Let me preface this post with an apology for its length and ‘wax-ocity’ (yes…that is now a word. When one waxes on about something… the noun form). As I cull through online profiles or interact with men at (fill-in-the-blank: bars, church, social events, work, etc.), I’m more and more aware that I have conflicting desires. And it’s just about time I admitted that and searched for the truth underneath it all. After all, if I don’t know what I want – how can I get it?
I’ve had these ideas swimming in my head for months,…maybe even years now, but have never really been able to put my finger on the real problem. Until now. Yes – you read that correctly – I’ve figured it all out. The answers to one of life’s greatest dilemmas – boys vs. men. In the last few days, I had a eureka moment where I finally figured out WHY it is that we have such an abundance of boys around…and so few men!?! I should be paid for this stuff…no, seriously… these are pearls, folks. So – grab a pen and paper, pull up your chair and let’s get down to bidness.
A phrase you’ll hear women say all the time, is: “I’m tired of boys. I want a man.”
And, while I think that’s ultimately true… I’d like to contend that we (women), actually ACT otherwise, and in doing so, not only do we confuse the boys/men of the world, but we actually help create and continue a viscious cycle of making boys. Hang with me. This is gonna get good.
Let’s start with the basics. What is it that sets the men apart from the boys? And no, I’m not going to subject you to cutesy poems or posters or those things that end up all over Facebook about “boys do this, but a man does that….blah blah…” I’m also not going to unsult your intelligence by defining it simply as a maturity issue. There are varying levels of maturity for boys and men, …this goes beyond that. Hello – we are ALL maturing all the time… No, I’m going to tell you, from a woman’s perspective, what it is that I see/want/think when it comes to this distinction – deeper in than issues of maturity or chivalry or the games we play.
And let me ALSO clarify that wanting a true man, doesn’t mean that we (I’m assuming other women feel the same way I do… I guess that’s a bit presumptuous, but – hey – that’s what the comments section of this blog is for) don’t want the fun, silly stuff that you may THINK I associate with being a boy. Being a boy has everything to do with self-absorbtion and nothing to do with fun. Being a man doesn’t mean being a reserved, measured and boring guy! Quite the contrary! A man, in his self-awareness, has the freedom to truly be:
A man is these things for their own sakes – because they are exciting or fun on their own, not as tools to feed a hole of unawareness or woundedness.
Let’s establish what, then, I DO mean when I am talking about men and boys. Then, I’ll admit where I think women perpetuate the very thing we SAY we don’t want. So – men (and boys?) – hang in there… this isn’t a man-bashing post at all. Trust me on this. 🙂
First – let’s start with the boys. They’re adorable, after all:
Signs you’re dealing with a BOY:
– Emotionally insecure. (This comes across as either immaturity or an opposite defensive move – meanness, distancing, game-playing, gas-lighting, stone-walling, etc.)
– Gives in to (believes and acts on) cover emotions rather than knowing himself and digging deep within to discover/learn what it is he truly needs/desires.
– Thinks that his happiness and his comfort are things he deserves…that you owe him.
– Relies on ego stroking and self-indulgence as his source of strength and life – even to the point of manipulating a woman to get the praise he “deserves” (needs).
– Views conversation and romantic engagement as an opportunity for his own selfish gain. (don’t get me wrong…the effort a boy will put into his end-game (usually sex, but maybe even just self-praise) is usually pretty stinkin’ fun to be on the receiving end of. Boys use romance, flirting, connection and sensuality to get self-gratification or sex, while a man views sex as a response to a shared love and passion…but I’m getting ahead of myself).
– Is ultimately about the TAKING. And never about the sacrificing.
– Is lazy. Doesn’t “show up” to the relationship, except for the ‘fun’ parts (you know…receiving the love of an amazing woman and all…)
– Doesn’t know himself well enough to recognize his internal woundedness, and instead tries to control or dominate a woman to compensate for the mess inside him. He disguises his own fears by masquerading as strong or unfeeling.
Next…. let’s talk about men. Rewrrr…. Lawsa mercy I do get excited just thinkin’ about ’em…is anyone else in here warm?…. (fans herself wildly as if she has the vapers…)
Signs you’re dealing with a MAN:
– Self-aware. Takes time to reflect on himself and identify the root of his masculinity (I dare say this has something to do with his place in the created order), and thusly – his true needs and desires.
– Isn’t afraid to recognize and tap into the deep well of emotion he has at his core.
– Realizes his role in helping a woman feel secure. Not in a co-dependent way, but in a caring place – out of his own strength. Quick caveat on this. ..
