The Opposite Sex 

The old give-and-take

The old give-and-take

BEN: For over a year now, Danny and I have done this column, and we’ve pretty much been beating around the bush. All people really want to know is, basically, “How do I tolerate the opposite sex long enough to love them?” Cosmo and other chick mags devote entire articles to the concept of how to make men happy and how to keep a relationship alive and healthy. Men’s mags like Maxim do the same thing, but with perhaps slightly different goals in mind. And here Danny and I have been trying to do the same thing in kind of a piecemeal fashion for 14 months. Week after week, we’ve poked our nose into every conceivable nook and cranny trying to come up with answers to these ongoing questions. Well, this week I’m going to cut the crap and lay it out for you on how we see things from the male side of the fence.

First, start by putting down the Cosmo, and quit trying to manipulate us. We are not lost puppies that you’ve picked up on the side of the road and need to housetrain. There is no better way to aggravate someone than by making ludicrous attempts to fool them into “being romantic” or “opening up.” Besides, it’s all just a scam. The “expert” on Oprah is not interested in helping you—she just wants you to buy her book. Helen Gurley Brown may have started off catering to the confident modern woman, but now Cosmo counts on the insecurities of its readers to sell magazines.

Next, quit making mountains out of molehills. Everything does not have a secret subtext. Just because we find someone else attractive doesn’t mean you need to change your looks. I guarantee you that 99 percent of the time, we are happy with you the way you are. The same goes for casual remarks that more than likely really are about insignificant matters. “I like these flapjacks” does not mean, “Gee, I wish you’d cook me breakfast,” or “God, I wish you had more booty.” And not everything is worth going 15 rounds over. I have had previous relationships go up in a heaping wall of flames because the girlfriend could not let a sleeping dog lie.

Let us do our own thing when we need to. Getting into a relationship does not mean, “Let’s spend every waking hour together,” or “My former interests hold no allure for me.” Distance does make the heart grow fonder, and everyone needs a balance in his or her life. Let us go out with the boys without dread of reprisal or whining. Just because we love you doesn’t mean you factor into our every single activity.

Finally—and this should really be the no-brainer here—sex and lots of it. In fact, if you can maintain a consistent level of sexual satisfaction in a relationship, then you can probably forget just about everything else in this column, because God knows we will. The truth is that, yes, sex for us is probably more important than it is for you.

Every man has a certain need for sex. If that level isn’t even coming close to being reached, we can become as irascible as Keith Richards stranded on a desert island without a Marlboro in sight. So if you’re indifferent to sex, or unexcited by it, you can count on having troubles down the road. Because there are only two ways infidelities happen: A man either falls in love with someone else, or his sexual needs aren’t being met. The bottom line is, we will always be interested in other women. But the difference between being turned on by another woman and instantly wanting to have sex with her is entirely up to you.

So maybe the bottom line is this: If you really do have to manipulate us, make us suffer through insignificant arguments, or keep us by your side as often as possible, there’s only one tool you’ll ever need.

DANNY: How many of you out there feel sorry for anyone who has to date someone like Ben? If she’s following the rules, she can’t read magazines for advice, can’t be the slightest bit insecure about his feelings for her, and has to “meet his sexual needs” to make sure he doesn’t fall in love with anyone else or act unfaithfully. With those kinds of guidelines, you’d think she wouldn’t have a problem with his need to let him do his own thing.

Although he comes off like a love Nazi, I can see where Ben’s really being honest, and not just stirring up shit. When I first read his part of the column, I had a bit of déjà vu. I could hear my ex-boyfriend telling me, “Look, the next time you date somebody, don’t be so controlling. Don’t yell at them when they make mistakes.” The truth is, women do the kinds of things that Ben described. Sometimes we use weird, manipulative games; sometimes we get needy, clingy, and neurotic in a million other ways that he probably just didn’t have the room to detail. The question is—why?

Lucky for you, Gentle Reader, I have the answer. Women who act like that aren’t getting what they need from their boyfriends. What a revelation! A woman who seeks out relationship advice from chick mags, who’s jealous, who’s insecure about herself, who gets worried every time her man walks out the door must have a reason. She’s either been screwed over before and she’s playing old tapes, or her boyfriend is making her that way. Women, contrary to popular belief, do not enjoy being nutballs, and we don’t consider obsessing over men a constructive way to spend our time.

Men are capable of playing their own games. Guys can be cold and distant; they can ogle other women in our presence. When they do “go out with the boys,” nine times out of 10 they’re going to act like jackasses. They don’t go to the bookstore or even to the neighborhood bar to have a drink: They go to titty bars; they drink too much and drive around; they get rowdy and try to beat people up. About a month ago, Ben went to a bachelor party for a friend. When he got back, I asked him how it went. He replied that they ingested many a mind-altering substance, rode around in the back of a limo screaming lyrics to AC/DC songs, and relaxed at what I’m sure is a very wholesome establishment called Bambi’s.

My point is, women don’t play games unless they have a reason. If we’ve got a man whose every gesture tells us that we’re the only one he’s interested in, there’s no need for us to read between any lines and there’s nothing to make a big deal over. And as far as the sex thing goes, as romantic as James Brown makes it seem, women are not sex machines. I don’t want to feel like I’m putting out just to satisfy a certain level of expectation. Not mine, not his—but maybe ours.

Realistically, in every relationship, there’s some kind of power struggle. But if everybody’s communicating and trying their best to cater to each other’s needs, the playing field should equal out. Thanks for the advice and all, Ben, but women don’t need a list of things not to do—we just need a man who doesn’t make us do them.

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