The Napkin

Laura Fortney

March 1, 2003

Sitting in my room, I look up and see a napkin from a local bar taped to my closet door. On it is a scribbled e-mail address that was sent home with me. I read the bold type printed on the perfect square that simply says, "Call me." Underneath are three blank lines with the headers "name, number and current income". I have to admit that I am quite amused at first, and I even laugh to myself. With a second thought, I shutter to realize that the tiny napkin says a lot more about my situation as a young woman looking for a life-long mate than I would like to admit.

While the roles of men and women are changing in today’s society and the traditional position of the male being financially responsible is diminishing, very few would argue against the fact that a man should be able to provide for his family. In fact, I doubt any woman would ideally want to be the primary financial bearer; instead, she hopes to find a nice man, good father, and someone that she knows will take care of her. A napkin completed with a high-income level might be quite enticing to a woman looking for a mate, and ultimately marriage, in fact. On the other hand, a male is not as likely to care what a female earns. A woman with a 401K plan and a nice portfolio matters a lot less to a male at first than the way she looks in the jeans she is wearing. What that tells me is this: that napkin was to be filled out by a man and sent home with a woman, which ironically is exactly what happened with me.

As a professional woman, who is semi-attractive, is confident in herself and her abilities, is moral and decent, and wants someday to have a family of her own, I often ask myself what I keep doing wrong to have one horrible relationship after another. I have read the books that profess that I did this or that wrong, but my largest failing lies in what the literature reads over and over again. A lasting relationship requires that the man pursue the woman. When looking to human nature, this concept makes perfect sense. A man wants to acquire and provide, where a woman wants to nurture. If the man does not have a challenge in pursuing the woman, his need for acquiring has not been satisfied. Thus, he will only protect her, love her, care for her, and treat her as he should if he works hard to win her, making him willing do everything in his power to keep her. That is what happened years ago; that was the age of chivalry, when the man pursued the woman. That was even what happened a few decades ago when it was improper for a woman to ask a man on a date. In fact, movies from just ten years ago depict this image as Tom Cruise humiliates himself by singing at the top of his lungs to win the heart of the woman he wants.

Today, this is not the case, and the napkin proves it. She must ask for his number. He is the one that is to write on the bar napkin: she is to call him. What happened? Why are the males of society no longer expected to ask a woman to dinner instead of the other way around? Why do the women have to fight over a male and pursue him instead? Why does a woman of today have to wonder how much money she should bring on a date before she leaves the house when a man is supposed to be paying the bill for the mere pleasure of her company? Why did it use to be the man who sweated while picking up the receiver when today it is the woman?

Honestly, I cannot answer that question. I wish I could. All I can answer is what that means for a woman in today’s society looking for a mate and what it has done to society as a whole. What this means to society is that there are now a society of woman who loved their husbands because they won the "chase," and husbands who have never had to put any effort into a relationship. It means higher divorce rates and husbands that do not know how to treat their wives because they did not have to charm them and win their hearts in the first place. Because a woman no longer knows how a man feels about her by his pursuit, it means women are chasing after men that very well may not be interested in them, leaving them hurt, damaged, and even more likely to enter into detrimental relationships. As a single woman in this society, I no longer know how to compete in the "dating game." I want to wait and let a man pursue me so that I will be treated as I should, but I am afraid that I will get lost in the shuffle of men sending their "name, number, and current income" home with another woman who will pick up the phone. That leaves me in the place that I am now, alone and confused.

My only reprieve, and the society’s, is to hope that women will eventually stop pursuing men and make them act like they once did. Only then will they once again be calling the woman, picking her up for a date, paying for dinner, and walking her to the door without the expectation of anything more than a kiss goodnight. As for me, I am going to start by taking down the napkin and throwing it away. If he wanted to pursue me, he should have asked for my "name and number."

Laura Fortney is a senior from Van Wert, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and Economics.