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."