Saturday, 26 May 2012

Don't Make It So Easy

I love to write posts with great sweeping generalizations, if you haven't noticed. Today's sweeping generalizations are about young men and challenges. Young men are easily bored, and because they are easily bored they look around for challenging things to do. Two real life examples include young men switching very heavy gravestones at a cemetery near a parish where I worked and young engineering students reassembling a car on top of the Student Academic Council building at the University of Toronto. I very much admire the young male thirst for challenges and wish it didn't so often include vandalism.

There was a combox question yesterday from a reader who is trying to decide if she should apply for a job in her long-distance boyfriend's city. They have been dating for four months. She is ahead of him on the career ladder; he's still in school. They do seem to have a lovely relationship, but although they miss each other terribly, there has not been the ghost of a shadow of a whisper that he might transfer to a university in her city. And I'm not saying there should be. I'm just pointing out that the "Move or Not to Move?" challenge is sadly not the boyfriend's, but the girlfriend's.

If she moved to his town, he wouldn't have to lift a finger. He wouldn't have even the challenge of clearing time and saving money to go and see her. What he would have, however, at a very early stage in their relationship, is the nagging sense that she had uprooted her whole life for him. Like a wife. Or his mother. And most men really don't want to marry their mother. Oh dear. I mentioned the M-word. But if you move to your new boyfriend's town just because he's in it, guess what word is hovering in the air? And this is not a word you want to bring up yourself, at least not until you've been dating for a year.

Would you leave your city and almost everyone you know for a guy you've been dating for only four months? Because I didn't leave my town without two rings on my stubby ring finger. Visiting the man? Absolutely. But moving 3,317 miles to his town without being married first? No way.

Charming Disarray was frustrated by yesterday's conversation because, as she rightly pointed out, sometimes there is no-one available where you live. If you shouldn't have a long-distance romantic relationship with someone with whom you are not engaged, and if you shouldn't be engaged to someone long distance, what should you do?

Well, hold on there, CD. I was never that limiting. I just wanted to point out the difference between real relationships and fantasy-land email/telephone exchanges. And real relationships, including and especially long-distance relationships, take work, work I'd prefer to leave to the man, except for the fun stuff, like talking and writing funny emails. Anything challenging, like finding the cheapest flights ever, is something I'd leave to a man. But other than crying a lot because I missed him, I felt no real drawback to being engaged to a guy overseas. We left the bulk of the wedding preparations to my talented mother. It was never me alone with a hall manager and a tasting menu because our wedding reception was straight out of Little Women. Homemade--and fantastic--dress. Homemade--and glorious--wedding cake. Sandwiches. Endless bottles of Heinkel Trocken. Okay, so there was no Heinkel Trocken at Meg March's wedding. But you get the picture.

What I think women should do is sit still and leave the heavy-lifting to men. Women do so much emotional heavy-lifting and relationship building as it is that, really, we are in much more danger of doing too much than of doing too little. It's not about being hard to get. It's about not being so easy to get that the guy gets bored--or frightened--and doesn't bother.

On a micro level, it is great fun to sit in a chair all night and see who comes up to you to chat. If chat with the same person goes on too long, you can always get up and pour yourself another drink or find another girl to chat with for a bit before returning to your chair or, if someone has taken it, finding another chair to be restful in.

The most important rule in the Restful Chair Game is never to leave your chair to pursue the best-looking man at the party around the room. If you do that, you will only be providing entertainment for the other girls who are playing the Restful Chair Game. If the best-looking man at the party wants to speak to you, he will look at you at some point, and then you can sweetly smile at him. Then he will either amble over to say "Hi", which is great, or he will wander away, which sucks, and I guess he didn't want to talk to you after all, but at least all you did was smile.

Not being Queen of the World, I cannot turn the clock back to 1804 and declare that, from now on, no unmarried woman can ever approach a man at a party ever again but must merely stand about looking glamorous or sit looking restful. I am aware that modern unmarried women have male buddies that they simply must talk to right now and that some modern unmarried women need to dart about from group to group at parties like hummingbirds on speed because that is who they are. And that's fine. But I recommend the Restful Chair Game once in a while as an exercise in remembering that some of the work involved in relationships should be left to men. Otherwise they will get spoiled and bored or irritated or frightened.

Don't make it so easy. Trust to the male love of challenges, even if the challenge is only to walk across the room to say "Hello."


J said...

In terms of long-distance relationships not rooted in reality, I did the whole letters/phone/undefined relationship with a boy thing. It ended quite quickly when I made myself too available, I think -- he had come to visit me (with the excuse of having other friends in the area as well), but when I went to visit him (at his invitation), I started to treat our relationship as an actual Relationship haha, and the phone calls/letters from him just dwindled into nothing. I don't completely regret it (the communication we had was nice for awhile), but it's still irritating that he never had to explain himself.
I agree that long-distance needs to have an expiration date or else it's sort of pointless.

