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“Would that those words were true, you could make a man happier than all.”

I once said this pretty much without thinking after a female coworker one said something about loving someone truly and deeply forever. I forget the complete words she said, but she gave me an odd look after I said my reply. I don’t know if the she thought I meant them personally or was just struck by what I had said, but either way it seemed a bit beyond her experience or normal.

To me, Love is a Promise. Being raised too much with the ideals of Mr. Rodgers I hold that everyone is deserving of love until such time as they prove themselves as unworthy. I, it seems, hold to an innocent until proven guilty mentality when it comes to people, where as it seems that even when it comes to love, guilty until proven innocent is now the norm. WE might all be special people deserving of respect…but you have to earn your respect before it is given. It seems an odd and overly hostile idea to me. Often those I meet who insist I earn their respect before they treat me with respect find themselves no with me earning their respect, but with my fangs at their throats for coming at me with violence.

It is not lost on me the irony that a Heathen has mastered the art of loving his neighbor better than most Christians have.

Some of you might have heard of MGTOW, or men going their own way. It’s a growing phenomenon which I almost find myself on the edges of several times. Men who look at the dating and relationship game and realize (or at least believe) it to be a zero sum game in which they have more odds of losing everything than they do of gaining anything or even breaking even. So they don’t play. Largo from Megatokyo once said it best to a girl who was making the relationship game impossible: “Your game, your rules, but I don’t have to play.”

I’ve played that game. I gave my love, my promise, without reservation. I went to war over it, did battles few can grasp, fewer would believe, and none would likely believe I could have walked away from. Only to have my promise thrown away, love not returned, but deemed something else, fleeting and passing for one who was much more deserving, one who “had their back’ even though only over the course of a few months as opposed to the years I had given. I watched as someone who I had held through the darkest parts of their life turn and walk away when I faced mine.

Needless to say, I have not been one for fully committing to the game. Life has not been an act of living, or even an act of dying that might befit the heir to Hela most high. It has been an act of unliving, of wondering if today is the day I commit myself to death because I have nothing left to live for. I lived my dream, I had the love of my life, a home that was all my own, earned by our own hands with no help from any other. Things were far from perfect, but I was…I thought we were trying to make them better. Then the accursed oath-breaker destroyed everything and I was cast away. I lost my love, my home, my dream, but I still stood on my own two feet, barely, and carried on. Then I learned of his full treachery and went to war, I laid low my foe, gathered wizards of all kinds and wrought such retribution and devastation upon that false speaker that even now his life falls further and further unto desolation. I took up my lost love from the ashes and stood her up even though I had every reason and right to let her burn. I nursed her back to health, and I thought was gifted her love and her gift, her promise. But then through a brother’s foolishness, I did have to fight things beyond what even Gods would fight, and though I fought bravely…I fought alone. I was wounded, part of me died.

And with it, hope. A Brother turned, taking a goddess with him and together from me they took that promise. I faced ruin and desolation in a way worse than what even the oath breaker had wrought, though Hel stood by my side resolute and unyielding. I was her Son, her heir, her blade and most loved. But the damage done, some wounds can heal, but when the person you love most in the world tells you they don’t find you attractive because you need comfort in the depths of pain, wounding, and depression so great you fear the knife’s edge in your own hand…there are somethings not even Gods’ can do.

Five years. A continually escalating series of battles that finally left me broken. And the person you had done it all for walks away like they never loved you in the first place. A mountain of fallen foes and victories worthless in the face of one loss. Some might call me a coward, a pussy, for no leaping back into the game, but then I would say they are fools. Do we consider the crippled soldier weak for no throwing himself back into the battle when he cannot even walk? Is the man who sees that happen really such a coward for not wanting to have it happen to him? I don’t think so.

I’m nearly thirty, I have seen much, lost much, and where I am in life I doubt I could ever truly earn my way to the princesses who look upon even the act of going to eat as a challenge to prove oneself worthy of their love. After all, if challenging the very foundations of existence is not enough to make one worthy of being loved….what hope a mortal man who through sickness and economy cannot even have his own place without help from another? I had my dream, my life, and I lost it, and worse yet I see little to no hope of building another one.

