Oh boy, how does life work out for anybody?
It doesn’t. We’re all just meant to love one another and eat meals with each other and talk, because getting to know people helps you love them.
But still. I mean, this being a human being shit is hard. Doing everything right? Being wise? Listening to your intuition, or your gut, or both? Trying to know everything there is to know before you’ve actually lived it? And then there’s no one you can turn to who has all the answers?
Get me a cigarette.
Oh wait, I don’t smoke unless I’m in Europe. Sigh.
So one of my favorite movies keeps playing in my head, and I’m going to share it with you, because my friend Sara and I are in an argument about men and women and how they ever, ever, actually come together.
And because there’s no formula for any of this bullcrap in life, but most people at least want someone to hold them at the end of the day. Most people want to at least have this partner business taken care of before they deal, or as they deal, with all the rest of the stuff life throws at you.
The problem is, having someone hold you at the end of the day means there are all sorts of other kinds of expectations, and centuries of other people’s wounds and problems and assumptions get lumped onto an act like that, or any act between two people who are considering having sex. Getting intimate with another person kind of makes people go crazy. It’s the love drug, I guess, some chemical that rewires your mind and body. And this is why spiritual leaders all across the world are often single or celibate (yuck!), because they have to keep their heads on straight, or they’ll lose their minds and won’t be useful to anybody.
But I have a real problem with this. Because most of us are in relationships or want to be in one in some capacity, and why should we listen to somebody teach us what it means to know God—or whatever you want to call God. Goddess? Universal Love? Ultimate Reality?—and live in the world in a meaningful, life-giving way, if he or she doesn’t also know how to cook and clean and take care of kids and have sex and text ridiculous emojis in order to set up meetings with people. Or work the technology that is required to edit a podcast. I mean, I want someone telling me what to do who is also in the trenches! I trust that person more!
So anyway, watch this clip from one of my favorite movies, Singles, and then I want to discuss some things with you.
I just love this movie, and I totally love Steve. Steve wears his heart on his sleeve, and yet he makes a stupid mistake, because he’s afraid of getting hurt. We’re all afraid of getting hurt! Every one is a vulnerable person! Every one has feelings, even if they pretend they don’t! So Steve plays a little game, devises a little strategy that he hopes will somehow win the woman and keep him looking cool and on top of things. It’s a power play, essentially. (I’m doing a lot of research on this topic, so get close and listen.) In romantic relationships, we have a natural inclination to assume that the person who is less available has more power. The person who wants to connect, who wants to be together, is therefore more vulnerable and kind of needy, is our assumption. And so this story of hierarchy develops in our minds which is really all bullshit, but which we cling to, because we have egos, and we want to protect them when it comes to love. (And love can be crushing. Eek!) This hierarchy shifts at various stages of a relationship. And none of us wants to feel powerless, and none of us wants to admit he or she is vulnerable, so we end up playing all these little games, or doing things that don’t reflect our actual feelings or intentions, because we want to get the formula right. We want to come out above, in some way. We want to look cool and attractive and desirable, and looking cool and attractive and desirable means we have to be a bit distant.
Women have played this game for years. We are taught we have to be hard-to-get, and wait for a man’s call, to see if he really has intentions. And we want a man who is attentive, and how will we know if he is attentive if he can’t make some moves at the outset of a relationship?
The problem is, men don’t know what they’re allowed to do anymore. Because gender stuff is all confused, and women have made strides in all these areas, and men are still catching up. Is a man allowed to say a woman has nice earrings? Is he allowed to open a door? Women are all so different! What works for one doesn’t work for the others, and if you make a wrong move she might yell at you or get all hot-headed, so it’s best to just stay calm and do nothing, some men think. Let her take the lead.
Meanwhile, women are totally pissed that the man isn’t doing anything, and everybody’s super horny and annoyed, and no one’s actually connecting, because our whole understanding of how dating works nowadays is to swipe left and right on a picture of somebody like you’re flipping through models in a magazine, and you get addicted to the movement of your fingers rather than ever getting to know anyone in a real and intimate way. Which means many of us end up hungry for love and alone, and eating too many pretzels, and telling ourselves we’re all just going to focus on work, and shoving all our feelings down and being repressed inside like hermits or monks.
Sigh. Can we have a teacher?
At the outset of any relationship are a lot of attempts at trying to dance together, but a lot of skittering away, too. A lot of “oh shits!” A lot of “ooh, hmms.” A lot of “I don’t know what’s what!”
And men and women are sitting on the other ends of their phones, totally frustrated and exacerbated and complaining to everyone else about how much people of the other sex suck.
What would happen if we all learned how to speak the same language? Like, if we didn’t strategize and try to think about what we wanted and how to get it, but instead just spoke from our hearts at any given moment, when we felt compelled, and allowed what comes to come, and what doesn’t come to move out of the way? Or we totally told someone what we thought at each and every stage, honestly, and saw what happened from there? Making no promises or commitments until that’s called for, but being real all the time?
What would happen if we just did our personal work so we knew were were in tune with who we are and what we want at various stages (and don’t skip this piece, because this is crucial) and then moved through the world cutting through any bullshit ideas or narratives that stand in our way and say how we feel and what we want? Spoke in a way that honors ourselves and honors another person, and doesn’t let ego dictate our methodology?
Ugh, now I realize that Sara’s right about something and this really pisses me off.
Here’s the thing: some level of ego is necessary to survive in this world. We need to have dignity, and discernment, and boundaries. All of us, men and women. It’s just that in this new world order we’re creating, and as everything is changing, we have to adapt and learn new ways. Old dating games, like that book, The Rules, just don’t work! (‘Member that book? I wonder if those women are still married. But is marriage even the goal? I’m kind of yuck about the government having any place in my pants.) Or, maybe the old dating games work for a little while, but then you end up snagging “the guy of your dreams” or “the most beautiful woman” and realizing later that the person is kind of shitty and all about outer appearances and games, when you really just wanted enduring love.
We are so worried about what people think of us. But just stop. You be you on any given day, on any occasion. (Eh hem, but first figure out who that is, please.) Say how you feel. If someone doesn’t respect the fucking bravery and strength it takes to speak your mind and speak your heart, fuck ’em. I’m serious. Then you know that person is not for you.
That’s how you handle a woman. That’s how you handle a man.
Let’s end with a really cute clip that supports all of what I just said.
(And don’t tell Sara I said she was right.)