Do married men protest too much?

Elise T. Chisolm

October 11, 1990|By Elise T. Chisolm

Wow, did I get it recently. I wrote this benign column about a national survey that reported "the most important thing in men's lives isn't sex, fame or fortune, but marriage'' -- I responded in my column that I just couldn't believe that.

My questions was if men find marriage so important, why is it married men tell me their sports cars or new boats are the loves of their lives?

I also said maybe the conservative men polled were from a remote island where married men's infidelities meant off with their heads, and that according to another recent poll, 40 percent of married men have had extra-marital affairs. I also mentioned in the column that I knew several who were cheating, right now. Well, don't you?

Oh, I got letters!

Two men called me with expletives, one told me I was a devil-possessed man-hater, the other said I was a female chauvinist.

One said he'd been married 40 years and never looked at another women. (I say his libido must be boringly low).

In three letters men bragged about their marital faithfulness, and told me I could call their wives and their wives would back them up.

Well, I say if you have to brag about it and defend yourself, there may be some margin of doubt or guilt.

One man told me off, ''Like the song says, you've been looking in all the wrong places. Knowing men who cheat doesn't say much for your friends.''

Then after extolling his wonderful marriage, he said he could ''Take me to a place in downtown Baltimore where we will find at one address hundred of guys who are all proven cheaters against their wives, their community . . .''

Well, I wonder how he knows so much about where the action is if he has such a great traditional marriage with the ''most wonderful lady in the world.''

An honest 26-year-old told me he's not getting married, ''marriage scares me, and yes, I want sex, fame and fortune, first and foremost.''

A young divorcee, who owns Shoe Leather Safaris, a Baltimore )) company that offers historical tours of the city, writes that she never dreamt she could be so happy being on her own: ''I am not waiting for Mr. Right to come along and make my world complete.'' Marriage is not No. 1 with her.

But she said she doesn't find it surprising that men declare their marriages to be No. 1 while they say they love their sports cars and sail boats.

"These men are right on both counts. For their careers, a safely married man conforms to the corporate image required to be accepted as one of the guys, and that marriage provides a wife for social and image purposes and a partner to cook and keep house.''

She added that women would be happier if they too reserved a niche for something they passionately enjoyed above home and marriage, like cars and boats.

I called her to tell her that a married women with a full-time career, more than 2 1/2 children, a house and a husband who is out on his boat on weekends, does not have time to take up car racing, snorkeling or mountain climbing.

An article in May's Glamour magazine tries to tell us more: "Men: What do they expect from marriage today?" I read it and found out men expect too much. And maybe that's why they are getting married later in life.

At the end of the article Harvard's Dr. Joseph Boone, who teaches a course in marriage, finds that men's ideas about eschewing long hours at the office for family cookouts are somewhat naive. He says that it remains to be seen if men will live out there 'Mr. Mom' fantasies, and that professional sacrifice is easier for men to talk about than to do.

So there. No more letters, guys, and no more polls until you grow up.

Conclusion for this week: Maybe no one knows what men really want. So guess on, gals.

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