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Most women I know struggle to understand men. It’s rarely clear why they do what they do (or don’t do) and say what they say (or don’t say). I don’t profess to be an expert on men.  I am, after all, confused most the time by the men I care most about including my dad and my brother. But I know a few important things because some very dear guy friends have helped turn my frustration to compassion by sharing important things about themselves with me and by just plain being good, genuine, time-enduring friends. That alone is reason to believe in the existence of golden souls and fragile heartbeats beneath their mysterious exteriors.

The stainless steel truth is this: Men and women are different. I know! I was shocked, too, when it was pointed out to me. But, it’s because there’s variety of wildlife that the forest is a symphony. It’s because planets, stars, and comets are different in density and size that gravity works.

And, it’s through empathy that my frustration with men has become, in large part, compassion. Being a man in our world must not be easy. In fact, it probably feels downright impossible to be strong, sensitive, intellectual, emotional, sexy, witty, articulate, skillful, fatherly, playful, serious, energetic, and attentive…all at the same time. (I know you don’t expect him to be all those things, especially at the same time, but he doesn’t necessarily know that you don’t expect it!)

In another posting, I encouraged men to chase the women they are attracted to and offered some ideas on what to do so that we understand their intentions. Now, I’m going to say some uncomfortable things to you, my sisters, on behalf of the guys. Because a few wonderful men have genuinely invested in me so that the knots in my heart could unravel, I owe this to them…and to us.

If you want to be chased, be a catch
Who wants to spend time with someone who has a negative attitude, a judgmental demeanor, or a face like Ebeneezer? Do you find disheveled, frumpy men attractive? If not, then why should they find you attractive if you do nothing more than roll out of bed and tie your hair back?

Think about yourself for a few minutes. You’re smart, funny, interesting, talented, kind, and forgiving. You enjoy cooking, dancing, singing, and working out. You have a job, pay your own bills, you’re stylish, manicured, trimmed, clipped, waxed, and pedicured. What kind of man do you want? What kind of man do you feel like you deserve? What kind of man would you enjoy going out with? Now flip it around. Are you the kind of woman the amazing man you are attracted to would be attracted to?

Recently, I sat next to Dr. and Mrs. Oz at a gala in New York City. For whatever reason, I expected Mrs. Oz to look like Jillian Michaels or Charlize Theron. Instead, she looked like most of America’s women, probably a size 8 or 10, with medium length dark hair, minimal makeup, and her bare shoulders and arms weren’t chiseled like I expected. But, Lisa Oz has a smile that lights up the room, a wonderfully kind demeanor, and a brilliant mind. She’s active, intelligent, warm, and friendly…just like Dr. Oz. They are a lovely couple. Do you see my point? You should be the kind of person you want to be with.

If you want him to chase you, be someone worth chasing.

Let him lead
I love dancing with a man who takes the lead on the dance floor. It’s my nature to lead, as for many women, but there is a time and place for leadership. The time and place, however, is not all the time and every place. When he is driving, let him drive even if it means getting lost. He will find his way back. When he leads you to the dance floor, let him lead you on the dance floor. When he is cooking, let him cook in peace. When he’s mowing the lawn, let him go counterclockwise if he wants, even if you’d go clockwise.

A few years ago, I took professional ballroom dance lessons because I wanted to be a more confident salsa dancer. I learned that, for me, following someone else’s lead was the single most difficult obstacle I faced because it required me to trust the other person, not knowing what he was going to have me do next. I didn’t know his plan, my confidence dropped, and that’s when I stepped all over his toes and tried to read his mind by leading him.

I’m still not a great salsa dancer, but I’m a very willing follower. My trick is simple: I close my eyes. It forces me to trust my dance partner. Isn’t that what we want anyway? A man with whom we can close our eyes and place trust in his steady hands? Start by closing your eyes and letting him lead…something, anything.  He is capable and strives to do things well. And, don’t criticize him. Gratitude is far kinder than criticism.

Once you get out of his way, you’ll find that a leading man is a sexy man.

He can’t read your mind
One of the most shocking things I’ve learned from men I respect is that they can’t read hints, subtle suggestions, or nuances in the female voice. It is very uncomfortable to look a man in the eyes and say something directly to him in exactly the way you mean it, but men need us to learn this skill. In fact, I’m convinced that we will reap the benefits if we can be more explicit and less suggestive.

This isn’t easy and it’s sort of a romance killer for many women, I know. But, they can’t read our minds. I wish they could; it would make our lives so much easier. Consider for a moment, though, how unfair it must feel for an unknowing man to be expected to do something he simply isn’t wired to do. I bet it makes him feel a little like you felt in that algebra class when you couldn’t figure out why everyone else knew what x was and you never could see it. Or, when writing an essay came so easy to some and all you could come up with was a picture of a grassy field with a sun in the sky shining on some stick figures. Some people understand algebra, write beautiful novels, understand subtle communication, and others don’t.

A trustworthy man who wants to know you better will likely listen intently to you because he really does want to understand you. Help him out a little and speak in a way he understands. If it doesn’t go well, ask for a do-over.

Have fun
Life is stressful. Work is stressful. Society is stressful. The evening news is stressful. Everything is stressful. Men need a break and often don’t know how to ask for it. If for no other reason than the evidence of having treasured men in my life, I know that good men exist and they want strong relationships. I’ve learned that men are often afraid to make a mistake, uncertain if they should step up or step down, wondering how to navigate relationships, expectations, and the many layers of the human experience. Give him a break and a little space for fun.

Find ways to have fun together because fun is a key ingredient for friendship.  Too, laughter is good for the body, soul, mind, and heart. His and hers. Bake in a little fun and laughter and enjoy a slice of heavenly friendship together with a scoop of ice cream on top…because if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that boys like ice cream and they grow up to be men who like ice cream.

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(I truly intend to honor both men and women, to speak — in love — to both as we all try to figure out how it all works. If I ever figure it out myself, I’ll be sure to write about it here. Until then, I’ll probably continue saying stuff that makes your eyebrows raise up as you wonder what I’m drinking. It’s just water, I assure you. Please leave your thoughts so we can all grow together!)

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