I began Wild At Heart, you might recall, with skepticism. It took me a while to realize who the author was really talking to. There didn’t seem to be those men who were supposed to be hollow around me. His ideas of the essential heart of the binary genders was a little too stereotypical, a little too much of what society creates and calling it innate. His opening concepts are a little too gendered, particularly after The Second Sex
and The Feminine Mystique.
But he does eventually stop presuming what women desire and their hearts, which is where it gets interesting. This supposes that this outlook is more accurate on men than women. Having my doubts, I asked my husband. His response was to point out the men we knew who were dead inside the way the author described. I paid a little closer attention and then it started to make sense. It did end up being a very interesting read, though it was talking mainly to a very specific type of man. Wild At Heart is essentially a self-help book for church men who have lost their masculinity and want it back. The Christian Bible is referenced, the creation story is included as example. Still, there moments that gave my pause and that made me look at the world just a little differently sometimes.
Here are some such observations:
1. The views of masculinity and what happens to it within a man very much explains why many veterans feel free to express a greater degree of emotion and connection with everyone they know more than civilians. Most veterans likely feel less like they have something to prove as a man. They have often stared down death or some real danger and know exactly how manly they are in a way that getting pedicure or crying in a movie can’t erase.
2. The view of how women van invalidate a man played into the same concept from The Second Sex. Women are still generally taught that man is the one who will come and make up for all of their faults, which is not quite “the god” Simone de Beauvoir describes a French woman’s picture of her prospective husband to be, but its not for off in this era. Today, he will be perfectly all the things that she is not. Strong when she is weak, whole when she is broken, motivating when she is exhausted. Then marriage and the reality of two flawed people set in. The woman wanting her perfectly fitting puzzle piece and the man allegedly wanting validation as a man, some indication that he can do what needs to be done. When they realize that the other person isn’t going to give them what they need, both lash out at those very losses which leaves them lonely and disgruntled.
3. The way a man’s need to have what it takes is fostered can be applied to everything women say about the confidence gap. It is a perfect example of exactly how right women are when we say that men are raised to raise their hands and to take that leap, and women are raised not to. Of course, this book is for those men who have failed to live up to this ideal and its teachings, but it still promotes that as a tenet of masculinity alone.
4. Admitted, he talks about American women as they grow to be in our current society that is obsessed with physical beauty and a desire to be captivating in a way that divorce rates will tell you is completely unrealistic. What he misses is that this desire for physical beauty is not innate. Girls aren’t born with the knowledge that they are or aren’t pretty. They are taught these things as they grow up. Girls are taught that to be loved is to be captivating to your significant other. They aren’t taught that love is conscious choice that the other person makes everyday when you are married. Beauty and make up are pushed on American girls, it is not an essential part of who we are at birth. It isn’t important to us until society tells that it should be.