“Love is a funny thing.”
You hear that a lot. Only, it’s not true. Love is a lot of things – fickle, moody, glorious, depressing, uncontrollable – but the one thing it isn’t is funny. Don’t believe me? Tell someone emotionally close to you that you love them and then follow it up with, “Ah, I’m just fucking with ya!” as you start cackling. You’ll see firsthand how funny love is.
I’ve been married for three years (we dated for an additional five years before that), but I was lonely in high school and was technically a virgin until my sophomore year of college, so I never took that word love, or its emotion, lightly. Several times, I had the opportunity to sleep with a woman if I told her I loved her, but I never did it. I probably should have, but there’s a basic reason for this: I’m a pretty decent dude.
I was the proverbial nice guy throughout my teenage years, being voted “Friendliest” in both 8th and 12th grade. I didn’t really know what misogyny was, but my best friend was a female and I just felt like she should be treated the same as myself. Maybe it’s because I felt the same sort of impending rejection that many women encounter throughout their lives. Maybe I understood that on some level.
My general self-esteem was high – I knew I was intelligent and sorta funny, able to hold a conversation with virtually anyone – but my opinion of my looks and my appeal to the opposite sex was abysmal. I was sure the freckles that populate my arms would prevent me from ever getting a girl. I thought that she’d see me on the basketball court in my jersey and notice the millions of brown dots that cover my limbs and would immediately become nauseous. Even when a girl liked me, I wasn’t convinced that she was in her right mind.
This mindset and those experiences did not make for a sex-filled high school career, but it did help me in my later relationships and, ultimately, my marriage. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have helped several couples get together (only a few of which failed) and I think I have pretty good insight into how a guy approaches dating, sex, and relationships, whether he’s a nice guy or not.
As such, I’m here to help, ladies. I’m going to pull back the curtain and speak honestly about how men approach the opposite sex and how you should modify your behavior accordingly. Obviously, there will be generalizations and oversimplifications, but, by and large, I know what I’m talking about. If you want to know the truth about how men feel, don’t read books or watch Oprah. Listen to stand-up comedians. I’m dead serious. Chris Rock (“We don’t need to hear everything right away!”), Louis C.K. (“I’m sick of the constant perverted sexual thoughts”), Bill Burr (“Women are relentless”), the late Patrice O’Neal (“Cheating is for you!”), and many others say the things that most men feel but wouldn’t dare say. These things are presented as comedy, but a lot of truth is said in jest.
Here are five things that, if you keep them in mind, will help you as you make your way in life. I’m not saying these are guaranteed to make your relationship work, but rather that these are things that are true but, because of our uptight culture, are rarely discussed openly and honestly.
We’re almost always thinking about sex. It’s cliché and has been proclaimed for eons, but it’s no less true. I still meet women that don’t (want to?) believe it. Well, believe it. Now, you must understand that we think about it differently than you do. It’s almost impossible to put into words, but these thoughts are not at the forefront the same way thoughts are when we’re concentrating on something, but rather just kinda floating in the background, like having the TV on while you do something else. It’s like chewing or breathing. We do it without even think about doing it. Men don’t really realize it, but it’s there and it often controls our actions. That’s why guys do dumb, easy-to-avoid things that infuriate their women. It’s not on purpose. Your ex-boyfriend didn’t consciously say to himself, “I’m going to stare at that high school girl’s cleavage without blinking until she passes us and then I’m going to glance back to see the second half of the show. I don’t care what my girl thinks. I really want to get yelled at in public today!” He just can’t help himself.
I once told someone that every time I walk past a woman, my brain immediately sizes up what it would be like to sleep with that person. It’s an instant, millisecond occurrence that we all have, but it’s how we spend the next few seconds following it that determine whether we’re cute and flirty or a filthy creep. If I’m walking down the street and there are various people walking in the opposite direction, here is how my brain works upon a glance at each woman that lasts under a second: yes, YES, eh probably, yes, YES, probably not (unless I’m drunk), nooooooo, yes, why not, yes.
We’re going to tangent into my own specific experiences, but it will still be helpful. Even though a guy can’t help himself doesn’t mean it can’t be contained, however. The smarter guys do one of three things: they either fight the urge to look (and oftentimes fail spectacularly), they look, but do so discreetly (after all, isn’t that all you’re really asking for?), or they establish ground rules early and tell their significant other that they’re going to look. Personally, I do this third thing, although I’m more discreet than most dudes.
