During one of the last face-to-face conversations I had with Bounder, he made the comment that women's expectations of men are—and should be—set by their fathers. He gave me that knowing look, urging me to think about how that has played out in my relationships and how it continues to influence my expectations of men.
I wrote a lot about my relationship with my mom in Persona Non Grata. I did touch on my dad to some degree. This is a topic that even my therapist and I have veered around for the most part, having spent so much time and energy on stabilizing and rectifying other issues. While it's definitely something for me to explore—and I'm sure I will—I'm not quite ready to go there yet, at least not publicly.
What Bounder's statement did set me to thinking about, though, was the reverse, specifically the role of the mother in setting up male expectations of women and how that will play out for my children. Based on who I am, on the behavior they've seen modeled in me, what kind of women will my sons be drawn to?
Max is almost 13, and Tricky just turned 9. They aren't even that interested in girls yet. (Thankfully.) Max is still at the stage where he denies any and all attraction to the opposite sex, while confidently asserting his inherent heterosexuality. Tricky is past the point of playing with girls at recess. Both have female friends.
They've both been long drawn to the tall, leggy girls. Usually blondes. Duh.
As they get older, I'll be unsurprised to see them dating busty, blond Amazons. I'll be perfectly okay if one of them brings home a girl with purple hair or tattoo. Facial piercings are generally okay, too.
I fully expect their female companions to be loud and a little bossy, neurotic and temperamental. Maybe even quirky. Knowing how the boys interact with me now, they'll be attracted to smart, funny, thoughtful women who can carry on a conversation and get a complicated, inside joke.
Their loves may be prone to crying for no apparent reason. They may yell when they get mad, then turn quiet and withdrawn when they're truly angry. They may be sensitive and sentimental.
What I hope most, though, is that the women they choose are strong and willing to share their voices, that they're able to speak up and stand up for themselves in the face of adversity—even if and when it is coming from one of my stubborn sons.
I hope my sons have learned to look for women who can appreciate them for the myriad beauty they possess, who can openly love them and share their hearts as easily as they may share their bodies, when the time comes. I hope for women who can apologize and try not to make the same mistakes again and again, who can tell my sons that they're being pig-headed asses just as easily as they can tell them they're sweet and that they love them anyway.
And if I don't like a girl my son likes? Make no mistake: I will tell them. I will also expect my children to make their own choices, even if it's not what I would choose for them at all. That's what I have done, and that's how I have tried my best to raise them.