The Secret Relationship Killer No One is Talking About

I broke up with my last boyfriend because of sex.

I didn’t tell him that, of course. I told him other things, things that were also true. So it’s not that I lied, but I didn’t share the full truth.

I didn’t tell him the full story for the same way a lot of people don’t tell … because we don’t want to “hurt each other’s feelings.”

I’m not alone in this. A lot of people end relationships in large part because of sex, while naming something else as the culprit.

I’m not saying sex isn’t cited. Often one person will say s/he wants it more (or less) than the other. One will say the other isn’t as “open-minded” as s/he wants.

But I don’t think we’re talking about the real, underlying reason behind the sexual dissatisfaction. It’s not that we could never satisfy each other. It’s not that we’re fundamentally different and fundamentally incapable of becoming compatible.

No.

I believe it’s because of something much more serious than we have given it credence for. I think it’s because of something that is just as much of a relationship-destroyer as cheating, yet remains something we rarely talk about. There’s a dirty little secret in most relationships, and that’s this:

We have no fucking clue how to talk to one another about sex.

I’m not talking about discussing frequency. I’m not talking about the, “Hey, it’s been a while since we had sex. Is everything cool?” conversation. I’m not even talking about the, “Hey, we need to talk about this … I feel like I want sex way more than you, and I’m afraid of what that means” thing.

No, not the how-often-we-have-it, not even details of whether or when you go down on me, or whether I am open to us having anal sex — I’m talking about the actual, down and dirty sex part.

What it feels like.

What I crave from you, and you from me.

Whether I trust you — really trust you.

Where I feel truly, extremely vulnerable sexually, and what that means for me.

Where you feel really, truly, extremely vulnerable sexually, and what that means for you.

Where we are meeting one another’s needs, and where we aren’t meeting one another’s needs.

In my case, I knew better. I knew what phenomenal, off-the-charts, haunting, mesmerizing, riveting, bed-shaking, earth-quaking sex felt like. I knew what it meant to be so totally absorbed by my my partner’s body, attention, and touch that I was rendered literally speechless.

I knew what truly great sex was, so I wasn’t willing to settle for “just OK.”

It’s not that I never tried to talk about it — at least in part. For example, I did bring up the idea of him being more gentle with his hands — a few times. He usually got more gentle for a few minutes (sometimes even one whole encounter) … then went back to doing it how he’d always done it.

After a few times, I let it go. I didn’t want to be perceived as a nag. I didn’t want to be perceived as demanding. I didn’t want to be told I was too sensitive or too much. I didn’t want to be shut down or shamed. So I let it go.

No, that’s the wrong phrase.

I gave up.

I recently conducted sex research on 1,000 people, and there were a lot of similar responses from the women. They said they’d tried to communicate with their partners about sex, then felt really discouraged when it didn’t “stick.”

So they did what I did: gave up. They’d grin and bear it, tolerate the pain when it happened, and just figure this was as good as it gets.

As good as it gets.

Now, to be fair to the men, my guess is that these women approached the conversation with as much trepidation as me, and without informing the men of the extent to which this was a problem. They probably didn’t say just how much it mattered, the same way I didn’t.

They didn’t give him the stakes.

For example: I said something like, “I would love a lighter touch. The more gentle you are with your hands, the more I feel. When it’s too much pressure, I numb out.”

The second time, I probably just said, “Lighter, lighter, lighter” — because he’d gone back to a pressure that hurt.

The third time, I squirmed and said, “Less pressure.”

The fourth time, I gave up.

Yet at no point did I say say:

“Listen, I’d love to talk to you about something really important. I’ve brought it up a few times, but I need to emphasize it: I really need a lighter touch when you touch my vulva with your fingers and hands. Right now, the pressure is often too much, and it hurts. The pain makes me cringe inside and tense my body, which then distracts me from any pleasure I might have been feeling. I end up feeling like I have to protect myself. This is really important to me. I want us to have beautiful, amazing, spectacular sex, and I want to enjoy every minute of it. In fact, it’s so important that if it doesn’t get better, I’m considering breaking up with you.”

Whoa.

Harsh.

Was I wrong to not say that?

Was I right to?

Was it my responsibility to make sure he understood the stakes, or was it his responsibility to take the direction I’d given (and not just forget about it by the next encounter)?

Whose “fault” was it?

I don’t know.

I do know that this is the dirty little secret in a LOT of relationships.

I do know that when you love someone, it’s hard to “criticize” them about something so inherently vulnerable.

I do know that when you don’t fully let yourself go during sex, it damages the intimacy of the whole relationship …  and that that is the beginning of the end.

So I want to know: How do you talk about sex with a partner (if at all)? Have you ever broken up with someone because of sex? Ever talked about it with someone and had it go well?

I’m conducting a survey about this to help understand the extent of the issue and the possible solutions. If you’re willing to share (anonymously), please do.

Let’s talk about how to talk about sex.

It’s time.

Take the survey: Sex Talk.

 

I Really Love That He Did This After Our Date

There is something deliciously, marvelously, exquisitely sexy about a man who pursues.

I met a guy at a party recently who Friended me that night on Facebook. He hit me up the next day, asking how I was, etc., and we chatted for a day or two before he asked for my number. It flowed in the conversation and he used the opportunity to also ask if I’d want to go see a movie sometime that we’d been talking about.

“Sure!” I said.

The next day he texted, “Good morning!” and we texted a bit about our days. Later that day, he said, “Good evening!” and said that if I wasn’t busy later, maybe we could talk on the phone?

I thought that was adorable. We talked for an hour.

Then the next day he texted to see whether we could get together the next week. We hung out in person a few days later, and had a nice, mellow date. The next day? Another text. Another reminder that he liked me, that he was interested, that he wanted to know how I was, that I mattered.

I felt pursued. And I loved it.

Now contrast this with a guy I went out with a few months ago who didn’t pursue me at all. We had an amazing date, I mean making-out-for-two-hours, hot-and-heavy-in-the-car, fantastic-conversation-and-chemistry, great fucking date.

After which I texted him a few times and got enthusiastic responses … but no pursuing on his part. No him texting first, asking me out, or even just seeing how I was. And while one could write this off as him just not being interested, I really don’t think that was it. I think it’s that he just … doesn’t … pursue. He’s more passive.

I’m not going to spend the rest of this article lamenting the many, many, MANY times I’ve been not pursued by men. I’m not going to list the number of times I’ve known a guy was into me by how he was looking at me, how he acted around me, how he told his friend he was into it … but then did nothing about it.