I’m a firm believer in men and women being equal in signifiance, but obviously different in makeup and strengths. And, I’ll just say it – I think there IS a sense in which women are the “weaker sex.” Oh, settle. I’m not saying we’re less intelligent or capable. Think of us like a highly expensive and delicate vase. It has great worth, but it’s easly broken. It needs to be cared for and valued. And yes – sometimes dealt with more gently than a table saw. That’s all. And a man will CARE for his “vase,” while a boy won’t recognize it’s worth and will deal harshly with it…breaking it into a thousand pieces. Ouch.
Ok. Caveat over.
– Is thoughtful. Not in a Hallmark-y, “awww…isn’t he SO sweet??” way. Not in a “he sent me roses on Valentine’s Day” kinda way. (Gag… c’mon…roses? Not particularly imaginative…which goes right to my point). No – I mean – actually THINKS. Has thoughts. Spends time thinking. And then acts from a place of thoughtfulness. Pair this with him knowing about YOU? And you’ve got a reservoir of romantic potential. RRRrrrr…..
– Puts the needs of the people he loves in a place of significance/importance. This means he feels good about making others happy/secure.
– Helps. This is part of that effort I alluded to earlier. A boy tries to get out of work, while a man wants to help you hook up your wireless router, install a towel bar and actually anchor it into the drywall, check the oil in your car even though – yes, you know how to do it, but it’s hot and he loves serving you this way, wash the dishes after a big party, kill bugs, etc. And let me just beat you to the punch – I know women can do these things. And we do! But it is just so nice to know that a man WANTS to help us. It’s an outward expression of care and really – love.
– Owns his woundedness. Has the capacity and desire to look at his past hurts and identify them. This means that he won’t be projecting the pain of those onto you in the relationship, but rather asking for your help to walk ALONGSIDE him as he works toward healing. THIS is what distinguishes a codependent relationship from an interdependent one.
Another side note. I do a lot of these…side notes. I guess I just have THAT much good stuff to say… it’s a heavy burden, really, but… I think I wear it with humility.
This idea of knowing your woundedness and letting the other person in the relationship come alongside you to work through it rather than putting it on that person – is something that many women are good at. But, it’s misunderstood as its own weakness. This is not weakness. It’s internal strength. I have a friend who was recently put off by a woman’s online profile because she was open about an area in which she’s tender and needs a little extra patience. I think he was scared that she would somehow be needy …when in fact I applaud her connection with her ‘stuff,’ such that, when something comes up in that arena, she’ll know it’s triggering emotion of her own and NOT of the guy she’s with… do you realize how freeing this is? This is the opposite of needy/clingy. Knowing your sources/triggers of pain and your connection to past hurts is strength that can make a new relationship SING with health!
– Knows what he wants and pursues it. Especially when it comes to a woman. He knows what qualities he desires and when he sees them, he actively chases after them. This means he’ll use all the tools at his manly disposal to woo you. His charm, his kindness, and yes – his sexuality – but in the RIGHT way. Once again – it IS very warm in here…right? Right??
– Is responsible. Now, wait – before you go falling asleep on me here, I don’t mean this in a “makes his bed in the morning” kinda way. Nor do I mean it in a “makes enough money to run a home” kinda way. NO – I’m referring to something much more intrinsic. A man takes responsibility for what belongs to him – including the things/people he has chosen to pull into his life. Example: If a man chooses to be with you – to commit to you – then he also takes seriously his participation in that relationship. He takes ownership of your well-being along with his own (and yes, women – we have to do this too, to be set apart from the girls). When he makes a mistake, even if it’s completely unintentional, he owns it. Ok….do you feel it? Can you sense it coming? Time for another aside. You know, I’m not gonna lie…this feels so right…
Let’s talk for a moment about apologies. One of my biggest pet-peeves is a lame-sauce apology. This would be the boy-caliber kind. He’s gotten “caught” doing or saying something insensitive, hurtful, thoughtless, etc. and out of obligation, says something stupid like, “I’m sorry you’re upset.” NO! Oy…. A real apology – the kind that may just get you some make-up sex (ears perked up everywhere…) takes responsibility for the misfire, claims it honestly and shows genuine remorse. It may look something like this: (face is soft and accessible – makes eye contact) “I can see now how I hurt you. When I said ______________, it made you feel ________________ because _____________, and I hate to have been the cause of you hurting. I am really sorry.” THIS is the kind of apology that softens our hearts. It means swallowing pride, but more at its core, it means recognizing the error and taking responsibility for the part you played in messing up. And c’mon – everyone messes up! So this time it’ll be your turn, the next time it’ll be her turn. But, to be clear, it won’t ever be MY turn. I rarely, if ever, make mistakes.
