"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Women with money, and men

With today's piece entitled "Why are Men so Afraid of Money?", the glizty yet politically savvy columnist Arianna Huffington has added her own witty variation on a theme introduced last year by the (in)famous Maureen Dowd in her book Are Men Necessary? The theme in question is worth exploring because women are not only approaching professional and financial parity with men; a substantial majority of full-time college students in the United States are now women, so that the corps of educated professionals in the rising generation will be predominantly female. That probably means that, on average, women will make more money than men before too many more years pass. We'd better start thinking about that and making the necessary adjustments. It will have a profound impact on marriage and family life in this country.

Dowd's thoughts on men can be summed up thus: "I am a highly successful woman who doesn't need a man. Why can't I land one then? I know: even the blessed minority of highly successful men are mostly boors or wimps who feel threatened by successful women and won't marry them." In summing up her shtik that way, I am being charitable; the woman is at the very least irony-deficient. It never occurs to poor Maureen that her lonely nights might have something to do with her acerbic tongue and her ill-disguised female supremacism. And even though her own wit is much more humane, with a correspondingly developed sense of irony, Huffington doesn't get it either.

She thinks she's identified a paradox with the following anti-syllogism:

Men love women. Men love money. But men don't love women with money.
Without a resolution to offer, Huffington mostly contents herself with raising the issue. But the resolution is that there is no paradox. I shall explain why with a personal example that I think can be safely generalized.

A dozen or so years ago, I had a serious relationship with a rich woman, a convert to Catholicism, who was a divorced single parent like me. She also happened to be a leggy, long-haired blonde whom men could not keep themselves from leering at when we went out on a date (the car was her Mercedes, but her preference was that I drive; naturally, I didn't object as I might have if her car had been a Ford.) After a time she made clear that she'd marry me if I asked. But I never did; in fact, I seriously considered doing so for only about five seconds. Having observed how she and her similarly well-off girlfriends got on with men generally, I knew that if I married her I would be her servant.

I had virtually no money of my own; all I had was a job with a modest salary. If I married her, my daughter and I would be living with her and her three kids in her big house in the ritziest part of one of the richest cities in America. On top of that, she wanted to set me up in business so that my schedule would be more flexible than it was with the job I was having to report to. And the purpose of such flexibility would be my increased availability for parenting. In short, she would be my landlady and my banker, in exchange for which I would spend time parenting her kids as well as mine. Now who do you think would have been the head of the household in such circumstances? The question answers itself. I shall return to that.

Some people might wonder why I didn't jump at the deal. To be sure, it's becoming acceptable to praise househusbands for their courage and flexibility. And I even know a couple for whom the arrangement works nicely. But that's because he's a lot older and wiser; though too physically disabled to work at his lucrative yet dangerous old career as an oil rigger, he is a good father as well as a stabilizing influence on his young wife. He works part-time at a home-based business that modestly supplements her full-time salary as a corporate-office manager; when their two daughters come home from school, he's there to receive them and ensure that the appropriate routines are followed: homework, chores, playtime, and dinner, which he has ready for everybody when his wife arrives home at about 7:00 pm. It all makes sense. But it's exceptional. I have never seen a successful marriage in which the woman was rich and the man poor. Such marriages may and do work for a while and after a fashion; but in my observation, eventually she either loses respect for him or he loses respect for himself, and they drift apart. I was sure that would have happened to my marriage if I had married that rich girlfriend of mine.

Despite what it's now fashionable to pretend, the fact is that most men don't really like their wives to be their rulers, and most women don't respect husbands who gladly let them be the rulers. For good reason: that isn't the way God meant for things to be. For a better account of what God does want, see Ephesians 5. While all major decisions should emerge from mutual consultation, and the decisions actually made are ideally mutual, husbands should be the leaders with the last word. Not tyrants, but servant-leaders. Obversely, wives should be followers; not slaves, but counselors and helpers. In our culture, whose sensibilities have been so warped by past times of ugly male domination and the current time of female-supremacist backlash, people have largely forgotten what God's plan for marriage is. But not everybody: the Church continues to proclaim it and a minority of couples, most Protestant evangelicals, actually live it. But their example is often drowned out by the liberal MSM.

Still, if women are going to be making more money on average than men, what is to be done? That's the question I don't have the answer to. Maybe I've just identified the true paradox that looms.
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