What it's really like living with a woman breadwinner.
It was cute back then. "She's so smart," you'd tell your friends and family. "Yep, she just got promoted. I'm so proud of her!" you'd sing over your cubicle walls to anyone who would listen. And, boy, was she grateful.
"He's so supportive," she'd gush to her friends over a second glass of chardonnay. For everyone involved, it was great.
After that promotion came another. You loved it; it validated your intelligence and good taste. Ah, the pride you took in her being yours. And there were other benefits. After work, while she was off doing whatever it is smart women do to get ahead, you had time to hit the gym, play a few rounds of Golden Tee, and have a beer with your friends.
On your ultra-supportive days, you'd stop by that great (and cheap) little Thai place where she loves the dumplings and pick up dinner for the two of you. You'd have it all set and ready to eat when she finally got home. It was the least you could do for the one you love.
Then, the next big deal came her way. She'd call you, all excited, and wanted to celebrate by going out to dinner. She suggested the place. You used the romantic candlelight to squint at the absurd prices on the menu, and you began to sweat. As she ordered a bottle of champagne, you cringed at the thought of the hit your wallet was going to take.
When the check came, you started to pray that your Visa wouldn't be declined. That's when it happened: She grabbed the bill jacket, pulled out a blinding metallic-sheen credit card, and said, "I've got it."
The words hit you like a platinum fist. Your legs went limp, your throat tightened, your spine began to decompose. You looked at your beautiful woman. The soft candlelight has thrown her angelic features into near-sinister shadow. In what some experts call a "moment of clarity," you suddenly realized she's more successful than you are.
This is what some other experts call a "paradigm shift."
Success is a particular thing. Like shaved heads, bikinis and cowboy shirts, it's perfect on some people, but unsettling on others. On men, success is an aphrodisiac. It attracts women like sample sales or free martinis. This is a 150-proof cultural truth.
For women, though, success is difficult to carry off. It will certainly repel the weak men of the world. Worn too brazenly, it can send even the strongest hunter in search of smaller game.
Of course, this isn't an absolute. Nothing in love is. I mean, look at Julia Roberts and Danny Whatever-His-Name-Is, and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles's dad. And now you, the man with the more successful love. One could consider you guys exceptions to the rule. You guys could start a club where you sit around in your boxers all day, watching Saved by the Bell reruns and eating popsicles.
Members of this club don't need their pants because they ain't wearing them anymore. They've handed the "pants" of the relationship over to the head of the household. But think about it: Why would women wear pants, anyway? They don't need the pockets. They already have a purse for their wallets, makeup, $20 million movie contracts and ChapStick.
I'll tell you why. They wear the pants because the pants have pockets to carry your balls in. You're now wearing the apron. (And it's not nearly as flattering as the cowboy shirt, buddy.)
When your woman starts picking up the tab, you have to start doing things you weren't programmed to do: clean up the apartment, make dinner, ask permission. Sure, you could leave. But what would that get you? It would get you exactly what you had before — that tiny apartment with that tiny TV.
Successful women aren't going away; they're multiplying like low-carb beers. So you can wrap yourself in cowboy shirts, wear empty popsicle boxes for shoes, and cry yourself to sleep. Or you can reach down into those wrinkled boxers and get singed by the hot coals of manhood that are still burning.
Put that frostbitten orange tongue back in your mouth and paradigm-shift your ass into high gear. Hell, she's freed you of the breadwinner's burden; that's her job now. She's got the big brush on the canvas of your partnership; it's your job to add some depth and detail.
Point the laser-like focus you would have applied to finishing that box of Otter Pops toward the things that really make you happy: carpentry, writing people's names on grains of rice down at the farmers' market, or becoming a math teacher.
Expertise is an aphrodisiac, too. Expertise is excellent bait. Take it from a fierce, margin-dwelling writer. Successful women can't resist the lure of vast knowledge combined with finely-honed skill. And once they're hooked, there's nothing left to do but filet and fry 'em.
I advise you to hang in there. You can't go back. That's like flying coach after sitting in first class.
Put your goddamn pants back on (there's already a guy walking around the farmers' market without pants, anyway), grab that beautiful bull, and see if your nuts can handle the ride for eight seconds, or 80 years.