For Those Keeping Score at Home…

Originally published in the Chesterfield Observer, February 2008

Heads up men: the high holy day of St. Valentine’s Day is approaching.

Women don’t understand the anxiety this holiday creates for men. It’s worse even than tax day, because at least we know what the government wants from us. But women? We understand nothing: how women think, their choices, motivations, likes or dislikes – NOTHING.

Men are like the blindfolded guy who touches a section of the elephant but can’t fathom its entirety. Except the elephant is actually a rodeo steer and when the guy carefully reaches out to touch the steer, the steer gores him or stomps him or throws him into the third row.

The fact that I chose a metaphor using elephants or steers to represent women only confirms the problem.

From men’s perspective, if making a woman happy was a test question, it would look like this:

 Question: What do women want? 

  1. Orange
  2. 3
  3. Who’s on first? I don’t know! THIRD BASE!!

This wouldn’t be a problem, except men really like women and want women to like us back. But we don’t know what will make women like us.

So we guess. Our first guess: a woman wants a man who treats her well. WRONG. It turns out that often girls want the bad boys. Makes no sense, right? Actually, from an evolutionary standpoint, it does. Back in the caves, the males fought over the female, then the female went with the biggest and baddest to ensure the strongest possible offspring. Sure, he’s a ticking time bomb, but he’s irresistible. That’s no consolation to us non-NFL players (or those who cite Darwin to explain their lack of appeal to women), but at least it’s logical.

Then there’s the scientific literature (i.e. trashy novels). These books feature a heroine driven crazy by the hard-muscled, hard-to-figure, hard to love, impossible not to-love rebel/stud detective or whatever, who gives her the cold shoulder one moment and rips off her bodice (whatever that is) the next.

The problem: hard to love is about the best that most guys can do. And without the rest of the package, hard-to-love is pretty hard to love.

Then there’s the challenge of a long-term relationship. Hillary Clinton said it well – not about marriage (insert joke here), but about politics and governing. Knocking charismatic Barack Obama, she said, “You campaign in poetry but you govern in prose.” It’s the same with romantic relationships: courtship’s poems are nice, but they don’t change the diapers, take out the trash or scoop the litter box.

It’s not easy to be Barack one moment and Hillary the next as you struggle to keep a marriage romantic and rolling. (For Republicans uncomfortable with the Barack/Hillary marriage metaphor, feel free to swap in Huckabee and McCain, but I’ll bet you’re still uncomfortable.)

Problem is, in a relationship you must constantly run for re-election. Otherwise, you’ll find your spouse flirting with some attractive Independent candidate, sort of a Ross Perot without the schizophrenia and shoe lifts.

Sound complex? Well, try figuring it from a man’s perspective. We are, justifiably, not known as the more discerning, nuanced, perceptive half of the species.

Despite the complexity, I DO know what I DON’T want: a relationship based on torment, tests and traded insults. In that vein, my wife, Stacy, and I have come to at least one positive conclusion: don’t keep score.

Men, if your wife says she wants a girls’ weekend, don’t say, “Well, then you owe me a boys’ weekend!” Instead, say, “ABSOLUTELY! In fact, make it a three-day weekend – me and the kids will be fine.” Pull your goalie and make it easy for her.

And women, don’t wait for your husband to call in the debt – instead, you suggest he deserves a guys’ night out.

As I write this, my wife and her friends (“the Ya-Ya’s”) are cavorting in Myrtle Beach on a girls’ weekend. And I am sure Stacy soon will offer to cover at home while I go do some guy thing.

Regardless of your approach, you’ll get yours, and she’ll get hers. The question is whether you take it from each other or give it to each other. Even a guy can figure out which is healthier.

So this Valentine’s Day, give her some jewelry, sure – but throw away the scorebook.

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Chuck Hansen’s books are available at Amazon.com: Nose-Sucker Thingees, Weeds Whacking Back & Cats in the Bathtub (a collection of humor essays) and Build Your Castles in the Air: Thoreau’s Inspiring Advice for Success in Business (and Life) in the 21st Century