Sometimes I wonder if I actually like men.
And I don’t mean I’m switching teams. This isn’t about changing my sexuality or even evaluating it. I just mean that I’ve taken a close look at my dating history, and I’ve come to the conclusion that men aren’t always very nice.
I could discuss at length why I think this is: poor societal socialization, the ever-present double standard, mothers coddling their sons, fathers absolving their sons of responsibility, a learned disrespect for women, male privilege or just plain bad manners…or most likely a combination of all of these things.
Regardless, I keep coming back to the fact that many men are just unkind in my experience. (I do realize that this doesn’t apply to all men, and I’ve excluded several I know personally from this list.).
So what is it? Do I just enjoy their physicality? Their presence? That strong shoulder to lean on? That particular masculine scent or the way they carry themselves? Do I even like their hearts, their souls? Or do I just like the physical man?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when so few men have distinguished themselves with kindness. Or honesty.
I’m told it’s generational. That this generation of men just don’t measure up to a previous standard. But I think that’s too simplistic, and I don’t know that any other generation set such a high standard (antiquated laws without gender equity demonstrate my point here). I think it’s more than that.
Maybe it’s that this generation of women (of course, I’m basing this on my own experience and I know that this doesn’t include all women) is less willing to put up with bullsh*t. We’re highly educated. We have work experience and careers. Even as mothers, we’re used to managing the multitude of responsibilities that come our way, often single-handedly. We’re beginning to reclaim our body confidence and to embrace our authentic selves. We’ve learned how to build happy, independent lives.
So when we go out in the dating world with all of that self-love, we’re really looking for a man who can add value to our lives. And I don’t mean materialistic value. We’re looking for men who can be strong partners, who are confident and secure in themselves. Who are authentic. Who can respect our education and work experience and full lives and add to it with their own.
So we might be a little, shall we say, less than impressed when we are hit up for a midnight booty call by the virtual stranger we met online. And we’re viewing the dick pic we get sent on first acquaintance with an eye roll (or a chuckle, depending) before deleting and blocking that number. And forgive us if we don’t enjoy an evening of mansplaining politics and religion all night or hearing you complain about your awful ex (absolving yourself from all responsibility for the breakdown in the relationship). And we notice when you’re not actually listening and just trying to make, you know, appropriate listening noises. Mm hm. Yeah, sure. Very true.
We’re definitely not at all impressed with a dating culture eaten up by dishonesty. It seems that most men think honesty is actually taboo when most women are truly ready for it. We crave the honesty. Are you dating other people while dating us? That’s totally okay to say. Are you just looking for sex and not an actual relationship? Please volunteer this information. Do you really just want a FWB (friends with benefits) arrangement?
Go ahead and fly whatever freak flag you’re hiding because we’re going to figure it out sooner or later, and if it’s later, we might be a bit p*ssed that you hid it—particularly if we’ve been honest at each juncture.
What’s funny is that I’m not even bitter about relationships or even about men. It’s not about that. When I go out on a date, I’m interested in knowing more about the person I’m seeing. Sure, there’s attraction, but I love to hear the stories, to find out what makes this guy tick. And it’s not because I’m a writer or have a background as a therapist. It’s because I’m a human being, and I like people.
Mostly, I like men…when they aren’t engaging in the aforementioned behaviors.
So I guess I offer this inner dialogue up for public consumption because I think the dating world is much harsher than it needs to be, and I don’t feel like men understand why women are perhaps less than receptive to their advances.
So, in the interest of mutual understanding, here are a few things that many of us women are looking for in a partner:
1. Be honest. Just be upfront about who you are and what you’re looking for. The right people will be totally into that, and the ones who aren’t won’t waste your time (and you won’t be wasting theirs either).
2. Be interested. It helps if you actually want to know more about us than what we look like naked. Be interested in what we like to do outside of work and what we think about and the things we enjoy. And don’t be condescending when we like a show or movie that you don’t enjoy. That can go both ways. Just try to get to know us as people. Ask questions. Express curiosity. We love this!
3. Be interesting. It’s great to check in every day and ask how we’re doing. But if that’s the only conversation we have, we’re not going to stay interested. Tell us about you, or ask some questions. Open up some topics for conversation and actually participate beyond small talk. While I love to be asked out for an actual date, know that I’m raising an eyebrow when you don’t even attempt to get to know me in the meantime. When the date is confirmed and then you aren’t in contact until then, I’m questioning your motives, and I’m wondering if I’m actually going to get stood up. You know, again.
