My essays about appropriate masculinity are written primarily for my sons. So I acknowledge that being able to understand and draw up appropriate masculinity can be beneficial to both men and women, but may use male pronouns inclusively when refering to someone trying to be masculine.
I am a creature of the Fey
Prepare to give your soul away
My spell is passion and it is art
My song can bind a human heart
- Heather Alexander
My sons, please sit somewhere quiet and listen carefully. This is tricky.
I have never talked to a young man who did not at times become moonstruck by Romance itself. Allow me to explain.
As a young man, you will be enamored with the feminine, with its essence or abstraction. You will feel a desire to somehow have relationship with this philosophical ideal. Your soul will burn. You will need to somehow express youself.
Your feminine ideal will not exactly match that of your brother or your friends. It cannot, for it is not something static you can picture or fully descibe. You will hear the song of a Muse of Romance, but she is most certainly not simply some particular idealized woman. She is a whirlwind of vague glimpses and never-seen beauty.
Your grandfather had a saying: "We are all born knowing the taste of perfect pizza, and spend the rest of our lives looking for it. That is why we can eat the best pizza slice of our life and afterward say, 'It is almost perfect, but...'" The Muse of Romance is similar. You may hear echoes and see shadows of her presence in a girl or woman. Glimpses leak into the real world through a feminine voice in song or laughter, a smiling face radiating feminine energy, the alternation of demure quietness and athletic activity, the bounce of long hair or the swish of a skirt, or a certain curve of breast or hip.
These glimpses are never enough. But they are all you have. You will understand that you are unworthy of this Muse of Romance. You will be driven to pay homage.
Then the cruel deception happens! Your hormones will latch your mind onto a particular young woman, perhaps one you have only seen for the first time. She will seem to be an appropriate way to finally express yourself. That burning longing finally has a chance to get out. You might write poetry and read it to her, or present her with flowers or something you made with your hands, or serenade her with a meaningful song or poem.
She will not understand. She cannot. Women do not have this relationship with romance itself. She will be confused. She never asked to be an altar at which you can finally present your offering. She wants to be treated as herself, not as a doorway to a sublime muse.
So, my sons, take my advice. (You will not, at first. Your hormones will deceive you too well. But with time you will see and understand.) Do make your offering. But tell the young woman, "This is because you remind me of someone," and walk away.
There is a small sting of rejection when a young woman with whom you are twitterpated is not interested in you. What hurts more is how the young woman does not understand romance as you do. None of them do. (Well, almost none. Probably none you will ever meet.)
So when you see a baby smile, you don't smile? I thought it was natural to smile when a baby smiles at you!
- Contessa Louisa
When I talk to women about the Muse of Romance, they are confused. They have crushes or fantasies about particular males. But they do not swoon because of an abstract concept of masculinity.
However, most women do experiene an equivalent phenomenon.
Watch most woman when they are introduced to a baby. They yearn to connect with the baby. They want to touch it, to hold it, and most of all to have it smile at them. When a baby smiles at them it makes their day. They feel a deep, visceral joy. They feel accepted: in a small way by that particular baby, but mostly by the entire concept of babyness it represens.
This is much like the Muse of Romance. Men want to greet a feminine woman and have her smile at them. It makes their day. They want to feel accepted by the concept of femininity.
Most women feel this intense desire to connect with any baby and be accepted by it. They want to interact with any baby that stirs their Muse of Babyness, even if it is a stranger they do not know.
Men do not. Men enjoy their own kids, and sometimes the children of family members or friends. But men do not have a Muse of Babyness that calls to them.
Society spoils women. It usually socially acceptable for a woman to ask to see and even hold a stranger's baby. The baby's parent may not agree. But no one condemns the woman for making that request. No one says she has wandering eyes, or is disloyal to her family. Babies are not taught to hide their smiles to avoid appearing "easy".
Cavewomen probably had to think, "How much of his pile of charred mammoth meat can I eat without being expected to kiss him?"
Hundreds of times—thousands of times— your hormones will deceive you with their cruel trick. They will fixate on a particular young woman so she seems an appropriate altar at which your offering might finally be accepted.
Often it is even worse, and your yearning for pure romance will be intertwined with a sexual lust. This will confuse you even more. Society has taught you that the way to ask to enter a long-term romance (sexual or not) is to demonstrate that you can be a faithful and reliable provider. So you will want to give this woman gifts for two reasons—to give something through her to the muse, and to give something to her demonstrate provision.
