In the past few years since the start of the financial crisis, I have met men at dinner parties, party parties, through friends, at conferences, etc. And out of say twelve or so recent acquaintances, (some who became friends a few I dated briefly) during some of our longer conversations, I found them often turning to their concern with making money...and how their jobs, (or lack of), and income affect how they view themselves as men, and potential partners.
I have also been very lucky to have been around men who make little in the way of personal income but who are deeply fulfilled. Muhammad Yunus, and many men who work with true microcredit (not the abusive loan sharking which pretends to be microcredit) and who have become good friends, always seem to be so incredibly fulfilled, one never thinks about how much they do or don't earn, nor whether or not they are living their dream. They also have great women by their side.
I noticed something very interesting while attending a talk by Muhammad Yunus at Goldman Sachs a few days after Lehman fell in September 2008. The crowd of about two hundred young bankers filled the room to listen to Yunus speak. Yet the young men (who were the majority) played with their BlackBerrys and did not seem to be paying attention. The questions about microcredit posed to Dr. Yunus came from the young women in the room, women from Guatemala and Asia. They were not only listening, they were challenging and open to alternative ways of thinking about business, and parts of the world where huge bonuses and high frequency trading give way to sustainability and exchange at a more human level.
As for those men who seemed to be somewhat obsessed with their jobs and their income to varying degrees and the ones who had recently lost their jobs (and there are more and more of these) although trying to keep up appearances, felt that they were somehow a little less "attractive" (except for one whom I have to say could attract a woman no matter what). Their jobs and the economy were constant worries to them, even to those who still had "great" jobs and were earning a lot of money. In fact, some of those guys, the executives, stayed at work late every single night and canceled family and personal events often on weekends due to meetings, and were constantly stressed. I met one who had to fire hundreds of people, another one who had been an executive at a bank which went bankrupt, a few who had been recently hired, even moved their families, and then found themselves let go within months.
I met men who had to sell their apartments, ended up divorced or their girlfriends leaving them, and saw their "financial worth" be divvied up by lawyers. I saw others who had much less money, but interesting jobs and who are seemingly intelligent somehow be brainwashed to think women wanted rich guys. These are all men over forty, and thus at a time in their lives when things should be finally working out for them. They have worked hard, spend those long days and nights at the office or creating their businesses, but find themselves selling their belongings after the job searches of a year or more pan out with next to nothing. Yet even those with very stable incomes still seemed to think to win a woman's heart they had to have a big apartment with a view. I kept thinking, "Man these men really don't get what women want!".
Some of the men were European, a few were American, almost all well educated, speaking several languages and with a good two decades at least of work experience. And although I also have male friends who are doing very very well work-wise, they are still questioning their "worth" as men. I have to say how moved I am to see so many grown men re-evaluating their lives mid-life. This is more important than any traditionally silly mid-life crisis or skirt-chasing, superficial angst...this is very deep, very serious, and I have to say, as a woman who really deeply loves men, I feel for them. Yet I am glad they are asking themselves some important questions about what is important in life.
Why as a woman do I not feel the same stress and angst? I am also living through this crisis, have had it affect my work, my family, my finances, yet I actually find myself happier than I have ever been in my entire life! And why is it that my friends who did not pursue materialist lifestyles, nor jobs in finance, and are often creative and used to living on next to nothing, seem to be surviving this "crisis" with a more optimistic attitude? I do not define myself through my work alone, nor by how much money I earn. I am not indebted but not wealthy (though compared to most of the world I am extremely lucky!) I enjoy every single day of my life.
Perhaps we all have something to learn about what it is we really want from one another. Though yes women tend to prefer a man who has a job and pays his bills, the reality is, most women (who are not just expensive spoiled narcissists) expect to share with the man they are with, to participate to their best ability. We want to be true partners. We really really like you guys! When you go through a tough time, as long as you have been a good faithful guy, we want to help!
I think somehow people seriously drank the Kool-Aid for a few decades and the women and men who pursued lifestyles which are not going to make them truly happy, now find that without all that, or with less of it, they can finally focus on what really matters. Kool-Aid is bad for you. It's all sugar and cancer causing red dye and bad stuff. Life is fantastic! I just wish we could redo the 80/90s/early 21st century and focus less on money making and more on sustainability, especially in relationships.
So all you men out there...remember this: Women who Love Men really love you for who you are, not for a lifestyle you can provide. If a woman really wants a certain lifestyle, she can go make the money and create it herself. Otherwise she either does not want it nor care, or is lying to you. In either case, get back in touch with your own self, your intuition, turn off the tv, don't overwork as workaholics become numb obsessive jerks...but also don't think money will buy you love.
It won't. Life is short. Cherish the women who love you and learn that to be a real man is not to define yourself from the outside. Women see through that. This consumer society had people consuming one another throwing them out and getting a new model. Humans have become less human and stopped following their dreams to make money. Now they are losing the money. But they can still get back in touch with their dreams. There is nothing sexier than a man who is living his dream. It's priceless. And investing in the human parts of your life, your relationships and family, your own integrity and spirituality, will always have the biggest payoff in the end.
Follow Vivian Norris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vivigive