For too long now we’ve misunderstood each other. We are both rational creatures—to a point—but due to our unique hormonal makeups we act in ways that baffle each other. This will never stop, of course, but we can each attempt to shed some light on our thoughts and actions in an effort to understand each other more. Speaking for men, allow me to say…
When we go out to dinner, it’s perfectly fine to order the same thing as we do. You, too, can get the chicken if that’s what you want. We don’t mind. We’d rather eat our entire meal than trade plates halfway through and eat the rest of something neither of us really wanted.
A side salad as your main course isn’t a meal and instead of making us think you’re skinny or have a small appetite, it makes us think you’re a liar. Which you are, if you pretend that a side salad is what you really wanted to eat for dinner.
Letting us eat the last stick, popper, wing, finger, fry or ring is, to us, a silent gesture of caring and kindness that will not be easily forgotten.
And let us pay. We like to pay. It makes us feel like our fathers: responsible, chivalrous, successful. Don’t argue with us over splitting the check, even if you’re doing it so as to not confirm the meal as a date. No guy, upon being turned down for a second date, has ever thought, “But things were going so well! She let me pay!”
After a while, though, you can pay. We like a free meal as much as anyone.
You’re not stronger than us and don’t try to argue about it. Let us have what nature gave us. “Women are just as strong as men,” is not a true statement and you know it. Are you our intellectual and emotional equals? Of course, if not our superiors. Are you our physical equals? Not even close. We don’t have much to cling to anymore and physical strength and athletic superiority is the last vestige of traditional masculinity modern men can still claim as theirs. Don’t take it away from us on principal. Nature made us stronger and faster while it made you far more interesting. You can grow a human inside of your body. We cannot, and will not, claim to be your equal in that.
Don’t yell at us for farting. When people ask, “Oh man, who farted?!” the answer should be “Everyone in the world, at least a few times today.” Farting is not a strictly male phenomenon and we know you do it, too. So instead of getting angry that our bodies are working the way they’re supposed to, feel free to allow yours to do the same. We just ask that you follow the agreed upon rules of engagement: not during sex, not in an elevator, and roll the window down if we’re in the car.
We’re not going to be bad fathers because we don’t get extremely excited about other people’s babies. If it were our baby, we’d most likely be thrilled. But it’s not our baby, it’s someone else’s and, yes, it’s cute, but we do not feel an emotional connection to another person just because he or she is tiny and new.
We do, however, have a deep, instinctual connection to dogs. From the days when we would venture out from our caves with a spear and a dog, hoping to bring back some food for you and the children, an urge to have a canine companion echoes down through the ages. Maybe we are still indebted to our dogs for alerting us when saber tooth tigers were nearby all those millennia ago. Who knows? But when you complain that we love our dog as much as we love you, that should be taken as a compliment rather than an insult. Because we really, really love our dogs.
Sometimes we just need to go get drunk with our friends. Without you. And no, we don’t want to join you on girl’s night out. Even if Jen’s boyfriend always comes along. We don’t even like Jen’s boyfriend all that much. He’s always talking about how much money he makes and we’d rather just meet up with you later on.
We’d also rather you be on time than have your hair done perfectly.
Don’t bug us about being in the bathroom. It’s been a sitcom joke since the 70’s, but somehow it still surprises you that men like to spend a lot of time on the toilet. It’s comforting. You should try it.
When you’re upset and we ask, “Are you on your period?” that’s not meant to dismiss your anger, merely to clarify how apologetic we should be. We know it seems dismissive, but you do become hormonal, easily enraged and violently emotional once a month and we should know if your anger is stemming from nature’s cruel joke or something legitimately bad that we did (or if nature’s cruel joke is fanning the flames of a minor irritation). Because, really, you get to act like an asshole once a month and we’re duty bound to apologize in an attempt to calm your nerves, so forgive us for wanting to know if the current argument is taking place in that grace period (pardon the pun). We’ll never understand the tempest of hormones awash in your body during your period so don’t be surprised to find us confused when you’re screaming at us for not drying the spoons enough before putting them away. It’s baffling.
Consider male horniness the equivalent of the female period: Nature gave it to us for the purpose of making babies, we can’t do anything about it and it makes us act crazy sometimes.
And no matter what female comedians say, we do care if you’re sexually satisfied. It makes us feel like we’re good in bed. Unfortunately, you don’t come with a user’s manual (again, pardon the pun), so we might need some help. It’s incredibly emasculating to ask for advice, so please just offer it. There’s really no downside: you get yours, we get to feel like Casanovas and next time we’ll know what you like. Everybody wins!
I know you think it’s childish, but videogames are fun. Please let us play them without ridicule.
