Other writings


Mavis Huff Mathews

A man can be tamed, no matter where he’s from. But whipping a guy into shape is not the same thing as taming him. Common attempts to change an “alien from Mars” can only invite resistance. Everybody knows that. You may also know that it‘s not uncommon these days for a woman to look upon a guy as a “fixer-upper”--literally.

Men know, among themselves, that committing to a relationship with a woman means she will try to change you. They’ve seen it happen a thousand times. They’ve seen men who refused to change, stay in a volatile relationship until it disintegrates entirely. They’ve often talked about this with other guys and they all seem to agree that this is what happens when she gets you to commit. She starts fixing you. That’s our new term for remodeling other people; we “fix them.” Women fix men.

Maybe it’s just that he wears white socks, but he’s a doctor--worth fixing. She’ll buy him some black ones. Maybe he laughs too loud or talks too much. If he’s been alone for a long time, he may even need a bit of pruning, his eyebrows or his fingernails. Just little things--at first. Most women can spot a “neglected” man right away, you know, one who’s not properly cared for, probably not loved. He has a sort of under-nurtured look and could use some grooming. So, naturally, the changes she’s going to make are for his own good. She’s more than happy to help because she loves him so much and she knows he’ll be much better off for having made these changes.

Sooner or later the chances are that more serious things will need fixing. She will decide that he needs to finish college, get a better job, not see so much of a friend who’s a bad influence, not drink so much? She’s confident these rough edges can be smoothed out in no time--with her help. But, do you know what? That is terribly dangerous thinking. It’s almost impossible to do anything right when a relationship is based on such a premise.

Surely women have been changing men for as long as we’ve been making babies because it’s the nature of the feminine to give form. We tend to see the potential in people as well as in things and almost all of us have the capacity to take a seed and nurture it to fruition. When this innate talent is applied to a relationship, it either works or it doesn’t work; it either improves the relationship or destroys it. It all depends upon why we’re doing it and how we go about it.

So let’s take a look at why she might buy the doctor black socks. It seems simple enough. She buys him black socks because she likes black socks; she thinks they’re in better taste; she wants to be proud of him. The truth is: she thinks white socks are tacky but he doesn’t have to know that. She’ll simply present the black ones in such a way that he’ll be wearing black socks all the time. That’s how it works. She sees an opportunity for improvement and eases it into place, nourishing his ego, protecting him from negative emotions, even giving him a solid reason if she can conjure up one. This is what happens when her only motivation is love and caring, wanting good for him.

Obviously, if our capacity to love were well enough developed, there would be no relationship problems. I would not be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it. We would not be forever finding fault with other people or trying to fix somebody. We would just accept that everybody out there is an unfinished being, like ourselves, and we would love them and appreciate them just the way they are. But we’re not there yet and cannot expect to evolve to that level in the foreseeable future.

So, let’s begin where we are. What if it turns out that our doctor has particularly sensitive skin? What if the dye in fashionable socks causes an irritating rash between his toes? What if he’s allergic to wool or synthetics? What if we have to deal with the fact that he will probably be wearing white socks, day in and day out, for the rest of his life? Now the color of socks he wears has become a real issue--one of those things we cannot and would not change about him. (Incidentally, there are a lot more of these in any adult personality, a lot more things that are not going to change, than there are things that will change.) So, our task now becomes to do a little soul searching, to decide just how important this particular change is to us. Whether we can live with him the way he is, because we may very well have to, or had better start looking for another fixer-upper?

It’s safe to say that the most common complaint about a man today is that he won’t commit to a one-woman relationship, not even when he’s in one. I think the reason is today’s woman. It seems like the more control we get over our own life, the less influence we have over his. And it’s driving us crazy--that he won’t commit.

When I was a very young girl I spent a summer away from home in a boarding house. It was just an ordinary home where an older lady took in students as boarders. There were four of us that summer, all girls, all strangers. One night at supper (this was in the Midwest) one of the older girls announced that she was getting married. A few days later, she packed up her things, bid us all farewell and left for the wedding. Two days later, she came back, unpacked her things, and without a word of explanation went on as if nothing had happened. To my dying day, I will wonder what did happen? What she found out about her husband, or about herself, that ended a marriage overnight? It gives rise to an elaborate array of possibilities, doesn’t it?

