One of my best friends had an epiphany the other day. As we were each sprawled across lounging chairs in front of windows overlooking the mountains, sipping wine and talking, as women will, about life and love, my friend remarked out of the blue, “You know, I always thought I was a great catch.”
Instinctively, I responded, “You are!”
“No, wait a minute,” she cautioned me, holding up her hand. “I always thought I was a great catch to a man. I thought it meant something to be smart, witty, successful, cultured, and attractive.” She paused, pursed her lips, then continued, “and it does—to a woman.”
And I am thinking about this, thinking how downright critical it is to me to be with a man who intellectually challenges me, makes me laugh, has his shit together, takes care of himself, loves the outdoors, can talk about Dostoyevsky and Jung as well as Tesla and Einstein. I can’t really imagine settling for anything less, and sometimes I want even more. I haven’t even gotten started on insatiable curiosity and passion. (And by the way, I hold my female friends to similar standards.)
“Men don’t care about that,” my friend says. “They would be just as happy with a far lesser woman.”
And, unfortunately, I had to concede—she was mostly right.
“So why do I look for all those things in a man?” she asked, suddenly aware of the idiocy of more than three decades of female existence. “I mean my girlfriends meet most of my needs. I can travel with you. I can enjoy nature with you. I can dress up and go out with you. I can drink wine with you. I can have deep conversations with you. I can laugh with you.”
She pauses. “I just can’t have sex with you…. It would be awkward.”
Indeed it would. Neither one of us is so disillusioned yet as to be ready to try lesbianism.
And yet there stands in front of us that stark reality that men, by and large, do not meet very many of our needs, perhaps cannot meet them, were not designed to meet them, much though they are initially attracted to that exotic woman who speaks her mind and quotes Alexander Pope off the cuff.
Some time ago, a friend of mine said, “Men want complex women without the complexity.”
At the time, I thought she was right, but I am less certain now—now that I have a few dozen more dates under my belt and sat across the table from men who could do no more than tell me I had beautiful hair and mesmerizing eyes. How often has a man said I had a mesmerizing brain? Or a wonderful laugh? Or a sharp wit? It is not a frequent occurrence, I assure you.
As with bikinis, less is more, at least where men are concerned.
My friend said she now finally understood why her S.O. had asked, some months before, when referring to all of her fabulous traits, “How could a man want anything more?”
The reality is…he probably wanted less.
The universe may tend toward chaos, but men tend toward complacency.
And if they crave the attention of a woman at all, it is not for her conversation, her insights, her humor, her sensitivity, her kindness, her companionship. Most of them are not looking for the same things that women are, and we women set up false expectations, thinking men crave what we crave.
By and large, they do not.
The simpler and less time or energy consuming the relationship (at least as far as women go), the better. So do not judge the 40-year-old man who seeks the attention of a 23-year-old college grad with no immediate prospects. She is just what he needs—high on admiration, low on expectation.
This is something the modern, worldly, educated woman cannot provide him. She may admire him if he has the chutzpah to be gallant and confident, but she will expect things. She will expect consideration, respect, consistency, character, and…love. Things that a younger, less experienced, still wet behind the ears woman will not because she has not found her own sense of worthiness yet, seeks her value instead from outside sources.
Which is also what a lot of men do, even the most successful and brilliant among them. Unfair though it may be, we still live in a culture that values men for what they present on the outside less than who they are on the inside. It is a trial women do not face—we enjoy, much moreso than men, being loved and admired for our inner selves.
So a friend of mine was not entirely wrong when she said recently, “All men really need is a little Internet feedback to affirm their virility.”
Women tend to love from the inside out, men from the outside in. And that pertains to love of self as well as love of others.
It makes for tricky situation when a woman who has shown she can hold her own in the universe runs into a man who has done the same. She already loves herself and is ready to love others; he may not have had the chance yet, however, to practice that self-love. As Carl Jung once said, “The most terrifying thing is to accept one’s self completely.”
And unless or until he can do that, ladies, no matter how wonderful all his other qualities, he cannot love you, not really.
You are a great catch…but part of being a great catch is being that which is not easily caught.