It all started when a heterosexual male acquaintance of mine remarked that he’d never been hit on by a woman in his life. What made it worse, in his mind anyway, was that he’d had several “offers” from gay men. I told him this was a clear sign he was hot. He did not agree. He felt it was only a clear sign that something about him must scream, “Pick me; I’m gay, too.”
But as fellow contributor Dorothy Stephenson likes to point out, “Even gay men are men.”
In other words, no matter whether a guy wears pink shirts and has the most beautifully decorated house in the neighborhood, he’s still got testosterone. And testosterone drives men to be, well, forward about soliciting sex. What my male acquaintance overlooked in bemoaning the solicitations he had received from homosexual males while getting nothing remotely similar from women is that women, by and large, just don’t walk up to a man and say, “Hey babe, your house or mine?”
It’s not that we don’t necessarily think it, mind you. It’s just not how we operate. The female come-on generally consists of something like making eye contact across a crowded dance floor and maybe, if she’s especially brave, smiling slightly once his gaze meets hers. This is the signal. But the average man doesn’t consciously read it as such. He just knows some cute girl looks like maybe she won’t turn him down if he offers to buy her a beer. Let’s say he does, and the two of them end up getting married three years later: the guy will undoubtedly say it was he who made the move.
We ladies know better, of course.
But far be it from a man to read subtleties. I’m guessing the guy who complained he’s only been hit on by guys has been missing signals left and right his whole life. Or, at the very least, assuming he made the first move on all the women he’s ever dated when in reality his subconscious mind (yeah, men do have them, but they’re buried deep, baby) saw “the look” and jumped on it.
And because women are, by nature, so much more subtle in their communications, a lot of them (and I’ve been guilty, too) suffer not a little outrage at the overtness with which men often approach them. Most of us would never dream in a million years of cozying up next to some man we hardly know at a cocktail party, making shoulder contact, and leaning in hard to tell an off-color joke. At least not unless we were three sheets to the wind. But this is how guys do it (unless they’re incredibly emotionally mature and have had experience with the risk involved in such maneuvers), and, unless we’ve already established we sort of have the hots for this person, we’re immediately turned off.
And then we go tell our girlfriends what a complete jerk the man was. “Did you see the way he bent his head in close and pressed his arm up against mine?! Apparently, he thinks he’s irresistible or something, the moron!”
Yet if the guy is irresistible, we accept it, even find it titillating. What’s a guy to make of all this?
You got me.
Because men, in general, don’t take hints very well, as I’ve already mentioned. A case in point is a neighbor of mine who takes “touchy-feely” to the extreme. Even though he’s married, he never misses an opportunity to put his arm around me or try to hug me. And the word on the street is this is his normal manner of operating with women. The last time I got the too hard and too long squeeze around the shoulders from him and felt my blood run cold, I went to my friends asking how to subtly let him know his advances were unwanted.
Everyone pretty much agreed subtlety was not going to cut it given that the guy obviously had no ability to understand that not only were his advances not invited (i.e. no eye contact across a crowded room), but he also failed to note the golden rule of “if she doesn’t reciprocate, back off, buddy.”
(You’ll notice I’m not even addressing the whole issue of the wedding ring on his finger because, guys being guys, that does not even play into the equation when they’re putting on the moves.)
In some ways, it’s easy to understand why women get so aggravated with men and think they’re all players, and often awkward ones at that. I’m not an apologist by any means, but, um, they are guys, you know. Which means they are biologically, socially, and emotionally different from us.
They are far more driven by their reproductive organs than we are, at least when it comes to hot pursuit of the opposite sex. In their brains, sexual and emotional intimacy are largely the same thing. And they’re socialized to be more aggressive, less subtle, and, in general, poor readers of all the psychological signals women live and communicate by.
Being in full awareness of their own sexuality and observant of it in women at almost all times, it is difficult for them to imagine why their wives and girlfriends get annoyed by their double-takes when the hot young college girl walks by in a bikini on the beach. It is second nature. They do not even know they are doing it until they get slapped on the wrist.
I remember when I was a girl how my dad would always say to my mother as we were getting ready to head off for the pool in summer. “Well, I’m off to gaze at bathing beauties,” he would tease, though my mother was never amused. Nevermind that my dad was well into his 40s, sporting a pot belly, and a hairy chest, all of which ensured no female in a bathing suit would ever look at him twice. Sweet blue eyes aside, he was past his prime. But my mother could not help but be threatened by the idea that he window shopped, as most men do, just for fun. It was irrelevant that he had no intention of buying and could never place a high enough bid anyway.
And what happens when women express their persistent disdain at men for these trifling pastimes? Well, if recent psychological studies are to be believed, the harder you get after him for looking, or flirting, or just “being a guy,” the more likely his window shopping will turn into, “how about I just walk in there and try something on for size?”
Just because you, once you’ve found Mr. Right or Mr. Pretty Darn Right or Mr. As Right As It Gets in This Life, you stop noticing the college guys playing volleyball on the beach (because for you, it’s all about emotional intimacy and that makes him the world’s sexiest man in your eyes), it does not mean Mr. She Thinks I’m Right as Rain is going to stop noticing the grad students in their bikinis. Just doesn’t work that way. He’s not you, and he’s never gonna be. The good news is, however, if you’re confident enough not to give a flying fuck who he looks at as long as looking is all he does, you’ll find the apple of your eye never strays very far from the tree.
So let him be a guy. He lets you be a girl, right?
Yeah, so he only does it because he has no choice if he wants regular action between the sheets. Sometimes we all worry a little bit too much about motives and miss the good stuff…which is the here and now with the man you love.
As for the wacko who keeps hitting on you despite all your graceful attempts to let him know he’s not your type, not even in your generation, and certainly not on your short list of men who are allowed to put their arms around you, you might just have to do something incredibly unwomanly…and be direct.