No, I’m simply going to wax poetic about how fucking awesome it is when a guy does pursue.

I went out with a man once who I was planning on just sleeping with and ditching (I’d literally gone out that evening like, “I’m going to find a guy to bang” … and I did).

But after I’d picked him up at 11pm on a Saturday night and we were in bed and it was time for sex, he said, “I actually like you … let’s wait.” So we did. All of 8 hours. We did it the next morning and then he insisted on taking me out to brunch.

Insisted on taking me to brunch.

Then he texted me later that day to see how I was doing and what I was up to. We ended up having dinner together and I took him home again.

The next day, he texted me again. “How are you?” “What’s up?” etc. He wasn’t just about the sex. He wanted to know who I was. He wanted to know how I was. He wanted to see me and he told me so. He pursued.

This man eventually became my boyfriend, and we learned a lot together. But the thing I’ll remember the most is how it felt to be pursued by him:

I felt happy.

I felt desired.

I felt feminine.

The fact is, I feel most in my feminine when I get to follow a man’s lead. When I am the one reaching out, pursuing, or going after it, I can feel feminine in a different kind of way (assertive, vixen-y, etc)., but that only lasts a short time for me. I’ve found that I feel happiest, most relaxed, and most excited when I get to follow his lead.

He has to lead, so I get to follow.

I remember having a conversation with a boy at a party in college and marveling at his comment: “I respect women, so I don’t want to bother them. If I’m interested, I generally keep it to myself.”

Wtf??

I blurted out, “But respecting women doesn’t mean ignoring them!”

Respecting women doesn’t mean ignoring them.

Guys, of course you are free to do whatever you like when it comes to the ladies. But if I could give you a small piece of advice when it comes to the leading/following game, it would be this:

If you like a woman, pursue her. Text her first. Ask her out. Text her again. (Lay off if it’s obvious she doesn’t want you to anymore, but you get what I’m saying.)

Pursue her … and watch her light up.

Survey Results: Over One Thousand People Weigh in About Sex, Dating & Relationships

[Photo credit: Tony Fischer]

About a year ago, I wrote a piece called My Top 3 Sex Problems As A Woman.

I did it to promote transparency and openness. I did it because I think we should talk about sex more, and more honestly. I did it because the better we feel about our sexuality, the better we are to ourselves. And others.

In that spirit, at the end of the article I invited people to participate by taking a survey. The questions were very simple:

  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to sex?
  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to dating?
  • What are your top 3 problems when it comes to relationships?

I wanted to see whether I was alone in my sex problems as a woman. I wanted to know what men would say. I wanted to see what trends would emerge.

I wanted the truth.

I thought I’d be lucky to get 100 responses. You can imagine my shock, then, when over 1,000 people responded. Then I read them and was even more shocked by their depth, range, vulnerability, and, yes, truth.

Get excited, because I’m going to share the results with you now.

First, a few notes on the data:

  1. Since each respondent could give 3 separate answers to each question, you’ll notice the percentages don’t add up to 100 (don’t worry, they still show the critical trends)
  2. I’m including only the sex results in this article. I’ll do separate pieces for the dating and relationship questions. They’re equally as fascinating

And a few quick demographics on who responded:

  • The total age range was 16-72, with an average age of 37
  • 85% identified as female, 14% male, and ~1% as “other”
  • 85% identified as heterosexual; 12% as bisexual; 1% as gay; 3% as “other”
  • 45% were in committed relationships, 33% were single, and 22% fell into the categories of “it’s complicated” or “other” (many of these said they were currently separated from spouse)

So we’re talking about people mostly in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, primarily hetero, roughly half of whom were in a relationship, and half of whom were single/single-ish.

Without further ado, here are the top problems listed by the groups:

—-

WOMEN’S TOP SEX PROBLEMS  

  1. Trouble orgasming: 24%

  2. Pain/It hurts: 23%

  3. Communication: 18%

  4. Not enough foreplay: 18%

  5. Relaxing/letting go: 4%

—–

MEN’S TOP SEX PROBLEMS       

  1. Pleasing partner: 17%

  2. Partner not initiating: 17%

  3. Performance anxiety: 12%

  4. My sex drive is higher: 9%

  5. Not having/getting it enough: 8%

—–

If you’re a woman for whom orgasming is challenging, or a man who isn’t exactly sure how to please your partner, the biggest thing to know is that you’re not alone.

Here are a few more of my biggest takeaways (note: these are hetero-normative for the most part, as the vast majority of the responses referred to hetero sex).

1. For a lot of women, sex hurts

It’s hard to talk about this one. First, because a number of women said their biggest sexual issue was figuring out how to enjoy sex after rape or other sexual trauma, and that is, frankly, heartbreaking. Not only were these women violated either as girls, teens, or adults, but now sex is painful for them and while they desperately want to enjoy it, they don’t (yet). I have much to say about this, which I will save for a different article, but for now will simply say this: one of my closest friends is a survivor of sexual abuse, and she has scorchingly hot sex with her fiancé now. It IS possible, you CAN get there, and you DESERVE to get there.

Next: for a lot of women, it’s not necessarily that sex hurts all the time, but that many of the men with whom they have it, hurt them (probably unwittingly). Thus:

  • “Painful intercourse”
  • “Too much pressure/too rough”
  • “Fear (like I need to protect my body from painful and unwelcome stuff)”
  • “Fingering too rough causing anxiety rather than stimulation”
  • “Men are rough. I call it porn sex.”

I’ve got to be honest: It was a little depressing to read response after response like this. But it also gave me hope, because I feel like much of this is fixable with the right information and communication. Especially because …

2. Men really want to know how to please women

Apparently, for many men, figuring out how to please a woman is a puzzling mystery wrapped in the shroud of an enigma:

  •   “I can’t tell whether what I’m doing is working.”
  •   “I don’t know how to tell if I gave a woman an orgasm or not. This is compounded by the fact that I can’t get feedback because asking if it happened is a turn-off (e.g. showing a lack of sexual prowess), which results in no orgasms anyhow. I’ve also heard the conventional wisdom, ‘If you don’t know if you’ve given a girl an orgasm, then you probably haven’t’ – which makes me even more insecure.”
  •   “If what I’m doing actually turns her on.”
  •   “A lot of women I’ve met almost seem like they expect me to know how to please them, but it requires a little direction. Don’t be afraid to tell me you don’t like something, or would rather me do something else. Guide me. Not everything I like do will appeal to every partner I have. Direct me, and show me the way. This is a mutual thing, and if only one of us enjoys it, what’s the point of having sex?”

