OK, I am feeling frivolous and it's Friday afternoon. What better to do than tear down some MSN relationship advice, an art form invented by Amanda Marcotte (the tearing down I mean)? I am not going to do any fisking (I have to get back into that one of these days), but I am going to make some observations about two side-by-side articles on How to Be the Perfect Boyfriend and How to Be the Perfect Girlfriend. Naturally they are perfectly cringe-worthy when paired together (as they were at the MSN page today). Note: Heterosexuality is assumed here because, well, it's MSN!
The one on How to Be the Perfect Boyfriend mainly consists of positive steps men can take to make their girlfriends feel valued and loved -- displays of affection, compliments, gifts, cards, a willingness to socialize with her friends and family. The author of the column is at pains to point out that the gifts need not be extravagant -- a two dollar gift "that shows he thought of us while he was doing it" will do the trick. There is nothing in this column that expresses dissatisfaction with male habits or behavior other than a reference to a particular guy who used to undermine his girlfriend by saying “See you later . . . unless I meet some other hot chick who wants me to come home with her, ha, ha, just kidding!”
On the other hand, the author of How to Be the Perfect Boyfriend (Amy Spencer) is extremely self-deprecating about her own gender. She believes the Perfect Boyfriend should "call us on our questionable behavior." As one of her sources said: "it makes me respect a guy when he puts me in my place when I veer off-course.” Also, part of being the Perfect Boyfriend is tolerating us when we relax in our own homes (wow how lucky to be allowed to relax at home!) -- as long as we are careful not to push it, of course:
It's rare to find a man who finds it charming that you wear decade old T-shirts to bed, can eat a whole Domino's pizza by yourself, and spend Saturdays watching Laguna Beach marathons. And that's what makes him so special. Assuming we agree not to push it ("I love it that you don't care that I don't shave for weeks!"), the ideal guy would make us feel loved and accepted when we're being our most natural selves.
Is it me or shouldn't that a be a minimum requirement for any intimate relationship? And why do I have this feeling that the men out there aren't worrying about too much whether their girlfriends might stop loving them if they spend the weekend eating pizza, watching TV, and not shaving?
The article on How to Be the Perfect Girlfriend naturally provides a sharp contrast to the "please show me you love me even though I'm disgusting and in need of correction" vibe of Spencer's article. Jon Wilde, who wrote this piece apparently thought it would be cute to write it in the form of a one-sided contract. He does at least humorously acknowledge that this contract will make him happy "until you realize he is a loser who requires his girlfriends to sign legally binding contracts." But, notwithstanding this effort to dilute the obnoxious effect of his article, it comes through loud and clear that he generally finds women incredibly annoying.
In contrast to Spencer's piece which was about how to make a woman feel loved, Wilde's provisions are about how to refrain from allegedly feminine habits that he finds annoying and not to require him to express love towards her unless she goes first and never in public lest he die of shame. Wilde's "Thou shalt nots" include ordering a side salad at dinner, expecting the man to plan every date, hints or guessing games, giving the man overly cutesie nicknames, interfering with Guys' Night, or taking his favorite side of the bed. While he grudgingly acknowledges that he will have to tell his girlfriend he loves her and that he will, at times have to associate with her friends (yuck), he makes it clear as a bell that these simple acts of showing a woman she is valued are incredibly burdensome to him. Indeed, he should never again have to say, "I love you," after the first time.
And then we have this gem: Upon meeting The Man’s mother, The Lady will try to learn as many of Mother Man’s recipes as possible. And yes, The Man likes his chicken that dry. None of Spencer's "It's the thought that counts" crap -- Wilde wants effort and he expects his dinner on the table the way he likes it, dammit.
And there ya have it: our view of the sexes distilled by MSN. Next time you catch yourself thinking, "Why can't women just be more confident and assertive?" just remember this. Read and hear enough of this tripe in the popular culture and you can't help but conclude that women are incredibly irritating and loathsome creatures and that we are incredibly lucky that men even tolerate us.
UPDATE: This piece was quite well fisked at Punkass Blog.