A challenge that all single blokes face this year will be figuring the line between demonstrating interest and being a pest.
The great unknown pondered by sentient males will forever be finding the secret to women. It’s a fool’s errand, of course, because that is like asking how heavy is a particle of light, or why do fish have scales but not very short fur? The answer will always be “That’s a stupid question” or “What kind of dummy are you?”
Neither question nor answer is especially helpful.
The time-honored (if now somewhat disreputable) way we tested a lady’s interest was to make a move. We’d make some kind of physical contact, anything from a hand on the small of the back to an outright move toward a snog.
Interestingly, an Australian Prime Minister, Mr Keating, once spawned howls of outrage by placing his hand on the royal personage of HM Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia and some other places.
With lovely irony, in subsequent years Mr Keating came out as a queen himself.
At the other end of the action-man’s making-a-move spectrum is the stealing a smooch plan. In my long-ago youth, this was accepted as valid, if not validating. Memory highlights my many rejections and separates them from the numerically fewer successes, proof that failure hurts more than love heals.
The line separating wanted and unwanted advances has always existed, which is exactly as it should be. Although women might think that their green lights are easily seen, guys don’t see them as clearly as they would like meaning that persistence, daring, opportunism, confidence, playfulness, risk tolerance and resilience will win in the end.
Those qualities make for successful men and strong fathers. But that was then. For now we might be wise to work on green light interpretation.
Men are well on the way to pricing themselves out of the game. By price I mean the price women pay to have our company, which appears to this observer to be much too high.
I have, in the past, been told and been vaguely aware of the way men conduct themselves on dates. The complaint – more wistful than bitchy – is that guys in the company of women provide a CV rather than conversation. Recitation of facts about ourselves and our opinions is what we think passes for polite and warm discourse.
Painful as it is to include myself in this group of dopes, it must be done. We men need constant reminders that if we’re to be successful at finding someone with whom we can make a life, we need to ask more questions than we answer, and listen more than we talk.
Naturally, males are all about impressing women. If we cannot do so by killing game for food, or fighting against aggressive neighbours, what can we do? In the modern world, our achievements and aspirations replace conquests and dreams, and so that’s what we talk about.
What we don’t realize is that women are actually communicating, or attempting to do so, while we rattle off how manly we are. They’d much rather talk in their mode, which is about feelings, reinforcing shared ideals and figuring out common territory. It’s so much more détente than dissertation.
Unrecognized, so much of our daily routine is self-automated. We drive. We shop. We order coffee. We eat. We publicize our lives.
Automation, because doing this stuff requires little active consciousness. The routines – much like computer routines – are relegated to the well-worn grooves of simply getting through the day. They’re thoughtless. Expected.
We can still do our daily routine even when we’re stressed, or completely absorbed with something else. If you have a work deadline, or an educational deadline, or some kind of family emergency, you’re still capable of getting your Instagram account updated. Operating on different levels is one of our species’ characteristics.
Relationships are different. Prevailing habit is to take up with someone as if it’s part of a simple human need. Like drinking water. Being around someone of the opposite sex – and wanting to have sex with them – is utterly normal and a big part of our life.
However, if we’re to go beyond the simple connection and bonking phase, much more is required. Merging two units of mammalian life into one big party is an enterprise that needs intelligence, planning, understanding and patience. Yes, we’re programmed to find someone. Sure, we are all better for having someone else for whom we’d lay down our own life. The question is whether the first blush of romance accommodates the rest.
My suggestion: allow some brainspace. Brainspace is that part of our thinking that’s idle, but available. Relationships need and thrive upon being deliberate. The act of being deliberate means that you have the time and willingness to put yourself in another’s place, to see what they see.
If we took a look through a telescope at our relationships, I wonder what we’d see. The fore-shortening effect means we can see distant things as if they were nearby, in the same plane as close (or more recent) stuff.
I like playing this kind of game because it filters out much of the daily junk than inhabits our lives; the drudgery, the boredom, the reflexive behaviours that we barely notice. Many hours of our day is spent doing…well, not much really, and that includes the time we spend with special people.
Which is the way it is meant to be. Maintaining a high pitch of anything is impossible and undesirable, not least because we need variation so that we can have highs and lows. Although it can feel rotten, lows are a precondition for highs, otherwise highs end up being lows too. It’s odd.
Back to my telescopic metaphor. When we remove all the bulk filler of life, the one constant is talk. By talk I mean the communication between all of us, especially in the big relationships of life. The way we talk to each other is overlooked, because we assume it’s just a medium – the method – of being inside the other person’s head. What’s important is the actual state of our minds, our hearts and our emotions; the language is just a delivery service.
However, the modes of communication set the tone. I figure at the most broad, talking falls into two categories: One is responsive, one is interrogative. It doesn’t take a leap of logic to allow that what we want most from someone close to us is a way of chatting that involves listening and responding, as opposed to merely saying the first thing that pops up.
When we’re dating, taking ten minutes to figure out whether the person opposite is taking in what you’re saying (listening, in plain language) or merely broadcasting might save us a lot of time.