Oh hooray! A new era in my internet life has begun because now I have a wireless connection and access to youtube and all kinds of other freedoms. Yay!
But to get down to the business of the morning, I would like to remind you that, unless you have the people skills of the Marquise de Meurteil, who was incredibly wicked and also fictional, you cannot control anyone but yourself. The best you can hope for is that you can prevent people from treating you badly and that you can influence them to treat you well.
One good way to prevent men from treating you badly and to influence them to treat you well is to keep it a secret that men have ever treated you badly and to very occasionally mention that men have treated you well. The safest men to mention in this context are your father and brothers. When I think my husband should be at home and not at work anymore, I just call him up and shout, "The men in my family are at home by seven o'clock!"
Now I have been married for three years, so you may be wondering when I had a deeply cathartic conversation with B.A. about whichever men I dated who were absolute rat-b*stards. The answer is NEVER. I do not feel any need for such cathartic conversations because the appropriate people for such confidences are (A) a trained therapist (B) a priest under the seal of the confessional and (C) a close female friend with an amazing talent for keeping secrets.
I can imagine situations in which it might be relevant for other women to have to mention past rat-b*stard suffering to fiances or husbands ("I suppose you've been wondering about this scar/my neurotic aversion to the state of Texas/these children following me around"), but none have cropped up for me yet. My divorce papers were yellowing by the time I met B.A., my annulment decrees were safe in their sacred box, and I had dumped my baggage at the therapist's office for a tidy sum, so it was full speed ahead and "My father and brothers adore me and the elder brother is a crack shot."
But this is not the issue of the day. No, the issue of the day is men who have a lot of female friends and assure you that their female friends are indeed just friends even though you're not so sure and you're chewing out your liver over them.
This brings us to the question, "Can men and women be friends?" The answer is, "Duh. Yes, of course," and I expect theobromophile to show up in the combox and cheer. However, the answer to the question, "But are men and women ever sexually attracted to men and women who are just, you know, their friends?" is also "Duh. Yes, of course."
Occasionally I get comments and email from women and a few men who wail that they seem to be just the "friend type." Personally I think it can be bad manners to allow people to think that they might just be the friend type. In fact, I think it can be good manners to hint to single people that if it weren't for stern fate, possessive significant others, or the adamantine will of God, that you would be tempted to run away with them to Paris.
Of course, this isn't good manners if you suspect they might be actually that into you. And admittedly a social technique based on lies (if they are lies, ha ha) is very problematic from an Augustinian point of view. We all know I'm not a trained therapist, right?
Okay, so anyway there are men who are sick of the drama and nonsense of meeting and dating multiple women and just want to settle down, watch TV with someone nice and have guaranteed guilt-free sex at least once a week. But then there are men who are still in love with the idea of dozens of groupies (or maybe two) all competing for their attention. And, to be frank, I can't throw stones because I recently came home from a party bragging to B.A. that four guys hit on me. Oh wait. It was only three. But still. THREE. Ah ha ha ha ha!*
The question is how you cope with men like that, and what I suggest is to not get sucked into their orbit in the first place. Go through the world scattering smiles and hellos and see who pops up at your side. Don't look at groups of men as though they were a menu you could choose from, e.g. "Who's cute? Oh, hmm. That one. The one with all the girls dancing around him. Yes, that's the one for me." And keep Mr Pop-up at a friendly distance until you have ascertained that the field is free from rivals.
My mother told me a million years ago that women couldn't ask out men and all we could do was wait for invitations and say "Yes" or "No." I was furious and didn't listen because I thought what she said was prescriptive and nagging and judgmental and out of date. What I didn't get was that, with some lucky exceptions, it was descriptive. It was also loving and protective because--and it would have been helpful if you had pointed this out, Mum--if you ask a man out or suggest he become your boyfriend, he might rub his hands with glee and think "Oh, goody! Another one for my collection!"
As an aside, the reason why a woman should never ask a man to marry her is because she runs the risk of him saying, should she ever be in a meltdown about something in their married life, "Hey. You asked me to marry you." Do you really want to give a guy that card for fifty years? I shudder just thinking about it.
All this is really bad news because most classic** love stories are written from the guy's point of view and so women think the epitome of romance is to fall in love with someone of their own choosing and hang around until he falls in love with them, too. I bet you any money Sixteen Candles was written by a man. Of course, this does happen for women, every 50th crush or so. One out of fifty doesn't look so bad when Mr. 50 has seized you in his manly arms and professed his undying love.
But this is usually going to be the guy who really is sick of the drama and excitement of dating multiple women and just wants to settle down and watch TV, etc. And, yes, he may very well have female friends, but they are going to express their friendship by telling you what a great guy he is, not by competing with you for his attention. If they are competing with you for your boyfriend's attention, either he or they have boundary issues. Discuss. "Ah, ha, ha, ha. Hey, babe, I'm really embarrassed to mention it, but I think Sandra has a crush on you."
B.A. has lots of female friends, who either live very far away and are therefore greatly neglected or are his colleagues. These colleagues told me before I married B.A. and then just after how great B.A. is, really, and now they ask me how I put up with him. Meanwhile he never ever comes home and brags about how many women hit on him, either because women never do hit on him or because he is prudent. Whereas B.A. is the sort of laid-back man who always says "That's nice, darling," I am the kind of woman who shrieks "WHAT! Who? WHERE? When? WHY?"
*Update: I'll tell you what it was, though. I was the oldest woman in the room, I was wearing a dress cut to there, and I was drinking out of a can. Two of the men who came up to me were significantly older than the other girls around. Tah-dah! Simple anthropology.
But I admit I am extra chuffed that one of them, while scanning the crowd for my (absent) husband, thought he could be "the bearded one." The bearded one was 24 years old, so I rock. I so rock. (Does victory dance. Cancels appointment with dermatologist.) Sunscreen, girls. Wear it.
**Well, not romance novels, obviously. But the BIG STORIES not written by Jane Austen or the Brontes and most of the films.