4. Keep your word. If you say you’ll call, call. If you say you’ll text, text. If you make a date, show up for it. Confirming in advance is nice, too. Just do what you say you’ll do. And if you don’t, take some responsibility. I cannot count how many times pneumonia has reared its ugly head as the excuse that someone has ghosted me completely for days or weeks on end.
Sure, pneumonia happens. I’m not typically paranoid, but there must be an epidemic for as many times as I’ve heard that one. And most of you are still sitting up in your hospital bed tapping away at your phone, on social media, chatting with your friends. So you are perfectly able to respond. And if you actually can’t, be honest.
5. Be a gentleman. This hasn’t gone out of style. Open doors, pay the tab, do all of those traditional things. But it doesn’t hurt to go one further. Dress nicely to make a good first impression. Show that you put some effort into the evening as well. And I know that almost no one does it anymore, but flowers or candy are still nice gestures. And it never hurts to avoid controversial topics on a first date such as politics and religion. If they come up and you disagree, it’s entirely okay not to get into an argument about it and to return to more neutral subjects.
6. Don’t mansplain. Not ever. If you don’t know what mansplaining is, please educate yourself and don’t ever do it again. There’s not a bigger turnoff on Earth than a man trying to educate us on our own opinion or, heaven forbid, attempt to educate us about our experience of being women, you know from the male-privilege point of view. Refer back to #2. Actually be interested in knowing us. Not in trying to correct us.
7. Don’t feel that sex needs to be clarified in advance. I will never, ever understand why men I don’t know actually expect me to volunteer if I’m going to sleep with them or not. I mean, have we met yet? Are we close like that?
I’m not making any judgments on women who choose to sleep with total strangers. I’m not going to perpetuate that particular double standard. I will say that I don’t find that I have chemistry with just anyone. And I find it a wee bit insulting that we’re skipping getting-to-know-each-other part for the getting-each-other-naked part. Or the attempt. Foreplay includes that slow build-up of getting to know one another—taking those smaller steps along the way.
We don’t really need a picture of your equipment. Particularly since size doesn’t necessarily equate to knowing how to operate said equipment. Or know anything about ours. And why ask to see us naked before you’ve actually seen us, you know, clothed? It seems a sad, strange business, particularly when you’re saying you want a relationship. Perhaps you should refer to #1 and start all over.
8. Be confident. Making jokes about your height or weight may seem like a good way to ease the tension, but sometimes it just comes across as insecure and needy. We all have our points of insecurity, but we all find confidence to be sexy. It’s attractive when someone is body positive and secure about who they are and how they look. I’m not saying be a total narcissist. Just be confident.
9. Be kind. This is basic but often overlooked. Avoid making critical comments. A back-handed compliment is often worse than no compliment at all. For example, I got told once that it was great that I’m so attractive so my date wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with me in public. It’s great to be called attractive, but I can’t recall when I was last so insulted at an attempt at a compliment! Be flattering, show interest without condescension, and if you’re not interested, you can express that kindly.
10. Be brave. Don’t, do not ever, ghost people. Don’t just disappear. Be brave and say that you’re not really interested or you’re looking for something else. Say that you don’t have enough in common.
Or if you are really interested, be brave and say that. Say that you’d like to see us again or that you really enjoyed spending time with us and want to have even more time to get to know us. Say whatever it is you’re feeling, which I know is counter-intuitive to how men are socialized and to a dishonest dating culture.
Don’t ghost someone like they don’t matter. Speaking from the receiving end of that treatment, it is beyond painful. It would have been so much easier to hear that he was interested in someone else than to be treated like I don’t exist and that our time together meant less than nothing to him. Have some consideration for the feelings of others and not just your own feelings of fear and avoidance of conflict.
And definitely say if you really like us. Even if we don’t feel the same, take that chance. Because maybe we do. Maybe you’re the nice guy (and I don’t mean that as the insult people often take it for these days) that makes us glad we stayed in the dating game. Maybe you’re the one who reminds us why we really do like men. Maybe you’ll be the one to remind us that you have wonderful hearts and souls, and we’ll be happy to spend as much time in your company as we can.
I don’t think men are the problem. And I don’t think it’s women. I keep looking at our dating culture and our society, and we’re all contributing to that society. In how we interact while dating. In how we raise our children. And I think we can all do better.
I started thinking about this by examining the difficult interactions I’ve had dating, but I’ve ended up thinking that all of these can be applied to women as easily as to men. I think we can all stand to step up our game. And when we do that, I’m sure we’ll find our experiences are much improved.
Because in the end, we can all do with a little more honesty out there and just a little more consideration for each other.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren