Monthly Archives: August 2012

Young Man Went East #4: The Cutesy-Tootsy Double-Standard

Last Monday, as my coworkers and I were in the back of the restaurant donning caps and aprons before we clocked in, one of my fellow servers approached me and declared in a voice purposefully loud enough for all to hear, “You and your girlfriend are sooo cute!” She explained how she was behind us on Broadway earlier and witnessed how we walked hand-in-hand, embraced for a beat and a half, then parted with sweet words. “I was going to say hi,” admitted my coworker, “but it looked like you guys were having a super special moment.”

Really? I thought. Replaying the scene in my head, I found nothing out-of-the-ordinary. Jenn and I were holding hands like we always do when we walk down the street. We hugged and kissed good-bye like we always do before I head up the stairs for work. I told her I loved her like I do every time we have to part. What was special about that?

“You should have said hi,” I reassured my coworker (while secretly lamenting the lost opportunity to introduce my girlfriend to a new acquaintance). With feigned nonchalance, I told everyone how she takes the train with me to work in the mornings before heading back home. Their collective “aww” was part admiration, part mocking disgust.

The next morning, as I headed to the back of the restaurant to get ready for another day of slinging shrimp, I walked into a conversation two coworkers were having about me: “. . . and she takes the train with him here every morning and then goes back home!” One of them looked up at me without the slightest shred of surprise. “I was just talking about how repulsively adorable you and your girlfriend are.” Her statement was based solely on the previous day’s gossip; she hasn’t even met my girlfriend. I smiled with pride.

For the rest of the day, whenever I was around, this coworker would turn to whomever else was nearby and pretend to secretly tell them how disgusting I am with Jenn: “It’s weird; he actually likes his girlfriend.” I’d play into it, too: “Yeah, on the train this morning, she rested her head on my shoulder so I could rest my head on her head. It was cute!” It was true, too, but I still enjoyed exaggerating the cutesy factor.

The more I settled in at my new job, the more the novelty of my being a transfer from Hawaii wore off. With great pride, I started becoming redefined as the guy who loves his girlfriend. People adore you when you talk about being in love. They see you as someone who is caring, proud, secure, affectionate, passionate, so on and so forth.

As long as you’re a guy.

(And as long as we’re talking about heterosexual relationships; all proudly affectionate people in a gay relationship are heartwarming.)

Jenn admitted to me that she cannot talk about being in love as openly as I can. To do so would be to brand herself as “boy crazy.” This is unfortunate, but true. If she were as open about her feelings with her peers as I am with mine, she would be seen as a clingy, insecure, anti-progressive fool. That is ultimately what the double-standard is about: progressiveness in gender roles.

The classic male archetype is that of a lone, stoic cowboy. He’s tough, unemotional, and unattached. The measure of this man grows proportionately with the number of women he has courted. And if he’s ever loved a woman, he doesn’t brag about it. Such a stereotype, however, is on its way out. The John Waynes of the world are being replaced by the more emotionally-vulnerable Jason Segels. The ideal man in a progressive society is a sensitive and affectionate male.

The classic female archetype is that of a companion. She’s never just “she,” but always part of a “we,” and in some ways a “his.” Her goal was to be his girlfriend, his wife. She was clingy and dependent on another, the one by whom she defined herself. To separate herself from this aging stereotype, the new woman strives to be independent, defined by her actions and not by her other. Her greatest pet peeve is when her girlfriends gush about their boyfriends, her greatest fear is becoming her nagging mother. The ideal woman in a progressive society is a secure and independent female.

When the Affectionate Male and the Independent Female fall in love, one character is admired while the other is tested. By being in love, both are more affectionate and less independent. The male, therefore, more strongly embodies the progressive man as he bears his emotions. The female, on the other hand, must hide her emotions, lest she draw attention to her diminishing independence, becoming seemingly less of a progressive woman. Though her love may be genuine and non-inhibiting, she would be hard-pressed to find a way to express it without sounding trivial and clingy. Therein lies her test, her burden.

Read back through Jenn’s blog (jenNYdreams.com) and you will find that any mention of me is purely narrative; I am a character in her keen observations of life and society. Read back through this blog and it won’t be long before you find the Valentine’s Day poem I wrote to her about our trip to the Big Island (YMWW #34 Bonus Post). When I started writing about Jenn, I received comments about my growth as a human being. If Jenn were to write similar posts about me, she would be ostracized. Luckily, I know intimately how she feels about me, so I am content with being just a character in her blog, as long as she can cope with my ability to be mushy in mine.

In the realm of the relationship, men and women have traded roles. But if the man always has the upper hand, can we really call it progress?

I only have the upper hand because I’m bigger.

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Young Man Went East #3: It’s Hunting Season in Queens. Apartment-Hunting, That Is.

The cost of living is too high, they said. It’ll be hard to find a place, they said.

