Not-remote control

I have lived all my life scrupulously avoiding trying to explain why people do things: I focus on what they are doing.

Trying to figure out what people are actually doing is difficult enough for me. Simple person that I am, if it quacks, waddles, has a flat beak and looks like a duck, I accept that it’s a duck and proceed accordingly.

I know people who would analyze whether the duck is an ugly swan, or whether it wants to make you think it’s a duck but isn’t, or whether it’s a duck who’s struggling to get its inner sheep to come out to play. While pondering these scenarios might be interesting, for the greater part they are a huge waste of time: you still have a duck.

Beyond a certain point, I stop looking into motivation, psychology or idiosyncrasies and simply try to accept what is there as best I can. Needless to say, mine is a very simplistic approach, as you surely noticed from this post last year.

Having said this, at times I succumb to the temptation of trying to explain why some people do some things. Recently I’ve been thinking about the issue of control.

A couple of weeks ago I posted the opening to the Kenneth Branagh film of Much Ado About Nothing, which starts with,

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leafy:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

At that time a woman friend (an old friend from pre-blogging days) had been watching the movie and we conversed about whether Shakespeare shortchanges men (“Men were deceivers ever… The fraud of men was ever so”), and whether Shakespeare offers valuable advice.

We both agreed that the advice is priceless, and worth living by. She wished she had learned of it earlier.

But we agreed for different reasons: she agreed because she has been treated badly by the men in her life, who indeed were deceivers ever. I have lived a much more protected life and my experience has been much better, and as I am an optimist and have been very independent from a very early age (I graduated high school at age sixteen by completing all the requisite courses because I didn’t like my all-girls’ school), I’m all for being blithe and bonny and letting go of sighs and woes, and avoiding hanging one’s life on someone else’s whims and wishes.

My friend, whose second husband had just left her, also talked about The Rules. The Rules essentially says that women should live the best lives they can and let men chase them.

Sounds good to me. I’ve been married for decades so I wouldn’t know whether The Rules work in today’s convoluted courtship capers. The Rules has been accused of being manipulative but I would wager that the fact still remains that men still like to chase women and women still want to be chased.

The problem comes up when one is trying to control the other.

A lot of women want to dominate everyone around them. They are driven mostly by insecurity but also by anger, and sometimes the wish for power. Most men actively resent domineering women and can be driven to all sorts of crazy behavior out of spite. Some men want to dominate, too. While independent women like myself are not interested in domineering men, some domineering men see this as a bull sees a red cape and charge ahead.

Whether it’s on a personal relationship, a professional situation, or just general everyday interaction, nothing puts me off more than a guy who’s trying to control me.

It seems to me, however, that the more appealing men are those who allow women to be all they are without trying to control them, which makes the woman more willing to surrender at the right time. The least controlling the guy, the better.

Why do some guys have this urge to control, then? Is it insecurity, anger, the desire for power over others, as it is in women, or is there more to it? Why do some guys seem to charge full speed ahead near independent women?

Yesterday I was talking to a male friend, who explained that independent women sometimes scare and anger men. Frustrated men need to compete and dominate: “some men need to dominate first before they can share. Others, better adjusted, are not threatened by those kinds of things,” my friend explained, “It’s pretty straightforward.”

So I ask you, dear readers, what is your opinion?
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11 Responses to “Not-remote control”

  1. Jeremayakovka Says:

    There’s nothing wrong with control when it has to do with leading and leadership. Think: leading a dance. This can mean the ones being led are made self-conscious of the fact…. Or it can mean letting them feel like they’re in control, autonomous, etc. when (thanks to your seamlessly applied skills) they’re in fact being led. Either one can be successful.

    As for domineering women, I insctinctively wonder whether they’ve been screwed over by one or several previous experiences and whether, for better or worse, they’re hell-bent on living up to some kind of “Never again” fear/pride/rage/caution attitude.

    In the absence of a clear leader, or a dominant one, a quiet or even passive “leader” can sometimes be effective (which nevertheless may be called “being manipulative”). Often it takes a certain guile and wisdom and patience.

    Thanks for the Shakespeare intro – I haven’t read that play….

  2. Greta Perry Says:

    So well written Fausta. I can only speak for my self – a tiny and independent woman. Early on I was told that I intimidate men because of my self-confidence. Thanks goodness I was fortunate enough to find a man so confident that he revels in my independence. He is a strong leader himself, but knows that controlling another person will not bring him satisfaction.

    Women with good self-esteem and are raised to be independent – won’t seek controlling men.

    We all know from the world around us that if someone is in a dominating relationship – they will either
    1. leave or
    2. live a miserable life

  3. Cassandra Says:

    Hell Fausta: men constantly try to dominate each other! Men are innately more competitive and aggressive. This is not a bad thing. Is it any surprise that they should, whether consciously or unconsciously, try to dominate women too? :p

    But if a man truly loves a woman, he also wants what is best for her and what will make her happy, and so he tries to moderate what comes naturally for him.

