• October 2010
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Becoming the Man I Want

Several years ago, Oprah gave me some sound advice. Her show on that day was built loosely around the much-loved topic: How Single Women Can Get the Man They Really Want. There was the requisite audience of fabulous women in their 30s and 40s lamenting on how they had EVERYTHING – jobs that brought them financial stability AND personal fulfillment, fun and exciting extracurricular activities, supportive families who were happiest when they were happy and even semi-regular romantic lives. There was, also, the requisite “expert,” who, to her credit, spoke firmly about women shifting their man-hunting focus to what really matters in a mate as opposed to the endless checklist of “resume-appropriate” attributes that we often run down when we are evaluating whether a handsome date will graduate to a fulltime mate.

Oprah encouraged her audience to create a detailed list of every quality they wanted in a man. The sensible expert gave very specific instructions for this list. “You are not wasting ink on his income, hobbies and whether or not he likes poetry,” she chided. She urged the attentive single gals to dig deeper. To think hard about what characteristics were encoded into the very core of their ideal man. Qualities that were so central to a person’s way of “being” that a woman would not even really see these qualities until she was well into the relationship. Both Oprah and her expert then instructed the audience to put the list away and not to worry about it again. They warned against pulling it out every time you were excited about a new gentleman caller and comparing the few shallow details of his life you were able to figure out after two dates with the list of your mate’s core characteristics.

Like any good American, I did as President O instructed; I made my list.
In the years since that show aired, I don’t remember what became of my list. I do remember what a great time I had compiling it, proud of myself for finding it ridiculously easy to dig beneath the surface and get to the core of what I sought in my Mr. Right. High on my list were honesty and openness. A series of unfortunate events over the years has now caused me to question these two attributes that every woman on the planet claims to seek in a man. Oddly enough, my questions have nothing to do with this ideal man (who I have yet to meet, by the way). My questions are directed at me. I am wondering if I can honestly claim that I am…well, honest. And open.

One painful, complicated relationship and one dead-upon-arrival courtship later, I have come to realize: I lie. A lot. It is difficult for me to identify just how often I lie because I lie in the sneaky, sophisticated way in which many women excel. I do not speak untruths to gentlemen callers. I just don’t speak at all.

During the dead-upon-arrival courtship, there were several times when I felt uncertain of his interest level in our budding relationship. Instead of voicing this discomfort when I felt it, I simply said nothing. By the time I got around to saying something, I admitted to the easiest emotion: severe annoyance. My voice registered a tone with which it has the most experience: blunt pseudo-honesty. I asked the gentleman caller: “Is it your intent to send the message that you are no longer interested and I should back off?” I allowed myself credit for not beating around the bush when I asked him this question, conveniently overlooking how this version of honesty was tainted with deceit’s classier cousin: silence. I said I was irritated. I didn’t say I was frightened. I pointed to the week that had passed since we had seen each other or had a conversation that lasted more than five minutes. I did not admit I noticed the exact number of days since he had disappeared because I missed him, which meant I liked him. I left all of this out because the rule of casual dishonesty dictates: Stick to the surface. Stay there.

Shockingly, when you are not honest with a gentleman caller, it makes it that more difficult to be open with him. Weeks before I shared only about 45.5% of my truth with him, the gentleman caller had made a telling observation about me. “I tell a story about some part of my life and I wait for you to share something about you,” he explained. “Either you offer nothing or when you start talking, it’s like you are being very careful in what you share. You shut down. Edit yourself all the time.”


Perhaps that could have been what the gentleman caller who had starred in the painful, complicated relationship was eluding to when he challenged: “Remember that time when you broke up with me? When you abruptly kicked me out of your apartment…well, I really had no idea where that was coming from.” When this particular gentleman caller mentioned this incident (months after he was asked politely to leave my abode), I was reticent to accept that I had not been completely honest with him about my dissatisfaction with our relationship. Hadn’t I actually said: “I do not like where this relationship is going.”

Cue the sound of crickets as I thought long and hard to remember when I had actually said those exact words to him. Does pouting vigorously when I didn’t get what I wanted count as being honest?

Hadn’t I stuck to my guns about not allowing him access to my time and the pleasure of my company until he gave in to my vague, hinted at demands for intimacy?

Well, right before I politely asked him to leave my abode, we were naked on my living room floor. So, yeah…

Apparently, this decision on my part to forego the arduous task of giving full voice to my wants and needs leaves me wide open to not having those wants and needs meant. Yes, I could claim that these gentlemen callers took advantage of the loophole my silence created. “What grown man DOESN’T know that any woman in her 30s wants closeness, attention, depth,” I could argue. Unfortunately, such an argument is woefully flawed. The gentleman caller’s choice to take advantage of the loophole does not exonerate me from my repeated choice to create the loophole in the first place.

The dead-upon-arrival courtship officially flat-lined almost two weeks ago. It has been embalmed, eulogized and tucked away into the earth. The painful, complicated relationship has already decomposed to dust. The ghost of the gentleman caller no longer powerful enough to warrant more than a passing shrug of the shoulder. However, my list still lives on. If I could locate it, I would smile proudly at this wonderful human being who I will someday meet. Although I am looking forward to meeting the human being who posesses these wonderful qualities, I am even more excited as I struggle each day to BE this amazing human being who posesses such wonderful qualities. Isn’t working to become more honest and more open simply much more practical than exerting limited energy on hunting down a mate who is honest and open?

Is it even possible to have something/one you are unwilling to be?

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