Here’s an email I received last night from a woman who has identified the source of all her troubles: everyone but herself.

Dear Matt,

I know you’ve written articles about this before but I’d like to see you write another one not just addressing single men but all of the sh*tty men in general in our country. These men today aren’t men…they’re boys. They act like little children. Playing video games all day, not interested in careers, can’t stay in relationships. I’m only 32 and I’m about to give up even looking! I thought I found real men twice but both of those ended when we were still engaged because I found out they were full of sh*t and not the kind of men I want to be with. There’s been plenty of other losers before them and after them. Failed relationships after failed relationship and every single one ended because the man was an assh*le or worse. This is how it is for women today. There aren’t any real men left so we have no where to turn. The guys we are left to deal with are either jerks or needy and clingy, non-motivated p*ssies. Men aren’t ready to be responsible and reliable anymore. They only put on that front until you get to know them better and then the truth comes out. I know what I deserve as a woman, and it’s better than what these men/boys are offering. I guess I’ll be single for the rest of my life.

I thought of writing this all to you after this weekend when I went out with a guy I recently met. No manners, no chivalry, he couldn’t look me in the eye and have a conversation. He was dressed like a slob and he mumbled too much. Finally we went back to his house and he suggested we watched a movie. He wanted to watch X-Men which shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. The next morning he said he couldn’t bring me back to my house because he had to go the opposite direction for work (at least this one had a job :\) so I ended up calling a cab. It just seems like this is the only kind of man left. It’s a f**ked up situation because women are always forced to settle or just be alone. I’m not needy or demanding but I want a man who is a man. A man who with ambitions and goals and who can be strong for me. Basically, do you have a brother Matt? Seriously why do you think this is happening? Where are all the real men? I’m glad you understand how it is because most men get all offended when you talk about this. The truth is that the dating world is harder for women because so many of these guys suck and we know we deserve better.

Rebecca (a big fan)

PS if you use this in a post please don’t use my full name.

Rebecca,

You say you’re a fan, and I appreciate that. I don’t really need fans, only readers, but I’m thankful for your patronage. And I’m sorry that you’re about to be severely disappointed by my response.

Now, before I get to alienating another loyal reader, first I’ll agree that you are not alone in feeling this way. There are, as you say, many other women out there who blame men for their troubles. There are many women who make sweeping generalizations about men and then use those generalizations to rationalize all of their personal and romantic failures. There are many women who’ve been divorced multiple times and burned through an infinite number of other less committed relationships, yet still believe that every single doomed coupling can be hung entirely around the necks of those dirty, dastardly men. There are many women who say that there are no ‘real men,’ but who’ve never stopped to consider what it takes to be a ‘real woman,’ and whether they live up to that standard.

Notice, I say ‘many’ women. Not all or every or most. Many. I’d estimate the number of women in this category probably mirrors the number of men in the category you describe. And the members of both clubs commiserate amongst themselves, pointing their fingers at the other group, wondering why God or the Universe or Whatever External Force chose to saddle them with an existence constantly plagued and encumbered by the myriad shortcomings of the opposite gender. But of course the two clubs still have mixers where they get together and there’s a lot of sex and a lot of regret and a lot of blaming. Always blaming. Meanwhile, women who are not in the Blame Men Sorority carry on meeting, forming relationships with, and marrying decent guys, as men not in the Blame Women Fraternity likewise meet, form relationships with, and marry decent ladies. All we outsiders can do is scratch our heads and wonder how we managed to find a romantic partner who supposedly doesn’t exist.

I’m not sure precisely how many women belong to the club or how many men belong to the other one, but I do know that, according to this study, women are more likely to blame their significant others for their relationship problems, and even, according to this study, more likey to blame the other driver in a car accident.

Interesting data. I can’t say I’m completely surprised.

