“Boys only want love if it’s torture. Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn you.”
These are the soon-to-be young female mission statement lyrics of career misandrist Taylor Swift, from the number one song in the country (full disclosure: it’s a great song, dammit). How does that strike you? True? Unfair? Would the bridge of that song–those words, chanted twice–be so accepted if the gender was flipped? Don’t be mistaken, I don’t mean this to be a #yesallmen creed. I think Taylor Swift can get away with singing about the insanity of men (boys?) because it flips the standard script. It’s a subversion. Women are typically the ones labeled “crazy” because they’re emotional, unreasonable, and prone to obsession, right? They hold onto relationships longer than they should, and then they gather for brunch to play victim as they list the men who’ve wronged them. Meanwhile, men just exist, oblivious and contented, amenable to the simple pleasures of life until their ex-girlfriends show up to boil their beloved pet rabbit. Bitches, amirite?
On an upcoming podcast (next week’s was taped Tuesday), I answer an email from a guy who brought a date–a girl he likes–to a party, only to watch her slink off with someone else for what I can only imagine was some extremely hot cuckolding sex. He said he later worked it out with her, which I suppose means she knew his feelings for her, and he wanted to know if he should try again. My answer was no and my reasoning was water-tight, elegant in its simplicity: because she’ll think you’re a pussy. Someday, I hope they carve those words of advice into the inlaid gold of my Rowdy Gentleman-brand tomb. To expand on that, young women–or young men, for that matter–are not generally attracted to the safe, predictable, approachable option. It’s the boldness and, by extension, the indifference of the opposite sex that gives us the charge of a challenge, the confidence that someone is a mate of substance. It’s a feat we must accomplish, because what else is there? Take God out of the equation and we are born to procreate with the best possible suitor to further our species before we die. So, yeah, don’t act like a pussy.
But isn’t that a level of insanity in itself? We can’t even tell women what we think or feel about them because the game is structured in such a way that acting opposite our interests is strategically the best option. Any negotiation is always won by the person most willing to walk away. But what happens when that “negotiation” lasts a few months? What about a year? What about a lifetime? It’s not sustainable. I believe it’s in this transition, this attempt to return to normal life, where most relationships fall apart. The moment she starts keeping tampons under his sink and he starts asking her to split the bill is this breakdown of the illusion. People–men AND women–flounder like they’re drowning because they are trying to be the bill of goods they initially sold, yet also the person they really are. Frequently, those are two very different things. Women aren’t crazy. Men aren’t crazy. We are strategists in a crazy reality. Some are just better than others.
The bigger question is this: are you willing to walk away from all that? I mean the illusion? The reality of a good relationship is that it is, by definition, boring, at least from the perspective of an outsider. There isn’t a dramatic arc, because drama doesn’t exist if you’re able to work out problems in a practical and meaningful way (people don’t write hit pop songs about how they had that really productive conversation about maintaining separate hobbies and interests). The issue is that “practical” and “meaningful” are so out of tune with the beginning of any relationship, ESPECIALLY the passionate ones. Can you give up that fantasy? Or do you self-destruct what you created because it’s too boring or too real or too comfortable? The big difference is that women tend to do this through action (“screaming, crying, the perfect storm,” as T. Swift puts it), and men frequently do this through inaction. And there lies the truth. Women aren’t crazier than men; they just may be a bit more obvious about it.
So Taylor Swift isn’t right, by the way. Boys don’t want torture. They just want back that lustful, interesting beginning, when they were still the best version of themselves. Same as women. The torture comes in when we fight to get it back, paddling furiously to a ship that sailed a long time ago. You really only have two options at that point: settle into your new life as a significant other or get out altogether. Anything else would just be crazy..
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