This Dad’s Double Standard

Category: Weekly Columns

I was having coffee with an old friend the other morning, sitting outside, as the weather was warm, and the scenery equally pleasant.  We marveled at the abundance of attractive women that came and went.  At the same time, the attire of many of the younger girls shocked us.  We assumed they were young teens as they were young enough that they were being driven and accompanied by their moms.  One such young girl, to be charitable, was dressed completely trashy, wearing a very short tight skirt, and a top that left little to the imagination.

My friend and I instantly, to ourselves, chastised her parents, especially her mom walking beside her, for allowing such a public display of flesh and poor taste for her young daughter.  And, frankly, in our sanctimonious opinion, we felt it poor taste at any age, except maybe for a costume party.  Then my friend asked the $64,000 question of me, “What would you say if your son brought her home?” to which I immediately and jokingly answered, “Way to go, son!”

We all know jokes have a level of truth and while we both laughed at my response, it did raise the ol’ double standard question.  I have often reflected that God, in his infinite wisdom, ignored my wish for a boy and a girl, and gave me two boys instead.  As my boys grew older and I began to see girls’ behavior and dress, I realized that he, indeed, knew best.  I think, if I’d had girls, I would’ve locked them up and never let them out unless they wore burkas, and maybe let them date some time after college graduation or age 35, whichever came first.

Yes, I suppose I do employ and have a double standard.  I come from a generation where boys behaved, more or less, as simians or worse.  Grunting, hand gestures, and crude dialogue was acceptable when any female crossed our paths.  Any guy that was sexually promiscuous was a stud, while any girl that behaved exactly the same way was either considered trashy (or a worse word, like the one in rap that rhymes with door, without the “r”) or, possibly, our next date, if we were lucky.

I know better.  I don’t treat my wife this way and would never think to look at her with lascivious eyes, except maybe in the bedroom when she wore that lingerie I bought her instead of her usual flannel pajamas (just joking about both).  Why do I still hang onto this double standard and, more importantly, what am I teaching my boys about how to treat women?

Fortunately, they see in the rapport between my wife and me, both a strong woman who takes no guff from any of us, an attractive woman who dresses with class, style, and, yes, some sex appeal, and her husband who maybe doesn’t fully worship her, but does treat her with respect unlike the (ape-like) behavior described earlier.  Heck, I even grab her occasionally, but usually when we’re alone and always to a whack of my hand and a big smile from her.  When the smile is gone, I’ll start worrying.

My older son is just starting to show interest in girls or at least hang out with both boys and girls.  I need to temper my “attaboys” when he brings over a cute girlfriend and be sure to make sure he understands what I expect of him in how he treats her.  My earlier joking reply to my friend is really a cautionary reminder to me that our kids mimic our behavior and pretty much see everything we do.  My bad habit of ogling women has been completely absorbed, noticed, and correctly chastised by my boys.  It’s something I’m constantly working on, especially here in Southern California during the summer where the assault on male senses, like when I had coffee with my friend, can be overwhelming.

To this end, I should work harder to model exactly the behavior I’m advocating with my wife.  It will be good for them, it’s what she fully deserves, and just because we’re now married, I shouldn’t be slacking.  There’s no doubt most men and women put on their best behavior while dating, and may get lax later, especially after marriage and children.  And, there’s no doubt I’m guilty of that.

Now that my sons are nearing the ages when they will “date” and be with girls in a more interested manner, it’s that much more essential I behave the way I want them to with my wife.  Opening her car door, holding her hand, thanking her, getting little gifts at unexpected times, complimenting her on how she looks, etc.  Let’s call my coffee experience a much-needed wake-up call for me, and one that will benefit my whole family.

That’s no excuse for not fathering my boys and teaching them how to be “gentlemen,” an oft forgotten word and phrase that deserves regular use and reminders for all of us “simians.”