Men don't have glass heads. What's going on in there? Do they mean what they say? And what are they not saying? Why does anyone in a relationship with a man have to spend so much time wondering what things "mean"? Is it good that he called instead of texting? What does it mean that he introduced me to his sister but not his mother or his best friend? Why hasn't he said anything about my birthday yet when it's two weeks from now?Finally, a man who knows what's going on in there has written a book to decode men for you. It's rich with insight and action you can take today to make your relationship better tomorrow. Smith's fascinating, sometimes surprising topics include:--The Subtle Art of Hooking Us (men really do want to be in committed relationships, even if they don't always show it) --Beauty Matters (but beauty may not be exactly what you think it is)--Beware of Titles (why you shouldn't label yourself his "girlfriend" until certain conditions are met) --Sex is More Powerful than an AK-47 (but it doesn't always have to be a home run)--Mean What You Say (and why sex lies are always-always-a bad idea)--Know how to Listen and What we Care About (it doesn't matter if you buy the yellow pillows or the blue pillows but that doesn't mean you don't matter) Any man who picks up The Truth About Men will nod in agreement, and any woman who puts its insights into practice will have an instantly happier mate and a stronger, longer relationship.
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St. Martin's Press
April 10, 2012
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Excerpt from The Truth About Men by Ian K. Smith
THE FIRST PRINCIPLE
THE SUBTLE ART OF HOOKING US
There's a big misperception that men never want to be in committed relationships if we can help it, and that we prefer to have the freedom to date a harem of women. Not so. We want to be in a committed relationship, but it has to be with the right woman at the right time.
LET'S START WITH a simple truth. Men don't want to feel like they're being hooked, especially in the beginning of a relationship. This has something to do with our innate desire for freedom and our need to feel like we're in control. Not to say that we're not open to the idea of settling down and being satisfied in a monogamous relationship with you, but the second we detect that these are your intentions, we either stop returning your phone calls or start figuring out ways to escape without hurting your feelings. Understanding the basics of how we think in this situation will go a long way toward producing the results that you desire. So don't judge what follows as being politically incorrect or rude. Be warned that this is not about what's right or wrong, respectful or disrespectful. This book is about one thing--the raw truth.
The Physical Matters--Period
Forget all those relationship expert columns that tell you it's most important to your man that he first see what's in your heart. Bullshit. It's most important to see what's inside your clothes. Now, before you scream, "Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig!" listen carefully. I'm not saying that we need to get into your pants right away in order to enjoy your company. But I am saying that men definitely need to know that you have the goods and that you take care of yourself. To put it bluntly, a guy's first interest in a woman has nothing to do with the handbag she's carrying or that she graduated from an Ivy League school. What your (potential) man wants you to know but won't tell you is that his initial attraction is all about your appearance and physical being, which sends a flood of highly charged testosterone racing through his veins. Yes, the physical is first, and we're not saying we won't eventually fall in love with your intelligence, kindness, and humor. These extremely important attributes are the ones that will ultimately be critical in helping you hook us. But in the beginning the number-one attribute is what you look like and how well you take care of yourself.
The glossy magazines that litter the newsstands do a real disservice to you all by defining beauty in such a narrow way. A quick flip through the pages and it's boringly obvious that most of the models and celebrities featured in these magazines are really a variation on the same theme. The truth for us men, however, is that beauty is diverse and idiosyncratic. (Great news for you.) Some of us want the well-endowed woman, while others are repulsed by the surgically enhanced. Some of us want tall and slim, while others want short and curvaceous. Some of us want you to have some "junk in the trunk," while others want it small and tight. There really is some truth to the saying, "There's a lid for every pot." The challenge for most women, however, is finding that fit.
For some the search can be long and difficult, and for others it can be quick and easy. A lot of variables go into the length, ease, and success of that search, but the one thing that will boost your efforts is how well you present yourself. It's imperative, especially early on, that you look your best every time we see you, at least for the first few months of the relationship. This is not men being vain or superficial. Unless your father is Bill Gates, how you look is the strongest magnet you possess. Your hair must be done, your nails neatly painted, and your clothes should highlight your assets and hide your liabilities. Loose sweats, uncombed hair pulled back under a baseball cap, and rundown Ugg boots are fine once the relationship is in high gear, but definitely a turn-off when at the beginning. In our minds, if you are not making the effort to look your best when we barely know each other, we dread the thought of what you'll look like a couple of months into the relationship.
