To this day, just as it was when I was in my twenties and thirties, the one consistent thing that female friends have to say to me, or about men in general, regardless of age, is various versions of, “if he wanted to be with you, he would.” Or, the ever popular, “He’s just not that into you.” That phrase, coined originally in the television show Sex in the City, became a wildly popular “self-help” book and then later became a movie by the same title.
It wasn’t that long ago I got advice that sounded an awful lot like that. I’m not saying the advice is wrong, but we seem to be in a very weird place in the dating world these days (it gets weirder and weirder) so here I am. First, the people who wrote that book aren’t therapists or relationship experts. Greg Behrendt is a comedian. Liz Tuccillo is a writer and producer (Sex in the City). Does that mean that they have nothing to contribute to the world of dating and relationships? Of course not. In fact, sometimes it can be refreshing to read “self-help” books by non-experts because there are times when the experts don’t seem to know much about real life at all.
But I don’t particularly want to build my entire worldview on relationships around a comedian and tv producer (let alone ancient texts that aren’t talking about dating, antiquated belief systems, and sexism). That seems wonky. Nonetheless, that is what we have done. We are taught from a young age what it means to be “ladylike” and to not be the pursuer. The “he’s just not that into you” perspective fits neatly into that women are pursued, mindset. Which therefore means – if you’re not pursued, he’s . . . well, you know.
But is that the case, gents? I’m really asking. Because I’m around a lot of dudes. A lot of them. They have been my primary colleagues for the past eleven years. I’ve been around very few women (I could name them all, but not come close to remembering all of the dudes) in this environment. And consistently, I hear something different from them when they’re asking for a female perspective on dating & relationships. So which is it?
He’s just not that into you? He’d pursue you if he really wanted to? Or, I don’t know – is it possible that every man is different – just as we are all different? Do any of us really want to say that without a doubt, this is the case for every man that has ever walked the earth? Do we want to pigeonhole ourselves as women into such a tight little corner of the world that we’re never free to take the first step – whether it’s matters of the heart or not?
I don’t know, man. I just don’t know. Listen, my heart has been pretty roughed up in this department. Can I make the first move? Not after this year I can’t. Maybe never again. Does that mean another woman shouldn’t be the one to make the first move? No. Does every single man in all of the world have the same perspective on things? What about the man that himself has been through the relationship wringer? Doesn’t he have the right to feel a little beat up himself – and unsure of taking the first step with a woman?
The thing is, relationships and our pasts – our trauma, our personalities, and everything else that makes us who we are – determine how we view and function in relationships. Why would we build our entire relationship worldview, on people who don’t have our experiences? As a woman, do you feel it’s your right to be heard, hurt, or gun-shy, in the relationship department? Do you want reassurance – especially after being hurt?
If that’s a resounding yes, then why is it that we expect men to take the blows in relationships and not react similarly? Do you want a robot without feelings? Or do you want a man that is open, communicative, and able to demonstrate how they feel? Yes? Then why is it that we can’t allow them to experience the full range of emotions that come from the good and bad in relationships?
We have gotten things so screwed up. Here’s what I think you should do – you do, you. That’s it. That’s the advice. Feel like making the first move, make it. Don’t think you can ever do that again (like me), then don’t. Whatever, dude. Do whatever. We do not get to make decisions about how other people function, feel, respond, or act. We are only in charge of ourselves. What works for you, doesn’t work for me.
Let’s stop expecting ourselves and men to be everything. It’s not possible and it’s not sustainable. Let’s be real. I’d rather fumble my way into something beautiful, than to lose out on the possibility of something great – because I was so dead set on living and functioning in relationships like everyone else.
You – do you.