Men and women are equal, but the two will never be identical.
Are the two 80 percent alike? 90 percent? More? Modern culture seems to want men and women to be interchangeable, but it’s simply not true in my experience.
Is an apple or an orange more valuable? Neither. Each has value. Each is a fruit. Each is wonderful in its own way. But they’re different, just as men and women are different — despite the best efforts of modern philosophy and leftist politics to claim gender differences are a cultural construct.
Men are physically stronger, but women have more power and strength in other respects, at least in heterosexual relationships. That’s the only kind with which I have experience, so that’s my context. Some people believe that men hold the power — in politics, culture, relationships, whatever — but my experience is that it’s a delicate trade-off, at least in healthy relationships.
Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida was popular in the 1950s and ’60s, and she understood this secret.
“Man does not control his own fate,” Lollobrigida said. “The women in his life do that for him.”
I first understood this when I realized years ago that I am a different person depending on which woman I’m in love with. That bothered me at first. It puzzled me. Was I changing over time to become what different women wanted me to be?
I eventually understood that the pairing of any woman and man produces something like a chemical reaction. Some chemicals mix together safely. Others produce something that’s poisonous to anyone around. Even when two chemicals are safe to mix, they might produce entirely different substances. Some mixtures are weak and useless. Some have great power.
That’s the way I am with different women. I’ve come to believe we’re all like that.
When I look at the relationships I’ve had with different women — at least the few who have been vitally important to me, the ones powerful enough to change me — I see that I’ve been something slightly different with each. Each one has brought out something different in me.
The most powerful effect a woman can have on a man is to evoke the desire in him to become a better version of himself. When I finally understood that, I realized the full meaning of the lines Jack Nicholson’s character spoke in the movie, “As Good As it Gets,” when he made his fateful confession to a woman, “You make me want to be a better man.”
About 12 years ago, a woman introduced me to a sculpture called Eternal Idol, by French artist Augustine Rodin. He created this masterpiece — that you see above — in the early 1890s. There are two versions of the work, but I prefer the one in bronze to the one done in plaster, because I like the way the woman is depicted in that one better.
Eternal Idol gives us a man and a woman — presumably lovers — who have an interesting relationship. He is the bigger and more powerful character, but he idolizes her in such a way that she has a symbolic position of power over him. Nobody doubts that he could dominate and control her if he wanted to, but we know he doesn’t want to — because he idolizes and adores her.
I don’t want or need to dominate a woman, but I certainly have no intention of being dominated, either. I need a relationship in which we each play complementary roles — not because we’re competing or manipulating one another, but because we understand we are better together than we could possibly be on our own or with anybody else.
A woman does control my fate in life. I don’t yet know who she is. And it’s not that she’s dominant and will force me to be something I don’t want to be. The right woman who will control my fate — to use Lollobrigida’s terms — will make me want to be a better man.
The right woman will make me want to be the best version of myself. She will want me to be my best self, not something to selfishly please herself. She will make me want to be someone who I cannot become alone. She will be the one who I idolize — and the one to whom I bring whatever I make in the future and say, “I made this because of you.”
Without her, I’m a bit like a ship without a rudder. I’m capable of doing anything I want to do, but without her, something’s missing.
Purpose. Motivation. Desire. Magic.
I don’t know what to call it. I only know that a key is useless without the lock it’s designed to open — and I’m just about that useless without a partner to play the role of my eternal idol.