A Few Good Men

I once went out for pasta with a guy I will call Mr. Boy.

He, like most of the men I’ve dated, was tall, dark-haired, and had one of those smiles that’ll make you look twice. To be completely honest…that’s about all I remember about him. I can’t recall how we met or how long we hung out. I have no idea what he’s up to now, what he did after we split, or where he’s living. This isn’t because he didn’t make an impression on me, but rather because of the poor taste he left in my mouth.

As we were chatting, sharing stories, and getting to know each other on our second date, Mr. Boy brought up a topic that was sensitive to him. It wasn’t anything too personal or too traumatic (as far as I could tell from knowing him a few weeks), but right there, in the middle of our dinner, he started crying. And he didn’t just get a little misty-eyed, but actually, literally, sobbed and shook. Stunned, I didn’t know how to respond other than turning on my mothering methods by patting his back and shielding him from the stares of other patrons. I may have even “Shh”ed him and encouraged him to finish his ravioli because it’d make him feel better. He eventually calmed down, yet continued to pout as he soaked up the leftover sauce with pieces of bread he tore up into tiny pieces.

When the check came, he did not offer to pay for it or reach for it, even though he had invited me to be his company for the evening. In between sniffles, he asked, “So, just split it down the middle then, yeah?” I gave him a little grin and complied, though he must have been oblivious to not notice my disdain. As we were both signing on the dotted line, he suggested under his breath, “The service wasn’t great, so don’t feel like you need to give 20 percent or anything.” At the time, I bit my tongue to protect my class, but today, I would have replied with, “Well, the company wasn’t all that great, so I don’t feel like I need to stay any longer.” Eh, coulda, shoulda, woulda.

After he walked me home and I gave him the cheek treatment instead of a good-night kiss (or a night-cap, as he was hoping for), I closed the door, leaned up against it, and slid down to hug my knees. I didn’t, in fact cry, but I heaved a sigh he could probably feel as he headed back to his place. Probably to wrap himself up in a big blanket and fall completely to pieces while eating ice cream and listening to a Celine Dion on repeat, I thought at the time. Out of nothing but utter frustration, I glared up at the universe and directly asked a question, fully expecting to receive an answer:

Where are the men? I’m so sick of dating boys.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those women who thinks her man must be a cowboy, a jock, or lead the free world to victory. I believe a man should display his emotions, isn’t always responsible for picking up the tab, and shouldn’t always be tough, rough, and direct as dudes are often portrayed or raised to be. However, no matter how many street smarts New York gives me, I will always be Southern sweet and hold myself (and others) to the goodness of manners. And frankly, crying on a date and being rude is unacceptable. Though I sympathized for him and the subject that broke him down, I also thought it was something he shouldn’t have brought up if he felt so strongly about it, and maybe more so – he shouldn’t expect me to console him. Or fix him or act like his mother.

I’m not sure what I would call this preferred method of conduct, but David Good (who you might know from The Bachelorette & The Bachelor Pad) – would call this The Man Code. Recently, Good and I shared a glass of Merlot and Maker’s Mark so he could explain to me the rules, according to dudes.

Good’s a Midwest guy who was raised to be a man. If he was outside sporting only a t-shirt in the weather New York’s been entertaining lately, he would have never shivered. If a lady needed an arm to steady her step, he’d graciously offer it. And when it comes to insecurities, though he has them – he’d never ask a woman to cure them or boost his confidence. While he believes vulnerability is an important element to developing feelings (he goes as far to say brutal honesty is the key to healthy love) – it is also something that’s reserved for a relationship.

When tears and the introduction of personal fears becomes intertwined in dating, and even at the pick-up stages at a bar, Good thinks men are playing on the fact women are caregivers to attract them. Because they know a girl will automatically say, “Oh, sweetie, what’s wrong? Are you okay? What can I get for you?” they use it to their advantage to make a gal feel comfortable. And to think, well, he’s actually in sync with his emotions – when in reality, Good thinks the guy just knows what card to play.

I”ve met a lot of boys who wanted me to tidy up their messes and let them lay in my lap of comfort. And when it comes to playing Ms. Fix-It with practically each man I’ve been serious with, I’m guilty as charged. I once witnessed Mr. Idea cry for 45 minutes over a cat that hadn’t even passed away, but was just more lethargic than lately. Regardless, for me, as independent and self-sufficient as I am, when Mr. Boy acted nothing like the man I picture myself being with, I couldn’t have escaped from his faster. So if he was using that little trick on me, he should have not played with a grown-up lady who wants to meet a partner, not take care of a child. For the record, I never called him back or responded to emails or text messages. He sent me flowers to let me know how “understanding” he was to my busy schedule, and I gave them away to my friends. It wasn’t really the crying that did me in – we all have moments of weakness – but the pity he sought from me, when we weren’t in a place where that was appropriate. I do, however, hope he found a chick who will dab the olive oil and tears as they drip down his face. It seems to be his preferred choice of luring a gal, anyways.

