You sure do talk a lot about gender: A conversation with my husband

I’m getting mad. I’m getting so mad, and my husband sighs.

“Who’s pissing you off today?”

“Somebody who should know better.” I stare at my screen, disgusted. “She’s so smart, but she’s trying to sell me on the idea that somehow women are more precious than men.”

The eyebrows go up, and he smiles. “You know you benefit from that idea.”

“No, I don’t.” I give him the evil eye. “And even if I did, it sells men, and their relationships with each other, short.”

“For someone who claims that gender doesn’t matter, you sure do talk about it a lot.” He’s laughing now, even if he doesn’t show it.

I try not to laugh with him. “That’s because everybody else does.”

He pulls me into his lap, and away from the offending message board. “How did it happen this time?”

“We’re discussing alpha males, and I had the audacity to claim that a true alpha male, a heroic, take charge kind of guy, would mourn the death of a man as much as a woman.”

“Muñeca, c’mon, You really believe that?”

“Han and Luke! Han has to be bribed to save Leia, but blows Darth Vader of orbit to save Luke with no thought of reward, and do you remember the lengths Han goes to on Hoth when he thinks that Luke is in trouble?”

He grins. “Okay, but fiction aside, men have kept women out of combat.”

“No, they haven’t.” I pull his phone off the table. “Look, female fighter pilots in World War II. Female snipers in World War II. And here, you can read about the Dahomean Amazons.”

Seriously, there are estimates that 20% of every fighting force, ever, was made of women.

“Kate…”

Edith Ayres and Helen Wood–”

“Muñeca, I’m not saying women can’t or don’t want to fight, just that historically–”

Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko–”

“There’s no way you said that correctly.” He takes advantage of my laughing and keeps talking. “What does all this have to do with Alpha Males?”

“It doesn’t, but…” I stare at the message board. “Men care about other men, and it takes nothing away from women.”

“Okay, you lost me, muñeca.”

“Just because women die, that doesn’t mean that men don’t care about men dying. And just because they do care, it takes nothing away from women.”

“Stop, and start from the beginning.”

I wave a frustrated hand at my laptop. “She keeps bringing up Nurse Edith!”

“Who?”

“A nurse, executed by Germans, massive rallying point for recruitmen.”

“You should have told her about the War Over Jenkin’s Ear.”

“Huh?”

He smiles and rubs at my arms. “You know how the British and Spanish skirmished over the Carribbean, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, apparently, a Spanish ship was ‘searching’ a British one, and one thing lead to another, ending with the captain, Jenkin’s, losing an ear. Eight year’s later, after Jenkin’s testified, people got upset and a war got started. Over a guy losing an ear. He wasn’t even killed.”

We smile at each other for a moment, and then burst out laughing.

“Muñeca, why does it bother you so much?”

“Because,” I lean my head on his shoulder, “because I know that men aren’t mindless drones, killing for women’s honor. Hell, men historically, have cared more about other men than they ever have women. Shit, babe, look at the Greeks.”

He laughs. “You talked about Jason and Argonauts didn’t you?”

Medea gets a raw deal.”

“You care about this a lot.”

I find myself smiling. “Well, I like men. A few of them are pretty awesome.” I punch him gently on the shoulder. “And I know that they possess a full range of emotions for people of all genders.”

“You mean both genders.”

My eyes narrow. “Let’s stay on topic.”

He rubs at my back, laughing softly.

“But,” I continue, “so many people want men to be these… I dunno, the protectors of women. But the idea that women coming under harm somehow creates this bloodlust that can’t be recreated by seeing a man get hurt… I don’t buy it. The kind of person who go to war over a nurse getting shot would also go to war over a doctor getting shot.”*

He nods. “Yeah, people go to war over the dumbest things. And gender rarely has any bearing on stupidity. If countries will go to war over a pig, why wouldn’t the world sign up to go to war over a woman?”

I settle into his lap with a smile, as I listen to him talk about British and American soldiers spending twelve years blustering over a potato-eating pig in Canada.**

“So, muñeca, do you feel better?”

I shrug. “Not really. It’s great that my alpha husband understands that human stupidity knows no bounds, but I still have to deal with these people.”

He laughs so hard I nearly fall out of his lap. “Seriously? Why do you still have to deal with this, and how am I an alpha male?”

“Well,” I say, tugging at his black curls. “I still have to deal with this, because these are other writers and this started as a discussion of tropes, and you are absolutely an alpha male.”

“Despite the lack of rippling abs?”

“Remember that car accident you witnessed? The one where the driver took off once he realized the couple didn’t speak English? You followed him to his house, called 911, told them everything, and then hurried back the couple to explain to them what you did.”

He shrugs. “Yeah, and?”

“Remember that guy in college who kept harassing me? The one you almost put through a wall?”

His brown cheeks flush a few shades darker with remembered rage. “He deserved it.”

“And I would be the last person to say otherwise.” I plant a kiss on his forehead. “You remember our old roommate, Fred***?”

He nods, eyes serious and intent on mine.

“Well, Fred moved out because you always had to be in charge. He said that he needed room to be the alpha male, at least every now and then. It’s who you are, and why you keep getting promoted. You like being in charge. That’s an alpha male.”

He smiles up at me. “And you’re my humongous housewife****.”

I ignore this. “And knowing you… if some random woman got hurt in front of you, it’d would enrage you, but if one of your best male friends got hurt and you could have stopped it, it would kill you.”

He nods. He’s jumped into one too many fights to deny this. “But I’d defend any random woman I thought needed it.”

“You defend any random person you think needs it. Remember that waiter?”

He laughs. “That’s what the owner gets for thinking I didn’t speak Spanish because I married a white girl.”*****

I sigh again, and lean my head against his. “I just hate anything that sells one half of the human race short, and pretending that women are more precious and mean more to men than other men does exactly that.”

“Maybe she needs that, muñeca.” His voice, as always, is full of compassion.

“And I need to pay off my student loans, doesn’t mean I’ll overly romanticize half the human race and sell out the other half.”

Slide1

He pulls me closer. “Have you considered not talking to other writers? They seem to upset you a lot, and I can’t punch people through a computer.”

“The offer of bodily harm is sweet, but unnecessary.” I sit up. “And from what I’ve seen of the world, it’s unlikely I’ll ever stop having to have these kinds of discussions.”

“Even if you can’t change their minds?”

“Especially when I can’t change their minds. I refuse to allow people to see men like you as hulking brutes protecting the wimmin folk. Not when I know you’ll protect anyone who needs it.”

He stands, lifting me as he does. “But I am a hulk, right?”

“Yes, yes, yes, you’re incredible.”

*During WWI, all military nurses were female. Not sure if all doctors were men, but poetically…

**Seriously, I cannot make this crap up.

***Names have been changed to hide the guilty.

****I have a solid three inches on my husband.

*****The owner of a restaurant was unfairly berating an employee in Spanish, in a very polite tone. My husband told him, in the same tone, that abusing his employees was ruining our meal, and that we deserved a discount for such language, which we got. Then he slipped the waiter a twenty dollar tip.

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