You cannot explain. It is too awkward if you try. "The food is to show you I can provide for you. The poem is really for the muse. Want to be my girlfriend?" No, honesty would not work, even if you could see within yourself clearly at that moment.
Moreover, society also has taught men and women that demonstrations of provision are the most appropriate way to request a short-term sexual dalliance. The dynamic of bartering (offering a gift in exchange for for her attention, time, and intimacy) allows men to enter the women's world of indirect communication. Because the request is indirect she may refuse him in ways that would be rude in the world of direct communication, such as accepting his gift while ignoring the bartering, or paying him with a quick verbal compliment instead of what he is asking for. These gifts never work (they speak to comfort, not attraction) but men are duped by the social norm.
So that poor woman is wondering which of three motivations are behind your gifts.
My sons, the only way to win this game is to not play. Your ability to provide is indisputable. Your time and attention are valuable and all you need to offer women. Ask for what you want directly and with confidence. When women refuse you, politely ask for constructive criticism to help you grow.
Do not despair. You will eventually outgrow the intense need to give gifts to the Muse of Romance.
But you will not outgrow it quickly. How many wives wonder why their husbands keep giving them flowers when they have told their husband that they see flowers from the store as a waste of money? He is not giving the flowers to you, dear.
Women are incapable of loving men in a way that a man idealizes is possible, in a way he thinks she should be capable of.
- Rollo Tomassi
When you first met your Muse of Romance she promised to be a source of joy and a help to actual romantic relationships. But she lied. For years you will search for the romance she promised. But women simply do not write the same kind of romantic poetry that men do, or feel that deep longing which can only be expressed with a serenade. They do not reach out to the masculine as you burn to reach out to the feminine.
The eventual disillusionment hurts more than all those year's rejections from women. You will never find a woman who relates to romance through you in the way you want to relate to romance through her.
Here is how the disillusionment might happen.
My sons, when you were a toddler you were told that you were lovable. You were entitled to a love that satisfied your needs for attention, entertainment, physical comfort, protection, provision, and occasional extravagance.
As you grew through childhood, your mother and I sheltered you from the harsh realities of adult life. (This inevitably meant we spoiled you—hopefully not too much.) As you slowly became more independent, we appropriately withdrew the entitlement. First we put up boundaries that said we would not pay attention to you at any time you demanded it. Then we taught you how to find something fun to do and not rely on us to entertain you. And so forth.
But the entitlement felt while being lovable at those early, formative years is slow to shed off. You still expect love will "just happen". This leads to all sorts of bad advice. (A man cannot "be himself" and expect someone nice to come along. He must be genuinely improving himself, for his own sake. Some of that improvement will also allow acquiring a better romantic partner.)
The mindset of being lovable leads to an destructive and insatiable corollary. You will view a young woman who interests you romantically as "lovable" and thus feel compelled to satisfy her needs. And you will try to measure an increase in your relationship's love and your attractiveness by how much more you make her satisfied.
Beware that trap. She is not "lovable". She is not a toddler! People older than that are not entitled to being satisfied by the actions of others. Your love is not deeper because you provide more. Your blatant neediness about making her satisfied makes you less attractive, not more.
(Tangentially, beware women who never mature past seeing themselves as lovable. Does she think about a "soul mate" to express her entitlement to an idealized provider? Does she leave a book or film thinking, "My guy should love me this way!" When she asks to talk about feelings, does she really mean, "Please let me test how reliably you will satisfy me?")
Fortunately, it is easy to mature past this relationship dynamic. Your youngest courtships will involve you giving and her taking. She will accept all kinds of gifts while you will revel in her smile, her laugh, and the feel of her hand. Then you will notice that you enjoy her young femininity, but she has no reciprocal interest in what early seeds of masculinity you possess. If she gives gifts, they are to symbolize and confirm your commitment to her. She knows it is not her job to fill your needs, and she has no Muse of Masculinity to present an offering to.
My sons, I share bad news. The next stage is even more dysfunctional.
After you experience how satisfying a young woman's needs does not help romance, the muse will provide a revelation. You should have tried to satisfy her feelings! After all, she (and her family) is responsible for her needs, which tend to be mundane and boring. Romance is different—it is about the excitement of special feelings!
This revelation is a utter hogwash. But you will believe it anyway.