I really feel for men here. For many of them, it sounds like determining how to successfully pleasure a woman is like trying to escape a dark room with a lot of furniture in it. You do your best while you stumble around, hoping not to run into anything bad and eventually find the right door that leads to the holy land.

As a woman who has sex with men, I was also touched by the responses in this category. It was a good reminder that most men really do want women to enjoy themselves during sex. They’re not just looking to “score” – they care that she’s having a good time.

Which makes the next point even more poignant:

3. Women struggle with how to talk about sex with men

Over and over, women mentioned wanting to give their partners feedback about sex but feeling like if they brought something up, they’d hurt him. They said things like:

  • “I struggle to express what I want during sex. I’m afraid of making the other person feel inadequate.”
  • “Communication! Speaking up in bed while trying to balance pleasing myself and not hurting my partner’s ego.”
  • “My partner likes going down on me, but he’s not very good at it. I don’t think he knows where to focus the energy and stimulation. I try to tell him but don’t want to hurt his feelings or ego.”
  • “Not wanting to tell my partner when he does something I don’t like. Men take it personally and seem to think because they’ve successfully pleasured one woman with something that it should/will work with all women.”
  • “How to communicate when I don’t like something without shutting my partner down.”

I can’t tell you the number of responses that sounded like these. This is a HUGE issue for women.

So in general, we have men who want their women to enjoy sex, and women who are terrified of being honest about what’s not working and therefore don’t speak up about it, to the point of tolerating quite a bit of pain.

While that may sound ridiculous, I can say without a doubt that I’ve done it many times.

I have about a bajillion more things to say on this topic, but this piece is already long and I don’t want to overwhelm.

So expect more – much more – from me about all this. I am DETERMINED to improve our sex lives, people. HOT SEX FOR EVERYONE IN 2017 – who’s with me?!

I leave you with a few highlights from the responses (these respondents gave their consent that their words could be shared (anonymously)):

  • “Fear my partner will lose interest if I’m too ‘difficult.’ That is, if I take too long or if I don’t orgasm.” – Female, 48
  • “Being afraid to ask for something in fear she’ll think you are weird or gross.” – Male, 44
  • “Focusing too much about meeting his needs and not enjoying myself and our sexy time.” – Female, 30
  • “Broaching the subject without feeling pushy or apologizing.” – Male, 29
  • “I have no problems telling a partner to touch me lighter, but they don’t always get it. Then it takes a while, I get frustrated, I feel he’s frustrated, then I just don’t want to anymore. I unfortunately don’t have a lot of sex, I think I have a low drive, too. All things put together, I often feel ‘broken.’” – Female, 42
  • “Feeling insecure about initiating sex ALL the time and not waiting to come across as demanding. Trying to be a man ravishing my lover but still being sensitive to her needs and desires.” – Male, 60
  • “People thinking ‘bisexual’ automatically means ‘promiscuous.’” – Female, 45
  • “Always be hard – Like don’t lose the underwear until ready to impress, and never droop so she won’t feel I’m bored.” – Male, 40
  • “Am I doing it right ? Am I doing something wrong? Am I bad at sex?” Female, 44
  • “[Women being like] starfishes – no positions, lay there and no noise, makes you feel like a rapist.” – Male, 39
  • “What if the one day she actually initiates is the one day I just want to take a nap?” – Male, 40
  • “Inability to obtain or pay attention to quality feedback. ‘Porn-style’ vocal feedback is the only thing they use to judge success, in other words, jab something until the girl makes a sound, versus exploring and watching and feeling for subtle clues of pleasure.” – Female, 47
  • “Top problem: A SMALL CHILD THAT INVADES OUR BEDROOM.” – Female, 35

NOTE: If you aren’t on my list yet but want to be alerted when the next two parts of the survey come out (dating and relationships), sign up here.

P.S. I think the data from this sex survey lends itself to visual representation and would love to see an infographic made of these results. If you’re interested in making that happen, get in touch: 80laysbook@gmail.com (I can pay).

The Man I Really Want, Part I

I was on a second date the other day, when my date said something that almost knocked me to my knees.

We were at a gallery opening, the kind of event less about the art itself than the scene: free wine and cheese, a DJ spinning trendy, Euro-trash EDM, and enough goodlooking people to keep everyone talking about everyone else. After we discussed the paintings for a while, I seized the opportunity to ask the guy I was with one of my favorite questions:

“What’s your type?”

I like to do this for several reasons. One, it’s just an interesting question. Two, I like to see whether a guy gets uncomfortable at my suggestion that he would be attracted to people other than just me, and what he does with that. Finally, I like to see whether he attempts to woo or flatter me by describing his type as a woman who looks just like me.

In other words, I want to see whether he’ll lie.

This guy immediately looked around with interest, which I appreciated, since the question was also an obvious call to scan the room and see who he’d bang if I weren’t there. He then described his type as usually being tall, lithe brunettes, of which there were pretty much none in the room (and also happens to be a description that’s pretty much the opposite of me). He ended the exchange by gazing at me and saying something to the effect of how he was happy to be there with me, and did I need another drink?

Doesn’t really get better than that.

Except that when he came back with my drink, he turned things around. “So,” he said, sipping his microbrew. “What’s your type?”

I paused. I wasn’t threatened in the least that I wasn’t a tall, lithe brunette; I know enough to know that even if I’m not someone’s ‘type,’ I can still be attractive to him. It’s just a type, not a mold. But I had a feeling he’d be threatened that he wasn’t my type. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I wanted to be honest.

So there was the question, hanging in the air.

And there I was, hanging on the other side of it.

Finally, I took a deep breath and told the truth. Just the teensiest bit guiltily, I said, “Jocks. Jocks are my type.”

 

He laughed (he wasn’t really a jock).

“Jocks who can talk about feelings,” I clarified. “You know … communicative, self-aware jocks.”

He laughed again, then:

“So you’re willing to compromise on the jock part, right?”

Whoo. I felt the room spin a little bit. Then I almost put my hands on my knees to keep from collapsing. Because this comment, this remark that seemed so innocuous, confirmed all my nastiest fears, all my most convincing, disheartening, and demoralizing beliefs about what is possible when it comes to me and men.

Worse still, after a short moment of the smile being suddenly and completely wiped from my face, I actually agreed with him.

“Yeah…” I said. “If it came down to it … that’s what I’d compromise on.”

