socks?!” And for some reason all the women in the audience are nodding knowingly, as if every member of the female species has been pre-instructed on the proper length of button-down shirts. I’m starting to wonder, holy crap, are all the women secretly laughing at us 24/7? Are we walking fashion faux-paus?
Second of all, they keep showing shots of women bursting into tears when they see their newly made-up man emerge out of cloud of mist from this bizarre glass cocoon to a soundtrack of triumphant, baby-making R&B music. Women are squealing with delight after their formerly slobbish mate was made up by a world-class hairdresser and given a $500 mani/pedi. They pan the audience of smiling approving women… and I think at that point something in me and perhaps the million other men who are watching this episode “by accident” psychologically leaps, “Dude, you need to get yourself some of that. When was the last time you shaved? Why didn’t you employ that shaving technique that that hairdresser used on George Clooney’s beard?”
You see, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the approval of women means a lot. I can have 10 guys laugh at my jokes, but have 1 women giggle a bit and that’s a wrap. Conversely, the disdain and disapproval of women, you know, the raised eyebrows, the eye-rolls, they eat me up inside, though I try REALLY hard not to show it.
I seriously think Oprah is playing on that insecurity in men. Sure the show SEEMS like its designed for women, but secretly men everywhere are drawn to it like moths to a flame. (And don’t even get me started on the emotional internal struggle I have whenever I watch “The View.” Suffice it to say: CURSE YOU BARBARA WALTERS AND YOUR EXCELLENT, PROBING QUESTIONS!”)
In group the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing the beautiful conundrum that is WOMEN. And it has by far been one of the more lively topics we’ve discussed.
This past week our conversation talked a lot about power dynamics. In our relationships across gender, who has power? How are we as men dangerous to women? How are women dangerous to us?
After some initial humor (I think I use humor to deflect from potentially complex and challenging issues) and some excellent, well-placed Ghostbusters references, we dove in.
As Jon catalogued in the previous post, the two single guys Brett and myself were mostly asking questions to the marrieds. And I was utterly fascinated. Hearing some of the nitty-gritty details of the push and pull of married relationships blew my mind. I think each guy was in a loving relationship, but just the normal wear and tear of two sinful individuals fighting to love one another was really brought to life. It also seems like the male-female dynamic expresses itself most poignantly in the context of marriage.
Some of the fellas shared the myriad ways their wives could specifically exercise power over them. I could swear that a lot of these stories at first reminded me of plot lines from “Everyone Loves Raymond” — but only much more real, minus a laugh track and no hilarious quips from Frank.
Its one thing to watch real-life things portrayed on sitcoms, in books, magazines and advice columns, its another thing to share our stories, listen to other stories, have our stories interact and in real-time. I’m not sure I walked away with any brilliant revelations as much as leaving with the feeling that the journey of dealing with the brokenness between men and women is not all that different from the journey of dealing with our own inner brokenness– it takes time, self-reflection, honestly and above all incredible grace.
To be honest, there were times when I was like, dang… marriage is really hard. Not only are you still workin out your own junk, you are trying to sort out the junk of another person. Why would anybody want to do that?
And I think its times like that where I’ve been really thankful for the collective wisdom and experience of the group and the fact that this is first community I’ve been a part of where the majority of folks are married. Sensing that they were giving marriage a bad rep, some of the married guys started sharing how marriage isn’t just dysfunction and brokenness, but actually pretty gosh darn good. And some of the stuff they shared was absolutely revolutionary to me, but I could see all the married guys casually nodding with each other in agreement.
One of joys of married life that seemed to strike a chord with the husbands: For all the challenges that face any marriage, apparently there are sweet moments when the mutual love is incredibly strong, as strong or stronger than when you first met, but now with absolutely no hint of nervousness. When Shawn described that feeling, all the married men wholeheartedly agreed. OK, maybe that sounds pretty cool. Maybe marriage doesn’t suck.
Anyways, in conclusion, what did I learn?
- Oprah is powerful
- Buy dark-washed jeans
- Women have much power of men (and vice-versa)
- Its hard to deal with your own brokenness
- Its just hard, maybe harder, to deal with your wife’s/husband’s brokenness
- Marriage is hard.
- Marriage can also be pretty sweet.
- Its good to be in community with people who are in different life stage than you so you aren’t getting your life and relationship advice from Carrie Bradshaw.