At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Not if you were with me, you wouldn’t!” I would, actually. For two reasons. First, I’m going to do it and I’m not going to take you yelling at me for it. If I were dating a woman and she made a scene like that, I’d leave. I have more self-respect and self-esteem than to be belittled like that. In a reverse scenario, you should too. Secondly, I’m not only being honest about it and warning you beforehand, but I’m also fair and equal, because I don’t care if she looks at a guy that she finds attractive. I’m a bit notorious around those that know me for flirting with waitresses (it’s come in handy multiple times), but if we have a male waiter, I expect the woman with whom I’m dining to do the same. She probably won’t act the same exact way I do, but when the waiter takes our drink orders and disappears, she may lean in and say, “That dude’s pretty good-looking.”
I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to be mad about this. There are far too many big, important issues – both in my life and in the world at large – to be concerned with something so trivial. She’s not going to go bang the waiter in the kitchen between the appetizer and the entrée. If she does, well then she probably wasn’t the one for me, was she? She probably won’t be the one for the waiter, either. No one wants to go on their honeymoon and, when asked about how they met, talk about how they get it on next to a bag of frozen pizza skins. The same is true of men. If someone is going to cheat, they’re going to cheat no matter what precautions you put in place. In fact, those precautions may actually expedite the process. It’s the proverbial touching of the hot stove, only in this case, the hot stove is a hot, well, crotch. I know men that have cheated and I know women that have cheated. I know of relationships that have ended because of it and I know of marriages that are still seemingly working in spite of it.
Sex rules our lives. It’s like a chronic illness. We’ve managed to learn how to live with it, but we’ll never be cured. So don’t chastise us when we show symptoms. It’s just a byproduct of our disease.
Your actions often conflict with your words. This is why so many men say women are crazy. Females are obviously more emotional creatures, so they sometimes act and react differently than they believe they would or should in a situation. You must remember, however, that this can be confusing. When you tell a guy on a first date that you’re independent and enjoy your alone time, but then insist on going everywhere together and being attached at the hip at a party where you both know everyone, we think you were either (a) lying or (b) completely self-unaware. Either way, it’s not good. I find that too many women try to say the things that they think a man wants to hear, but then acts the way they normally act, thus creating a disconnect. If you meet someone and you say, “I get attached fairly easily,” it may be a red flag to a dude that doesn’t want a relationship, but guess what? Your clinginess will become evident fairly quickly and we often feel like we’ve been tricked or deceived if you told us that you wouldn’t fall for us and then turn around and begin picking out names for our children after a few weeks. I’m using hyperbole, but the point is still the same. Be honest: have you ever said, “Tell me the truth,” and then hoped he didn’t? How is that not deceptive? It’s not that you don’t want to believe our words, it’s that you don’t want to believe our feelings. If you can align your logic and emotion, you’ll find that things will be far easier.
Stop trying to change us. Improve us, but don’t change us. I know you have the best intentions and it’s often beneficial. By and large, men benefit from the care of a woman. We dress, look, and smell better. But while some of us may actually improve ourselves, most guys just do these things to get you to stop bitching at him. So he acts the way you want him to act and not the way he really is. It’s this attitude that forces some men to be two different people depending on his company. He’s not the same with you and a bunch of couples at a dinner party as he is when he’s with his friends. I’m not talking degrees, either. Of course, a person should act differently at a nice restaurant than at a bachelor party, but do you really want someone that feels like he has to act a certain way around you? I never understood women that dated guys that had “potential.” Like he’s a fixer-upper. Why not be attracted to the person he is rather than the idea of who you think you can make him? Fitting another human into your warped fantasy of how a relationship – and life – should be is wrong. And if you succeed in your quest, what do you have? A mindless automaton. Congratulations! It’s true love!