    We are not slaves to our instincts; this is why we have bodies, minds and souls. All three inform our everyday decisions and at different times we surrender to the dictates of each one as circumstances demand.

    Or at least the more adaptable among us do. The less balanced or aware only seem to fire on one or two cylinders, and so they may respond always with the body or always with the intellect while the other two aspects of their personalities go begging. To be fully human, I believe, we must develop and use all our faculties and it is the degree to which we are successful in doing this that makes each of us uniquely what we are.

  4. Attila Says:

    I believe the poem inserted into the Shakespearean play was actually written by Lord Byron, an infamous playah.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

  5. seejanemom Says:

    My experience is that I never sat home on a Saturday night for being an independent woman. Of EVERY MAN I EVER DATED IN TWELVE YEARS, I WAS NEVER DUMPED ONCE. I decided who came and went.

    I am what I am and I have NEVER EVER EVEN MET one of these types of men you mention.

    NEVER.

    I think SURELY I have, but their overtures were like water off that swan’s back you mentioned. Because I was HONEST and OPEN about what I am, living my life with no concern for the role of what a MAN would think, they knew I was a swan and if they wanted a duck with no self esteem, I WAS NOT HER>>>SO THEY MOVED ON.

    And I guess they did, because I am married almost fifteen years to a man who gets positively TURNED ON when he realizes I can stand on my own.(I have to, he is a Marine Officer!)

    If a woman can’t find a guy like my Hunky Husband, SHE IS LOOKING TOO HARD OUTSIDE herself when she needs to be looking INSIDE herself.

    There are no “controlling men” perse, just weak women who appeal to ANY MAN’s worst , weakest self and draw them like FLIES TO ROTTEN MEAT.

  6. RightwingSparkle Says:

    I suppose I dated some controlling men (although I am pretty hard to control) As long as it isn’t to an unhealthy degree, it’s fine. (as long as you are fine with it of course) The main thing to me is kindness. If a man is kind, then we women can handle the rest (except for cheating) I’ve been married 25 yrs and sometimes he tries to be controlling, but I really do control our life for the most part.

  7. GM Roper Says:

    What a thought provoking post Fausta. First, let me say that men and women are different (duh!) not only physiologically (another duh!) but they actually think differently. This has been proved with MRIs given identical problems, they use different parts of the brain to solve or think about the problem.

    Having said that, I’m with you, if it looks, acts, waddles and quacks like a duck, it is probably not a gnu but a duck. (What’s a Gnu? I donno, what’s a gnu with you). It has been my experience as a therapist that people who are overly controling are basically very insecure and overcompensate by being controling. This keeps their world safe and secure. This doesn’t matter whether it is a male of female, but may matter as to how that person was brought up.

    My wife is very independent and could get along without me in a heartbeat. I cherish her for that ability, and the ability to be a listener to me. The other day, as we worked on a problem of some consequence, she turned to me out of the blue and said “I love you, you are always there to listen.” And of course, that reflects what I love about her.

    Of course, there are times I will ask her who made her the queen bee, but she will tell me that it doesn’t matter as long as I recognize that she IS the queen be. We then laugh and I let her continue to think that. :-)

  8. Anonymous Says:

    These are excellent questions and probably require a study and a book to even begin to cover this territory.

    Indeed, some men are triflers and adulterers and others are loyal and fair–towards women. Some men require servants, even slaves and others enjoy independent and accomplished women.

    The hard point is in distinguishing one from the other,

  9. c.a. Marks Says:

    I can’t speak to this subject having no experience with it but I enjoyed the article. Oh sure, I could throw in MY perceptions of this whole thing but I won’t because it would only be thoughts from no factual data, and I don’t want to add to the already hashed, and re-hashed somewhat controversial topic, not in mixed company anyway. ;-) But still, great read. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Francis W. Porretto Says:

    With the sole exception of violent coercion, no one can truly control you. All anyone can do is offer you something you want, or think you want, as an inducement to give him something he wants. He who surrenders to this tactic, then whines about being “controlled,” is merely exhibiting his personal character weakness.

    In a common case, many persons believe they can use expressed disapproval to get what they want from someone else. Usually, what they want is a change in their target’s behavior. But anyone who can’t abide the disapproval of others, when he thinks himself right, ought not to be allowed outside without an adult guardian.

    As a comedian once told me, men mostly want three things: sex, toys, and to be “left the BLEEP! alone!” I find this to be true; also, I find it to be something women know instinctively, and use liberally in their control gambits. What women want…well, let’s just say I’m still working on it. But it can’t be that simple…and it does seem to require a lot of closet space.

  11. Sergey Says:

    Of course, every man needs to feel himself the master of the house. If this is called domination, let it be so. But really this is the matter of appearance, form of ritual, needed to protect male self-esteem, and should not be confused with a real thing. Men are very pliable to manipulation, and women have natural talent for it. So a wise woman always can get from a man everything she wants without confrontation and hurting his vanity and honor. In some aspect, men never get really mature, they are child-like, and just as a child can alvays be persuaded to do what the mother want, the wife can do the same with her husband: threat him as your child, and he will threat you as his mother.