Now, as you referenced, I have in fact written posts challenging men, including myself, to man up, grow up, and get our act together. I have talked about the struggles and sins of modern men, and I do not regret or retract any of those statements. The post in particular that you seem to have latched onto, this one, came from a very sincere place in my heart, and I’m glad that I wrote it. But I’m not glad that, because of my ‘Dear Single Men’ piece, I find myself regularly fielding messages just like yours, from women like you, who’ve found unintended validation in my words.

I’ve long desired to write a follow up — one directed at the ladies for a change — but I’ve stopped myself every time because I know that whatever I say will be written off as ‘paternalistic’ or ‘misogynistic’ or ‘sexist’ or some other applicable -ic or -ist. But your message has finally prompted me to take this dangerous plunge. Please understand that, although I’m talking to you and addressing your situation specifically, everything I’m saying also serves as a response to the many other emails which I did not or could not address individually.

OK. With that established, here’s my three word summarized reaction to everything you said: it’s your fault. Also see: get over it and stop finger pointing.

What I mean is, ‘men’ aren’t the problem, Rebecca. It’s you. You’re the one. You’re the common denominator. You’re to blame. There has been one person conspicuously involved in all of Rebecca’s romantic flops, and her name is Rebecca. Maybe you should take a look at her for a change.

Frankly, it seems that when you refer to ‘men’ you aren’t even talking about a group of actual human beings. ‘Men’ have become an abstract idea, a conceptual manifestation of everything that’s wrong with your life. If men exist at all in your world, they exist only as vehicles for your misery.

Consider that, for ritual purification, the Ancient Syrians used to cast a goat out into the wastelands. The literal scapegoat was supposed to carry the sins of the town into the nether regions, where it and its spiritual luggage would die and decay. What you’ve done with men is just a more efficient, animal-friendly version of this strategy. You’ve saddled them with your personal baggage and sent them to the desert to perish. You’ve made a scapegoat of the entire gender.

Let’s borrow a recent example from your own life.

You went on a date with a man who, you claim, had no manners. Maybe that’s true, or maybe you’re so desperate to find fault in every male on the planet that he was fated to be labeled a boorish dolt no matter what he did or said. You also mention that he ‘couldn’t look you in the eyes and have a conversation.’ Maybe. Maybe he was nervous. Maybe he has social anxieties. Maybe he tried to talk to you but he sensed your stand-offish, snobbish demeanor and it made him uncomfortable. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as you say, or maybe he actually was a big, awkward, uncouth, stammering warthog. You seem to have come to latter conclusion very early on in the evening, yet you still chose to go back to his place.

What does that say about you, Rebecca? Look in the mirror and ask yourself what it says about you that you came back to this man’s house even though you were apparently disgusted by him.

That’s a choice you made. You. Not him. You.

He continued to fumble and falter well into the night, committing the unconscionable sin of revealing himself to be a fan of the X-Men film franchise. The uncultured, lethargic lout only succeeded in finding more ways to repulse and offend you as time wore on, yet you were never put off enough to decline the invitation to stay over.

Here’s the thing, Rebecca: I was always told that if I want to attract a good woman, I have to be a good man. Admittedly, I managed to attract a good woman despite being a horribly flawed and sinful man, but there is still wisdom in this idea even if it doesn’t always hold true. The point is, you have to work on improving yourself if you want to end up with a man who is equally intent on improving himself.

Not all men are desperate, drooling oafs straight out of some cliched beer commercial. There are plenty of hardworking, engaging, dependable, morally upright men out there, but they won’t come knocking on your door just because you’ve announced that you’re a ‘woman who deserves it.’

Rebecca, you’re willing to essentially typecast a man because he plays with video games and watches superhero movies, but have you ever considered that you might be the victim of similar assumptions because you sleep with dudes you just met? Of course, ‘victim’ isn’t the right word. You’ve earned the assumptions. I’m not saying that you ought to be alone for the rest of your life, but I am pointing out that you are eager to jump to profound conclusions about a man based on the most superficial of flaws, without stopping to consider what conclusions might be drawn about you based on slightly more significant character traits.