If your man’s friends don’t want to hang out in a group of mixed company and only want him to tailgate with them or play cards, it’s because he’s far more fun to them when you’re not there. When you chastise him for doing something or not doing something repeatedly and he finally learns and stops (or starts), he’s not making the adjustment everywhere, just in front of you. My wife hates it when I absentmindedly play with my crotch while reading or doing something else. It’s just something I do and I admit that it’s unbecoming. But I still do it. She’s asked (not scolded) me to stop and, for the most part, I have. When she’s home. In the rare instances when I have the house or room to myself, I’m giving my privates a deep tissue massage while reading. Just thought you should know that whatever gross thing your man used to do isn’t gone, it’s just dormant while you’re around. Many (but not all) women treat men the same way dads treat their garages: if I could just get some time to work on it, I can straighten it out and make what I envisioned when I first saw it. We’re not your DIY project. If you don’t think it’s that bad, answer me this: do you want someone actively changing you in the hopes that you’ll become the woman that he always envisioned? If you say yes, you’re a liar (and you should reread number two).
Marriage is a great example. For the most part, women are far more eager to be married than men, but there are guys that believe in marriage and don’t need to be dragged to the altar. As for the rest of them? I don’t understand why a woman will nag a guy into proposing, then pretend to be shocked when he finally does it, even though you’ve been dictating the terms for a long time. And your hints aren’t subtle. Yes, men can be dense at times, but there’s no guy that isn’t aware that a woman in a long-term relationship after college is thinking about marriage. No dude has ever said, “Well, we’ve been dating for four years, but she’s never said she wants to get married, so I guess I won’t buy this diamond ring.” Look, I know you want to get married. But I really want to have sex with a supermodel. Begging/Insisting/Hinting/Demanding it will only make both of our desires feel like a chore.
P.S. The #300Sandwiches woman should not be envied or copied. She should be pitied. That guy may marry her, but he won’t respect her. That’s not an equal partnership, that’s a dominant-subordinate relationship. That woman is the literal representation of the old phrase, “If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” She’d probably respond, “Yes, as long as he proposes on the way down.” How is their marriage going to work? Either she keeps making sandwiches and becomes his amateur chef, or she stops making sandwiches and he resents her because once she got the ring, everything changed. Sounds like the recipe for the perfect union, doesn’t it?
The grass is not always greener. In some cases, it may actually be browner. Many women grew up with dreams of their ideal wedding and spacious home with their soul mate. A large majority of them also envisioned this happening by the age of, oh, 25. When you’re 14, three years after college seems like an eternity. I’m going to graduate college, get a great job where I can wear power business suits, meet a handsome lawyer/doctor/firefighter, have my dream wedding at 25 and four kids by the time I’m 31. Perfect plan. Things change, however. As we strode towards the stage to receive our diploma that we obtained through crippling debt, most of us were unsure of what the hell we were going to do next month, let alone for the rest of our lives. Our generation is one of transition and women are feeling it more than men. The baby boomers that came before us coddled the boys while empowering the girls. The outcome, predictably, is that women are on the rise. While men in their mid-to-late 20s sit in their basements playing Grand Theft Auto 5000 and downloading videos of Lisa Ann dressed up like a librarian, women are getting post-graduate degrees and higher-paying jobs. This is admirable. As someone that is drawn to strong women and prefers working for female bosses, I’m all for this and hope it continues until wages and opportunities are equal.
However, biology has no time for equal rights. College, grad school, careers, and time to save money all go against the natural order of things. While in the hospital waiting on our daughter to be born, a nurse told my wife and I that the 16 year-old that came in after us would undoubtedly finish her delivery long before my wife and would bounce back in a few days. “Our bodies are meant to have babies young,” she said. How does a woman reconcile this with three decades of being told that you need to break through the glass ceiling and become the Rosie the Riveter of the new millennium?
I know housewives that wish they had enjoyed their young, single years more and I know career-oriented women that have their dream job but would easily trade it in for a husband that goes to work so that they can be a full-time mother. We all want what we can’t have, but I feel like women have been conditioned to want two separate, often disparate, realms, which, despite Sheryl Sandberg claims to the contrary, is almost impossible to achieve. You’re meant to have a baby in your mid-to-late teens, but you won’t get that master’s degree for another decade. Something has to give.
