Unless You Cheat, You’re a Pussy

Seriously, Ross Douthat:

So which is the real America? Is it Tsing Loh’s dystopia, where
everyone “works” grimly on their relationships, and post-feminist
husbands happily cook saffron-infused porcini risotto but rarely
practice seduction on their wives? Or is it tabloid country: The land
of Jon minus Kate, and governors who vanish to “hike the Appalachian
Trail” — not to mention gossip-column fixtures like Britney Spears
(rumored last week to be contemplating her third marriage in six years)
and the mistress-parading Mel Gibson?

First of all, there is no one I want giving me romantic advice LESS than this man. Leave aside that he looks like a young Wilford Brimley, leave aside the creepy idea that either you cheat on your wife or you cook, the dude seems to fundamentally believe we need him to tell us how to be. Which is an epidemic Republican disease, but there you are.

I hate this about writing about relationships, the assumption that you’re categories, roles, that you fit into boxes and once you’re in, you’re in for life. You’re either passionate or “post-feminist,” which seems to be Douthat’s way of saying gay, with the cooking with saffron and all. Is everybody in his world that self-conscious, eager to find a social movement on which to blame their behavior? I honestly do not get this: if you do not want to cook for your wife, don’t do it. If you don’t like saffron, I know of no one, not even the most doctrinaire feminist, who would force you to eat it.

Yes, yes, metaphor, but that’s exactly my point. I don’t think we have to make some kind of choice between cheating and having a series of ugly public divorces and shaving our heads and hitting the paparazzi with baseball bats, or having a sexless marriage that you deride in public as being about “companionship.” As if having a nice friend is the worst thing in the world, as if that’s something about a billion people wouldn’t want. These aren’t the choices: instability + passion or companionship – sex. And perpetuating that idea just gives license to men and women conditioned to think that stalking, controlling and over-dramatizing mean that love is real. SeeTwilight, every romantic comedy ever made, and half the novels on the planet.

I so hate relationship trend stories, across the ideological spectrum. I want everybody to have what they want. Women, men, nobody, everybody, whatever. I want to live in a world where everyone can make the choices that suit them best, and I want to work to make that world a reality.

Ross Douthat, apparently, either wants you to cheat to prove you’re a Real Man with Passion, or shut up and eat your saffron like a good little wuss.

A.

17 thoughts on “Unless You Cheat, You’re a Pussy

  1. joejoejoe says:

    Pretty much the manliest thing you can do according to Douhat is get laid all the time so I’m not sure how it follows that doing things that may actually get you laid like cooking a fancy meal* for a woman would make you a pussy. What exactly CAN I do to get women to fuck me in the Douhat Book of Love? Club them a mastadon femur and drag them back to my cave? Lie to them about my manly virtue while I’m doing the PoonTango in Argentina?
    * – not that mushroom risotto is any kind of a fancy meal. My mother called itSouper Rice when I was a kid when she was raising me to A) clean my plate or make my own supper and B) treat people the way you would want to be treated and that oh-so-obviously includes women.

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  2. CybScryb says:

    Douthat is the last burst of flame from a candle that was used up in the Watergate era. Personally I blame Roone Arledge for merging ABC’s News and Entertainment divisions so the Reagan administration could play favorites and if your network didn’t acquiesce, your reporters didn’t get their names called.
    I hope todays anthropology and sociology students keep a record of these times.

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  3. whet moser says:

    Among the many failures in that tripe: Sanford is highly educated and wealthy – grew up on a multiple-thousand-acre plantation, IIRC – and is married to a former Lazard Freres veep. Whom he met on the Hamptons.
    A larger one: if you ignore Tsing Loh’s detours into cultural markers, it turns out that the divorce-worthy man she spends the most time on, “Ian,” the saffron-user, sounds like an unpleasant, demanding control freak (it’s a “she said” angle, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt).
    If you look at it that way, as in “he’s an asshole” instead of “he’s a wimpy girly man who cooks with saffron,” it’s a lot less interesting yet MUCH MORE FAMILIAR AND COMPREHENSIBLE.

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  4. pansypoo says:

    idiot. there will always be both. the evolved + the unevolved + the ones that drift between.
    useless.

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  5. Dan says:

    “looks like a young Wilford Brimley” – WINNER!
    A. and other ladies: Some woman will likely end up marrying him. Defend your gender in advance.
    Lastly (and seriously), this is part of a time honored strategy by conservatives: trumpet a defense of embattled manhood (c.f.) when you are well and truly fucked on every issue of substance. Whatelse are they going to talk about now? The rousing success of their foreign or domestic policies? I suspect the best response is to ignore it, or if you have to address it then quickly and dismissively agree, then turn the conversation back to where they are trying to steer away from. (“Ross, Christina, I couldn’t agree more. Now tell me how someone could simultaneously be against a public health care option and not be the world’s biggest douchebag.”)