More on topic to this actual post and making the guys do the heavy lifting in a relationship:
I'm going to a wedding this summer of a male friend of mine from college. He and his fiancee dated in college but have been long-distance for the last four years since graduation. For the first two years, they were both in programs about four hours apart, but when her program ended, she got a job in the town where she grew up, 8+ hours from him. I know he wasn't happy that she chose to not get a job in his city, but it didn't end their relationship. (He's graduating med school a month before their wedding, and I think their agreement is that they'll live wherever he gets placed, so there is some give/take on both sides in terms of where to live.)

Aaaanyway, my point with that these stories is that guys who want long-distance to work will make it work, and those who don't, won't...almost in spite of whatever the girl does.

Seraphic said...


Lena said...

Another great post.

Ryan said...

I agree. The accomplishment of an adventure is absolutely critical to us, as men. A good woman allowing a man to work to win her heart helps him to become a man. There are worse things in life than being another person's greatest adventure, I should think.

Of course that is no guarantee that someone will be man enough to pursue the adventure. Sad, really, but that's the world we live in. Sometimes it really does come down to which you prefer more, self-respect or companionship. I personally will choose self-respect every time. As a man, companionship is worth nothing without true self-respect.

Seraphic said...

By "Restful Chair Game" I mean, of course, a game you are playing with yourself. It is not I repeat not about trying to control men. The problem with men reading girl stuff is too many of them are constantly worried that we are trying to trick/control them in some way. `

Seraphic said...

That was not directed at you, Ryan.

Sigh. You know how I always talk about most men not thinking like women? Well, most women do not think like men. Women don't think in terms of "game" and "how do I get this complete stranger to do stuff I want him to do"--unless they are glamour model type women hanging around the kinds of bars very rich men frequent.

There are lots of books and guides and blogs aimed at helping men "score" women, which means to say, getting sex "for free." I have not come across blogs and books about how to trick men. Even poor old "The Rules" despite what men keep repeating is not about tricking men but about women keeping their own self-respect and investing emotional energy only in men who are really interested in them and in whom they are really interested.

Seraphic said...

(The context for my last two comments was a comment-by-a-guy I wiped out.)

sciencegirl said...

Not every party-goer is intent on finding a date, and that's okay. The Comfortable Chair Game is still a good strategy for enjoying a party and being a good guest.

As a graduate student and professional, I have attended many parties at professors' homes. Those in attendance included married professors, married students, dating students, and even the children and elderly parents of professors and students. By playing Seraphic's game of Comfortably Sitting, I was able to have pleasant conversations with all of these diverse people. I wasn't looking for a date among all these atheists and agnostics, anyway.

At parties with other young Catholics, I was more interested in the young men because they shared my values, but I played the same chair game because it is bad behavior on the part of a guest to talk only to the man in the room one finds most handsome. By sitting, I was able to talk to men and women alike. Meanwhile, yes, I could sit back and observe which young women were trotting along after which young men, and which young men were trotting along after which young ladies. I will also add that the young men trotted after were usually the ones who seemed like they were having a good time, not the ones who refused to speak. Sometimes the loud happy men were the ugliest in the room, but they were thronged with women, because fun is more attractive than dull. I also noted that many times, the women busy flirting with the hottest man in the room were completely ignorant of the men who were showing interest in them. If they had been sitting and talking with anyone, those men would actually have had more of a chance.

Shyness may be felt by anyone, but shy behavior is neither alluring nor special, it is annoying. A shy little kid who hides behind her mom is less fun to talk with than a happy little girl who is actually willing to tell you how old she is. A non-conversant teenager is less pleasant than a teenager willing to share stories of high school life. A adult who mutters monosyllables is a burden, while an adult willing to make polite conversation is a pleasure. Shyness is also an emotion most people overcome when they really care about something. I have seen many a pert young lady throw herself at a disinterested young man with the excuse, "But he's shy! He needs encouragement!" only to later observe the shy young man bring a gorgeous, brilliant date to the next party. I've shaken the clammy, trembling hands of awkward scientists married to delightful wives they wooed and won in college. The scientists need 3 beers before they can make easy conversation with even their old, dear male friends, but when they managed somehow to approach women they really found smart and attractive. They also managed to approach committees for jobs and give daily lectures to students. Shyness can be mistaken for a superior attitude.

If a man is burnt out on dating, I recommend he stop for a while. If a man is burnt out on partying, I recommend he stay home. If a man goes to a party, he can play the Comfortable Chair Game too, and if it brings him into conversation with a woman playing the same innocent party game, perhaps, if they hit it off, they may eventually get married and host parties together.

Charming Disarray said...

Well I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I read the original comment as saying that they had been dating for five years, not four months. It seemed to me that if a guy was going to be scared off by the commitment of a move after five years, then something was really off. Four months is a different story, especially if he is hesitating over it. But that in itself seems like a red flag to me.

