Well, it’s official: My Chief Pretend Boyfriend, Gov. Krispy Kreme, er, Chris Christie has been proclaimed “toast” by The New York Times’ puckish Gail Collins. And by “toast” I don’t believe she means the kind spread with delicious Bonne Maman damson plum preserves.
No, I think she means the kind whose burnt offerings can never make it palatable. And all because he said he fixed New Jersey’s pension system and apparently didn’t. You know, it’s one thing to fail grandly, epically, sexily, like Coriolanus. But to fail in a manner that requires a boring Excel spreadsheet – ah, the cruel irony. I’m willing to bet that my little CPB is not even very good at math – another thing we have in common along with our love of the Jersey Shore, Springsteen and ice cream cones. While I contemplate whether or not it’s time to end my pretend relationship and promote WPB (Weekend Pretend Boyfriend) Rafael Nadal to CPB status, thereby elevating PB in training, Colin Kaepernick, to WPB, I want to note that there’s a new book that would make hay of the rise and sort of fall of my luv guv.
“Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy” by Dr. Melvin Konner (W.W. Norton & Co., $26.95, 404 pages) suggests that blustery males like Christie are basically, well, troglodytes who will have no place in the new evolutionary world order of consensus-building that dovetails with women’s strengths.
Konner does a good job of rounding up the usual cultural and historical suspects to paint a depressing portrait of man’s inhumanity to woman. Reading the litany of abuses made me at once angry and self-congratulatory: As an unmarried woman, I may not have what my married sisters have, but at least I have myself.
Where Konner is particularly on-the-money is in his discussion of the one thing that colors the male-female dynamic: Men rape; women do not. Men’s atavistic, animalistic propensity to violence, to sexual violence, makes it difficult for women to trust – and build relationships with – them. But he also implies that the male violence may be selected out in the evolutionary scheme of things.
I think Konner is more optimistic than I am. For one, it’s hard to imagine male brutality going out of style. Witness the popularity of war, terrorism and the NFL – all of which are promulgated b men, young and old, who seem to have a lot of rage and too much time on my hands.
But the members of my sex aren’t completely innocent in all this. Some of us have long since swallowed the male Kool-Aid. We find men charming, funny, entertaining, beautiful even. We’re happy to let them do the heavy lifting – as long as we can direct that lifting, even obliquely. We are ambivalent toward power, because we understand that its price is the many interests we have, including our children. We even support the male power dynamic. Among the posters who are welcoming back Adrian Peterson – the Minnesota Vikings star who’s been reinstated by the NFL after being suspended for taking a switch to his 4-year-old – were women who said there are different paths to discipline, that we shouldn’t judge, blah, blah, blah.
Power: Konner says women are better at applying it singly (like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a former chemist and one smart cookie) and together (in Congress, for example). But the jury’s still out on this. Few women have had real power, and when they get it, they don’t necessarily know how to use it. I’ve worked for men, and I’ve worked for women, and I’d rather work for a man, because they’re more direct, take less personally and aren’t interested in the hypercritical approach to detail that sinks so many women. Really, ladies, the devil may be in the details, but often you can’t sweat the small stuff.
What we need in our society is a new understanding of nature/nurture that acknowledges our animal nature and, in recognition of that, enables our rational evolved mind to harness it. For example, I think a lot of anger is just hormonal. It doesn’t make you a bad person, just one that has to, as the song says, “Let It Go.”
The new world, Konner writes, will not be one in which men fall but women rise, and that’s good news. Neither gender can succeed if one fails. We are a mix of masculine and feminine energies on the sexuality spectrum. We need to learn to honor that and have compassion for one another.
Maybe I’ll even keep Gov. Christie in the pretend pantheon.
After all, we’ll always have Springsteen.