The Unnecessary Pressure of Titles
Let the royals care about titles. One of the biggest mistakes you can make during the early hook is to suggest or even hint that things have started to formalize by assigning the labels "girlfriend" and "boyfriend." Even if you feel like things are going in the right direction and that your relationship is getting more serious, there's an extremely wide gulf between just being someone you're dating and someone who has been officially proclaimed a boyfriend. What your man wants you to know but won't tell you is that affixing titles to the relationship too early is like holding up a cross to a vampire. We will often run fast and hard when we feel like we're being boxed into something we don't want or is too premature.
So, what's the resolution for you if calling him your boyfriend and yourself his girlfriend means a lot to you? The first option is simply to wait until you're absolutely sure he feels the same way about making it official. Often we give subtle signs to indicate we're ready. If we start talking about dating you exclusively, you can take that as a sign. If we introduce you to our close friends on several occasions, that's a solid sign. If we let you stay in our apartment when we're not there, that's a really good sign. The number-one sign that we're ready to go formal--we invite you to dinner with our mother. (Yes, it's our mother that counts for this one, not our dad.)
If you're not satisfied with waiting for our signs, or you think you might not be able to read them, here's something you might try that could get the ball rolling faster. Be advised, however, that if you don't do this with the proper amount of skill and cool, then it can dramatically backfire: When he calls you up and asks if you want to go grab something to eat or catch a movie, don't answer him right away. Take a deliberate pause, and in your most apologetic voice say something that will test him. "I'd love to, but one of my girlfriends has been trying like crazy to get me to meet one of her brother's friends, and we were supposed to all get together tonight. I don't want to go, but I feel like I owe it to her since she's been trying so hard to make this happen." What comes next is critical. You need to listen very carefully and might need to read between the lines of what he says. Here are some of his possible responses:
A. Okay, fine. Well, have fun and call me when you want to get together again.
B. You're going on a blind date? What's up with that?
C. Oh, I didn't know it was like that. I guess I should be going out with other people, too.
D. If I'm not enough for you, then no biggie. It's probably best we not see each other anymore.
E. So you were just gonna go out on this date and not tell me?
There's a lot you need to take in with each of these responses, and how you handle them can work in your favor in a big way.
(A) Depending on his tone, he's either jealous but doesn't want to let on, he's neutral and it's okay, or he's pissed off and doesn't want you to see how angry he is. This isn't the most optimal response, because now you have to do a little detecting to figure out what he's really feeling, whether you need to nurse his wound or accept that he really doesn't care, in which case he's probably out there dating others so he's not going to give you a hard time. Your next step is to figure out what he wanted to say but didn't. Once you figure this part out, then you can react accordingly.
(B) This response gives you a perfect opportunity to bring up whether you're officially girlfriend and boyfriend without his feeling like you're pressuring him. Say to him in your most innocent voice, "We never talked about dating exclusively, and technically I'm not even your girlfriend, so I just figured it wasn't a big deal to you." Now the title issue is on the table, and he has to address it directly since he's the one who had a problem with your going out on a date with someone else. If you get this response, you are in a great position to stick in the hook.
(C) Once again you have a prime opportunity to bring up whether or not things have gotten serious enough to go exclusive as boyfriend and girlfriend. See your response in B.
(D) His ego has definitely been bruised. He wants to tell you that you mean more to him than someone he's been casually dating, but he's having a hard time saying it. Rather than get into a back-and-forth about being more into you than you are into him, he makes the decision to just cut ties and run. Once again you have a chance to reel him in (as he has now exposed a vulnerability), but you must be strong and patient as you do so or he might slip away.
(E) Needless to say, this is a response from someone who is not exactly delighted about the current state of affairs. This response could go a couple of ways, so listen to his tone and make a judgment call. If it sounds like he's really upset and thinks that you were "cheating or being sneaky," first you need to calm him. Once this is accomplished, then you can introduce the possibility of taking the relationship to the next stage. But you must be careful. If he's really upset and becomes reactive or irrational, now is not the time to have the conversation about formalizing the relationship. However, if he appears somewhat annoyed but still reasonable, then go ahead and explain to him that you were not aware that the relationship was exclusive, especially since you weren't officially girlfriend and boyfriend, but if he wants to take the relationship to the next level, you're more than happy to go there.