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  6. biwah says:

    @whet moser: But Tsingh Loh herself focuses on “Ian” as a modern type, a man with many competencies domestically, but without spontaneity or sexuality. In trying to build on this as an allegory for modern marriage, she specifically wasn’t saying “he’s a jerk” (although that seemed pretty apparent to me too). She was using Ian as a springboard for the idea that our pop-therapeutic society actually has less candor about the limitations of marriage – that it does not meet all of your needs no matte how you “work” at it- than the paleolithic notions of gender ad sexualit that it supposedly supplants. I think Douthat is accurate in addressing this. He does himself a favor by not making a hard prescription for a fix, e.g. “go back to the 1950s a la David Brooks. So I think the headline of this post is a bit of a straw man.
    Generally, with these marriage- trend stories, the diagnoses are often interestingly thorny. It’s the proposed solutions that usually are cookie-cutter products of the writer’ prejudices.

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  7. lb0313 says:

    I’m just wild about Saffron…
    quite right, slick

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  8. DJ Adequate says:

    Okay, for the record: I’ve been married 21 years. I have 7 kids. I help around the house. Despite this my wife and I have as much, uh, intimate time as possible when dodging 7 kids (which we’re good at. The dodging that is.) And I haven’t been tempted to cheat, no matter how many gay people get married, or Douhats that think I’m a girly man.
    I was, unfortunately, listening to Rush today. And it struck me, Conservatives seem to hate marriage. They like the concept, the 1950’s sitcom man-rules variety. But they hate the actuality of it, the give-and-take, compromise, have-to-care-about-someone-but-themselves reality that comes with a long term relationship.
    Too bad for them.

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  9. hoppy says:

    I sit here depressed. Apparently I have let most of my life pass by without once, to my knowledge, tasting saffron. Is it something to die for? Something like cinnamon or pepper? Or is it a veiled reference to some of the more esoteric mechanisms involved in extreme sex? Oh well, I have tasted Cheetos.

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  10. whet moser says:

    @biwahBut Tsingh Loh herself focuses on “Ian” as a modern type, a man with many competencies domestically, but without spontaneity or sexuality.
    That’s sort of the point I’m trying to make – I don’t see her connection between his modernity and his unworthiness as a mate. He’s an asshole who happens to cook.
    He could find all sorts of ways to neglect his wife, as men have done throughout time. But since it’s trendy and contrarian to rag on “post-feminist men,” Douthat implies a connection that doesn’t make any sense.
    Let’s say, for instance, that Ian was a carpenter, craftsman, and mechanic instead of a chef. Covered in motor oil = manly man. Covered in cooking oil = wuss. But how’s it actually different?

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  11. Interrobang says:

    I hate that word “post-feminist.” I’m a feminist. I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy. Of course, Douthat isn’t into the idea of post-patriarchy, except maybe if he could figure out how to turn patriarchy into a powder that could be sent through the mails with threatening notes…

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  12. Athenae says:

    He’s an asshole who happens to cook.
    *steals*
    A.

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  13. mikefromtexas says:

    A man cooking and serving up a really nice meal can be very seductive. Worked like a charm when I started dating the woman who later became my wife.

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  14. M31 says:

    Covered in motor oil = manly man. Covered in cooking oil = wuss. But how’s it actually different?
    Well, licking one of them would be a much better experience than licking the other.
    Man, what could be sexier than saffron? It’s the pistols from a kind of crocus, which means you’re actually eating plant sex organs. Mmmmmmm, sex organs.

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  15. pansypoo says:

    rush + the right don’t like the GIVE + take. they want to be in control. otherwise you are pussywhipped. in fact a seraglio might be their perfect option.

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  16. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Dan:“I suspect the best response is to ignore it, or if you have to address it then quickly and dismissively agree, then turn the conversation back to where they are trying to steer away from. (“Ross, Christina, I couldn’t agree more. Now tell me how someone could simultaneously be against a public health care option and not be the world’s biggest douchebag.”)
    Best response it to use it as a springboard to speculate on Douthat’s teenie-tinie-peenie-weenie, and how it leads to his many control fantasies. “You know, Christina, I’ve heard those kind of complaints before. But they guys that were whining about it turned out to be, how can I say this? Underwhelming, you know?” (Pointed look at Douthat) (Douthat turns bright red) (nods sagely).

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  17. Elspeth R says:

    “He’s an asshole who happens to cook.”
    And *that* sentence sums up my ex-boyfriend, the chef! A right prat of a douchemook but a stellar chef…
    The best ‘defense of marriage’ is to weed out all the assholes (of any gender)…if my ex-b/fs hadn’t been such worms, I would have been married by now. As it stands now – I can’t be bothered. It costs me too much and I know how to cook for myself. I just want some ‘secks’ now and again and then lock up after I boot the man out.
    Elspeth

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