I have several female friends that are single. As we march toward our mid-30s, I’ve noticed that these women are beginning to feel desperate and lonely, a dangerous combination. Some have this fairy tale notion of how life with a husband and children will be, where there will be picnics every Saturday and family dinners with both sides every Sunday. Some want to have a family because that’s what their mothers and grandmothers – who came of age in eras that are unrecognizable to our current one – want. Still others think they want a husband, but they actually want a wedding, not a marriage. While I understand this thinking – weddings are awesome, you get to plan the entire day just the way you want, and you’re the center of attention unlike any other day of your life except your funeral (and you don’t get to enjoy that one) – a wedding takes a year or two of planning, lasts a day, and vanishes in a flash, leaving you with a marriage. And even the best marriages take work. Some couples may make it look easy, but it’s not.
So what’s wrong with these women that actively ignore the realities of the world?
Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with them.
But women must understand that there are trade-offs. To be an amazing, kick ass mother, your job will suffer. To have that great, fulfilling career, you may not have as many children as you first envisioned. The guy you like may want someone else and, of course, you don’t like the one guy that likes you, try as you might.
The grass isn’t always greener. The single girl living alone downtown watching Bridezillas thinks being in the suburbs is the perfect life, while the woman who feels trapped in her own house, wrangling toddlers all day while her husband gets to leave the chaos every morning wishes she had lived in a city for at least a little while. The girl on her third glass of wine at an outdoor café sees a stroller go by and wishes she had a baby while the mother pushing the stroller wishes she could sit and do some day drinking rather than being responsible.
You need to understand that every choice has consequences and that, try as you might, you can’t do it all. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with deciding what you want and choosing that path. But don’t waver. Make a decision and live with it. Or, complain about it constantly to your boyfriend every night. Either way.
Finally, embrace our differences. This piggybacks off number three in allowing your man to be himself, but it’s a bit different. Instead of asking him why he doesn’t love The Notebook, P!nk, romantic comedies, or Twilight as much as you do, just enjoy the fact that he’s willing to sit through those things for you, just as you’ll do something you find utterly ridiculous to make him happy. Yes, that’s called compromise, but it’s also realizing your likes and tastes are sometimes wildly dissimilar and that’s fine. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t ask you why you don’t love video games or medium-cooked red meat, so don’t tell him to like Broadway musicals. I know it seems like it would be so fantastic if you shared the same interests – we could go everywhere together and then talk about it for hours after! – but that’s what you have friends (especially gay male friends) for. Our differences are what make our late night talks over the phone or involved conversations at a coffee shop interesting. He may not like all of the things you like, but if he likes you, he’ll find it adorable how animated and excited you get talking about Katniss or your favorite scene between Chandler and Joey. Our differences are what keep us interested. A relationship, and eventually a marriage, is the union of two separate things into one. If those two separate things are exactly the same, all you have is a duplicate. Our differences are what balance us out. One of us is the fun one while the other thinks about the ramifications. One of us tries to save money and plan for the future while the other one believes that life should be enjoyed in the moment and tomorrow will take care of itself. One of is worried about the food when hosting a party while the other is worried about the drinks. A perfect duo is a combination of different, sometimes opposite, things that come together to fit perfectly into a new, bigger thing, like two pieces of a puzzle.
You’re a unique puzzle piece. Instead of trying to force it with a completely incompatible piece, be patient and let the things happen. What would you rather have: an unfinished puzzle with intact pieces that still need to be sorted out in order to display something beautiful that you know will ultimately come together or a so-called finished monstrosity that is one large collection that fits together only after some parts were ripped off and others taped together and no longer resembles anything at all?
Since good relationships are not one-way streets, I’ll leave you with one final quote, this one coming from Bill Maher: “Women can no longer complain about men until they start showing better taste in them.” You’re more than a sandwich maker or a sexual object or even a bride. You’re a woman. Be honest with yourself, mean what you say, accept your man for the man he is, and appreciate what you have.
And most of all, don’t lose your shit if he checks out another woman. After all, he’s going home with you, isn’t he?
Christopher Pierznik is the author of the brand new book The Hip-Hop 10 More, as well as The Hip-Hop 10, No Talking at the Urinal, and Sacrifice Fly, a novel. He works in finance and listens to hip-hop all day long in the office. A former managing editor and feature contributor to IHateJJRedick.com, his blog posts have appeared on a variety of websites, including XXLmag.com. A graduate of La Salle University and Temple University’s Fox School of Business, he lives with his wife and child in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His dream is to one day be a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.