Occasionally Unavailable, We Want You More
What your man wants you to know but won't tell you is that he is even more attracted to you when you're not always available to him. It's true that a guy looking for a one-night stand will only continue to converse and set you (and your girlfriends) up with drinks if he knows that at the end of the night he's going to get what he wants. That's not the guy you're looking for, so let's ignore that relatively small percentage of my brethren. But if you're looking to establish a relationship with the typical guy who's not some horn dog, you need to know that although he wants to spend time with you, he also wants to feel like you won't always be able to drop everything just because he calls you up and says, "Let's go out in an hour."
It's true, especially of us men, that what we can't have we tend to want even more. Not that we want you to be unavailable the majority of the time--that won't work, either, and we'd eventually stop calling and start looking somewhere else. While we hope you want to be with us every time we call, not being able to because you have other commitments is acceptable. The other commitments, of course, should not be dates with other men, and if they are, then don't tell us. Even if you don't have something else to do, it's still in your best interest to turn us down every once in a while. Just make sure you do it with your uniquely feminine charm, and leave the conversation on an up note. Telling us that while tonight won't work, but you want to see us really soon prevents us from personalizing the rejection, because now we will leave the conversation feeling that if you didn't have other commitments you would've hung out with us. Even though we might not get what we want, that small ego stroke will go a long way.
A significant part of hooking us early means being careful not to send the wrong message. Though you think you're making us happy by always dropping everything to be with us, it can send unintended messages. And remember, we're men. In most cases you don't want to leave us to our own devices to interpret the nuances of what you're trying to convey. In our minds, being always available to us could mean more than you simply like us a lot. We might start thinking that you don't have a life of your own and have nothing else to do but hang out with us. If, in the beginning of our relationship, you already seem quite wrapped up in us, then we worry about what's going to happen when the relationship gets more serious. Are you going to suffocate us to death?
Too available can also mean too easy. If you don't present somewhat of a challenge to us, then we lose what is often one of the most exciting aspects of a budding relationship--the thrill of the hunt. What your man wants you to know but won't tell you is that he doesn't mind having to put in some work (but not an overwhelming amount) to win you over. Too much work--calling you more than three times before you return the call or agree to go out on a date--is also a problem. We're not going to stick around if we feel like we're at the bottom of a steep hill trying to push a two-ton boulder to the top. Still, we enjoy challenges, so if you can throw in some twists and turns on our path to your heart, we'll be more inclined to put forth a greater effort and see things to their culmination.
You meet a guy at a friend's birthday party. You're attracted to him immediately. He's good-looking but not cocky, funny but not trying to be the life of the party. He is obviously well informed and has something smart to say about everything from politics to the recent slate of Oscar-nominated films. All the single women at the party have made their attempts, but he has politely sent them away empty-handed.
The two of you strike up a conversation, because he's interested in the gold and jade earrings that you're wearing. He says his grandmother had a similar pair that she passed down to his mother. You tell him the story of your earrings and how your grandfather bought them for your mother when he was stationed as a young serviceman in Japan. One conversation leads to another and before you know it, you're standing on a balcony overlooking the city, laughing at each other's jokes and comparing notes on the television shows you love to hate. He leaves with your phone number and e-mail address in his BlackBerry.
Three months have passed and dating him has gone extremely well. Your girlfriends think he's the catch of the year, and his friends couldn't be more welcoming. One day, at the encouragement of one of your girlfriends, you decide to join Facebook. You've resisted joining all this time because you've seen so many people get addicted to it, but she insists that it's so much fun and a great way to find and stay connected with old friends as well as make new ones. It takes you a few weeks to get comfortable in this whole social-networking arena, and you find that despite your early doubts you're actually enjoying it.
You decide to find your boyfriend's page, so you do a search. His surname is unique and you find him within seconds. You get to his page, and it's not like you're trying to be nosy or anything, but you decide to look around a little. The first thing you notice is the info section and it stops you cold. Under the section "Interested In" it says "Women." Under the section "Relationship Status" it says "Single." When you set up your Facebook page, you made certain to list men as your interest. In the "Relationship Status" section, you had indicated you were unavailable. You go to his wall and look at his photo gallery. There are 115 photos and the only one of you is in a group shot taken at a restaurant. You weren't even sitting next to him. You search his entire page and there's no mention or even an indication that the two of you are dating. You go back to his info page and can't take your eyes off the line that says he's single. He isn't acknowledging that you are dating. So now what do you do?