I’m almost certain that the deregulation of rules for pre-marital conduct will prevent this from ever happening again. But, I think it says a lot about commitment and whether getting married has anything to do with it, really. Unmarried women seem to think of marriage as a magic wand to fulfillment, a guarantee of living happily ever after. While unmarried men, even though times have changed, still seem to view marriage as giving-up their freedom and taking on more responsibility than they’re ready for.

So here we are at the turn of a new century, possibly looking at another hundred years of men not wanting to commit to a relationship, shying away from marriage. Less than a hundred years ago men knew what commitment meant. A husband knew exactly what was expected of him; he knew he would be needed and what for, and he could expect certain things in return. Modern men do not know what a woman wants from them; worse yet, they may not feel needed at all. So his reasons for avoiding marriage are different now and, as women, we need to know what those reasons are. We really need to know what they are. Because if committed relationships are to survive, I think it’s up to us to give him reasons to commit, to provide him with a safe, comfortable alternative to being single.

First of all, we need to understand some basic differences between men and women. A work of my own made twenty years ago attempts to cover those differences at length. To my knowledge, it is still the only source of this information--a sixty-minute cassette tape, (and now on CD) resulting from a profound insight into the differences between the sexes. The insight came when a typical, powerful, successful, and brilliant macho male was stripped naked before my eyes--all the way to his soul.

I want to acknowledge my gratitude to that man. At the time, he was my boss, of record, a real estate broker. Having lost a series of transactions in escrow, I took a break from sales and became my broker’s Girl Friday. It soon became evident that my main task was to give him my full attention, to listen to his endless, ego-gratifying success stories. Except for precious periods when one of his salespeople or a "drop-in" provided him with an audience, it was next to impossible to get any deskwork done.

My boss was an amazing man--about fifty, good looking, a Romanian. He had thick, dark hair and a clean-shaven, round face. He was not very tall but had an almost awesome presence and a powerful build that he garbed in custom-made clothes and would have you know it. He owned a waterfront penthouse overlooking the beach, a ranch in the country, a much younger woman, and a BMW.

Above all else, this man was a practicing warlock. I mean that in the sense that a warlock can exercise power over other people. This one was ruthless, not hampered by scruples like the rest of us because he wasn’t concerned about other people's feelings. A warlock has the power to make or break another person. And not only could Merlin do that, he did do it. Regularly.

I'm almost embarrassed to tell you where I was “coming from” when I went to work for Merlin. But if I don't tell you, I can't make my point. I believed then that men were stronger in every way than women; I envied them; I was afraid of them, but I needed them. And I really don't think my attitudes were that different from those of most women, certainly not in my age group, or in those days. (I wish I could say that it’s different now, but it’s not.)

It was the late 1970s when I first shared this revelation, mostly with other women, women of all ages and from several different cultures and they all agreed that these seem to be universal, female attitudes. (Much worse in some societies than ours, by the way.) So what happened with my boss?

This incident occurred after I had been working for Merlin for several months and after my patience had worn thin. From the beginning, one of my jobs had been to write the checks and there were two checking accounts. One account was to pay me and other incidentals and the other was a trust account reserved for other people’s money. Well, our verbal agreement had been that I was to get a $150 a week salary, plus 50% of the commissions on any rentals I could put together. I did pretty well with the rentals but then, after a while, there was not any money left in that checking account when it came time to write my weekly check. Would you believe that I was afraid to tell him there wasn't any money to cover my paycheck? I was afraid of his explosive temper. To me, he was the epitome of a fearsome man and for about three months I worked without the promised weekly check.

And then came this life-directing incident. Besides doing the rentals, I did his bookkeeping, I wrote his ads, I was his receptionist and secretary, and if I spent more than five minutes on the telephone, he would blow up because that was five minutes he didn't have my full attention. The front office where I worked was located right on the sidewalk on Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, California. Through two other rooms, all the way to the back, and down two steps was the boss's private office--where he spent very little time.

