Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Bromance, The Cougar and Heartbreak

The other night I was watching Superbad, which Liz gave me for Not Christmas. We had gone to see this movie after some death or another, and we both laughed so hard. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend.

In the film, best friends Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth (Jonah Hill) are seniors in high school, and are about to go off to different colleges in the fall. They are driven equally by their need to get laid and anxiety about their pending separation. The former they discuss incessantly, the latter almost never, yet both propel the action equally. The goal of their night seems simple: buy sufficient booze using a crappy fake ID (you may have heard of McLovin') to get the objects of their affection drunk enough to have sex with them.

After a long night of sex-free drunken hijinks, the boys crash in Evan's basement. But before going to sleep they exchange heartfelt declarations of love, share how much they're really going to miss each other and have a big bear hug. It's incredibly sweet and touching. The next day they're both embarrassed and act out morning-after awkwardness perfectly.

As I was watching this scene, I thought, oh, it's a bromance. Then I stopped myself and wondered what the catchy phrase for girls' friendship was. Then I realized that there wasn't one because all the emotional and physical expressions associated with bromance are simply implied in the word "friend" for women. Maybe you would say "close friend," or "best friend. A word, albeit a stupid one, needed to be invented to describe close, loving male friendships. But the associations of bromance are not entirely positive. Remember when Lance Armstrong, Matthew McConaughey and Jake Gyllenhall had their public bromance? There was also plenty of hyuk hyuking and gay speculation because why else would men want to spend so much time together?

It was a natural progression to then think about the awful word cougar used to describe a woman who dates a significantly younger man. There's no male equivalent for that because a man wanting to date a significantly younger woman is just normal and natural and why would you need a special word for the way things just are?

Then I became very sad for men and women both for having such narrowly defined options available for such a wide range of possible human expression. I'm extremely grateful that I can have close loving relationships with my female friends where we hug and kiss and discuss pooping and sex and urinary tract infections. But I also want to know that I could have a relationship with a much younger man and not be viewed with suspicion, scorn, or seen as desperate or a joke while a man making the same decision is admired for snagging such a hot young thing. Men can keep their young things but I also want them to be able to have loving friendships with other men without having to endure homophobic sniggering. That includes with their own kids. The day a man feels like he shouldn't kiss his own son is not a day I want to have anything to do with, thank you very much.

I'm going to roll with this: I don't want it to be so acceptable that a father would leave his kids, and conversely don't want to it to be the worst thing in the world if a mother does. Don't want it to be so not newsworthy when a man kills his wife or so sensationalized black widow if a woman kills her husband. I am mightily sick of seeing people fall all over themselves when a father "babysits" his own children for an afternoon and wouldn't mind hearing a little more appreciation for the armies of mothers that spend day in and day out with their kids and don't drive them into a lake.

I get that there are plenty of people out there that don't subscribe to these effed up ideas and do their lives and their relationships differently. But not enough of them. We need much, much more of people calling out this bullshit and actually living a different way. Because what the hell are we doing? I'd call it robbery but it's self inflicted. I don't even know what it's called when you steal from yourself.


jdub said...

Ms. P.C.:

My thought on all those terms is that they are used first in the media, whether real or fictional, and then trickle down to the real world.

Before there was "bromance", men called it friendship. Now, don't get me wrong, men don't talk to each other the way women do, largely because we are simple creatures. We have four simple needs: Sex, food, beer, and sleep. And not always in that order. We don't need to talk about them. (Ok, occasionally we need to talk, but it's like once a year or so, and then it's usually about single malt scotch.)

I hate the term cougar. But, alas young grasshopper, you are too young to remember the predecessor term for an older woman seeking a younger lover "Mrs. Robinson." (although, if I recall correctly, you are slightly older than I.) Again, proving my thesis that the media comes up with terms that then percolate to popular culture.

And it drives me batshit when someone says that I am babysitting my kids. If that's the case, where's my $10/hour? I'm the dad, When I'm not physically at work, they're my responsibility too.

Professional Critic said...

Hm, Mrs. Robinson isn't so bad. But I guess it's not really the names that I object to as much as the fact that there has to be a name for it at all, and that there's snickery judgment about it, the way there isn't when the tables are turned. Your argument that men are simple, I don't know. Nature or nurture? Maybe they're told they're simple enough times so they believe it just like women are told enough times that they want love more than sex and voila, everyone thinks they're just born that way. I don't know. But I do know that if I'm older than you, best not call me young grasshopper, jdub!

Melody said...

An older man who seeks out younger women is actually termed a silver fox. However natural and normal such seeking may seem, it is still a coined term, and it's good to know.

Anonymous said...

the word for deep girl friendship, albeit offensive, is ho'mance. Not proud of the contribution here but..