The Man Trap

Nathan, a successful lawyer in Manhattan, hardly seems like a candidate for sympathy. His midtown office is smart, his suit is natty and he earns a decent living negotiating contracts and intellectual-property rights for players in the city’s dynamic entertainment industry. Divorced and in his late 40s, he speaks fondly of his teenage children and is delighted with his fiancée, whom he will marry in a few weeks’ time. His life is good, he assures me, and he is thriving in his career. So it is only with some hesitation that he admits something he has never discussed before, not even with his closest friends: “In the society that I live in, as a professional in New York City, I think it is easier being a woman than being a man.”

This is not to say that being a woman is easy, Nathan hastily adds. He understands why many are frustrated by “the way they are expected to do it all, to have a career and be moms, it’s a whole contradictory bundle of things.” It’s just that few women seem to notice that men, too, are struggling with a similarly burdensome bundle. “As the man, there’s this tacit expectation that I’m going to be the earner and the person who kills bugs and fixes things around the house. At the same time, I’m going to be responsive to feelings and helpful with cooking and the children and those kinds of things.” Unlike his two long-term female partners, who pursued personally rewarding careers that offered enough flexibility to be available to their children, Nathan felt obliged to pursue work that offered a pay cheque large enough to support a family. “For the last 20-plus years I’ve been chained to a desk,” he says. “I’m in a profession that I’m happy to be in, but if I were a 20-year-old and told I could do anything I wanted with my life, I’m not sure I’d be doing this.”

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