One morning I was talking on the phone with an old woman who had to find a new place to live and couldn't afford any of my listings. All I could really do for her was to give her a little kindness and my attention. This was the sort of thing that pushed Merlin's button and he went into a rage! You know, when a person is powerful, they’re powerful in everything that they do and so when his emotions got hold of him, they really got hold of him. He raved for quite a long time before somebody came in and interrupted the outburst. Apparently he hadn't finished with me yet, because that afternoon he called me into his back office. This private meeting was to finish telling me that I was not to waste his time and his money talking to little old ladies on the telephone just because I felt sorry for them.

I was sitting in a chair facing him, over to his right, and he was facing me from behind his desk. He went on and on until finally I stood up and said, very calmly but very firmly, "Merlin, if you don't like the way I'm doing this job, find somebody to do it the way you want it done." I turned to leave, walked past him and started up those two steps leading out of his office. I heard this meek, quivering voice utter my name, and end with a question mark. I turned around expecting to see that he had melted and, in my eyes, he had. I swear he was two sizes smaller, several shades paler and was muttering at his desk to avoid looking up at me. I had quit my job and he had chosen not to hear it. He was obviously shocked and totally devastated.

This was the first time in my life I had ever felt powerful in the presence of a man. It was the dissolution of my fear of men. In that moment, I knew exactly what Merlin was thinking; I felt what he was feeling. It was as if I were inside him, had become him, and at the same time was I observing a dis-empowered man--with deeper compassion than I had ever known before. What I perceived was archetypal man surrendering to his own weaknesses; revealing the vulnerability of the masculine principle; acknowledging his need of the feminine. And with that, came a new understanding of what it means to be a woman. Knowing the power of the feminine principle, in all its forms, has never been absent from my memory since that day. It affects every moment of my life and in particular all of my relationships with the men from Mars.

I have wonderful, respectful, reciprocal relationships with my own two sons, my sons-in-law, a multitude of friends, men I date, men I work with, every man in my life. I am automatically protective of their emotions and can always count on them to protect me in other ways.

Beyond that I am acutely aware of emotional pain wherever I see it. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you witness a parent mistreating a child? When I see that, even in a public place, it’s all I can do to stay out of it, to allow that to happen. The heartless mother (or father) is oblivious to everything going on in the world except for their determination to control this helpless child. I’m not just embarrassed for that parent, I want to snatch the child away and disappear. I want that child, and all children, to have the experience of being loved and properly trained.

Quite frequently, I have that same experience, that same ache in my gut, when I see an insensitive female emotionally abusing a male. This sort of woman is apt to be kinder to the animals in her life than she is to the men in her life. And, all too often, an abusive female actually does not, and will not, believe that men have feelings.

A few years ago I set myself up for a particularly intense consequence by projecting my own feeling that it was time to end a certain relationship. He was a hot-blooded Italian and, if you’re into astrology, a double Scorpio at that--quite possibly another warlock. We had been having a harmless little affair for several months when I “reasoned” that it couldn’t go anywhere (because he was too young) and suggested that we should just be friends. I actually thought he would welcome the idea. I also thought we were friends and had no idea that my “logical” suggestion would pose such a threat to his ego. Well, it did. He went into a rage like I had never seen before (even Merlin couldn’t touch it). He turned on me, yelled at the top of his lungs, called me every name in the book and almost used up the f-word. I was stunned. As I observed him, suffering from this out-of-control emotion, unscathed by it myself, I realized that not one word of it was, in truth, directed at me. He was releasing all of the anger, disrespect, hate and, I think, fear that he felt toward the feminine principle in general. I just happened to be there.

You may be surprised to learn that I believe my heart center had been transformed that day in Merlin’s office. I believe the dissolution of my fear of men released that same energy to be transmuted into a deeper capacity to love and accept, because besides feeling deep compassion, I had actually felt great love and acceptance. Those transformed feelings had led me to finish out that day doing the work that needed doing--because Merlin needed me. And then as I was leaving, he gripped my shoulder and said, “Furthermore, young lady, don’t ever let anybody walk on you again.” The warlock had created a new me.