But even as I said it, a part of me died inside.

 

 

If I had to choose – if, at some point in my life, it really did come down to selecting a mate that was fuckable versus relationship-able, I would pick the latter. And there’s a large part of me that believes that’s what I’ll end up with: a wonderful man who can provide what I need on an emotional/intellectual level, but doesn’t actually turn me on.

But if I’m honest with myself about what I really want, it’s all that stuff plus a hard body. I can’t help it – I like muscles. I like guys that work out, the kinds of men who lift and run and used to be on rugby teams or football teams or do martial arts or played lacrosse. My whole body responds to a man I know can flip me about without even thinking about it, can fuck for hours standing up, holding me up while I straddle him with my arms around his neck.

*Swoon.*

But I also really want someone who knows how he feels and can express that. Who is grounded and present. Who doesn’t get defensive when we talk about our relationship and his part in it (and who’s actually into the prospect of being in a relationship). Who can hang when I talk about the nature of the universe. Who actually forwards me articles about relationships (or at least responds thoughtfully when I send them to him).

The problem is, I almost always meet dudes who are either/or. They’re either sensitive new age types in tune with and expressive of their feelings, all about learning about relationships and how to be with women, but who I’d never fuck in a zillion years. Or they’re bro-y jocks I’d love to bang, but who I strongly doubt would be able to actually work through conflict in a relationship. I also question whether they’d know how to listen to me truly madly deeply, which is how I fall in love.

It wasn’t until that moment that I truly grasped the extent to which I believed that at some point, someday, I will be forced to give up this very real desire for a partner that has both. There’s a part of me that truly believes that on some unnamed date in the future, I will have to give up, admit defeat, and voluntarily kill my own dream.

In fact, the whole thing left me so distraught that I eventually left his place, later that night, literally in tears. I begged off, saying I was overwhelmed by life events, but really it was that one comment:

“So you’re willing to compromise on the jock part, right?”

Stay tuned for Part II…

 

 

 

 

Why Art Sucks

url.jpg

A guy friend of mine recently made a comment about one of my articles recently that really, really pissed me off.

He said that in calling myself ‘moderately attractive’ at the beginning of Ten Things NOT To Do While Hitting On Me, I myself was breaking not one, but two of my own rules within the article: 1) Don’t neg, and 2) Be confident.

He said the fact that I didn’t just outright own the fact that I’m attractive (not ‘moderately’ attractive) was an un-confident neg.

“What you’re saying is that you think I’m attractive,” I said.

“No, I’m saying you are attractive,” he corrected me, “which is why it was stupid to say ‘moderately.’”

“According to you.”

url.jpg

“According to me, him, any guy in this bar!” he said, gesturing around. “If we asked all of them to vote, that’s what they’d say. You should just admit it – you shouldn’t have done that in the piece.”

All right. Momentarily setting aside the absurdity of being on the wrong side of an argument about my level of attractiveness, there were several troubling things going on here.

First of all, on a strictly logical level, I was annoyed. It will never be absolutely true that I am attractive, just as it will never be absolutely true that anyone is. Attractiveness really is personal: everyone has a type, and the truth is I’m simply not some people’s type.

The more insidious thing was the fact that in a way, he was right. (God, I hate it when they’re right). I had consciously not owned that I was attractive. I’d gone back and forth on whether to keep the word ‘moderately,’ going so far as to write it out one way, then the other.

But I wasn’t negging myself. I feel confident and attractive with respect to my looks most of the time. I don’t have a problem attracting men. I know how to walk, how to flirt, how to drop the right hints, how to escalate. But I also have insecurities, just like anyone else. Some days I’m proud of how I look and some days I hate my body. Some days I feel great and some days I feel fat; sometimes I feel unstoppable and sometimes I feel disgusting.

So I made a strategic decision to include the word ‘moderately.’ I wanted to be modest and accurate, and I really didn’t want to be shamed for calling myself attractive and stating it in a truly up front way. In other words, I wasn’t negging myself – I was protecting myself.

url.jpg

But no matter what I said or how I explained it, this ‘friend’ wasn’t budging. He thought I did exactly the thing I said not to do and I thought he just wasn’t listening and somewhere in the midst of all of it, I felt like crying. I couldn’t figure out why it felt so awful, why this deep, aching hole had formed within me, and in particular why it felt so incredibly, profoundly unfair.

Then I had an epiphany.

I realized that the content of the comment wasn’t what pissed me off – it was the offhanded nature of it. It was his cavalier disregard, the simplemindedness of judging what someone else is doing without having to do it yourself. As he enumerated the ways in which I was wrong, I could feel myself becoming defensive, shutting down. And not because he was wrong.

Because I felt terribly, numbingly misunderstood.

It was in that moment that I truly grasped that sometimes, art sucks.

It blows to be misunderstood. It’s shitty to not have control over how other people take your art, take your words, take your meaning. It’s really annoying not being able to control other people’s perception of you – especially when your perception is that their perception is that you’re weak.

I was particularly frustrated at the idea being judged, having my words minced and extracted and analyzed, without the balance of the other person having to come out, as well.

You want to judge me? Then let’s see you put yourself out there. Let’s see you write (or paint or sing or build) something you believe in –where you share where you’re raw, where you lay your soul out, like meat on a platter to be viewed and judged and tasted and deemed delicious or mediocre or wanting.

Because when I publish – whatever I publish, whenever I publish – I’m putting myself out there. I’m making my work available for the judgments of others. All of a sudden the inclusion or exclusion of a single word is what hinges upon me being taken seriously or someone cutting me down.

And honestly – why would anyone put themselves in a position to get cut down?

Because that’s what artists do. They go out on the limb, no matter how tenuous. They are the kingpins and the dummies and the lightning rods and the canaries in the collective coalmine. They say what others are unwilling to or unable to or unaware of. They clarify and amplify the noises in the culture around us and hold it right up to people’s faces and say, “Here! Here is what I’m talking about!” And the most powerful of these messages are when they say, “Here! Here it is. Here I am.”

But saying, “Here I am” is also incredibly risky. It is when we are most exposed that we are most influential, because the message is undiluted and unprocessed and undeniable. That vulnerability – real vulnerability – is what real art is. Whether it is expressed through dance or sculpture or writing or song or a cover letter or a letter of resignation – it is authentic vulnerability that produces great art.

So it is that artists are often the ones everyone else is talking about, the ones about whom topics revolve, the ones who spark the discussions that inspire the judgments and unearth the rifts and shine a light on the dark places.