Doomed is the young man who tries to manufacture romantic feelings. Society has taught him that many traditional romantic gestures should make a young woman feel romantic feelings. He tries candle-light dinners, poetry, gifts of flowers, and maybe even a romantic weekend vacation. His daydreams are filled with hypothetical plans of how to create imaginative moments.
Now, women do appreciate romantic gestures. But only from men to whom they are already attracted. For women, romantic gestures and imaginative moments are validations of existing romantic feelings. Women value spontaneous affirmations of a moment's existing romance infinitely more than experiencing a planned romantic event. That is why, my sons, you will take a young woman to a symphony performance and fondly remember the the feel of holding her hand and how the musical themes wove together (the moment's created romance), but she will become attached to the ticket you folded into a bow tie and handed it to her on a whim instead of throwing it away (an affirmation of existing romance).
So the doomed young man tries to use romantic gestures and imaginative moments to create romantic feelings, and the young woman does not understand. He is as awkward, confused, and in appropriate as someone trying to ice a cake before baking it.
The young man tries to earn love. He believes a lie, that relationship love deepens as people act more romantically. A befuddled idealist, he feels stagnant when he is not doing more and more to earn love. That cruel lie makes the young idealist more and more wanting, until he becomes creepy.
Planned romance fails the social norms are really tests that beg for appreciation instead of being playful and wantless. Trying to make people happy is never appreciated as much as spontaneously and effortlessly celebrating how you have already made people happy.
(Tangentially, beware women who have learned to suck dry these idealistic young men. Does she think about a "soul mate" to express her entitlement to an unending stream of romantic moments? Does she leave a book or film thinking, "My guy should consider me the most important thing in his life!" When she asks to talk about feelings, does she really mean, "Please listen to how I feel about you. I hope you will say you feel the same things about me.")
My sons, you will mature past this stage when you gain enough tragic relationship experience to finally, truly learn that you cannot create romantic feelings or earn love. Your muse of romance lied again.
The third stage also does not work.
It begins by rejecting courtship. All of society's traditions and expectations for dating involve a man trying to satisfy a woman's needs or feelings. Since those do not work, a sensible conclusion is that courtship and dating are a waste of time and the wrong way for a young man to relate to a young woman.
My sons, this is a tragic realization. You long for a romantic connection with the feminine. The muse had called herself the Muse of Romance. But what if she is merely the Muse of Femininity? Perhaps the pain and confusion came from your hormones craving a connection with the feminine through a romantic girlfriend, when what actually would work is just having feminine female friends? Perhaps romance is a hindrance, not a help, to your connecting with the feminine?
If true, that is tragic. But life is tragic, so you try anyway. You search for women with whom you could be a close friend without involving sexual desire. Maybe sharing hugs, neck rubs, and cuddles will provide the connection with the feminine you yearn for. After all, it seems a more pure sense of closeness, trust, and warmth when you are enjoying her personality and femininity without hoping to make out on the couch.
After all, women often talk about wanting to be appreciated for their minds and personalities. Maybe this is finally the right female want for you to satisfy?
This stage quickly proves dysfunctional, if you are attentive enough to notice it. You will notice that your female friends who like hugs and neck rubs turn off their femininity around you—and do so to a greater degree the longer you attempt a platonic relationship.
Recall from an earlier essay the paired female desires that writers of romance novels nickname twu wuv and the magic hoo hoo. Most women—sometimes consciously and always unconsciously—will feel most feminine when an attractive man is (at least a little bit) intoxicated and overwhelmed by both their personality and sexuality.
This third stage is dysfunctional because it actually longs for half a connection with the feminine. Nearly all women—sometimes consciously and always unconsciously—absolutely hate when a man is hooked by twu wuv and not by the magic hoo hoo. It feels incomplete. Having her sexuality ignored makes her feel unattractive and incomplete. Whether or not a woman wants anything sexual, she certainly values the opportunity to reject the sexual. Even if she does desire something sexual, she will want the chance to make a token rejection to test the strength of her magic hoo hoo hook.
Women do appreciate interest in their minds and personalities. But that is friendship, which produces reciprocal friendship. Friendship does not make a woman feel feminine, so it cannot inspire or awaken her femininity or romance.
(Tangentially, women also absolutely hate when a man is hooked by the magic hoo hoo and not by twu wuv. Avoid that too. As a man this can be difficult to comprehend. Imagine a woman saying to you, "Your body is intoxicating but your personality is nothing special." That would seem a compliment—since she rates your body highly and your personality as mediocre then overall you are way above average in her mind. But most women, especially unconsciously, do not care about an overall appraisal from an attractive man. Being told that her magic hoo hoo hooked him successfully but twu wuv did not only means that she did not get both hooks in and is a failure.)
