Lately, women have been reporting on the proliferation of a peculiar creature in their neighborhoods. They say it’s hairy, communicates in grunts if at all, is always trying to gain their favor, doesn’t train very well, and tries to hump everything in sight.
Yup – men are everywhere. But we’re not nearly as baffling as we seem once you understand the underlying machinery. As my fortune cookie said last night, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
So, straight out of The Tao of Dating — “the dating bible for smart women” according to my good man and ace dating coach Evan Marc Katz, and the greatest book in the world according to my mom — here’s a little primer on how to understand guys. Whether you’re single or married, this should help you relate better with half of the planet’s population, leading directly to world peace and reversing global warming instantly. So don’t just read it for yourself — read it to save the polar bears:
1) Men need to feel useful.
In the good old days of cave living and mammoth hunting, guys had essential functions: they protected the homestead and brought home the meat.
Even though modern niceties like police and Whole Foods have largely superseded those functions, men still want to be useful. You can take the man out of the cave, but you can’t take the cave out of the man.
So we try to open doors for you, even though we know you have pilates-toned biceps to do it yourself. We like to treat you to some fresh mammoth at the local diner, even though you can afford it yourself. We lend our arm when we walk together, help you install gadgets, carry suitcases. It ain’t much, but it’s all that’s left for us to do.
When a woman signals that she is so independent that she doesn’t need (or want) a man doing these things for her, the man will sulk away and find something else to make him feel useful – work, sports, poker, drinking buddies, other women.
2) Men mono-task.
The other day, I had some friends over for dinner, and one of them was trying to engage me in conversation while I was chopping salad. After a minute of stilted conversation and impaired chopping, I had to shoo him away and resume the chopping solo, lest I lose a fingertip.
There are structural differences between the brains of men and women. A woman’s corpus callosum is 20 percent bigger than that of a man, so maybe the increased traffic she can handle between her right and left hemispheres allows her to multitask better. All I know is that we guys can barely talk and eat at the same time. We can’t talk and drive. And we certainly shouldn’t be allowed to talk and cook, unless you want some extra fingertip in your salad.
3) Men are hornier than women.
Let’s assume that evolution designed us to perpetuate our genes. Now ask yourself: what’s the maximum number of children a man and a woman could have in a year if each had sex with a different person every day? The answer makes it immediately obvious that, in the genetic lottery, a man stands to gain a lot more than a woman by having multiple sexual partners.
In short, men behave like sperm; women behave like eggs. Sperm are plentiful, easily regenerated and cheap. Eggs are scarce, finite and expensive. So women are gatekeepers while men storm the barricades. Is this good? Is this bad? Neither. It just is. And someone please tell me why I feel like having an omelet now.
4) Men prefer to be taller, richer and smarter than the women they date.
A study showed that 84 percent of men won’t date a woman who’s better educated than himself. Similar numbers apply to wealthier and taller women. This means that somewhere, there are legions of rich, smart, tall women left all by their lonesome – tragic indeed. Except for the men who like rich, smart, tall women. My email’s below.
5) Men like to be heard.
Yeah, we like to ramble. We’ve got stories about our new gadget, the game last night, Samuel Johnson, the Large Hadron Collider. Oh, and we’ve got opinions – about everything. You’re free for the rest of the month, right?
As such, we’re used to being interrupted. But if you’re the woman who’s patient and savvy enough to let us ramble without interruption, then we will probably want to have you around more often.
6) Men don’t pay much attention to what women wear.
Most straight men can’t tell the difference between $30 shoes and a $300 pair. We are also oblivious to the way women artfully match their belts, handbags and dresses with said shoes. Frankly, it’s all wrapping paper to us. Far more interesting is the present underneath. Is it Christmas yet?
As long as a woman’s clothes are clean and present her well without obscuring essential information (e.g. “Is that an empire waist dress or is she just pregnant?”), we’re much more interested in the contents of her clothes than the clothes themselves – the body for sure, and if she keeps our attention, the mind and spirit, too. That said…
7) Men are shallow when it comes to women’s looks.
