My life has been fraught with elusive relationships. Thus far, Prince Charming has yet to sweep me off my feet. Distance, character differences, arguments—you name it—have all seemed reasonable explanations for the severing of ties with boyfriends. After my most recent breakup, these reasons seem to have lost all gravity in the matter. Recognition dawns that perhaps the problem lies within me. I am just too manly.
Upon reading and studying Harvey C. Mansfield’s book Manliness, I have come to an interesting conclusion. I am indeed manly. Do not let the curls, pearls, high heels, and blonde hair fool you. The manly disposition of the soul is applicable to many—Dr. Schramm, Margaret Thatcher, and myself to name a few. According to Mansfield, “manliness is not mere aggression; it is aggression that develops an assertion, a cause it espouses” (Mansfield, 49). The manly man wants to seek importance in life and seeks recognition from others.
This definition most appropriately applies to me. I affirm my position, know what I want, and am not afraid to chase my dreams and goals. I crave adventure and change with this quality making me a bit nomadic. I have not spent more than four consecutive months in the same place since my freshman year in college. Observing that I moved from Ashland, Ohio to Washington, D.C. to France within a period of seven months to learn and experience more displays this trait quite well. Thinking upon the matter, I realize these personality nuances might make it difficult to be with me. Manliness implies a certain level of selfishness in its definition. To assert oneself and disregard risk without regard to others in a situation is often seen as a selfish act. To travel from one continent to another and yet expect someone to wait for you could be considered selfish, I suppose. But what happened to sacrificing and waiting for love? He promised he could.
The day before we broke up, my boyfriend told me something that came as a surprise. “You wear the pants in this relationship,” he said, “I never have.” Sure, I realize that I can be stubborn. I can be selfish. I can make unreasonable demands. But what girl doesn’t do the same at one time or another? I never thought that I was the dominating force in the relationship. The next day he broke up with me, citing distance and “a lot of little things that built up” as reasons for the split. I didn’t think that the fact that I tend to take charge made me a poor match. Or the fact that I was in France should end something that I thought was going to last forever. After a string of failed relationships, I thought this was it—he was “the one,” and this was going to work. It turned out, I was wrong. So there I was left: manly and alone, again. Manly assertiveness is not capable of sustaining itself. As Mansfield says, it cannot stand alone.
A manly person… needs the realism of those who know human weakness. Families and politics are associations that bring men and women together and make them mutually appreciative. (Mansfield, 79)
If this is true, what happens to the manly woman? In a relationship, manly and womanly balance each other to provide harmony. Manliness is not self-sufficient; it depends upon others to recognize and support it. Being a manly woman, am I required to pair up with a womanly man to provide this balance? Am I destined to be like Blondie (how ironic), and have a “bumbling husband… manly only when tackling his hero sandwich” (Mansfield, 10)? Granted a manly person cannot detest the unmanly, but it is definitely unappealing. Societal norms and expectations draw the manly woman to desire a manly man. However, such a pairing tends to be incompatible. A manly woman needs the unmanly to provide a balance, a fact that can be difficult to accept.
According to Aristotle, it is not possible to have two manly people in the household, or in a relationship. The perfection of the sexes is realized when they are together. This is not necessarily restrained by sex as the physical, anatomical definition. The soul or personality is what matters most in this statement. Manliness does not reveal itself only among males, but often among females. A woman can have a manly soul. The opposite is possible as well. The souls must fit together properly in a relationship. One must be male and the other female. In the household, one asserts, and one recognizes and supports. One acquires and asserts, the other guards the acquired. There is something about the sexes, both physically and spiritually, that must compliment one another in order to function properly and to perfect themselves. Just because aman and a woman are anatomically compatible does not mean that they will be able to form a friendship according to nature. This friendship is necessary for household rule, or even to maintain a household. The souls must be compatible as well. One must be manly, and the other must be womanly. Pairing up with an equally manly personality could prove volatile.
Despite this understanding, I still possess womanly expectations of love and relationships. When turning points are reached, at the end of college for example, and decisions are to be made in a relationship of who will follow the other and who will sacrifice what, I am torn between cultural norms and my manly disposition. Society tells me that the woman must place her partner above her plans. She must follow him because eventually, he will acquire for her. My manly disposition drives me to expect the opposite. When faced with this circumstance, I was troubled. For the first time in my life, I told someone “I don’t care about my plans; I’ll go where you go.” Familiar with my personality and character, he rejected my proposition. Part of me wanted to follow him, to sacrifice anything to make true love work. My manly nature had a hard time accepting that. In the end, I chose my own path—which could have been the last straw in driving him away.
Now, I could conclude by saying that “someday my prince will come,” and that true love will arrive, as we all like to believe in fairytales. But that wouldn’t exactly be manly, would it? Instead, I will continue to forge my own path. I will continue to be what I have recognized myself to be: blonde and manly.
Caitlin Poling is a senior from Grosse Ile, Michigan, majoring in Political Science, International Studies, and French.