Do you know what a man is?...the spice and salt that season a man?
- William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act 1, Scene 2
My sons, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that there is an answer. Actual romance exists and works great. It might seem like a lot of work at first, but eventually becomes a lot of fun.
The bad news is that the lie was huge.
The core falsehood you believed about Romance was that she is a muse. She is not.
Oh, how Romance pretended to be a muse! She acted the role so convincingly. She motivated and inspired you! She gave you poetic dreams and wistful longings!
But no beautiful and artistic relationships were produced. Relabille and stable connections with the elusive and abstract feminine never happened.
She also promised she would lead: she would provide the energy, momentum, and direction, so that you could relax into reacting, responding, and replying. But she did not lead well. You could never relax into following. She mislead you, causing stress and heartbreak.
Instead, you experienced a crucible through which you learned about yourself and about what women want.
You learned is that a woman only shares with you the femininity and romance that you awaken or inspire—and you must do that by shamelessly pretending to be hooked by her twu wuv and magic hoo hoo.
At first, this sounds truly dreadful.
First, as a man you really do feel a visceral need to try to satisfy a woman's needs and feelings. It hurts to finally comprehend that providing comfort has nothing to do with romance or attraction.
Second, it feels dishonest. Shouldn't romance and femininity flourish when you are sincere, profound, and passionate? That is even the definition of the word heartfelt!
Third, as a man you wanted a dance in which Romance led and you followed. Providing the energy, momentum, and direction is a lot of work!
But those three objections are yet more lies.
And I lied to you too.
Remember when I compared a man's desire to connect with the feminine with a woman's desire to connect with a baby? That was an honest comparison. But it also involved some slight of hand. You did not notice I left out romance.
Most women do desire romance just as much as men. They have a visceral and instinctual need to feel and act feminine because an attractive man treats them as uniquely special, different, attractive, intoxicating, and even slightly overwhelming in both personality and sexuality. That is what women want and call romantic.
Protesting what biology puts into women is futile. (After all, it is much more straightforward and honest than what your muse told you.)
A woman wants a game of imagination. Pretending is not dishonest if it is cooperative, innovative, experimental, and inspiring. The only safe place to explore becoming more feminine and special is the theatre of being treated like someone who is more feminine and special than she already is.
She wants you to spontaneously create a theatre in which she can try out a new role and challenge herself. That is why a man is attractive when he is confident as well as genuine, wantless, playful and wholesome. She wants her effort to be encouraged, taken seriously, evaluated gently, fun to attempt, and if unsuccessful never shared with other people or used against her.
So there is a need to satisfy.
There is honesty, but in a playful, experimental, and forward-looking way.
You will need to lead (provide the energy, momentum, and direction) so she can follow (infuse that energy, momentum, and direction with her style). Initially that is indeed a lot of work. But it becomes easy after you have practiced enough to develop the appropriate social skills and habits.
What does this look like in practice? Start by treating a woman as feminine and acknowledge her attractiveness. Let this rouse expressions of femininity. Reward these with immediate positive attention, and enjoy them when they continue.
An Example of Romance
Her: Thanks for agreeing to come to my office party. How do I look?
Him: Are you really going to wear that skirt?
Her: These are slacks.
Him: [Gives the shrug that means she can ignore him, but is always happier when she gives in.]
Her: I always wear slacks to work.
Him: I don't want trouble. I just want to be focused on how delightful you are instead of some PowerPoint slides that a co-worker wants to talk about.
Her: [Gives the glare and frown that asks if this is actually important.]
Him: [Repeats his shrug.]
Her: [She changes into a skirt.] Happy now?
Him: Now I want to go dancing instead. [Twirls her once. Hugs her.]
Her: I should wear this skirt more often.
Him: You should twirl more often.
Her: Hurmph. [She does start wearing a skirt more often.]
Him: No one else moves like you. It is not my fault that I like how you move. [He enjoys dancing with her at home more.]
Consider salt. The flavor of plain salt is unpleasant. But a small amount of salt will bring out the flavor of other ingredients. Salt, used in small amounts appropriately, makes other food taste more like itself. Salt satisfies the need of enhancing other flavors. Salt is brazenly honest by bringing out the potential of other flavors. Remembering to add salt is something experienced cooks do effortlessly through habit.
