Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why Modern Young Women Should be Happy with Verbally Abusive Partners

This wonderful advice courtesy of John Rosemond, who I'm pretty sure is on crack. The rage I felt when reading it may have raised my blood pressure to a normal level for the first time in months.

But before I get into personal slurs, read the little gem of advice Rosemond gave to a troubled mother in his advice column. It ran in several papers, including the Shelby Star. I could only find it online at the Charlotte Observer's website here . They ran a more sanitized, socially-acceptable version. This is the fuller one that ran in the Shelby Star.

Q. Our 19-year-old daughter is dating a 19-year-old boy, who, in general, we like. He's not a partier, he doesn't smoke or drink; he's serious about his education; and he has a rational career plan mapped out. Our daughter is also a responsible, level-headed girl. The problem is that the boyfriend's response to almost anything my daughter says is a put-down, a dismissal of her accomplishments or mocking. She says his father does the same thing to him, his brother and their mother; so to him it's "normal." Our daughter is an upbeat confident person by nature, but I know a constant stream of negativity will eventually wear down even the most self-assured person. I have tried calling him out on this in a humorous way, to no effect. My husband is restraining himself from giving this kid a poke in the nose! Suggestions?

I suggest you obtain a copy of the Feb. 19-20 (weekend) edition of The Wall Street Journal and read "Where Have All the Good Men Gone?" by Kay Hymowitz. Or go out and get her book "Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys," from which the WSJ article is excerpted. Hymowitz's basic premise is that whereas adolescence for males and females was, not so long ago, between 13 and 18, that's no longer the case.

Today's girls are growing into women and accepting adult responsibilities much faster and more effectively than today's boys, for whom adolescence now extends through their 20s or even 30s.

Your daughter's boyfriend is an exception to the rule, obviously. He's not into partying, playing video- and online games, proving that he can drink more beer than his friends and still remain conscious, and dressing in oversized, ill-fitting clothes that make him look like a six-foot toddler. From your description, he's a find! Do everything you can to keep him!

So he has one annoying habit. OK. Can we all overlook this? Please? For your daughter's sake? I mean, the likelihood of her finding another boy her age who has a coherent plan for the future (as opposed to "I plan on winning 'American Idol' and then replacing Jon Bon Jovi as lead singer of Bon Jovi"--don't laugh--I've heard pretty much the equivalent more than once) is slim.

This talent for sarcasm is most likely the influence of the "family" sit-coms his generation has consumed, in which the constant stream of put-downs is supposed to be funny (unfortunately, to many Americans, it is). His attempts at bad humor are probably symptomatic of a certain amount of social insecurity. I would forgive him for that. He's simply got some growing up to do. That's forgivable, isn't it?

I encourage you to let your daughter deal with this in her own way, in her own time. Growing up for this young man means letting go of this annoying habit. Growing up for your daughter means helping him learn the value of letting go of this annoying habit.

In short, stay out of it. And definitely don't poke him in the nose. That's against the law.

Hm, lets delve into this a little bit. The column has so many faults I don't even know where to begin, so I'll try to keep this cognitive.

First complaint: from the mother's scanty description of the boy in question, Rosemond has crafted a glorified model of responsible manhood that is a complete fiction. While it may have been fun for Rosemond to sit at his computer, dreaming up this sharp-dressing video-game abstainer, he should have stayed focused on the problem. I'll strip it down for you: should a nice girl--or any person, nice or not, male or female--be happy with a partner who puts them down?

Rosemond is a psychologist. (Or so he says). As such, I should think he would recognize a pleasant familial history of verbal abuse that Boyfriend is not just going to 'grow out of'. Rosemond goes on to say that the verbal abuse may stem from "social insecurity." Maybe I'm just a little nuts, but to me, someone who berates another because of their own "insecurity" is not a good partner. Such a person is not just a poor romantic partner--they're unfit for most in-depth social interaction. Would a person like that be someone you'd want to be business partners with? Would you want a parent or best friend to make you suffer for their insecurities? Is that okay?

The entire response is completely incoherent. The man opens up with a long, meaningless personal tirade about how most males act like children--inferring that this mature guy is a real keeper--and then ends by excusing the boyfriend's behavior as a weakness of the immaturity Rosemond so despises, the supposed lack of which was his reason for the girl not dumping him in the first place. So...we're back at square one? Is he a winner or not? Is being a child at 19 good, or bad? I'm just not sure what Rosemond really thinks, and I'm not sure he is, either.

