What is it about men of my generation? I'm talking about those who grew up in the 40's and 50's, struggled through the 60's in a variety of ways, had wives and families by the 70's, divorced eventually, and started looking for new female partners.
I've been single since 1980, had a few good relationships and several less-good ones, and try to stay open to the possibility that out there somewhere there may be a man of my generation who can carry on a conversation without trying to control it, who is interested in me as a human being rather than a role, a captive ear, a potential caretaker, a possible golddigger, a sex kitten (don't laugh--I've had my moments!).
But nearly every fellow I've met socially in the past several years has seemed to be caught in a 50's/60's trap of society's expectations: that men control conversations, that women are to listen and nod approvingly, and that women are lucky to have a man in their lives and need to accept their role as listener, cheerleader, caretaker, and be happy about it.
Most recently I've met a couple of fellows through online resources and, within a week of each other, they each self-destructed in my eyes in the same way: talking on and on about themselves and their interests and passions, never seeming to notice my look of resignation and my efforts to redirect the monologue.
In one case, I reached across the table we were at and said, "please stop. We're not having a conversation here." And this otherwise-intelligent man looked at me confusedly and said, "we're not? what are we having?" My reply: "a monologue, and I'm not interested in any of it. Can we please talk about things I can also talk about?"
He was gracious, if that's the right word, and asked me to talk for awhile, which I did, about my own history and interests, and yet it wasn't conversation, just another monologue, this time about myself.
I recognize that I have to bear some responsibility for this state of affairs. I'm not much for small talk and these days non-small talk seems to focus on the terrible state of the world, which isn't very much fun to talk about either. And I don't have an arsenal (yet) of handy-dandy conversational topics where I feel on equal ground. Clearly I've got to come up with one if I want to continue my openness to a partner.
The minister bit also complicates things. I'm very interested in talking about church, about religion, about ideas, but in these arenas, the role of minister comes back and bites me, because I am often imbued by my friend with ministerial authority even though this is just a date, not a pastoral moment!
I want a man who invites discourse, real back-and-forth conversation about ideas, where we each ask the other's opinion and we listen to it and respond to the ideas expressed. I have these kinds of conversations with my women friends all the time; why can't I have them with men?