So male romance turns out to not involve connecting with an elusive, abstract femininity. That was the muse's lie. Male romance uses leading and flirting to create, establish, and affirm new concrete femininity.
Romance is an escapade in which a man satisfies a woman's need to playfully become more feminine.
The Road goes ever on and on...Let others follow it who can!
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6
My sons, the end is sweet.
Your connection with Romance herself will remain. The glimpses of delightful femininity will continue to leak into the real world. But now you know what to do.
When you are captivated by the feminine—perhaps even those same instances of a voice in song or laughter, a smiling face radiating feminine energy, the alternation of demure quietness and athletic activity, the bounce of long hair or the swish of a skirt, or a certain curve of breast or hip—you will understand what is really happening. Romance herself is showing you the elements of her lexicon. That is all. That is enough.
It is unimportant whose voice or hair or hip you see. It is unimportant when the glimpses come. Simply remember what pleases you, and at another time help another woman add that to her femininity.
You will eventually forgive Romance for claiming to be a muse. She never provided virtuosity. She does not lead in a way that you can follow to create art. But she remains a wonderful help for brainstorming.
If it were not for Romance, enduring romance and monogamy would be absurd. Left to your own creativity, you would run out of ways to inspire and help any specific woman become increasingly feminine. It is the neverending procession of glimpses that Romance provides that allows romance to thrive for a lifetime.
In that way Romance does allow romance to exist. Not with fanfare and heartfelt revelations, but small smiles and a nudge on the arm to say, "Remember this. Keep watchful for who would enjoy incorporating this into herself."
Understanding romance clarifies many otherwise befuddling or frustrating social dynamics.
I say in the book, date the bad boys, date the crazy boys, but do not marry them. Marry the boys who are going to change half of the diapers.
- Sheryl Sandberg
Those who study biology and literature talk about the Cads-Versus-Dads dynamic (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Most women have a natural preference for enjoying sexuality with dicey and adventurous "bad boys" before settling for a lower-sexuality marriage with a reliable provider husband. Most stable religions and cultures oppose this dynamic, and impliment rules and norms to minimize it. Currently certain American media outlets are openly supportive of this strategy (1, 2, 3), sometimes under the more socially acceptable disguise of a "starter marriage" (1, 2, 3, 4), even though it is not working well (1, 2).
This dichotomy appears to put moral and mature men at a disadvantage. How could a man possibly be daring while reliable, adventurous but a stable provider, and brazen yet comforting?
Fortunately, it is a false dichotomy.
Consider the man in the above example of romance. He is not a "nice guy" socialized to always give women deference, comfort, and admiration. Instead, he confidently expresses his preferences, boldly challenges the woman, and asks her to qualify herself to him. But he is not a jerk, cad, or "bad boy" acting pushy, disrepectful, or misogynistic.
My sons, modern society has lost the once well-established role of "romantic gentleman". But once you understand romance you will see it provides a way to be as enticing to feminine women as the cads without sacrificing your morality or maturity. Both the romantic gentleman and the woman he is with will be—within the imaginative theatre of romance—daring, adventurous, and brazen as they experiment with increasing her femininity. Outside of that theatre, whether to enjoy her established femininity or do their mundane daily tasks, they will be reliable, stable, and comforting.
In generations past, older women taught younger woman advice and proverbs such as "Wed a lieutenant to marry a general." Today's young women too often lack this advice, and if even they do receive it are probably not taught how to identify which lieutenants show the most potential as men and husbands. So they chase the men that make them tingle, realizing that is foolish but not knowing any other plan. As a romantic gentleman you can provide enough tingles while also sharing through your morality and maturity what potential looks like.
(As a bonus, you will not provide quite enough tingles to satisfy the few genuinely broken women who seek out the pushy, disrepectful, and misogynistic jerks. Those drama-prone and high-maintenance women are not who you want to date, so it is convenient that they get filtered out.)
Also, a tip for any young women reading this who desire a "romantic gentleman" but cannot find one: it is much easier, safer, and more reliable to start with a "nice guy" than a "bad boy".
A boy carries out suggestions more wholeheartedly when he understands their aim.
- Robert Baden-Powell
In the example and discussion above, the man led in two ways. He established a welcoming and safe theatre of imagination and experimentation. And he suggested a way for the woman to be increasingly feminine.
