My girlfriends are always curious to hear what I have to say about men. Aside from my degree in Sociology and the plethora of gender study books crowding my bedroom, as a sex columnist, I have the delightful pleasure of interviewing men to see what they really think about dating, relationships, sex and … us. So ladies, to ensure you’re not wasting your valuable time with a man who’s not worthy of it, take note of the following myths because knowledge is power.
1.) MYTH: He’s jealous of other guys, so he wants to be monogamous. I was dating this guy who was full of questions: When was the last time you saw so-and-so? Are you sure you and your male model buddy are really just friends? Why is your phone going off in the middle of the night? At first, I was tickled by this barrage of questions. I thought, wow, he’s jealous of another men’s interest; this must mean that he’s really into me. Wrong.
My friend Jon* explains: “Men are territorial by nature. They want to know who their competition is and how they measure up. It’s classic machismo.” I realized that if question-asker were really into me, he wouldn’t be soliciting information casually, but rather telling me things about himself and asking me questions about myself — things that would help us get to know each other on a more substantial level. Turns out, Mr. Curious had been sleeping with at least two different women the whole time, anyway, so it’s possible that his line of questioning was just a projection.
2.) MYTH: There’s a message in his message. While some women can spend an alarming amount of time “decoding” the syntax of a guy’s text message with the same amount of acumen we used to ace our AP English exams, chances are, the guy’s not doing the same thing.
“Studies indicate that women, to a greater extent than men, are sensitive to the interpersonal meanings that lie ‘between the lines’ in the messages they exchange with their mates.” I’m not totally putting down these all-gal gab sessions; they can often lead to insightful thoughts we have about ourselves, but we must keep in mind that men are just not reciprocating our analytic efforts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Say you write a cray text to your guy one champagne-fueled night. Don’t stress it; he’s not giving it a second thought.
3.) MYTH: He “LIKES” me, so he really likes me. It’s kind of sad what passes for courting these days. Think about how much effort it takes a guy to thumbs up a Facebook status or “Like” one of your photos. We’re not exactly talking the prowess of Lord Byron here, yet I’ve seen smart, savvy and sexy women gain a cool sense of satisfaction from meaningless digital attention. This can be really dangerous, especially for over-analytic women, to whom the digital social network becomes a whole other universe, filled with black holes.
Social media has invaded our head-space so much that sometimes we lose sight of a real gesture. A phone call, flowers, picking you up and taking you home — these are not archaic relics of romance, but signs that a guy is starting to invest in you. Pay attention to the effort involved in the way he’s letting you know he likes you.
Is your guy really involved in your life, or is he keeping a foothold in it? “Women let the smallest things flatter them,” says Laurence — a bachelor who hasn’t had a free weekend since the ’90s. “It takes minimal effort to keep a woman hooked on me when I’m really stringing her along and waiting for something better.” Laurence’s candor is unsettling to say the least, but learn from it: examine the effort your man is putting into the attention he’s showing you, and don’t settle!
4.) MYTH: Men think aggressive women are sexy. No doubt, as empowered women, when we see someone we want, we’ll go after him with the same ambition that has scored us successes elsewhere. But, consider meeting men rather than chasing them. Chasing is exhausting (sorry guys, I’m a busy gal) and can appear compulsive and dramatic. You can feel powerful in the moment, but often, explains my friend Pete, “If a girl goes after me in the beginning, that’s my cue to sit back and let her do all the work.”
But if you meet a man rather than chase him, you’re opening yourself up to a more mutual and reciprocal relationship. “A woman who knows who she is and what she wants is beyond sexy,” my friend Brendan tells me. “But I want to know she’s really into me, and not just trying to score a boyfriend — or husband or has some agenda. That’s a total turn-off.” It’s reassuring to be reminded that men want us to be into them too. Sometimes we forget that because we’re so focused on what’s going on inside our heads.
5.) MYTH: He gets uncomfortable talking about things; that means he doesn’t care. Women sometimes deal with problems (especially emotional concerns) by talking about them, sharing their feelings and matching experiences with others. This can be frustrating to men, who more typically deal with problems by focusing on the facts and seeking an immediate solution. If that solution eludes them, men might feel useless and lost, and shut down as a result. My friend Ed, happily married to his high school sweetheart, confided in me that for a year he suspected his wife had an eating disorder and that he was so alarmed and confused about what to do, he said nothing.
At the same time, his wife, also my friend, told me that her husband didn’t even notice her weight loss. She was devastated that he could be so disconnected from her turmoil. While men certainly need to be able to communicate with their intimate partners, remember that they also have to confront and deal with the “problem solver” stereotype, and that pressure can be paralyzing.