– Is authentic. This might seem obvious. But, oh-ho-ho… you’d be surprised. Authenticity requires vulnerability. And that’s a hard thing for a guy to show. Being your true self exposes you to misunderstanding at best and cruelty at worst. But, oh… when you find that safe space that a woman who truly loves you can offer? You’re in the sweet spot. And when both people are being actively authentic, the passion and satisfaction that comes from that… well, it’s other-worldly.
Ultimately, a man is all the fun of a boy (or what we THINK of as boyish) plus the selflessness that comes with knowing yourself and desiring to SHARE love, not just receive love.
I really am sorry that this is going on SO long. And probably most of the readers have given up, but…if you’re still with me… here comes the woman bashing part. (If make-up sex didn’t get you, maybe this will?)
I propose…(I feel like I need some kind of drum roll, or roving spotlight or at the very least, a dramatic hush to fall over the crowd)…
I propose that women perpetuate the boyishness that we ultimately hate.
We say with our lips, and believe in our deep-down spots that we want a man. But we ACT (out of loneliness, desperation, fear) like we want a boy. And – WE PURSUE BOYS.
We are, by nature, compassionate, mothering, nurturing – and we’re drawn to wounded/insecure boys. Maybe at some level we feel like their reliance on us is love? Maybe we think it’s the only ‘hook’ we can use to keep them faithful to us? Maybe we truly think we can heal them and they’ll love us all the more for it? But for whichever or all of those reasons and more – we pick the outwardly charming, but inwardly selfish guy. We pick him, we jump right into his immaturity and self-absorbtion and then 6 months later we cry to our best friends and ask why he doesn’t care or doesn’t try or is distant or mean. Why? WHY does he treat me so badly?
Because he’s unable to give outside of himself. Because he’s a boy. All his attention is inward. He’s a boy. Every sweet and romantic thing he did in the “illusion” phase was for his own glory and once he was called upon to give and sacrifice and show up… it turned out …..you guessed it… he was a boy.
Here are some examples of how women keep men acting like boys. How we play the game to our own detriment.
1. Instead of saying how we really feel – and maybe making it more acceptable for him to also say how HE feels, we play the game and clam up. Call it flirty or coy… but it’s IN-authentic.
2. We give a boy what he wants – in bed. (I use the term “we” loosely here. And yes…pun intended). By giving in and having sex with a guy before WE are ready, we send a message that you can just have that – without any relational work. So – after several of those encounters, boys know that it’s simply a numbers game – troll for sex long enough and you’ll find a willing taker.
3. Similarly, we do the same thing with our affection. We may not give sex away easily, but we’re quick to give our hearts to someone who hasn’t demonstrated they’ll show it care. A handsome face, a sparkling wit, and we’re ready to expose our soft underbelly. And if he was a man – he’d recognize the intimate move and match it or at the very least – step carefully around it. But a boy will either take advantage or run for the hills thinking we’re ‘crazy’ or ‘moving too quickly’ (which…perhaps we are!)
4. We reward the wrong things. Remember that conditioning I talked about in an earlier post? Give a rat a treat for doing something and he’ll do it again? Women give men ‘treats’ (this can be anything from a come-hither look, to a favor, to a sweet touch, to our entire bodies) for simply offering up the basic human kindnesses that should just be a given. In fact, we even reward BAD behavior (self-indulgent talking, selfishness, even rudeness) too… and we’re surprised when it continues.
I could go on and on, but I’ve already written a small thesis, so – I’m gonna try to land the plane.
From the time men are young (and it’s actually OK for them to be boys), our culture (including us women) contributes to a certain emasculation (we think it’s nurturing, caring, mothering, showing compassion, etc.) …that doesn’t stop in adulthood. Then, when they continue to act like boys when they should have miraculously become a man, we resent their relational dependency that we so once loved. We want a man, but we created a boy.
One last side note:
It may be for this reason that so many women swoon over the poorly written tribute to false-masculinity that is the “50 Shades” series. We mistake aggressive and domineering behavior for being a man…we confuse sadism with strength… and we so crave a man that we’ll take the other end of the boy pendulum (with one end being wimpy-ness and the other being misdirected aggression) instead of seeking an entirely different pendulum. Mark these words – Christian Grey doesn’t love anyone but himself. He is a boy in a handsome man’s body.
What’s the solution? I’m still workin’ on that. But, here’s what I know for ME. I’m watching more closely than ever for those red flags of boy-hood. And when I see them – even if they’re paired with a devilishly handsome body and well-spoken dimeanor, I’m going to keep my emotional distance until I can see the depth, vulnerability and self-awareness that constitute what I’m REALLY looking for. I’m also not going to contribute to the boy-making anymore. I’m not going to play games …I’m just going to be myself. And if it sends a guy running… well, chances are – he’s a boy running away. And that works out rather well – because it leaves the space in front of me open for a man.