Sometimes the woman will make the suggestion. Wonderful!
Perhaps she will ask for feedback about a certain aspect of her appearance. Perhaps she will try wiggling her hips in a new way and check for your reaction. Perhaps she will share for the first time a topic of dicussion or personal worry that is feminine in nature.
My sons, remember that any romance is about confirming that she is uniquely special, different, attractive, intoxicating, and even slightly overwhelming in both personality and sexuality. Remember that she is experimenting because you have established that ability to create that safe theatre of imagination and experimentation.
This can be tricky. On some occasions she is not interested in romance. She merely wants your opinion about whether someting is nice. Or she merely wants to talk about something.
But sometimes romance is her goal. Then she will not want straighforward feedack. If you say "That dress looks nice" you have neglected assessment about what is unique, feminine, or intoxicating. It might be better to say "That dress makes me want to hold you" or "I am again astounded how you can make dresses both sensible yet sexy. Who else can do that?" or "Well, that is a nice dress, but sort of an everyday pretty instead of something unique or special."
Similarly, sometimes when she mentions a social issue she wants romance, not a listening ear or a helpful suggestion. Men would never tell each other "Your poor friend! I am glad she has someone as thoughtful and empathic as you as a friend" because it neither communicates an understanding of the issue nor offers any advice. But that might be exactly what a woman wants to hear.
Not sure when a woman wants a straightforward opinion and when she wants romance? Check in with Romance, who can be surprisingly helpful in these situations.
(Tangentially, women will use their established feminine behaviors to qualify themselves to attractive men, even if those men are strangers. This is a completely different dynamic from romantically experimenting with new and untested feminine behaviors with a playful man they know and trust.)
Everyone wants a spouse who would never cheat on them, but could any day.
- saying of the worthwhile marriage counselors
My sons, most women are instinctively attracted to men who other women treat as attractive. Sociologists call this "preselection". Any of your long-term relationships, including marriage, are improved when the woman you are with knows that other women find you attractive.
The obvious problem is how to do this while staying above reproach, without any hint of unfaithfulness that would justifiably reduce the comfort you provide to the woman you are with.
The exact details will depend upon you and her. But romance will suggest many appropriate ways to invite other women to pay attention to you and treat you as attractive.
As one personal example, your mother knows that I sometimes ask other women to braid my hair. Sometimes I even ask this of strangers I talk to when I take you to the playground. The fact that other women—even some strangers—are not hesitant to touch me, and enjoy it, and feel feminine when grooming me, pleases your mother because it affirms that she has "caught" an attractive husband. (But I have met a few women who put special value on hair or on grooming, and this particular behavior would inspire the wrong reaction if their man tried it.)
As another personal example, because your mother and I enjoy swing dancing I get to spend several hours each month dancing with college-aged women who smile at me, laugh when I tease them, and enjoy that my leading on the dance floor helps improve their dancing while making them feel feminine. At swing dances your mother is jealous over me (she is reminded of why she likes me, and appreciates that after the dance she is the one who gets to take me home), not jealous of my temporarily paying attention to other women.
Using romance to maintain preselection also helps you practice using romance apart from love, intimacy, and sexuality. That will help during certain stages of a long-term relationship. For example, if you marry and have a child then the first month that you and your wife have a newborn baby in the home you two will have a lot of intimacy from teamwork and the sharing of efforts and dreams, but probably very little sexuality. The non-sexual ways you had previously used romance to maintain preselection might then be exactly what your wife needs and appreciates.
Art and love are the same thing: It is the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.
- Chuck Klosterman
Being feminine is an art that demands much beyond merely being a woman. As an art, it deserves respect and praise for the effort and practice it requires.
Femininity can contribute so much to society. Feminine women can motivate men to behave properly. Feminine women can confer status on men by recognizing virtuous and attractive masculinity. Feminine women can be society's deepest source of love. Feminine women constitute society's main providers of comfort, child care, and hospice.
Women who use femininity to create beauty and joy, and contribute those good things to society, deserve the respect and admiration due to any skilled artist.
Of course, different types of artists also receive particular benefits as appropriate to the particular perspectives, efforts and habits they develop. Some of the particular benefits of being feminine include being treated as beautiful, receiving posititive attention from men, having influence over men, receiving help from men for physically demanding or dangerous tasks, receiving protection from men when physically or emotionally threatened, being considered a good candidate for marriage and motherhood, and having faults in appearance or behavior more easily overlooked.