I realize that trying to tell you about that experience, about how it felt to discover my power as a woman, is like trying to tell you what a peach tastes like if you’ve never tasted a peach. But I have been able to verbalize what I learned about the differences between men and women in that brief moment and have preserved it in “Beyond Sex”.

It was Nelson Mandela who said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Certainly men are credited with being more powerful than women, perhaps only because they can over-power us physically. But for a woman to know even a measure of her own power changes her perception of men and lets her know, without question, that relationships are largely up to her. Personal relationships, especially, are founded upon emotion and sustained by emotion and this is the area where we are more powerful than men.

In my message, recorded in 1981 and now entitled, “Beyond Sex”, we look at four major differences between women and men, starting with the familiar, outer world and moving into the innermost, invisible world. Worlds are what I call the different levels of human experience--the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. We propose that men are projective physically and mentally and that women are projective emotionally and spiritually. Where we are not projective/ initiating, we are receptive/vulnerable. We consider the physical advantages of male, the emotional advantages of female, the differences in how we think and communicate, but we only allude to how female’s being projective in the spiritual world affects her relationships with the men from Mars.

We suggest that she look for security in something she can believe in, rather than in a mere mortal--a relationship with a guy. And since nothing makes so much difference in our lives as what we believe in, we do need to “go there”.

We need to ask ourselves just what it is we hold sacred, what we revere, what we bow down to or are willing to make sacrifices for? If the answer has a face and a name, we’re in trouble. If we have no place to turn for comfort or solace, life may be both shallow and fearsome. We’ll always be looking for someone to lean on, someone to take care of us, or feeding some addiction to blot out reality. Anyone who is spiritually deprived, can’t even get along with the family, leave alone build a fulfilling relationship with a mate.

To acknowledge a source of power outside ourselves may, momentarily, seem like a contradiction to what we said earlier about discovering our own power. But it’s not. The discovery of our personal power is the most humbling of experiences. To feel powerful as a woman is to recognize that our power comes from outside the self. It is comparable to any other sort of miracle healing that occurs and brings us to our knees before “something”. This source of power may have a name in your vocabulary, or it may be nameless. It doesn’t matter.

Certainly, among the people we know, the most common name for the one source of all power is the three-letter word God. But of all the ambiguous words in the English language, and there are many, the word God tops them all as the most vague. Perhaps “God” should always be prefaced by a pronoun like “my”, based upon the obvious, that no two people have the same concept of God. It matters not whether we attend religious services or which ones, whether we turn to the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, to Buddha, the “I Ching”, or the Tarot--no Christian, Jew, Buddhist, or New Ager can define our personal deity, nor can we prove that one exists. So it might save a lot of confusion since so many of us call this source “God”, if we were to use a possessive pronoun before it, to indicate that we know that our God is not the same God as anybody else’s God.

I guess that it’s possible to find peace and security without any knowledge of a higher power at all. Maybe you can actually feel awe and reverence for music, beauty, or family, but can those things give you peace and security? I don’t know. What matters here is this: that we have something we hold sacred so we don’t expect the wrong things, unreasonable things, from a relationship.

If men know nothing else about women, they know the power her body parts have over men. They’ve known that since they were little boys because that’s when it started. That’s when they first discovered that girls incite an array of mixed emotions--attraction/ repulsion, love/hate, comfort/pain, pleasure/regret. As surely as she can be nurturing, she can castrate. As surely as she can be sweet, she can be deadly. So, yes, men know the power that women possess over men. They know it goes a lot deeper than the power to attract and arouse. They know she can change your life. But does she know it? Do you know it?

What we have just said is that a woman can actually choose to use her powers over man to emasculate him, to make him ineffective, to render him impotent—literally and sexually. Should we wonder then that he resists commitment? Commitment means entrusting her with his ego, his very survival as a man among men.

So we’re not talking about his white socks anymore and the solution is no longer a simple one like buying him some black ones. We are trying to gain some understanding of the masculine principle in general, to break the code that directs a man from Mars in the first place. And it is hoped that to the extent we are able to do that, we will discover the powers of the feminine principle within ourselves.

