’Tis the season for small holiday gatherings among non-infectious people who trust each other. This year, my two stepsons came to the house I share with my spouse on Christmas Eve, as usual, for my spouse’s traditional Chilean roast beef supper with green-bean-and-tomato salad (in the traditional Christmas colours, red and green), & mashed potatoes, with pie for dessert. After Younger Son insisted that we all use our free rapid-test kits to confirm that we were Covid-free (after we were all triple-vaxxed) he calmed down and agreed to stay for the meal. I hate to think how much drama could have been created by a larger family.

Yet I am disappointed that the two boys I first met when they were 9 and 17 have never married or produced offspring that I could regard as grandchildren. (I have biological grandchildren that I’m not allowed to see, a story for another post.) The two sons that my long-term woman partner brought into our relationship in 1989 are now 41 and almost-50 (his birthday is in early January.) They call me and their mother their “moms,” and I love them as my own.

It seems ironic that their basic template for a long-term relationship is the lesbian marriage of their mother-figures. For years, the sons have both said they would love to “settle down” with the right person—who, in their cases, would have to be female. Their bio-mom and I would love that for them. In 2010, I got a bigger-than-expected inheritance from my late parents, so we all went house-shopping and bought houses for the two sons. Spouse and I paid the down-payments and qualified for the mortgages, and the sons have been paying their monthly fees directly to us ever since.

If one of the sons wanted to bring in a live-in girlfriend, get married, and/or have kids, we would give the son his property. This happened temporarily, but that relationship turned out to be a nightmare when the girlfriend (who already had two children by different fathers, who both paid child support) threatened to expel the son and take custody of his house, simply because she was a mother. This opened my eyes to the way a policy of letting a mother and her kids stay in their home in the case of a breakup can be used to victimize a man with property. (Luckily, her ass is now gone, but this means that my stepson can only see her kids on rare occasions, and he was growing attached to them. I know how that works.)

Then there was the relationship between the other son and his fiancee, who seemed almost too good to be real. She was a beautiful blonde with a degree in natural science, who immersed herself in French courses so as to teach science in a French-language public school here in Canada. She also made chef-worthy desserts for family get-togethers. “Don’t lose this one,” I told the son. As it turned out, he lost her because she left, several years ago. She is now married, and has a little son of her own. (My spouse completely blocked her on social media, but I’ve kept track. I also can’t resist Latin American telenovelas because there is always a new plot twist.)

There was also the girlfriend who moved in with the above son, whose best friend from childhood had been a house-mate from the time we bought the house. Best Friend and girlfriend got together, and proposed a throuple. Son couldn’t stand it, so each of them moved out separately. This meant that he lost a friend, a girlfriend, and two contributors to the mortgage.

There are many articles in social media by heterosexual men about why dating sucks because of women. There are many more articles by heterosexual women about why dating sucks because of men. The credibility gap between the two sides looks immense.

I should probably mention here that both my stepsons are stunningly attractive (IMO), talented, and gainfully employed. Music runs in their Latino blood, and one is a trained sound technician. The other one is into Mixed Martial Arts, and has often filled in as an impromptu bouncer in nightclubs where he was hired as a d.j. Both these guys probably have more opportunities to meet women than the average man their age. They don’t seem tempted to try dating apps.

It dismays me to see that women who are young enough to be my granddaughters are still meeting the kind of toxic men I remember from my teens and twenties. At the same time, the men I know (including the two grown sons) seem mystified when I mention the sexual double bind (in which guys complain that girls/women who refuse unprotected sex on a first date are prudish or manipulative, but girls/women who have ever had sex are disgusting nympho sluts) deception (man with a wife or girlfriend pretends to be single), scammy financial exploitation, violence (out-of-control rage and sexual assault), or the Housework Problem (man with paid job meets woman with paid job, and even before they move in together, he launches a campaign to convince her that all the cooking, cleaning, childcare, and planning of social events now belong to her.) My stepsons claim they don’t do any of those things, and don’t know any men who do. They seem to believe that this kind of behaviour must be very rare in modern times.

One of my stepsons used to spout the popular claim that women reject “nice guys” like him because they prefer macho abusers. Back in the day, I had been gaslit by family and “friends,” who all encouraged me to return to a raging alcoholic husband on grounds that he was only human until they began to ask why I had “chosen” a jealous, controlling man in the first place (I hadn’t; he had been a charming suitor). So I told Stepson what he was full of, and he no longer spouts that particular line—at least, not to me. I don’t really think I changed his mind.

Clearly, sexual attraction between people who identify as men and people who identify as women has not died. Yet the world seems full of wounded people who can’t trust anyone in their dating pool of choice.

Women post personal stories about escaping from various kinds of abuse, while men proclaim that all women want men who are at least six feet tall and with six-figure salaries, which supposedly explains why all the guys who don’t reach those measurements get dumped. The spokespeople for different genders don’t seem to be living in the same world.

I honestly can’t think of a neat conclusion to this post. I want the best for the men I think of as sons, but my own experience prevents me from believing any of the popular theories from the manosphere about why women these days are like poisonous snakes. Comments welcome.