History of Man
One of the new readers who rallied around me during The Troubles is Elizabeth over at lilbitchmore, which is a terrible blog name (says the guy who writes "The Obituarium"), because it forces me to refer to a person I've never met, yet nonetheless enjoy reading, with a female dog reference and I'm far too nice a guy to generally do that, the exception being middle-aged ladies who write checks at supermarkets (really? In 2006?) AND wait until every last item is scanned before reaching into their handbag--which is the size of a Heavy Duty garbage bag more often seen holding lawn clippings--to find their checkbook, thereby sentencing me to several more unnecessary minutes of standing in line and wanting to bang my head repeatedly on the Tic-Tac rack.
ANYWAY, before I went off on my punctuationally-challenged, Bracelet-ian tangent, I wanted to bring attention to lilbitchmore's (cringe) recent post, entitled "Man Notes." And when I say "bring attention," I mean, "blatantly re-print here."
I am not ashamed to admit I currently feel hopelessly out of the loop as far as interactions with the gender opposite. It's been so long that I sometimes forget which of us pees standing up. So I was thankful for her roadmap. And, similar to being honest when analyzing one's poker game, I'm going to be brutally frank about how I measure up to these guidelines, which I believe to be (mostly) spot-on.
Making plans: Women, no matter how strong and independent, appreciate a man who makes actual date plans. That means contacting her several days prior to going out, making sure that she's available (because it's nice to not assume she's got nothing better to do), and making reservations, or checking movie times, or whatever needs to be done to make the date happen.
I'm actually very good at this, with a caveat. I plan the motherfuckingshit out of dates, right down to the last detail. I am, after all, a research professional. If I have the available information, why would I not use it to be certain the date comes off without an unhappy surprise. For (non-dating) instance, I was meeting a friend for lunch a few weeks back. I found a new-ish, nearby restaurant that sounded excellent. What did I do? I went there to check out the menu, etc. I found out they would be closed that day because of a movie shoot. I'm rarely unprepared.
Now, some have complained such attention to specificity and structure eliminates the chance at spontaneity (but not alliteration). This is perhaps valid. I'm so often focused on getting from one part of the date to the next (oh, and I'm obsessively punctual), that I may overlook The Road Not Taken.
There's probably a Middle Ground there. Or at least a Less Uptight Ground.
Another aspect of this is I need to expand the repetoire of date-type things beyond the standard. In my three-hour long conversation with X a couple weeks ago, one of the many justifications she listed was, "we just didn't have that much in common." I resisted the urge to blurt, "Oh! Like our son! Or that we love each other!" (she has repeatedly claimed to love me, but is no longer "in love" with me, which I'm fully aware is adulteress-speak for I have no good reason for doing what I did, so I'm going with this meaningless gibberish). When I pressed her about all the things we didn't have in common, she ripped off a litany of things she wanted to do that we had never done together, like paintball. Well Fucking-A, that sounds like fun! I never thought of that as a date! Perhaps if you...oh...I don't know...SUGGESTED WE GO PAINTBALLING, I'D HAVE READILY AGREED!
Oops. Sorry. What I mean is, paintball never occurred to me. I'm so often focused on these elaborate, romantic dates that I overlook more simple pleasures. A drive into the nearby mountains. A museum (and I haven't been to The Getty yet, so shame on me). Could definitely use some work in regard to expanding the palette.
Compliments: We want to know that we look good, smell good, are brilliant, witty, etc. Now, that doesn't mean you should just spout off random, insincere compliments to fill some nice thing quota. If I just worked for 10 hours and I'm covered in soot and metal fragment splinters, don't tell me I look great. I don't look great. But if I make the effort to look girly (which is the look I prefer, despite my career choice), notice.
Metal fragment splinters are hot.
I used to be a solid, sincere complimenter. Marriage makes a man soft and I admit I didn't pay/give enough attention to X later on, a failing exacerbated by her insecurity. And no, I don't think, "No those jeans don't make you look fat" is the sort of compliments we're talking about here.
In the case of X, it seemed I was always trying to reassure her, reacting to her: "Do you like my new haircut?" instead of being proactive: "Hey! I like your new haircut!" Too much familiarity. Laziness. I should have done better in this regard. Because I do think she's beautiful, more beautiful than SHE thinks she is. I was hopelessly attracted to her and it's safe to say I didn't prove this fact to her with both word and deed often enough. A lesson learned.