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical relationship.

Sara and Abe are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. All six of their sons are there. Dressed up in their dark suits and their white shirts and ties, they’re lined up in a row for souvenir photographs. It has happened hundreds of times before. Not one of the six would dare not show up and dress up and live up to the expectations of their dictatorial mother. Hers is a matriarchy of the subtlest kind. Her sons are her pride and joy and they are hers; they belong to her; they report to her; they obey her; they defend her; they even mirror her opinions and share her likes and her dislikes. If they ever had a thought of their own, their mother would never know about it. You just don’t confront this kind of woman.

She has very definite ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong so she can make quick and resolute judgments without much hesitation. Maybe it wouldn’t be fair to say that she is absolutely “unbending” in her opinions, not all of the time. When one of her own six “creations” happens to bend one of the rules, she has been known to suddenly adjust her concept of right and wrong: to allow one of them to “live in sin”, for example, or to decide that perhaps not everybody who allows an abortion will go to hell—both unforgivable sins until they happened to one of her own.

As for Sara’s husband, well, he was not quite perfect when they first met but he was close enough and it never occurred to her that she couldn’t fix him. He was certainly handsome, a hard-worker, quiet and submissive enough, but he had a mischievous streak hidden behind that boyish grin. He liked to drink and hang out with the boys but he hasn’t done either one in such a long time, he might not remember that that used to be a part of his life.

Sara and Abe have always had a good, solid marriage--fifty years of fidelity, intimacy and security in their relationship. It has been an enviable, cooperative effort to raise a family who all but worship them. What made it work? I think that it was Sara’s perception of Abe. In her eyes, Abe could do no wrong; Abe was never to blame for anything. They went through some very hard times along the way but no matter what happened, it was always somebody else’s fault. From the start, this has been Sara’s perception of Abe and that conviction automatically directs her thoughts and words and deeds to protect him and defend him over and over again. In so doing, she professes her undying loyalty to him every day of their marriage. Sara has been an effective, though over-zealous, female for fifty years now. How do I know that? I know it because I can see that Abe still feels like a man among men. He married a powerful woman.

Theirs is a rare relationship—the antithesis of this one.

One day, just two weeks into my own marriage, the head of the news department at KANS radio, chastised me so severely that I went home in tears. My brand new husband picked up the phone and called my boss. Without mincing any words, he informed this man that that had better be the last time he would ever speak to this young newscaster in such a manner. That phone call got our marriage off to a great start. And although nothing like that ever happened again, within weeks I happily followed my new husband and “protector” off to Alaska feeling perfectly safe and secure.

I’m not sure just when I began to find fault with my husband. Nor can I remember exactly why, but I have to admit that it came very easy for me. I think a lot of it had to do with how often he called his parents, like a schoolboy who couldn’t make a decision without his mother’s opinion or pay the bills without Dad’s contribution. Since it’s never been my style to nag or complain about things, and being afraid to confront him, I kept everything inside. The marriage survived for fourteen years but with every passing year and with every increased effort on my part to fix it by being a more perfect wife, the fires of resentment gradually took their toll. In time, everything was his fault. And I really believed that--even long after our divorce was final.

You see, the girl who married my husband was the same girl who went to work for Merlin twenty years later. The girl who actually believed that men are superior to women and are stronger in every way than women, the girl who envied men, was afraid of men, but needed them. With that attitude, how could any relationship possibly work?

I, myself, know that only in retrospect, of course. But since my instant healing in Merlin’s office in 1976, my loftiest goal has been to save other girls the pain and disappointment that come from having such a perception of men and such a blind spot regarding their own powers. To some degree it has filtered down into the young women of today, along with the tired concept that emotion is an indication of weakness rather than an innate power.

Few of us know how to use emotion constructively or recognize how much we influence men. It’s a matter of discovering and acknowledging the powers inherent in the feminine principle and it has been called “the love aspect of God”. We are more than worthy contenders in the age-old battle between the sexes; we are charged with bringing it to a peaceful end. And we can’t do that just by fixing the men from Mars. We have to own up to our own powers and work on fixing ourselves as well.

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