In the dead of a brutal Minnesota winter I was invited to sunny California to attend a book club of thirty distinguished men and women, most over the age of eighty. Upon arriving I was greeted warmly by our loving and talented host, Sadie, and her father, Jorge—an impeccably dressed eighty-something physician who spoke and moved with warmth and authority.
Within a few moments I was seated for lunch and instantly became engrossed in conversation with my tablemates. After dessert we were a little short on time so we launched right into questions. And one of the first ones came from Jorge, who wanted to know whether I would be asking men for their advice any time soon.
My eighty-eight-year-old father had asked the same question at my book launch, and my initial impulse had been to say, “Why would we do that—we already know what men think.” Instead, after a few seconds of stunned silence I had said, “No. I have no plans to do that. Next question.” That got a good laugh from the audience.
Three months later, when Jorge asked the same question in exactly the same way, I was curious. When I replied that I had been hearing all my life about what men think, he said something like this: “You do know what men think about the things we want you to know about. But you haven’t asked us questions like this.”
“Would you answer them if I did?”
“Yes,” said Jorge with a smile.
“Well, I may come after you next,” I threatened, with sincere affection. I understand this type of man very well. And someday, I may take Jorge up on his offer for an article or panel discussion.
But here’s the reason I haven’t made plans to write a Before I Leave sequel focused on men’s advice: Every time a disenfranchised group or class of people gets an opportunity not enjoyed by the men in power under our patriarchy, it seems some of the most privileged of them feel left out. Discriminated against. Unheard. When they realize others are enjoying an opportunity not offered to them, they feel treated unfairly.
Don’t get me wrong—most of the men in my life do not fit into this category, and many of them cringe right along with the women in their lives when they hear men in power complain about losing out. But the idea of seeking and sharing additional male advice doesn’t exactly inspire me.
So here’s my short-term strategy: As I do my part to give wise women a voice, I’m also offering men and boys an opportunity to experience firsthand what it feels like to share power. To make room for other voices. To listen carefully.
Imagine the conversations that could happen as a result—now that’s a book I would gladly write.