Monday, 11 July 2011

You Can't Hurry Love

Some of my most enthusiastic readers are women in maths and the hard sciences. As I never grasped the simplest algebraic theorem, I am in awe. I assume my math-and-science readers must have worked very, very hard to be so good at math and science. Yes, they probably had some native talent, but my guess is that talent could take them only so far and then they had to work their slender fingers to the bone.

Hard work can bring you many things: good grades, the praise of your professors, scholarships, great jobs, promotions, a clean house, a stunning garden, riches, a muscular body. But I'll tell you that there is one thing you cannot get by working and that is romantic love.

Forget it.

The kicker? Men can.

"Oh but Seraphic," I hear some of you cry, "that's not true. If I worked harder on my appearance, for example, or on my tennis serve, or on my dancing skills, or on my jokes my current crush object would flock to me!"

So not true. I know that the television and magazines have told you thousands and thousands of times that you can win male attention and devotion through hard work or the right product, but they are lying.

I had an email today, and it was a very interesting, gut-wrenching email. It was an email about a crush, and I have seen variations on this email many times in the past year.

To sum up the email and its variations, a very bright and talented young woman met an attractive man and, after a lot of friendly online chat, told him she had feelings for him. The attractive man said that he just wanted to be friends, although he would not rule out romance in the future. And far from this hurting the friendship, they talk more than ever. However, the young woman feels jerked around. How can she make the attractive man stop taking her for granted?

My answer, as always, was "Stop Being So Freaking Available." And, as always, I pointed out that my reader laid her heart on the line, and the man rejected it. End of story. Or that should have been the end of the story. When you tell a man you have feelings for him, and he says he doesn't for you, your response shouldn't be "Okay, talk to you tomorrow." Your response should be "Wow. I feel totally embarrassed. I think we should spend some time apart. Bye."

When you tell a man you have feelings for him before you have proof positive he has feelings for you, you may have done one of two bad things:

1. you may have short-circuited a slowly budding romance

2. you may have given a man an excuse to take you for granted.

Let us look at these two possibilities:

1. The conventional wisdom of the ages is that men value only that for which they have to work. If men were automatically given a Porsche when they turned 18, they probably wouldn't value Porsches all that much. They'd drag race in them and play chicken with them and heaven knows what else. Men also like having adventures and taking risks. They like challenges. When I was asked who would have dug up huge gravestones in a local cemetery overnight and switched them around, I pondered the challenge involved and said "bored young men."

When you tell a man who is paying you gobs of attention that you have feelings for him, you ruin the challenge. It's like telling someone who is happily reading a book the ending. Men need to wonder and worry and doubt themselves and listen to sad songs and risk having you punch a hole in his heart with your high-heeled shoe. The time to tell a man that you have feelings for him is AFTER he tells you he has feelings for you, NOT BEFORE.

2. Meanwhile, the world is full of men and women who get a kick out of being admired. It's a very human trait. And there are people who so enjoy the attention of fans that they even encourage them in their crushes without giving much in return. The half-promise of romance in future is the carrot to keep you hooked.

Such men and women might call this mind-game "flirting," but it's not fun for the person with a crush. It's insensitive. Sometimes it's even cruel. Girls sometimes get a bad reputation for this kind of behaviour; I think men get away with it more. I know one man who brags about the women who propose to him. Needless to say, I don't set him up with friends.

There is no magic elixir to make a guy fall in love with you. He other does, or he doesn't, and if he doesn't, there's nothing you can do---except switch your focus from him to you. You can't control him, but you can control you.

Stop thinking about X. X may be a nice guy, but unless he is a kindly man who is crazy about you, he is by no means marriage material. Think instead about how you would prefer a man to treat you, and stop wasting time on Mr. Thinks He's Too Good For You Right Now.

P.S. Once one of these "friends now, maybe romance later" guys I've been written to about eventually confessed to being gay. He may have been using my female reader as cover. It's a tough old world, ladies. Be careful.


mary said...

I have heard advice to men saying that they shouldn't profess their ardor until the woman has said something first. With all these rules, I get frustrated because I like the idea of being honest about how I feel. If you like someone and want to tell them, why not tell them? It feels like game-playing to hold it in.
Nevertheless, please feel free to obliterate these ideas, as the last time I told a guy I liked him, it went nowhere fast, so clearly I don't have a proven track record here. I'm open to new ways of doing things. His not saying it first should have been a tipoff that he wasn't that into me. Que sera sera.

Seraphic said...

There are no rules. There is only the wisdom of the elders, for you to accept or reject. I recommend going with the wisdom of the elders who were born before 1930 or the wisdom of the elders at the forefront of the Benedict XVI generation, e.g. me.

mary said...

Oh I need all the wisdom I can get! I discovered your blog about a month ago, and it has provided so much reassurance and guidance, and I really am grateful for that. As you said, it's a tough old world, and reading your insights has been most enlightening, especially your suggestions about relating to men and dating, handling the situation of waiting, and enjoying single life. Thank you for the work you do!

Seraphic said...


Clare said...

What a great post! As another sciency girl, worried about what I can *do* to make myself more attractive/funny/kind etc, in hopes that it will attract the right person, it is so good to be reminded again and again to wait and be happy because there really isn't anything we can do. Off to reread your book!

Anonymous said...

I don't really have anything to add to your thoughts, only wanted to pipe up and chime in with the others that I always like reading your writing. It must be a labour of love. (That always sounds like it's horrible work with no rewards - I just mean you must love doing it to do it so steadfastly.) Thanks!


Eowyn said...

You mean to say...that whether or not I lose 10 pounds or start waking up earlier in the mornings or read this or that book or start songwriting will not make or break my future spouse finding and loving me? Egad...funny the things our heads know but our hearts don't, eh?

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

This advice is so hard to follow! Wish I had lived it a few months ago.

healthily sanguine said...

Fantastic. Love it.

Multum Incola said...

I'm really glad you wrote this post, I'm really glad I emailed you about it! Great transferable advice for us blokes!