The whole first half leads one to wonder if Rosemond read any more than the beginning of the question. Then, just when you're really starting to think he didn't, he pulls in the 'Be glad he's not in ghetto rags; for God's sakes, keep the boy' bit. (Classic Johnny, by the way).

I am also troubled by Rosemond's lack of perspective. Like an angsty middle-schooler deprived of a first crush, Rosemond is absolutely sure that there are NO OTHER ELIGIBLE MEN AVAILABLE. EVER. It is OVER. It's like the making of an unparalleled Taylor Swift song.

I don't know what kind of young males Rosemond is fraternizing with that convince him so thoroughly of the complete absence of half-way respectable American men, but I know that whatever undesirable crowd Rosemond chooses to surround himself with are not a realistic example. If I actually thought that mature, nice guys were so rare I should immediately hitch myself to the next borderline-abusive Joe Blow I meet with a half-way reasonable plan for his future, as Rosemond seems to advise, such a state would spell extinction for humanity in the long run anyway, completely negating any burning need to find a mate in the near future.

But I think perhaps it goes beyond a disrespect for young men, which Rosemond clearly manifests in this column. I think it also reflects a blatant lack of regard for women.

I mean honestly, 19? That girl is clearly pushing her sell-by date. The whole attitude of the piece infers that she should just be grateful that she has a guy interested in her at all. After all, if she doesn't marry someone who has a fulfilling career and can support her, what will she do? Obviously burdening her parents with her presence and/or hoarding cats till the end of her blighted days is the only other outcome. Clearly she needs to just buck up--what's a little verbal abuse now and then? Her mother says she's "confident", so she could probably use a little putting-down anyway. Right, John?

It's a glorious example of watered-down chauvinism. Rosemond never entertains the idea that the woman in question has any future apart from snaring a socially acceptable, successful male; and while she must depend on this happening to ensure a happy future, it is also put on her to fix the boyfriend's little personality flaws--"Growing up for your daughter means helping him learn the value of letting go of this annoying habit".

See, not only is it her job to correct his immaturity, but her own entry into adult society is dependent upon her ability to meekly perfect and glorify her partner!

Despite the intensity with which Rosemond feels she should snap up this winner, I disagree. I'm probably too bathed in sitcoms and swooning femininity to think really clearly, but it seems to me that even if I were rolling in wealth earned by my responsible, career-implementing husband; being constantly verbally degraded would negate all that financial security, and make my spouse's so-called maturity seem rather weak. In other words, I think any person would have the audacity to be a little unhappy in such a situation. Unless being made to feel like a failure is your thing, in which case I guess you would be happy.

All that aside, we have other little Rosemond quirks to discuss. While I think his little anti-mainstream-culture tirade is adorable in an "Oh, look at me, I'm a cranky old-timer" kind of way, I really don't believe that's exactly the reaction Rosemond was going for. Which makes it a pitiful, space-wasting aside in his usual manner of blithering bitterness at modern society.

And yes: John Rosemond has once again used some unsuspecting parent's concern as a springboard for his goal to convince every literate American that sitcoms are the devil. (Especially The Cosby Show. That evil, evil, evil program has contributed greatly to the decay of families everywhere. Read all about it).

Also, while Rosemond may think his outdated references to 70s-90s pop culture is somehow more understandable or cute, it just makes him seem even more like a slightly acerbic old man confusing his decades. (Bon Jovi? Really? I know no 19-year-old in the last 20 years has told him he wants to replace Jon Bon Jovi. Which also raises dementia concerns, but we don't need to get into that now).

Also, I feel called to point out that poking someone in the nose is not against the law. Not literally. An assault charge is a not wildly unrealistic end to such an action, but just because something is punishable by law doesn't mean it's illegal. (Yeah. I'm nitpicking now).

To get back to the matter at hand: (Rosemond's culturally void tirades are making me go on tirades. Aw. Isn't that sweet?) I would think a more responsible psychologist--or heck, just plain old advice columnist--would come at it from a different angle. Maybe the young woman's parents should encourage her to have a well mapped career plan, and carry on with life.

Even if her boyfriend didn't have a penchant for trash talk, he still wouldn't be able to live her life for her. Only she can create a secure future for herself, and I think that's where the focus should lie.