I have no problem letting men do the heavy lifting. It certainly gets much easier with practice as long as you're prepared to ignore the ones who aren't willing to lift a finger. This is especially important in the beginning of a relationship. But I do wonder where the cutoff point is, especially considering that many Catholic relationships are long distance and that the intention is to lead towards marriage? Add to that the fact that many of the people who are in these relationships are early in their career as well and do have to think about practical realities like where to find a job, which, considering the economy just about everywhere, is not as simple as sending out applications to wherever you happen to feel like living. And most people don't have thousands of dollars lying around for expensive trips every few months, so the couple will end up not seeing each other. At some point being coy is a luxury that might come at too high of a price.

Men should absolutely do the chasing, but all that chasing has to lead somewhere concrete, and not years and years later. And that concrete thing might be that the girl moves to where he is because she's able to and he's not, and he needs to have the maturity not to be scared off by it. Finding a spouse isn't a game. If a guy doesn't want the girl he's dating to be in the same city as him, maybe he shouldn't be wasting her time at all.

Charming Disarray said...

All of that said, my general principle is that women shouldn't go out of their way or do anything they'll regret if the man turns out to be a jerk. Absolutely let him prove himself and his interest, and be prepared to walk away if he flakes.

Domestic Diva said...

I absolutely agree with what you say in principle, Seraphic. But my question is, if the girl needs to move anyway, why can't she apply in his hometown along with other places? If she got an offer in his town that appealed to her, she could go with the idea that things might not work out between them, but that she might love her new job and make a life for herself even without him.

I am a fan of people living in the same town before marriage. I started dating a guy 4 months before I finished grad school. He still had another year to go. We discussed it, and decided I would apply many places, including the town we were in for school, and see what doors God opened. He opened up a job for me in town. I am so glad I stayed, because as the bloom wore off our relationship, I saw that we were not suited. If I had left and we'd had a LDR, I would not have seen those problems. I realize my situation is different because I wasn't moving to "his territory," so to speak, but I'm not sure I wouldn't move to a guy's city if I thought the relationship was going somewhere...always keeping in mind that we could break up and I'd have to forge a life for myself in that place without him. Or move again.

Seraphic said...

It has not been established that this girl needs to move. What she needs is to start her career. If she wants to start it with short contracts, like one for a year, then that might be a good idea. A year's contract anywhere suggests that she is open to a future to the relationship, but not going to uproot her life for some guy after only a few months.

I agree that it's a tough call, but honestly I really don't think it's a good idea to move to a place primarily because your boyfriend-of-four-months lives there.

A shared town, like your university town, is a different story. It isn't all about him. You have your own friends and routines there. In such a case, you aren't moving; you're just deciding to stay.

It could be, of course, that the best job possible happens to be in his town. And if so, she might want to stress this, so Boyfriend (who has already expressed misgivings: red flag) doesn't feel as jittery.

Pearly White said...

Here's a story of a Catholic couple I know of:
She was living and working overseas and knew of this nice fellow back home from way back - relationship starts up long distance.
He visits her with another of her friends from home and they have a nice time while being chaperoned.
She finishes work overseas (came naturally to an end), and instead of moving back to where her own family and friends are, she moves to where he is living and working (good job) away from his family.
They are not engaged at this point and a lot of people are wondering - what on earth is happening - including her own family. She only has his work friends and has to try hard to find temp work to support herself. She may also take on some duties that only married ladies should do (laundry) etc...
Her family and friends are still wondering - what on earth is going on? She gets upset when asked.
They finally get engaged and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

Point of the story was not just the iffy indeterminate period of dating and being engaged, but the speculation and I have to say, scandal, it caused to those who cared about both of them.
Everyone of course hopes that temptation will be resisted, but it's just not a good look.
Particularly consider how it would look to non-Catholics they would be mixing with.
The other point to note is that really - he didn't have to go out of his way at all. On face value - it was obvious that she was very ready to settle.

They are married now and that is great - but I don't think it's a good example to set.

theobromophile said...

It's about not being so easy to get that the guy gets bored--or frightened--and doesn't bother.

Eh, I take the view that "not being so easy to get" just lets you weed out the ones who aren't interested in you, rather than making men more interested. (Incidentally, many men who like "hard to get" or some version thereof are downright possessive and somewhat creepy. Yes, you'll get male attention, but check out the type of attention - yuck!)

That aside: what on earth is with the modern idea that women ought to uproot their lives to be with a man -- without being married to him? It's "empowering" because we're supposed to move around like furniture on a UHaul with half the guys we date, not just a husband?

Do NOT throw your financial lot in with a man's unless his is thrown in with yours - i.e. you're married. Do not choose your college, graduate school, medical school, or job based on him. Do not work less hard to get on Law Review because of him, unless he's legally obligated, as your husband, to help repay your student loans or mortgage or retirement. There is NO reason for things to fall entirely on your head if you break up.