Ultimately that’s our place and our purpose.

Yet we are also some of the most sensitive members of society. We are often more vulnerable than others, but because of the nature of our work we’re even more criticized. Yes – we are also venerated. Our words and murals and films and songs uplift and inspire and refine the voices and experiences of those around us. Sometimes – many times – we are recognized for that. Sometimes we’re attacked for it.

It’s easy to judge, criticize, and evaluate someone else’s art, someone else’s creation.

It’s not easy to share. Real sharing takes guts and brilliance and determination and heart and fire.

When I felt criticized, there was a part of me that wanted to tell him to shut up. There was a part that wanted to run away and hide the hurt. There was a part that wanted to scream, “You don’t understand!” and explain myself louder. But a bigger part of me wanted to say, “Actually, you know what? If you’re not in the ring, then get the fuck out the way.”

Because if you’re not willing to make yourself vulnerable like me – in some area of your life, I don’t care where – then no matter what I say, I’m better than you.

Yeah, I said it. I’m better than you. If I’m really putting my ass on the line, doing my thing, expressing my humanity, and you’re not – then I’m beating you at life. I’m beating you at life even if you think you’re right – even if you are right. Because you’re right about the thing I made.

 

I can’t do anything about the hurt. I can’t do anything about the fact that I am incredibly sensitive – that what makes me brilliant also leaves me more open to searing pain.

But I can make a powerful decision about it. In fact, I can make a series of powerful decisions.

So here’s what I decide, as an artist:

1. I’m an artist.

2. In sharing my art, I may not always feel safe.

3. In sharing my art, I may not always feel good.

4. In sharing my art, I may not always get to be right.

5. So I won’t do it to be right, or to get praised.

6. I won’t do it to get agreement, to get Likes, to get rich, or to get off.

7. I’ll do it because it’s my truth.

8. I’ll do it because it matters.

9. I’ll do it because it’s the deepest part of me, it’s the real-est thing I have to offer, and it’s the greatest gift I have to give.

10. I’ll do it because it’s my job.

My job is not to control your reaction to my art. My job is not to pre-determine whether my art will be popular. My job is not to please the critics or test the waters or ensure that everyone on The Internet understands exactly what I meant (and not what they heard).

My job is solely to share my art.

To share it, and keep sharing it, and when I have crazy intense emotional reactions to others’ reactions to my art, to share that.

In a way, it’s much simpler. I don’t have to worry about what anyone will think or whether it’s good or how good it is or how it ‘does’ or whether I’m right, because once it’s shared – once it’s given, once it’s out there – my job is done.

So I commit to doing my job. I commit to my art.

It’s my calling.

I’ve decided to answer it.

 

Vixen Manifesto (the original)

Vixen Manifesto

1. It is possible for every single person alive to have amazing, passionate, mind-altering sex. In fact, as human beings it is not only possible, it is our birthright.

2. Everyone should have a relationship with her/his sexuality completely separate from any other (romantic or otherwise). Your sexuality doesn’t depend on anyone else, and it is a vital part of who you are: it can be a source of power.

3. Monogamy isn’t for everyone. It’s time to be realistic about that and start dealing with it, instead of pretending it works for everybody. It doesn’t.

4. Not all relationships are meant to last – even long-term ones. If we aren’t learning and growing within a relationship, it’s time to get out. Having been together for a long time is NOT a reason to stay together.

5. One in four girls and one in six boys are survivors of sexual abuse, a huge factor in one’s current sexual reality. If you are one, know the following: 1. You are not alone. 2. It wasn’t your fault. 3. Help is available. 4. If you haven’t yet dealt with it, it’s time.

6. It is absolutely impossible for one person to fulfill all of your needs. Problematically, this is the current model for romantic relationships in our culture. We need a new one.

7. The way people receive love is different: some people feel loved when they are told aloud; others want to be shown, with gifts or acts of service. Social science shows us that over and over, people assume that others are like them. They’re not. Understanding fundamental personality differences like these can make or break relationships.

8. Relationship Ed should be taught in schools the way Sex Ed is.

9. Unresolved trauma is the root cause of most issues in relationship. Many times relationships force us to confront our deepest Family Of Origin (FOO) “issues.” So let’s confront them, instead of just unconsciously repeating old patterns. Let’s all be FOO fighters.

10. World peace will only be achieved when every person is raised in a healthy, loving, functional family system.* By learning to have healthy relationships, we actually do have the power to change the world – literally.

 

*healthy does not necessarily mean traditional nuclear family, nor does it mean “perfect.”

Note: This blog is hetero-normative. It excludes a lot of relationship concerns, including gay/lesbian/transgender and others. There are fascinating discussions to be had on these topic, I just don’t cover them. Also, I occasionally utilize sentence fragments. Before the Grammar Police get their panties in a bunch, please know that I realize I’m doing so. I just like to use them for effect. Note that I didn’t say “affect.”

Ten Things NOT to Do When I’m Being a Bitch

Women don’t come with a manual. If they did, men wouldn’t need man caves.

The truth is, part of what makes women appealing can also make them terrifying. Their emotional volatility is either fascinating or distressing, depending on both how it’s expressed, yes – but also how it’s taken.

Every woman’s got her moods. Most men are by turns charmed, bewildered, and blindsided by them. Here are some hints to help you keep your cool when I’m being a red hot bitch:

10. Don’t Resist It

I cannot overemphasize this one. Resistance is the most common reason me being a bitch gets us into all kinds of trouble (and not the fun kind instigated by tequila and a hot tub).

In case you’re wondering what this means, it includes saying things like, “Calm down,” “Would you just relax?” “What’s the big deal?” and, “You’re overreacting.”

This is much like pouring gas on a lit flame.

When I’m pissed, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, it’s happening. Wishing it wasn’t or telling me to stop isn’t going to work. It’s similar to attempting to stop a tsunami. Is you telling the big bitchy wave to stop being a big bitchy wave going to work?

Nope. But if you accept that the wave is happening and grab a surfboard, you’ll get farther and be in for a hell of a ride.

I know how complicated women are – trust me, I’m living proof of this. But if there’s anything I’ve learned about men, it’s that the more I’m accepted for exactly who I’m being in this moment, the more I change and morph and melt into something more accepting myself.

9. Know that it won’t last forever.

Have I ever been a bitch forever? Have I? Have you ever known any women who were? (Meryl Streep from Devil Wears Prada doesn’t count).

