My husband Terry is on a three-week Australian road trip with his best friend, and I took this opportunity to spend a weekend of retreat at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts. There were mostly women there, which got me thinking.
A recent radio science program featured a segment about how the male chromosome is shedding parts of itself, in other words, men are become less male. Evolutionarily speaking, the scientist said, men are become more and more dispensable. They even hinted at the possibility of future parthenogenesis. Though this sounds awful to me, I realize we are already partway there. I have friends whose “father” was a sperm purchased anonymously. Three female friends have four children between them who have no father at all. The first of my female acquaintances to give birth to a fatherless child was my boss, twenty years ago. When she announced she was pregnant I was baffled, because rumor had it that she was a lesbian. But maybe they were wrong, so I asked, “Who is the father?” What an intrusive, dumb question, but I was functioning in unknown territory so I forgive myself. She answered evenly, “The father will not figure in this.” He didn’t abandon his children or die, he contributed a single cell to their lives and that almost doesn’t count at all. I don’t know how her daughter feels about the father void — the children of the other women are too young to have wrestled with this.
When I was dating, the dearth of men at places like Kripalu was disappointing. Where was a girl supposed to find a date anyway? They couldn’t all be swigging beer in bars or tackling each other on the rugby field. Some might have been at the gym, but I can’t remember ever having a conversation with a man at the YMCA over the many years that I swam there daily. I used to laugh when men told me they couldn’t find women to date. The women are at dance class, yoga class, adult school; they are swimming at the YMCA and they are at weekend retreats. Hundreds of them. WNYC has singles nights, and invariably they end up announcing the day before, “Where are you, guys? We need a few good men.” Now that I am happily married, I am not disappointed that there are no men to date, but the balance felt off at Kripalu. I like the edge of men, their humor, their bluff bonhomie, their bulk and strength. At the wild and crazy Noon Dance sessions the men were jumping around, shimmying, prancing, and whooping just like the women. They claimed to enjoy the yoga and the meditations. So why weren’t there more of them? The song of life is incomplete without the bass line.
The men are staying away, making themselves scarce. Are they shy? Afraid? Overwhelmed by women? Are they crippled by performance anxiety? Why are men shedding their indispensability? They are not at the office slaving away any more than women are these days. Why are they not present at every turn reminding us how much we need them?
One man said he thought they were all home playing video games. That would be gender suicide.
Maybe one day we will all share an identical XY gene and have babies all by ourselves, but for the moment, let’s have some fun.