The Hobopocalyse continues unabated: the stock market is at its lowest in twelve years, unemployment is at its highest in decades, and nobody knows how bad it’s going to get. But the good news is, I didn’t have to pitchfork-fight mole people for canned food today. Your 401K might be tanking, but canned food will always be valuable. And so will the shoulders of those you love and who love you back, even if, at this moment, some shoulders have to bear a greater weight than others.
According to a recent article in Newsweek, you can expect unemployed men, recent victims of the Great Recession of this still very new century, to revert to their lowest common gender stereotype. That means boorish frat boys decorating their fortresses of solitude with posters of bikini-clad hotties and crushing beer cans against their thick, Neanderthal skulls. And, for certain, a lot of men are being laid off. Since the economy began to crater in late-2007, four-fifths of the nearly four million people who have lost their jobs have been dudes.When a man loses his job, his entire identity goes out the window. Society tells him that he is valued for three main things: an ability to imbibe, seduce women, and earn money. Of course, the first two are impossible to achieve with out the last one. A man is his job; it is a mirror that reflects his tribal worth. And a laid-off man is a man who becomes a clingy, bratty hermit. He turns into himself and finds flimsy shelter in perverted versions of what he’s been programmed to think makes him special. Beers will be quaffed until pizza fights for air, hardcore porn downloaded wholesale, aggressive, macho snorting will replace actual words.
But wait! Recent popular trend articles point out that some men are reacting to the economic downturn by auto-emasculating, transforming themselves from corporate lumberjacks into bizarre caricatures of 1950’s housewives, all baking, sewing, and homemaking. When canned, so says the mass media, men can either become chubby Vikings or anal-retentive Mr. Moms. I can haz moar choicez plz?
Here’s what you can expect if your man is enjoying the distinctly humiliating process of collecting unemployment. His libido plummets — because how can he be sexually desirable if he feels that desire is directly derived by his business card? This man is threatened by his woman’s success; profound insecurities are ugly that way. He will seek validation in the wolf pack, or from his Xbox, or from self-loathing. He’ll slowly wither into Gollum from “Lord of the Rings,” purring all day over his lost precious, that time when he had a job, he was a man, and everything made sense.
The identity crisis that layoffs inspire in men should not be dismissed. When your entire sense of self is wrapped up in your work, and that goes away, you don’t know what to expect of yourself, and what is expected of you. In way, it’s almost like an ambush of adolescent angst. To be an adolescent is to be confused as to where you fit in the world; you’re neither a child nor an adult, and the future makes demands that your present is ill-equipped to fulfill. The way teenagers and laid-off adults behave are similar, especially the apathy, confusion, and anger over feeling like an outcast.
You want to know how to deal with your potentially deadbeat dude? Be casually supportive, but spare the dotage. Empathize, don’t pity. Become inured to the dude’s emotional fluctuations; reverse engineer how you’d want to be treated on a particularly moody day. Reiterate to both you and him that this too shall pass. Tell him he’s pretty. Don’t pressure him, because he’s pressuring himself. And ask yourself this very important question: “Why did I fall in love with him in the first place?” If it was because of his job, his paycheck, or his ability to be a good earner, that’s the major flaw that was going to tear you two apart eventually. Remember what it was in the first place, and see that in him again, especially since he is most assuredly blind to it.
When it comes to the sexes, maybe we have valued the wrong things in each other. Maybe we have for a long, long time. And now that question has been laid utterly, starkly, bare. What is the measure of a man? A woman? What are those things that we want and need from the other? Are we all “Tool Academy” and “The Real Housewives of Orange County?”
I don’t believe a man is his job, or a woman her breasts. Biology and anthropology dictates that man slays the mammoth, and woman makes a nice cave. Too bad being human often times means contradicting our DNA. If a man gets laid off, is he useless? Should women be buying the drinks? And if that’s the case, do I have to buy the male equivalent of a slutty black dress, and what the hell would that be anyway? I’m pretty sure I’ll put out.
The Hobopocalypse has got me asking what it is we really need and expect from one another. At least I have the canned food. Mmmm, Dinty Moore Beef Stew.