That is correct. I will never not be a bitch.

No. Emotions don’t last forever, no matter what they are. That’s why they’re called e-motions – energy in motion. There is no permanent state, particularly when it comes to women. We can switch from ecstatic to melodramatic in an instant, and be ready for tiramisu right after.

By the way, do you think that’s easy? No. A lot of the time it’s exhausting. You should try being on this rollercoaster of emotion, not just being around it.

8. Know That It’s Not Really About What It’s About

When I’m being a bitch, we’re in Emotion Land. We left Logic Land long ago and as much as you may lament its absence, that ship has sailed (right on over the tsunami). I may be crying hysterically ‘because’ you forgot to call, or sniping at you ‘because’ you forgot to buy the right kind of milk. But it’s not really about that. In other words, it’s not really about what it’s ‘about.’

It’s not that it has nothing to do with the milk; it’s just that it’s more about something else. In fact, I may not even know exactly what’s wrong myself.

The best way for you to deal with this is to stop playing the game of “fixing what this is ‘about,’” and start listening for what it’s really about. The more you can hold off on shaming me for being upset over something ‘illogical,’ the more we can work as a team to figure out what’s really going on.

7. Have Fun With It

Are you one of those people who loves watching sh*t go down when there’s something destructive happening? Are you like, daaamn, look at those waves flood over the boardwalk, or those cars floating down the street, or that (empty) house get torn up by that hurricane? Holy Sharknado, this is amazing!

Use that. Pretend my storm is an actual storm, and you get a front row seat (which incidentally some people would pay for). Witness it the same way you would a tempest – it swirls and rages, lessens and worsens, and eventually dissipates.

Because the things I’m saying and the way I’m acting isn’t ‘the truth.’ It’s just what’s true for me in that one particular moment. It will change in the next moment, just like the weather. And once you stop taking it to be something to be defended against or resentful of, it can actually be kind of entertaining.

I’m like your own personal hurricane. Besides – wouldn’t it be boring if it were sunny skies all the time?

6. When I Act Like a Child, Think of Me Like a Child

Half the time when I’m being a bitch, it is exactly the same as when a 3-year-old is wigging out because s/he’s sleep-deprived. There is no logical reason for the behavior – it’s a physiological reaction. As adults, we assume we’re all capable of being normal, rational beings all the time.

We’re not. Especially not those of us with riotously, spectacularly, outlandishly fluctuating hormones. Did you know that 70% of crimes committed by women are perpetrated within 3 days of their period? #truth.

Seriously – when I’m whining or bitching or complaining seemingly just for the sake of it, picture me as a tiny little girl in a tiny little dress with a tiny little diaper and a tiny little face red from bawling, who is upset that you just gave her the wrong milk. How seriously do you take that toddler? How much compassion do you have for her?

You always knew I was secretly a 3-year-old. Now make it work for you.

 

5. Call me out (gently).

For me personally, this works best when you give a nickname to my bitchy side.

My ex used to use “’tudy,” short for “attitude-y.” This was brilliant because it named what was happening without making me wrong for it. It also acknowledged that I’m not only that – there are many aspects and facets to me. This just happens to be the one that’s coming out right now.

It usually went a little something like:

Me: [Looking in fridge] “Really?? You forgot that I asked you specifically to get whole milk this week? You know I’m trying out that new Fat Is The New Skinny Diet – you just thought you’d ruin my chances, or what?”
Him: [glancing over at me; pausing for a moment] “Hey there, ‘tudy! I’ve missed you. What you been up to?”

I’d roll my eyes but no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t suppress a smile. He knew me – all of me – and he wasn’t scared of it. Instead of taking my comment as ‘a huge and monumental attack on my manhood that I must defend against,’ it was more like, ‘that bitchy thing Mel just said.’

It’s not that he wasn’t taking me seriously. It’s that he wasn’t taking me too seriously.

 

4. If you can’t handle it, leave.

It’s all well and good to talk about enjoying it, but sometimes that’s just not possible. In those moments, don’t tell me I shouldn’t be or feel a certain way. If you can’t handle it, get out the way.

Look, I love my sister like, well, a sister. But she can be a real bitch sometimes. And I’ve learned that occasionally, it’s best to just leave the room. Sometimes I can read her moods and know that she’s ready to talk; other times I know it’s about her blood sugar being low; and sometimes it’s just a different type of mood – the untouchable one. It’s that one where no matter what I say or do, she’s just going to be a bitch.

For the most part, I know when to stick around and when to stay away. Then there are the times when I read it wrong and get scratched by her ‘tudy talons. At that point I retreat into the other room and lick my wounds.

Both are fine, but it’s a whole lot more pleasant when I read it right and beat a hasty retreat. You should feel free to do the same.

 

3. Take Care of Yourself

You don’t always have to put up with my crap. Just because I’m in a bad mood doesn’t mean you’re responsible for it – or for fixing it. As my man, I expect you to give me attention and put energy into the relationship, but I don’t expect either 24/7.

You are, in fact, a whole separate being with your own experiences and needs and responsibilities. And your first responsibility is to yourself: if you can’t handle it or don’t have the energy or just don’t want to deal with me in a certain moment, don’t.

DO NOT sacrifice yourself or your truth just to make me ‘happy.’  I’d much rather you take care of yourself in the moment and have space for me later, than overextend yourself now and blame me for it later.

Instead, try just letting me know: “Hey, I get you’re upset and I want you to know I care. At the same time, I need to take care of myself right now so I’m gonna go chill for a while. Cool?”

With this you’ve solved half of it anyway just by acknowledging that I’m not OK. I at least feel seen, and I’m also primed to get that it’s not all about me all the time.

Sometimes it’s easy for me to forget that.

 

2. If you don’t know how to support me, ask.

You don’t have it all figured out. You don’t have to know exactly what to do or how to do it or what to say or how to say it beforehand. It’s far better to admit you don’t know than constantly attempt to figure out the enigma wrapped in a riddle served on a bed of unpredictable with a little dollop of wtf on top, that constitutes the psyche of a woman.

If you are really at your wit’s end but you do have the energy and you do want to know what’s going on or how to help – ask. For example: “I don’t know what to do or how to help right now, but I want to. How can I support you?”

That will bring me up short.

And much of the time, I will tell you. This can flip me right out of my mood and put me into a different one. I might start to bawl; I might ask for chocolate; I might collapse into your arms and say, “I just – *sob* – want – *sob*– a footrub. Can you – *hiccup* – give me – *searching look*

 – a footrub?”