We care about women’s looks – a lot. Shiny hair, hourglass figure, clear skin draw us in. Scientists say those are proxies for health, youth and fertility, or what guys call ‘hotness.’ Studies say hotness peaks around age 21. So if a woman in her 30s who wants children wonders why guys in their 30s date children, that’s why.
Now, a woman seems to have the gift of making a man who makes her feel good look good. Guys tend to operate differently. We either find you appealing or not.
We may be shallow, but we’re connoisseurs of our shallowness. Most of us tend to have a type we find attractive and stick to it for better or for worse. A man’s type may change over time, but there’s no guarantee, and it can’t be induced to change. Which brings us to…
8) Men don’t change much after age 18.
What I’ve noticed in my years in the personal change business is how little people shift in their habits and attitudes over time. A 60-year-old runs the same programs he learned when he was a kid. Therefore, trying to change a man is a futile endeavor unless you’re a hypnotherapist and he’s paying you to do it.
When a woman picks a man as a companion, she accepts the whole package without line-item vetoes. If she’s lucky, he’ll be doing the same for her, so it ends up being a pretty fair deal.
9) Men rise or fall to your level of expectation of them.
Of course, right after I tell you that men don’t change, I come out and tell you that they do — a little bit. Most men are afraid to admit it, but we’re basically here to please women. If you hold him to low standards — it’s okay if he shows up late, forgets a birthday, isn’t ambitious — he will meet those standards. Conversely, if you expect reliability, loyalty and greatness from him, that’s what he’ll deliver.
May you find these useful. And if you have some of your own observations for understanding men and saving polar bears, do share them below.
More insights on men & a foolproof program for finding, meeting, attracting & keeping the good ones in The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible
Write to me directly. I do my best to answer all questions. Put ‘Question’ in the subject line and please keep it under 2 paragraphs
I have found this info SO useful that I’m having a completely different experience with the man I have been dating for the last year than I was with men in the past… I was the typical independent woman, spending time trying to prove how intelligent and clever I was!
I finally let my boyfriend have a chance to teach me things and talk all he wants about things I didn’t know about (and sometimes am not completely passionate about!) and have found the respect, affection, attention and admiration I have been *demanding* and not getting in the past!
I find myself more passionate about this man who wants me (and accepts me as I am) since I have been able to accept him as he is… I rarely try to change him but don’t always buy into behavior I don’t like. I can go home for a while and come back later or let him know I’m not enjoying something in a gentle and kind way.
I get what I want FAR more than when I tried to manipulate or connive to get it; he absolutely does want to please me and I don’t demand it, just communicate it.
Thanks, Dr. Alex. You and Evan Marc have changed my life~~ for the better!
Hi Dr. Alex
I’m a great fan of yours and enjoy reading your books and info! Keep it coming!
I’ve got a new date, we’ve known each other for years but things haven’t clicked until a few months ago. He’s been single for 22 years. We’re mature adults (48 and 56) taking a day at a time, and have mutual interests (one of them is jazz) and friends. He says he hopes this will last a very long time. We’re going on holiday together in a couple of weeks. But here’s the problem: He won’t come to my place, and as my son put it (he’s 28 and has his own place) guy code #1: the bro’s come before ho’s! We had a lovely night out/sleep over this weekend with some friends , come sunday morning he’s of with one of his buddies to see world-cup footie – football is OK – I watch it myself sometimes – but the fact that we both will be travelling the next couple of weeks left me feeling disapointed, and I find myself withdrawing. It’s early days – and I really want to make this relationship work – what should I do?
Thanks for the note, Susan! Give him your trust first and foremost — if he says he wants this to last a long time, believe him and act accordingly. Neediness, which is what you’re getting close to expressing, will only drive him away. All you can do is give your best and avoid overthinking it. In the meantime, remember that during World Cup time, all bets are off. He may just as well be living on a different planet. Things should return to normal in August.