Then again, this guy was willing to sleep with you on the first date just as you were with him. He’s not innocent in the transaction, and neither are you. It sounds like, right now, you two are evenly matched. You look at him and see yourself, and you hate him for it.

We hear all of the handwringing about the decline of masculinity and the disappearance of ‘real men,’ yet very little is ever said about the corresponding deterioration of femininity. It’s strange that you purport to care about ‘manners and chivalry’ yet your email was vulgar and overly aggressive, at times coming across like dialogue out of a middle school boys’ locker room.

‘P*ssy’? Really? A 32-year-old woman using a word like that to describe men while simultaneously complaining that men aren’t courteous? I bet the ones who are courteous just get written off as ‘p*ssies’ anyway, so it’s a lose-lose. A lose-lose for you, especially, because in the end you’re the only one who has to pay for your extremely unappealing attitude.

By your account, you’ve had two broken engagements, and both were the fault of the men who were allegedly ‘full of sh*t.’ Maybe they were. But it is, from a mathematical perspective, almost impossible for one human being to have two failed engagements without being at least partially to blame. In fact, in the history of human relationships, only a very, very, very tiny fraction of them have ever soured or splintered due completely to the actions and choices of one person. It’s been my experience, both personally and as a student of history and an observer of people (as creepy as that sounds), that fractured and strained relationships can rarely be broken down into a clear Bad Person vs Good Person dichotomy. And, on the rare occasion when things are actually that simple, it’s just as likely to be Bad Woman vs Good Guy as it is to be Bad Guy vs Good Woman.

In short, Rebecca, I’m playing the odds here and assuming that you were probably not the victim of both spoiled engagements, just as you are not the victim of your other fruitless romantic endeavors. You are a participant, a catalyst, a cause.

So where are the Real Men, you ask? All around. Don’t look to me as an example — I’m average on my best day — but you can look in millions of other places. I have them in my family, I have them as friends, I’ve had them as coworkers, neighbors, and elected representatives. OK, maybe not elected representatives, but definitely coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family. These are not perfect or flawless men, but they are decent, honest, and kind. You say you cannot find such a guy, yet I come across them every single day of my life.

What am I — lucky? Have I located the only remaining pocket of Real Men? Are my circumstances that extraordinary?

I’d love to be so special, but I tend to doubt it. I think I’m a normal guy living a normal life, surrounded by other normal guys. Yes, there are jerks and losers, too, but if you find your life completely overrun by those types, then you have to ask yourself two questions:

1) Do I need to reexamine my definition of ‘jerk’ and ‘loser’?
2) Am I flanked on all sides by jerks and losers because I am of their same caliber?

That second question is tough. Don’t gloss over it. I know it isn’t fun to take stock of oneself, but it is a necessary step towards growth and maturity.

You might feel that I’m attacking you. I’m not. I’m just laying out the reality here, Rebecca. In the end, this is all good news. It’s good news because it means you are in control and you can change your fortunes.

If men were totally responsible for everything, there would be no hope for you. Clearly you can’t fix the male gender any more than you can change the orbit of the Earth. It’s fortunate, then, that you don’t need to reverse the planet’s rotation or find a remedy for the sins of the opposite sex. Your job is much simpler, much easier.

Just change yourself.

That’s my recommendation.

For whatever reason, it’s very popular to scold men and say, ‘women deserve better,’ but nobody ever seems to turn to women and say, ‘men deserve better.’ You spend a lot of time in your email talking about what you deserve and what you want, but have you ever stopped to consider what men deserve and what men want? Love, respect, loyalty, integrity. Did you know that we care about those things, too? Have you provided them in every one of your relationships? Have you woken up each morning and thought ‘what can I do to make the person I love happy today’? Or has it always been ‘what will they do to make me happy today’?

I can’t answer these questions, but you can. And I hope you do so with an open and honest heart.

I can, however, answer the question you asked me: yes, I do have a brother.

But he’s still in college so he might be a little young for you.

And I think he likes X-Men.

Thanks for reading,

Matt