Because usually when I’m being a bitch, there’s some need that’s not being met. I don’t feel heard, or I’m craving connection, or I’m not feeling expressed, or I’m just generally feeling like I don’t matter. Here’s a truthful secret for you: sometimes I lash out just to make sure that I do matter – that I can at least affect someone.

The point is, usually all that frustrated and angry energy wants to be transmuted into something else, something softer and more accessible and more yielding. If I’m given the genuine space for it, it will.

You can create that space. Sometimes.

1. Love me anyway.

Please, God, let me find a man who is capable of this. Let me find someone who doesn’t take me too seriously, isn’t intimidated by mood swings, and embraces the fact that I’m pretty judgmental a lot of the time. Let me find someone who knows that while I’m totally imperfect and totally impatient, I’m also totally loyal, totally affectionate, and willing to go all out for my friends. Let me find someone who sees it all – not who shuts down when I’m not at my best.

And if it’s in the cards for me, let me find someone who doesn’t just tolerate me, but genuinely finds my quirks endearing. Let me be discovered by someone who doesn’t see me as a problem to be solved or a thing to be handled, but as a woman to be loved.

Even – or maybe even especially – when she’s being a bitch.

 

 

Ten Things He Loves About Women (That Have Nothing To Do With Looks)

Many of you read my piece, Ten Things I Find Sexy About Men (That Have Nothing to Do With Looks).

One of you wanted to reply. Without further ado, here is a guest piece by my good friend and reader, Jon Mimisy:

 

“Ten Things I Find Sexy About Women


(That Have Nothing To Do With Looks)”

 

I love women. I love how they walk, how they smile, how they cross their legs, how they look at you, look away, and then pretend that the whole flirty-eye-contact-you-look-at-me-I-look-at-you thing never happened.

I’m a guy, so, of course, a woman’s looks dominate my oh-so-reptilian brain. But let’s just accept that as a given, and that honest to God, there’s precious little I can do about the fact that I want to jump your bones every waking minute of every day. I’m wired to gratuitously ogle your breasts, to stare at your legs, to love it when you wear a sundress (and to want to take said sundress off with my teeth).

Let’s leave all that to the (back) side, though. Here are ten things totally unrelated to your rockin’ bod that I find sexy as hell:

10) Clothes

Yes, I want to get you naked. See above. But you know part of why I want to get you naked? It’s because the clothes you have on right now make you look amazing. Don’t believe me? Well, believe this: If you were wearing parachute pants and a hoodie right now, I wouldn’t want to MC Hammer you.

The clothes make the woman — not just the man. You know what turns me on? When you know that fine line between sexy and scandalous. You know the shade of red that gets my attention. You know the right length of heel. You can dress for the occasion. These things matter — and not just to the other girls glaring at you with envy.

 

9) When she knows how to flirt

I love a woman who doesn’t expect me to do all the work. Flirting is like tennis; without an adequate partner, I may as well be hitting my balls against a garage door. When you hold eye contact for that extra second, when you match my smile, when you joke about sex, when you do anything that clues me into the fact that, yeah, you’re into this too: that’s downright sexy.

 

8) Intelligence

Don’t assume I think intelligence is a turn-off, and don’t act dumb if you’re not. If you went to Hah-vahd, don’t say you went to a little school in Cambridge. For some totally inexplicable reason, women have been led to believe that men want them to be more Mrs. Cleaver than Sheryl Sandberg. Perhaps some do – I don’t.

I. Want. Someone. Smart.

I want someone who reads long books and knows big words. I want someone who speaks multiple languages. I want someone who knows that ‘wherefore’ doesn’t mean ‘where,’ and who can pronounce Ahmadinejad.

If you assume I want someone ditzy, then I’ll go find someone who is actually ditzy. But don’t dumb yourself down in some misguided attempt to make me more attracted to you. Remember, stupid is as stupid does.

 

7) Allow me to be chivalrous

OK, yeah, you’ve read Lean In. You’re a working girl. I get it. But let me get the damn check. Let me hold the door open. I’m not trying to offend your feminist whatevers; I’m doing the social equivalent of wrapping my arms around you and squeezing you tight.

You don’t know what that feels like yet, but if you don’t allow me to do the chivalry thing from time to time, you never will.

 

6) Remind me about shit

Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries – assume I will forget them. I’m a guy, and I was born with a gene that, I guess, leads me to think more about creating new memories than remembering past ones. But I have to say: You’re also unreasonably good at remembering everything that happened years and years ago on a given day. You remember fucking everything. And you don’t just remember things: you plan for them. You throw parties. You buy cards. You bake things. You make tote bags. These are things that I would simply never think to do.

So I like it when you remind me that Dan and Amy’s 3.65 month anniversary was yesterday and I forgot to text them about it. It’s not annoying. Okay, maybe it’s a tad annoying. But to be honest, it’s also endearing, especially when you remember things about my friends and family that I didn’t put in my Google calendar. You’re more conscientious than my futile biology will ever let me be, which also happens to make you incredibly hot.

 

5) Cry

Maybe this makes me an outlier as a man, but I don’t think so. Because when you cry around me, it gives me a chance to do that thing that guys are supposed to do, where they’re all solid and there for you and “it’ll be okay, we’ll get through this” and all the rest.

Tears aren’t scary. If anything, it’s the lack of them that should have me worried. I’d rather have you crying in my presence than crying to someone else in my absence.

 

4) Laugh at my (bad) jokes

This is also known as “throwing me a bone.” I think I’m funny. My mom thinks I’m funny. My friends find me uproariously funny. It would help if you fit in somewhere on that spectrum, because, well, I’m fucking trying over here. You don’t think this material writes itself, do you?

Don’t fake it, either. That’s the worst. If you don’t find me funny, let’s just go our separate ways and spare ourselves a lifetime of fake-laughing at each other’s jokes about airline peanuts.

 

3) Be up for anything

Who doesn’t love a girl who will say yes to a gala, or yes to a boxing match, or yes to a bad movie she doesn’t want to see but will see anyway because you want to?

And there’s a difference between being up for it and suffering through it. We can tell the difference. And we appreciate when you suck it up for us (hehe).

 

2) Stand on her own two feet

Here’s the deal: I’m not a babysitter. Please don’t cling to me when we’re out and about. If you freak because we were at a function and I went to relieve myself and you didn’t know what to do, then Lord help you getting back home, because, honey, I’m probably not going to want to do that anymore, either.