My story is perhaps more mystical than that of most men, but the story is much the same a lot of places. Men of my generation are getting into college less than women, we’re graduating less than women, we look at a divorce rate of nearly sixty percent where nearly two thirds of all divorces are started by women who then get custody of any children and alimony payments that can reach such catastrophic levels that men go to jail for being unable to pay them. The rules for women have changed, but if anything the rules for men have gotten set in stone. A man must pay for dinner, especially on the first date, even if the woman earns twice as much as him. And it should be to the level of her comfort, not to the level of practicality or even affordability. Men are still told we must be alpha dog dominant…but never tell her what to do and that even being two aggressive will get you labeled a creeper or even a rapist. We look at a future without the high paying jobs of our parents or our college dreams, but find nothing but girls who expect us to have those high paying jobs while still allowing them to not just compete, but easily succeed in those fields with us. We have to make the first moves, but if they are unwanted we no longer just face rejection, we face harassment and other criminal charges.

Is it any wonder that some men do not want to play that game? To walk just not the narrow path of success, but a razor’s edge that cuts your feet and promises almost certain failure? Only a fool would play that game. And only a fool would accept it gladly.

“I’m a human being, dammit!” my heart screams, “Don’t I deserve someone to love me for who I am?”

But my heart’s scream echos only in silence.

A man and his girlfriend are in bed one night when they start getting hot and heavy. Things are going well, but right as they are about to have sex, she turns away and stops their fun. In an uncomfortable place, the man asks why. “I don’t think you’re in touch with my emotional needs as a woman for me to be in touch with your sexual needs as a man. Can’t you just love me for me and not what I do for you?”

Suitably chastised, the man admits she has a fair point and goes to bed. The next day he calls into work and takes her out shopping. Any store she wants, and she goes crazy. Anything she wants, and she’s in a near orgasmic frenzy as she finds item after item. Finally, after hours she is ready to check out out, but he holds up his hand. “I want you to just stand there and hold those for a moment,” he says. “Why?” She asks, confused and a bit of the high fading. “Well, frankly I don’t feel like you’re in touch with my financial needs as a man for me to fund your purchasing needs as a woman. Can’t you just love me for me and not what I buy for you?”

He spent the night on the couch. This was viewed as a moral victory by many, but ultimately moral victories do not win wars. If anything, moral victories show how unfair the game has become.

“Buy my love,” cries the princess. “Buy it with gold and blood and countless dead! And maybe I shall love you for a time, until a bigger, better, bloodier, richer man comes along! Fight, fight to the death and beyond each day so that I will love you, but know my love is not a promise, it is a fleeting favor given only to the one who pleases me most in the moment!”

What do I gain by fighting for such love? Is it any wonder that so many men walk away, having been cast aside by unwindable conditions? Men are warriors, we think in tactics, resources, and rewards. What is the best use of my power, my wealth? Is it to get a job that gives me a few of the things I want in terms of freedom, fun, and money with less effort, or to burn my life on 70 hour weeks like my father, only to watch as everything I have is taken away and I am made a slave? Bros before Hoes might be seen as misogynistic by some and even denounced as gay, but it has become much the only answer for some in the zero sum game. A lifetime of brothers beside you, or a lifetime turning brothers into enemies for the sake of a woman’s apparently fleeting love, all for the sake that some women might truly love you, but at the apparent cost of everything? It was one thing to watch fathers be stripped of their families, but when a young man can see his father divorced and stripped, and his grandfathers divorced and stripped, it becomes harder to believe in the dream of a family, and more reasonable to look at the ancient idea of the war band, bothers in arms who support each other in life.

The risk of slavery for the potential of a happy family, or the safety of the shield-wall. What game does man have the best chance of finding by his own merits as either hero or serf?

Well, even Hades had to kidnap Persephone to find love…