Dress in big boy clothes: I'm sure you think you look adorable in your track pants and tight fitting knit polo, and that would be completely fine if you're hanging out and watching movies at home, or better yet..cleaning the house. Men who clean are HOT. But, if you are going anywhere remotely public with a woman, even if it's just a local bar for a drink, dress in something equally cute to what the woman will be wearing. If you're the guy at the bar/restaurant/whatever who looks like he put no effort into what he looks like and the woman sitting next to you has an ensemble with cute shoes, you suck.
Gold. Never a problem. I once broke up with a girl I was dating because she showed up a party I was throwing in an outfit more suited for gardening (ill-fitting Levis, tucked in t-shirt, sneakers). True story.
I do still wear shorts that go past my knees, high-tops without visible socks and ballcaps on the weekends. My age probably dictates I stop that. But screw it.
If the woman (or the 2 of you for the married/living in sin) has pets, you had better learn to love them. That means if you are going out and she must quickly walk her dogs before you leave, or as soon as you get back, this is a chance to participate in something she already loves. Do not sit on the couch while she dons dog walking shoes and tangles herself in leashes. Get off your ass and walk with her. She will appreciate it, and if you can get the pets to like you, you've won half the battle.
I like pets. Haven't been around any in 10 years, but never had a problem. I do prefer dogs. I had a few issues with this one woman's two aggressive black cats that would occasionally "jump into the fray," if you catch my drift. Maybe they thought I was attacking her and I can see how that'd be a reasonable assumption in their little cat brains. She lived in a studio apartment, so there was little we could do to restrain them and I had no small amount of trepidation over becoming a de facto scratching post. Ouch.
Balance the manliness/sensitivity. I know, it seems a hard thing to judge. We like guys who are guys, but we also appreciate someone who is capable of deep thought with a bit of a squishy side. I think the safest way to play it is: if you're a guy's guy..tending to be a little rough around the edges, if you're a sports fanatic, if you're more in tune with your car/truck/motorcycle than you are with your feminine side, just try to be a little softer than usual, especially when you first meet a woman, or if the woman who puts up with you hasn't seen that side of you in a while. However, if you're naturally sensitive, if you know what a duvet is, you can cook, have been in therapy, know what shoes look best with an outfit, you have to man it up a little. Sensitive is great, but I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again...You are the man in the relationship, you have to let her be the chick. No whining, ever. Nothing will ensure a hasty end of a date, or a "headache" when you and your woman get home faster than listening to you whine.
Here we go. It's possible this carries more weight with me at this juncture because of my recent past AND where I live (the latter is LA's version of Redneck Chic, where men are men and trucks are king). I'm sensitive. No way around it. I'm probably in the top 10th percentile of sensitive males, top 2 if you only count straight guys. I can't change it. So the fact X left me for an ex-Marine who is, by all accounts, burly, unrefined and perhaps the shittiest poet to ever butcher iambic pentameter, sort of kicks a brother right in the jimmy.
Now, I can't turn into That Guy, nor would I want to. But I do have a problem with assertiveness. It's odd, because I have a fiery streak. One need only witness me on the soccer pitch. There, I am--and always have been--an emotional leader, not shying away from confrontation, serving as the rallying point for my club. I just don't transfer that to my personal life. That confidence I have, and exhibit, on the field of play, doesn't translate to every day living. I've let some important issues slide because I didn't speak up for myself and some of those have led to my being taken advantage of. At work, at home.
I'm not the type that needs to be reassured. I don't need to be held and told everything's gonna be alright. And I'm mostly one to keep my complaints to myself (sorry, the last three months of blog posts is inadmissible as contrary evidence). But I do avoid dispute if I can help it, which has been to my detriment. It is the one thing I'd like to change about me. I'm told women find assertiveness sexy (and I assume that doesn't mean the controlling, "Star 80" kind), a confidence to speak one's mind when appropriate, even if it creates a momentarily uncomfortable situation. I feel like poker has helped me some in this regard. I can now stare at people across the felt without feeling wholly self-conscious. That's not really a Life Skill that transfers, however, though it sounds fun just to head out to the local library and just stare at people all day.
I'm open to any suggestion as to how to remedy this shortcoming. Is there an "Assertiveness for Dummies?"
So there you have it. Thanks again to lilbitchmore (flinch). Aw hell, "Man Up!" I said, LILBITCHMORE!
Maybe that's not exactly what she means.