(See The Handle #1)
Mandates Will Keep You Manless
One of my best friends and I were having dinner at a very popular restaurant in the Meatpacking District of New York City. The place was crowded with hip young professionals out after work for a drink and great food. It was a classic scene--attractive women decked out in the latest designer fashions and guys with expensive oversized watches, full of bravado, sending drinks up and down the bar in an effort to catch the attention of women. A table of women sat next to us, and in this restaurant the tables were practically on top of one another, so it felt like a community dinner. Things happen the way they often happen with single, fun-seeking people, and before dessert had been served my friend scored the number of one of the really attractive women who had been full of conversation and flirtatious banter.
The following week, after they had talked a couple of times on the phone and exchanged a few text messages, he asked her out to dinner. My friend has never suffered from lack of female attention, but I noticed that he was really excited about this date. All was set and he had lined up a reservation at one of the city's hottest restaurants. I wanted him to be successful for his sake, but admittedly there was an underlying selfishness to my rooting for him. If they hit it off there was a really good chance I would once again be in the company of her girlfriends--all of whom were attractive. I went to the gym while they went out, anxiously waiting to hear the report.
Disaster! My heart fell two feet when he recounted what happened. Yes, she looked amazing. Yes, she was successful in her career. Yes, she made great conversation. But where everything turned south was when she got on a riff about what she required from men who wanted to date her. Her list was longer than an Amtrak commuter train. It was one mandate after another. A man must bring me fresh flowers when he picks me up at my apartment. A man must always take me out to eat before or after we go to the movies. A man must never pick up his phone if we're in the middle of a conversation. A man must always carry my drink from the bar to our table when we sit down to eat. I was getting nauseous just listening to him. Needless to say, despite how physically attracted my friend was to her, it was their first and only date. He found himself staring up a hill that had a ninety-degree slope. Forget it. What your man wants you to know but won't tell you is that if there're too many rules in the beginning of a relationship, he's gone. Too complicated too soon is a strong indication to us that things will only get worse. We are well aware that the numbers are in our favor, so we'll play the odds and wait for someone who doesn't give us so much hassle.
It's completely fine for you to have certain requirements that you expect a man to meet if you're going to have a relationship. We know that you all have your list of musts, and you should. But you have to be careful of the length of this list or you will find yourself creating an ideal that simply doesn't exist in the real world. "He must be over six feet, have a college degree, make six figures a year, speak two languages, have washboard abs, never have been previously engaged, live on his own, like the same kind of music, be sensitive..." I've heard about these "must lists" from some of my female friends who were frustratingly single. There was no doubt in my mind why they couldn't hook a man. There was no chance in hell they could find a man who could meet their ridiculously long list of mandates. The first thing I told them was to either cut the list down or create an A list and a B list. The A list should be the things that were nonnegotiable, while the B list should be things that they would like to have in an ideal situation but could do without and still be content. Two of my female friends took my advice and literally within three months their year-long drought ended and they were happily dating again.
The second thing to be careful about when sharing your mandates with a prospective boyfriend is timing. It's fine to reveal a couple of items from your list, but releasing them all at once in rapid fire is overwhelming. Think of it as the difference between being fired upon by a single-action six-shooter versus a machine gun. We can duck and dodge the six-shooter, but we stand no chance against a machine gun, even if the shooter's aim is bad. If your goal is to kill a potential relationship, delivering all of your mandates at once is a sure way to reach it.
The More Others Look, the More We Want You
Men want other men to want their women. It's that basic, and it's all related to male ego. I remember one of my best friends dating a stunning woman who was almost six feet tall, with an angled jaw, thick dark hair that fell generously down her back, and light blue eyes that glowed like headlights. She was so attractive that even women would stare at her in awe. Some of my friend's proudest moments were when he watched other men watch her as she walked across a crowded room or bar with those long, purposeful strides cutting a direct path to where he was sitting. Those ten or fifteen seconds that it took for her to complete her journey felt like an hour as heads swiveled, mouths opened, and eyes squinted. What your man wants you to know but won't tell you is that he wants you even more when others want you.
When the hottest woman in the room that every eye is following sits down and kisses us, it feels like a crate of fireworks is going off inside our body. Not only is it a quiet statement to the other guys in the room that we have our act together, but it is an absolute turn-on. I, too, had gotten lucky meeting a great woman from Chicago. Every time I watched other guys watch my date, I not only wanted her even more, but it was another affirmation that I was fortunate to have her and should do everything in my power to keep her. She didn't know this, but she was hooking me simply by others wanting her.