It was one of those situations where you just can't win.Herb Goldberg, another man and three women had just finished dinner in an expensive Manhattan restaurant. The waiter brought the party their bill.
Goldberg, sensitive to the women's feelings about chauvinistic behavior, asked, "What could be the best way to divide up the check?" An embarrassing silence . . . the other man reached for his credit card.
"If you react with traditional male behavior you get labeled a chauvinistic pig," said Goldberg. "But women are still playing the passive role, not paying for the tickets or taking the initiative in sex.
"It drives me crazy. It's a 'Catch-22' situation."
These kinds of frustrations form the basis for Goldberg's book, "The New Male" (William Morrow & Co., 319 pages, $10.95), an expansion of his earlier work, "The Hazards of Being Male.) He relates dozens of similar anecdotes about men caught in the "liberation crunch."
A California-based psychologist, Goldberg began writing about what he calls the "new male" because "so many men were coming to me totally collapsed" after being abandoned by their newly-liberated women.
"For most men involved with a woman who is throwing off the traditional feminine harnesses and restrictions, her liberation has meant nothing more than greater involvement with household chores, child-care and support for the woman in her new career," he writes.
"It has only added to his pressures, responsibilities and burdens and stretched him thinner, without providing any obvious benefits in terms of greater freedom, mobility, expressiveness, security and satisfaction."
But it doesn't have to be that way, claims Goldberg. "The feminist movement," he says, "can save men's lives.
"The man who grasps the psychological meaning of feminism can liberate himself from the destructive compulsion to perform and to assume all responsibility. He has nothing to lose from feminism but his guilt and his fantasies of what women supposedly are."
Women, however, must stop trying to get the best of both worlds, Goldberg says. To stop being considered as sex objects, they must stop seeing men as "success objects."
"The woman who wants to help a man in his growth needs to recognize how she perpetuates his tendencies to be driven and dominant. She has to stop playing traditional feminine games that indicate her desire to be taken care of, paid for, courted, protected and freed of the need to make decisions."
The "old male," says Goldberg, is "alive at 20, a machine at 30 and burned out by 40." Driven by the need to prove himself, he adopts a steak-and-beer diet, sees pain as a challenge and pushes to become the smartest, sexiest, best-paid, most successful man possible.
"The 'new male,'" contends Goldberg, "is fluid." He is able to spend the day in bed if he's sick, say no to sex, hug a good friend or ask for help. He can also cook, clean, select and care for his clothes and have close male friends.
In the current gender shakeup, he says, traditional notions of masculinity and femininity must be redefined. Becoming a new male requires the embracing of values traditionally considered feminine, such as showing emotion, being passive and taking care of his body.
"The new male is able to respond appropriately instead of defensively. For example, if another man were to flip him the finger he wouldn't compulsively see it as a challenge to his ego. Instead of engaging in a fight that might involve real physical harm, he could walk away from it."
At 42 and twice-divorced, Goldberg admits he's "also struggling" at being a healthy male in a changing society. While he has received enthusiastic response from some men (and sold half a million copies of his first book), other men are greeting his message with less warmth.
"They keep asking, "Don't you like being a man?" he says. "Of course I do. I'm not talking about men becoming women and women becoming men. I'm talking about freeing people from destructive stereotypes."
"The new male," says Goldberg, should:
Avoid the earth mother or the femme fatale. Regardless how inviting, these women are ultimately dangerous to a man's psychological health.
Cultivate buddyships. Develop a close relationship with one or two male friends, rather than investing yourself totally in one woman.
Support and insist on the continued emergence and growth of women. Regressive women's movements that encourage women to resume traditional feminine role-playing are destructive to the man.