Well, they were wrong. But it has been six weeks since my girlfriend and I flew one-way to JFK, our lives stuffed in luggage, and we’re only now resting comfortably in a place of our own. At least, for this month. We were able to find plenty of studios within our price range; that wasn’t the problem. Our unexpected hurdle was paperwork. Obtaining the necessary documents was almost as excruciating as waiting for them to process it all.

Had I known I would need my last half-dozen paycheck stubs, I would have filed them in my cashbox instead of piling them with old mail. Had I known I would need a credit score, I would have spent money I didn’t have instead of saving up for things I wanted. Had I known I would need two months’ worth of physical bank statements, I would have ignored the online updates instead of throwing the unopened statements in with my paycheck stub pile.

But I didn’t know, and for that, I had to call old banks and old bosses for documents proving that I could afford the place, even though they wouldn’t let me have it without a guarantor anyways. What happened to the good ol’ days when a handful of cash would get you anything you could afford?

I went through that process for two different places. The first time was for the very first studio we checked out in Brooklyn. We were so eager to get into a place that we overlooked the small size, sketchy neighborhood, and inconvenient commute. Communication with the agent was suspect at best, so we used her unprofessionally long response times to check out other places.

The next place we found was cheaper, bigger, cleaner, and in a nicer neighborhood in Forest Hills, Queens. It was in a co-op building, explaining how it could be all of those things at once. We dropped communication with the Brooklyn place and started applying for this one. Pretty soon we had an interview with the landlord in his Midtown West office in Manhattan. The landlord, Armand, owned two units in this co-op building, so we’d have to impress him and then impress the co-op. Armand was a nice man who seemed interested in our education and backstory, as well as our opinions about a moist toilet paper dispenser he was inventing. Everyone had smiles on their faces as we left the office.

The interview seemed to go well, but took more than a few days for us to get a response. To be safe, we looked at — and fell in love with — another place in Forest Hills. However, shortly after we filled out the application for yet a third potential home, we got an e-mail from Iris, Armand’s associate, saying that we got the apartment in the co-op building!

You got it!, she said. It’s yours!, she said. All we need is approval from the co-op board. . .

Confusion kept us from getting too excited. How was the place ours if we still needed to be approved? Hesitantly, I walked into the office the following Monday to clear up some of the confusion and, apparently, sign the lease (Jenn couldn’t be there as she was starting her first —  and last — day at her new job. You can read about THAT adventure on jenNYdreams.com). Iris reassured me that because Armand approved of us, we didn’t have anything to worry about with the co-op board interview. We just had to gather more information and fill out yet another application, this time for the co-op’s management company. So I signed the lease and then filled out an application for the same place. Having the latter act follow the former kind of dampens the excitement usually associated with the former.

The days of July crawled by as we restrained ourselves from calling Iris every hour. By mid-July, she responded. . . with news that our guarantor, my dad, needed to fill out an application, too. More paperwork, more waiting. Towards the third week of July, we were getting anxious. Were we dealing with a shady landlord again? Did I just offer up sensitive information and a deposit check to a crook with a nice office? We called and e-mailed Iris half as often as we wished, but that was seemingly too often for her. Her responses began to lack length and pleasantries.

We did some research and found out that Armand wasn’t a crook, but rather the management company is notoriously unresponsive. It’s odd that I was relieved we were dealing with a bad business, but that’s better than dealing with a fake business. Yet, the end of the month was approaching and the co-op board interview was still unscheduled.

Instead of pulling out of the deal and starting the process all over again, we found a sublease in Sunnyside, Queens, for the month of August. This would give the co-op board yet another month to hem and haw over our application while we could finally feel settled, if only for a month.

You’re just now getting settled? you ask. Where were you this whole time? you ask.

The six weeks of anxious e-mails, worried calls, and wringing hands were contradicted by — nay, overshadowed by the generosity of my New York friends. Rigo and Sarah welcomed us into their cool, clean, carpeted Forest Hills apartment the day we landed, and housed us for a week. So as not to become a burden (though they never gave us reason to believe we were ever becoming one), we migrated to Astoria, Queens, where my childhood friend Mary-Grace and her boyfriend Rob offered us a pull-out couch and an unlimited stay. We shifted to Astoria around the time Iris said the place was ours, so we didn’t think we’d be crashing in there for more than a week. That week turned into a month at the behest of Mary-Grace and Rob, who insisted we stay until we secured our own place. I doubt that either couple would have ever kicked us out, but I never wanted to get comfortable enough to test that.

It has been said many times, but never better than by James Stewart’s guardian angel, Clarence, in It’s a Wonderful Life: “No man is a failure who has friends.” This tired phrase may be oft-repeated, but only because it is often true. The hospitality of my New York friends humbled me, overwhelmed me, and — most importantly — kept me and Jenn off the streets. The weight of the apartment-hunting process would have dragged even an optimist like me into despair, but the selflessness of those who housed us lifted us out from that end.

So to Rigo, Sarah, Mary-Grace, and Rob, thanks for the wings.

With my Bunny by my side, I’m feeling set in Sunnyside

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