Understand, too, how difficult it is for us to admit when we’re wrong. Just as you’ve been raised by culture and advertising to strive for an unrealistic level of beauty and perfection, so too have we been raised to strive for an unattainable level of correctness in all things. We know when we’re wrong, the words just don’t easily come out. We appreciate you bearing with us on this as we attempt to reconcile our personalities forged in the 20th century to the realities of the 21st.
By the same token, you’re also not always correct, even if every bumbling moron ‘dad’ character in car commercials has convinced you otherwise. Sometimes we can put down the seats in the minivan without your help.
We’re not as good at dancing as you are. Sorry about this, but know that our reluctance to dance with you at weddings or clubs is due to embarrassment.
We want to hear about your ex-boyfriends as much as you want to hear about our ex-girlfriends. That is to say, not at all.
And speaking of other men, somewhere in the back our minds, buried deep underneath rational thought and societal teachings, we’re always wondering if we can beat that guy up. You know, if it came to that.
We are useless clothes shopping companions. Your clothes feature a baffling array of oddly-placed pockets, small zippers, florid ruffles, slits, slashes, gaping holes, and superfluous buttons that confuse and frighten us. We cannot tell you whether a shirt looks good or bad on you and, instead, will just agree with whatever you say. In a female clothing store, we’re merely sycophantic supporters so why even bring us along?
We like to drive. You can pick the music.
Spooning is a nice way to cuddle in bed, but a horrible position in which to sleep. If we turn away after a few minutes it’s not because we’re feeling distant or having second thoughts about you; it’s because one of our arms is awkwardly bent underneath your head and that is not a comfortable way to go to sleep.
We do think women are funny, just not all of them.
Sometimes we need to experiment with our facial hair, even if you don’t like it. Think of it as the equivalent of female hair styles. Every now and then you chop off your hair, change the color and turn your head into angular, spiky atrocities. We don’t like it but we know it’s something you need to do. That is our thinking when we grow a handlebar mustache or a pencil-thin goatee.
There is nothing more emasculating than when you offers us grilling advice in front of other men. Realize how this affects our standing in the pack. Even if we turn steak into shoe leather and shrimp into black, gnarled sea monkeys, keep quiet about it in front of our friends.
We really wish you’d try to get along with our friend, Jason. We know you don’t like him, but we’ve been friends forever and it would be a lot easier if you could just deal with him. We’ll try to deal with your friend, Kate, in return.
The modern man is encouraged to share his feelings but deals with a strange dilemma wherein an open display of emotion, such as crying, is still seen by many women as pathetic and weak. We’re not sure how to handle this yet, so check back with us in a few decades.
If we say another girl is pretty, we are not measuring her against you. We are merely making a passing—albeit ill advised —observation about the world around us. Men are fantastic commentators and, as such, have been trained to observe and report all that we see. It’s why when you’re driving in a car with your father he will be engaged in a never ending monologue about road signs, billboards, and restaurants that you pass along the way. “Exit 31. There’s a Wendys there. I like the baked potato. It’s gluten free so I can eat it. Look at that, a Days Inn. I thought they filed for bankruptcy?” etc. This is not an excuse for our behavior, but rather an explanation. Apologies.
We like to be the ones who set up new gadgets and electronics when we buy them. Just leave us alone while we attempt to figure out which wires do what. If we need help, we’ll ask. It’s not that we don’t think you can do it, it’s that electronics are like Legos for grownups. And we all loved Legos.
Though our bodies continue to age, our senses of humor stall around the age of 13. We certainly appreciate witty, intelligent comedy, but will also likely enjoy watching one of our friends fart in his little brother’s face. Or watching a dog run through a screen door. Or a toddler trying to say “truck” but saying “fuck” instead. That doesn’t mean we’re immature, just normal. Shakespeare and Chaucer wrote fart jokes. In this area, we have never, and will never, change.
Finally, almost everything we do is meant to attract you. If we want to get rich, it’s because we think you’ll like that. If we learn to play guitar, it’s because we think it will impress you. If we build a bridge or start a war or go to the moon, somewhere deep down, underneath all of our grandstanding about society and humanity, we’re just trying to make you like us a bit more. And yes, we want to get laid, but even more than that, we just want you to be impressed. We may not be dragging home wooly mammoth carcasses or beating weaker males with clubs anymore, but we’re still trying desperately, pathetically, often misguidedly, to make you pause for a second and think, “Whoa, who is that guy?”
I hope this clears up some confusion you may feel about us. And feel free to write back with any helpful hints for understanding you. Nature has determined that we need each other, so we might as well try as best we can to figure each other out.
Your friends, fathers, sons, boyfriends and husbands,