“What does Leo think about it?” Louise asks Franny. They are savoring an outdoor autumn lunch, lingering over ice water and dessert.
“He doesn’t, much,” she answers. “He wants me to decide, and he says he’ll come with me if I go. It’s lovely, in a way. But it’s also, I don’t know, frustrating.”
“Of course it is,” Louise offers, with surprising vehemence. “He’s punting, Franny. Putting you in charge. That might be love, but it’s not partnership.”
Franny feels tears threaten to spill. “That’s it, exactly, Louise. Thank you for saying that.”
“It’s men, you see,” Louise goes on. “I know it’s not popular to ascribe behavior to gender. And I’m not saying it’s baked into their genes. But they get through life so easily by giving women the job of making decisions.”
“I don’t know. It seems men get to make all the decisions,” Franny counters.
“In a way, they do – but only the decisions they already dominate, like at work. In relationships, it’s so different. Society allows them to escape the work of cooperation and compromise.”
Franny thought back to her marriage. I see exactly what Louise means, she thinks. Exactly. He deferred to me, and then when it came time to end the relationship, I had to do that, too.
“How do we change that? I mean, I can’t force Leo to decide for us, not that I’d want him to.”
“Of course not,” Louise goes on. “But you can insist that he shoulder his part. Insist that he tell you his hopes and dreams, and his fears, and how they relate to this decision. Insist that he be accountable for his part in it.”
“I have tried. I feel like I’m nagging.”
“Nonsense, my dear. That’s just a label society puts on women when they try to hold men accountable.”
Franny is not at all sure she agrees with Louise, not completely. But there is something here, some dynamic she knows she needs to deal with, and she needs Leo to step up, somehow.