Instead, the truly irresistible thing a woman can do is to spend the entire night charming the room and then come back over to me, kiss me in front of everyone, and say, “So, your place or mine?” Damn. I’ll take you right then and there.

 

1) Accept me

My relationship with you isn’t going to resemble a Disney movie. I’m loud. I’m sometimes unreliable. I’m forgetful. I throw myself into work and my life and the gym and everything else with unrelenting, unremitting passion. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you and it doesn’t mean I take you for granted. I’m not Prince Charming; more importantly, I’m not supposed to be.

There is no glass slipper and no white horse: this is real life. So please stop imagining it’s supposed to be anything other than my making sure you’re tucked in and the garbage is thrown out after you pass out while watching that episode of the West Wing for the umpteenth time. That’s how I show my affection, dearest.

Disney has been to relationships what the bomb was to Hiroshima. Don’t expect perfection. Because there are also going to be moments that you don’t expect where I knock your socks off — and those will make up for my many, many failings. The absolute sexiest thing you can do is accept me – all of me – and cherish how much I want to get it right, even if sometimes I get it wrong.

 

The truth is, you and I aren’t supposed to be perfect. We’re supposed to make life’s frequent imperfections just a little more functional, a little more amusing, and a lot more fun. The sexiest woman to me is the one who understands this. She gets that it’s not always about the planned dates but the unplanned moments; not about the nights we get dressed up, but the mornings when we’ve got nothing on; not about the gifts I give you, but the way I can make you laugh with that goofy look you hate, but secretly love.

I’m not your girlfriend; I’m not your mom; I’m not your puppy. I won’t always seem rational or reasonable, but there are times when I will know you better than you know yourself. I will know when you need to be touched; I will know when you need me to be courageous. It’s instinct. It’s ancient and awesome and true.

And when you let me show you that part of myself – when you let me be that for you without making me feel a trace of self-consciousness – I find you sexier than words can possibly express.

6 Thing Men Should Get About Women.

Newsflash, men: It isn’t all (always) your fault.

I recently received an amazing email (names and other identifying information have been changed), and it had me realize just how much confusion there is when dealing with the fairer sex:

“Hi there. I stumbled upon your blog and thought you might be a good person to turn to for advice, so here goes. I met a very intelligent and attractive woman at a lecture a few weeks ago. We had been talking for about a half hour and really developed a great rapport. We had even made tentative plans to meet for coffee sometime.

Then things suddenly went downhill. There was a pause in the conversation and since she had classic curves (large bust, narrow waist, etc.), I commented that she had a “really nice hourglass figure.” My intent was to be complimentary and a little flirtatious but instead she became deeply offended. I went into damage control mode and tried to clarify my comments but the more I talked, the more I exacerbated things as she rolled her eyes and shook her head. She told me I was being “inappropriate” and that she was “very disappointed” and then whap, she slapped my face and departed.

My reply:

“She slapped you!? No, I don’t think you should email her an apology note. I think she should email you one!”

read more

Why I Said, “We Shouldn’t Date.”

I have a little crush on someone I shouldn’t. As in, the circumstances are such that we really shouldn’t be together … he dated someone close to me and it just wouldn’t be cool unless we got serious. But how is one supposed to know that before something has even started? It’s the classic it-would-really-suck-for-a-whole-lot-of-people-if-we-didn’t-work-out thing … so let’s not even admit that we want to.

Except that while we were hanging out the other day he pressed the issue. So we actually talked about it openly for the first time, and I immediately began to enumerate all the (many) reasons we shouldn’t be together.

Then, somewhere along the way, while he was sighing his discontent and I was trying to understand why I was feeling inexplicably sad at the prospect that he would actually agree with me, I realized something:

I didn’t want him to agree with me.

It wasn’t that I wanted to convince him that these were dealbreakers, that we shouldn’t actually be together. No, I became aware that I was actually listing all my objections because I wanted him to convince me we should.

I don’t think I’m the only woman who does this. I think a lot of women think things through when it comes to relationships a whole lot more than a whole lot of men. We think about the consequences in terms of ourselves, our friends, our families, our coworkers – even our neighbors. We consider things from a bunch of different angles and then we get nervous about all the reasons why it could potentially be disastrous – especially if the relationship itself ended up not working.

We say things like:

• “You’re too old for me.” (You’d be mad old when the kids were just going to college… and then what?)

• “You’re too young for me.” (I’d look substantially older and not as pretty as the women in your age group in 15 years… and then what?)

• “We don’t have the same background.” (My Jewish / WASP / Indian / Chinese / Pakistani / Cambodian mother would kill me.)

• “We work in the same department.” (… and I like my department. I like my job. I don’t want to lose it cause HR freaks out when they realize we’re doing it in the stairwell during our lunch breaks.)

Mazel tov. You got her to do her get-your-
tuchus-back-on
J-date,-you-little-whore face.

• “I dated your ex.” (Only applicable if you’re bi or gay, but still.)

• “You dated my sister.” (Seriously. What the hell am I going to tell her!?)

• “I’m your boss.” (What am I gonna do, fire you so we can be together? You’re a good employee and besides, I don’t wanna date someone who just got fired…)

• “We live across the country from each other.” (Can I really trust you not to cheat on me? Can I trust myself not to cheat on you? It would be so easy.)

• “We live halfway across the world from each other.” (This would be so incredibly expensive.)

Men, on the other hand, appear to have a simpler evaluation system. When it comes to whether to have sex, date, or get into a relationship, it’s usually some variable of the following:

1. Is she hot?
2. Do I want to be around her?

In other words, men live more in the moment. They get as far as, Do I really really really want to kiss her? Do we get along? and then assume that the rest will work itself out.

 

Men are totally the bottom one, right guys?

Now, most of the time, the issues women like myself have are legitimate. In fact, all of the ones on that previous list are the real deal. I’m not saying they’re not. I was just surprised when it occurred to me that while I wanted him to take all the things I was saying seriously, I wanted something else, too.

I wanted him to tell me why I was wrong.

I wanted him to listen closely and hear me out, then trump all of it with, “I like you. You like me. We’ll figure the rest out. Together.”

So, guys: the next time a woman is telling you all the reasons why the two of you shouldn’t date, consider that she may not be telling you only that. She may be telling you that what she really wants you to do is step up and keep believing in the two of you even when she hasn’t gotten there yet.

In other words, with what she’s not saying, she may actually be saying the following:

I like you. I don’t know how to do this. I’m scared.

But I like you.