Artists who produce other types of art might also enjoy some of those particular benefits. (For example, any celebrity artist has faults more easily overlooked, and even non-feminine women who artistically accentuate their sexuality can receive positive attention from men.) But only the art of femininity receives the whole set of benefits.
One current, subtle social movement demands the benefits of femininity should apply to even the most unfeminine women. This is, of course, nothing more than selfish entitlement. People who have not produced artwork have not earned the rewards of an artist. (Men face the same issue. Developing appropriate masculinity is an art that not only helps a man mature but also brings him social benefits.)
My sons, you can use romance to help women increase in femininity. This can strengthen society and fill the world with more art and beauty.
Tangentially, be wary of people that attack femininity because they refuse to acknowledge its artistry. As one example, it is easy to see that emotionally healthy men and women enjoy taking care of family members, being pleasing to the people around them, and being attractive to their spouse. Women who are feminine enjoy how the art of femininity gives them an advantage regarding these three joys by providing more ways to do them. But some people mistakenly consider these three things innately oppressive, avoid them, and then while less happy react by complaining they lack the "privileges" that feminine women see as accomplishments.
I'm feminine, but I wouldn't say that I'm girly in any way at all.
- Victoria Beckham
Yeah, yeah...artistry is great, but there is a huge problem with society only granting feminine women the particular benefits listed above.
My sons, stand firm in recognizing that most of what Romance inspires in your is natural, instinctive, and genetic. It is not a social construct that you will consider as feminine the personality traits of being cheerful, musical, graceful, nurturing, empathic, resourceful, resolute, and not becoming flustered when doing many things. It is not a social construct that you will find certain aspects of a woman's appearance sexually attractive and others sexually unattractive.
(Tangentially, the general virtues listed in the previous paragraph are being happy, light-hearted, sunny in appearance, helpful, sympathetic, providing, courageous, and attentive. There are also masculine variants: a man who is charming, witty, handsome, contributing to camaraderie, loyal, dutiful, enduring, and focused.)
But parts of what Romance tells you are indeed social constructed. Society could be better— more filled with art and beauty—by removing some socially constructed limitations to what men receive from Romance.
For example, stories such as Little House on the Prairie and Little Women extolled the feminine "strong woman" of their day. But life in America is thankfully easier now, and the normal challenges and struggles faced by women are different. Thinking of what a "strong woman" means only according to the older archetypes is too limiting. What a feminine "strong woman" looks like today is an appropriately evolving social construct.
So Romance (an aid to brainstorming, establishing, and affirming feminine options and behaviors) can be a great aid to the social changes of expanding which options and behaviors are socially treated as feminine.
However, my sons, I cannot stop there. I wish I could. But some attempts to remove limitiations on femininity insist that women should be somehow able to pick what men receive from Romance. This is silly! Our male connection with Romance is much too innate and visceral. We cannot ourselves pick what we receive from Romance. How could anyone else possibly expect to have that control?
Women have thier innate, biological standards. Nearly all women desire a husband that is taller, stronger, more energetic, earns more, and is more emotionally solid. Men simply have to live with the fact that women have those preferences. Simililarly, men have the right to innate male biological standards. Do not feel bad, my sons, when Romance refuses to cooperate with attempts to change culture. There are many utopian visions. Let's work towards one that is realistic about art, beauty, and romance.
As one example, a social construct may allow women to be considered beautiful with very short hair. But it will never be able to change the biological and instinctual reality that most men only consider long-ish hair preferable on any particular woman, except for a very few older women with certain facial shapes. Most men receive more from Romance regarding long hair than very short hair.
Many women do not like this. They know they can make a very short haircut lady-like, elegant, and beautiful. It can be "feminine" in the sense of being appropriate for a woman. They also want the control to make it romantic, and by extension more completely feminine. But Romance is wild. They do not get to tame Romance. Neither do men.
(I must include one final tangent. So far I have only spoken of removing cultural limitations on femininity. Is it also possible for social constructs to also add to what men receive from Romance? I do not know. History abounds with strange behaviors that different societies have invented and considered feminine: consider hoop skirts, corsets, foot binding, and neck-stretching. But these behaviors were not romantic. They were "feminine" or "lady-like" or "proper", but their only job was to accentuate something else that was romantic. No man ever wrote a sonnet to immortalize the curves of a hoop skirt, or serenaded a lovely corset.)