Good says guys should have “testicular fortitude” which is interesting way of putting: men should have balls. Or as I’d like to say it, men should come to the table as I do. We’re all human, we’re all full of flaws, we all have things we hate about ourselves, and personal qualities we adore. We all have a past, we’ve all felt the burn of loves that were, and we’ve all had the often wayward hope of all that’s to come. But, if we’re constantly looking for someone to complete us, someone to take all of negativity we project or have off of our shoulders, and bear it themselves – then we’ll never learn how to stand on our own. Or how to be a dynamic duo, instead of an overly dependent couple.

Because we’re not looking for a mate who will tuck us in at night, comb our hair, and tell us right from wrong. We aren’t looking for parents, we’re looking for our match. Someone who will step up to the plate with us, someone who will challenge us to turn our mind to face new lights, someone who will encourage us to let it all out, no matter what it is, but then move on and learn from it. I don’t want to be taken care of or depend on a man for my sanity, my finances, or my future – I can handle that just fine on my own. I would rather be with a guy who’s as in-tuned with himself as I am, and thus, instead of being half-people searching for each other to piece one single person together, we have two people to bring to a relationship. And as any sale at Barney’s will tell you – half-off is not nearly as incredible as two for one.

So while I’ve put up with a long list of boys in my dating history -I’m not giving up on the belief there are a few good men out there. In fact, I’ll demand nothing less than one. After all, I’d rather treat myself to dinner for one, the rest of my life, then to suffer through pasta with a pansy, even once more.

P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little differently this year. We’ll make it more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. To get involved, click here.

What Comes Before Love?

With city temperatures dropping, gloves and scarves coming out of hibernation, and iced coffee being exchanged for hot – I can’t help but think of change.

Fall is my favorite season because of the possibility it brings to the atmosphere, but winter brings this idea of transition. Wardrobe, food, transportation, and mentalities (winter blues, anyone?) makes a complete transformation between the sweltering days to the freezing ones. We’re literally forced to change.

At times, life is like that too. We reach a point where making a change is absolutely necessary: when the job sucks so bad we can’t stand to go to it, when that five pounds has turned into twenty, when drinking has become a must-have instead of a treat.

Recently, I interviewed a couple who own a maternity line for urban moms-to-be for the magazine. With an upcoming reality show debuting at the start of the year and a baby on the way – this duo was on fire. During the interview, it was evident how easily they worked together in and out of the business, and how passionate they were for the pregnant-new-parent industry (if you can call it that?).

Although I asked her a million questions that she gave great responses to – there was one thing she said that really stuck out in my head and caused me to jot down notes for this blog on the train back to my office. As we were discussing reaching her target market, she said: “It works really well that we’re creating a family right now as I’m growing this business. You really can’t even begin to understand what being pregnant is like unless you’re actually going through it, feeling what you’re body is going through, and freaking out.”

In my head, I thought, “That’s true. You also can’t grasp what being a single girl is like unless you are on.” And then, as I listened to her and watched her interact with me and with her husband, it occurred to me that she hasn’t always been this beautiful, successful, married, and glowing with-child woman. At one point, she was a single lady, just like me. It’s just that now, she’s in a different part of her life.

So does that mean being single is a stage? Is it a required transition? If first comes love, then comes marriage, then the baby in the baby carriage, what comes before love? Being single?

I’m not sure I like thinking of my life in stages, but in a way it makes sense. You can’t be a couple or a triple or foursome, if you’re not a single first –mathematically it doesn’t work. Right now I’m a 20-something gal climbing the ladder in her career and exploring the dating jungle that defines NYC. But in three years, I could be married? In ten, I could have a baby and a bump? How does life progress through these stages so quickly?

Are we ever not transitioning from one thing to another? And if we can’t completely depend on the stages in our lives that we hope to happen, will in fact progress, do we have faith? Instead, do we live in the here-and-now? Or do we do a combination of both?

If every stage is just a preparation for the next, are we ever really living in the segment of our lives we’re in? Or are we always anticipating the next step, the next decision, the next move? Once we’ve found that person, we rush to the alter. Once we’re at the alter, we rush to the nursery. Once we’re in the nursery, we rush to the playroom. Once we’re in the playroom, we’re looking at Harvard? Does it ever stop?

And do we lose what we’ve found in the steps before as we keep moving?

Being single gives us a mindset of independence, selfreliability, and confidence. I’m sure marriage gives you new perspectives and babies do even more – but I don’t think we should ever fully transition out of the single-lady values. Being “good on our own” isn’t something that should change when we move into the next step. I don’t think single is so much a stage as it is the foundation for the rest of our lives.

After all, it’s important to be able to depend on our own two feet before we play footsie with hubby or kiss the bottoms of our baby’s toes.