Sunday, August 29, 2004

Political: Why The World Needs Confident Men

In September’s GQ magazine, John Kerry offers the following statement on what he looks for in a woman:

"Look for what gets your heart. Someone who excites you, turns you on. It's a quality of character. It's a kind of presentation. Sense of womanhood. Full woman. Confident. It's a woman who loves being a woman. Who wears her womanhood. Who knows how to flirt and have fun. Smart. Confident. Has a sense of self. Strong. And obviously sexy and saucy and challenging."

I was delighted to read that Senator Kerry agrees that a woman can be smart AND sexy AND confident AND challenging…AND consequently be devastatingly attractive to a man.

I have always detested the old adage that “behind every great man is a great woman” on the grounds that it was sexist, irritating bullsh**. Now I realize its essential truth, but in a different way than it was intended, and in the spirit of what I believe Senator Kerry was trying to say in GQ. I now believe it is true because only a man with true greatness in his future will have the stones to choose a smart, challenging and sexually-confident woman with whom to spend his life. Because if he has the sense of self to be challenged in his personal life by an equal, he will have the fortitude and emotional intelligence to achieve meaningful success in external pursuits. Courage in the former presages courage in the latter.

Or, to break it down, I’ll just say it like this and let the feathers fly how they may:

Any runt of a man can find a docile woman who constantly says yes and "whatever you want is fine with me and I will never call you on bad behavior” to marry. Sad to say, those women are out there and already have the Bride Magazine clippings in an alphabetized Wedding Binder awaiting your proposal over a romantic date that mirrors the latest episode of The Bachelor. If that’s what you want, by all means have at it, gentlemen. I know you are out there too.

But it takes a truly confident man to find a “saucy and challenging” woman attractive in the first instance, and to know in his heart that she is exactly what he needs in a partner in the second instance. Therefore, to my mind, men-as-potential-partners (and Presidents) can be characterized (and judged) on that one key value: Confidence. All other sought-after qualities will likely come under this one value (see Fidelity, Honesty, Integrity, Compassion, Intelligence, Kindness, Sensitivity). In love as in electoral politics, if you find a man with confidence, you will have struck gold in all the ways that matter.

I do not speak of “confidence” in the chest-beating, “hasta la vista baby,” get-her-in-bed-everytime-and-get-rock-hard-abs-this-month, Donald Trumpian-huge-ego definition shouted ad nauseum on the covers of “lad magazines” such as Maxim or FHM. Theirs is nothing but a pale imitation of the real thing:

Rather than develop it, here is how to fake it. Feeling less-than-confident? Get a load of these naked women looking at you seductively (albeit from the pages of this magazine…). Get better abs. Get better sex every time. Get more money. Get more people to like you.

But confidence does not come as a result of having these things; rather, these things come as a result of having confidence.

Let us catalog a few of the ways in which true, healthy confidence in a man is the foundation for a healthy relationship and a healthy Republic:

Truly confident men do not view success and fulfilment as a zero-sum game. In both love and in politics, a confident man understands that the best solutions, the best negotiations, the best situations are win-win. He does not minimize or impede another’s successes (or tell lies about their distinguished service to their country), because he already has confidence in his own (or not…).

Truly confident men do not need the empty adoration of multiple partners to feel attractive and virile (Fidelity). They do not need to taint their honor for a meagre allotment of ego boosting, be it from women, alcohol, gambling, certain swing states or special interest groups (Honor, Integrity). They do not abdicate their responsibilities, because they know that they are doing the best they can with the best of intentions (Responsibility). They do not blame others for their shortcomings, but rather take the lessons they have learned and inculcate them into their behavior moving forward (Honesty, Sensitivity). They do not view simple human kindness, in national policy or personal practice, to be a sign of weakness (Compassion). They know their limits and therefore comfortably surround themselves with people talented in all they ways they are not (Intelligence). In short, confident men are not perfect. They simply know the difference between making it and faking it.

I’ve been with both kinds of men; I’ve loved them, worked with them, taken classes with them, reported to them, done business with them, voted for them. I’ve seen the harm a man without confidence can do; the type of harm that ripples out in every direction imaginable, with consequences he can’t erase, pain he can’t undo, and subsequent corrective decisions he can’t bring himself to make because he doesn’t have the confidence to admit his mistake, learn his lesson, and take his lumps like a man. Whether the result is a war in Iraq or a shady business dealing or a deceitful sexual fling, a man without confidence is a man without moral or ethical boundaries.

In love as in electoral politics, a confident man can love a confident woman (or a confident, smart electorate), admit when he is wrong, turn the tide of hurt feelings (or public opinion) on the credibility of his word, and give those around him their own confidence to do their best work.

Short Story Long: John Kerry, you had me at Hello.

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