I am not that private about money. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable to talk about it when it comes up, but then again, as a product of Mark Zuckerberg’s world view, I’m not that private about anything. So I was really shocked when a friend of mine recently told me that for a man to be asked about his finances is like if a woman were to be asked about her breast size? REALLY?
He assured me this was true. That for a woman to judge a man financially was uncomfortable and forward and usually reserved for someone you trust. No one had ever put this in such stark terms for me before and I was surprised that it could be so invasive. I recognize that this may be, because I come from a lower-upper class background where I was fortunate not have to struggle while growing up but I guess I assumed that unless you were a man who had lost your job recently, most people didn’t consider matters so private.
But I considered the comparison he was making. No girl feels comfortable answering a man what size her breasts are because there’s no answer that satisfies everyone. I happen to love mine but I scoff at the thought of being asked the question by someone I’m not intimate with already or about to be. And there are those men that have asked. Every once in a while you get a man who is either too socially awkward to realize that he doesn’t have the right to ask such a forward question or a playboy who wants you to know that’s how he rolls. But in general, I don’t want it to be asked. It would be playing your cards too early. And you want to keep those cards close to your chest (sorry for the pun) as one of the natural enticements in a flirtatious relationship – let him guess until it’s finally the right time to see. So there’s no quicker turn off for me, than a man whose pathetic attempt at enticement includes salacious questions.
But it never occurred to me that a question like, how much does that job pay, could make a man feel as uncomfortable. I’m in my last year of graduate school so naturally I hear a lot of chatter by students about jobs for next year. When the conversation turns to salaries, I usually just feel like we’re all in this horrible economy together, and facing the same world out there, so a salary has no reflection on a person’s qualities but probably is just a reflection of luck. These conversations don’t inflame any emotion for me, so I really had no idea how inconsiderate I might have been in some of these discussions.
I wonder if it’s the same for men. I mean I think most civil men are beat over the head about sensitivity to women’s bodies and sexual harassment, so culturally we tell them it’s inappropriate to ask. But maybe they think what’s the big fuss about because they don’t see the emotional attachment. Perhaps it’s the fact that regardless of what’s under your shirt, once a man is touching it he’s going to have a predictable reaction so it would never occur to him to be sensitive about it because essentially, for men it’s as simple as all breasts are good. So they think that as long as you’re not horribly deformed, why would a woman be offended about being asked her bra size.
But it’s still just a shocking notion for me. Is it really as simple as we judge women by their bodies and men by their finances? It seems stupid to me…that a man could let so much of his own self-worth be tied up with a number on a bank statement. I mean yes, a nice number is always high, but the fact is a nice number is never going to make me like someone I didn’t like before and if I didn’t like you before, I couldn’t care less what the number is. So I’m tempted to just let men know when it comes up that it has no emotional impact on me, but I realize how flawed this plan is – even if a man told me first that he loved my breasts no matter what and then asked what size they were, I’d still be offended. So from now on, I’m going to be sensitive to the issue and be careful to avoid finances in future conversations with men. I guess I’ll just have to change to asking what kind of car he drives…