Harvey’s book doesn’t just give relationship advice, but it also provides insights into men and to what men are about. His contention is that men express their love three ways: they profess, they protect and they provide. By this he means that they introduce their girlfriends as their girlfriends: they want everyone to know that they plan to be with their significant other. I suspect that this practice has evolved from the traditional asking for the father for the daughter’s hand in marriage. Now, with the father’s traditional role has changed, the suitor professes not the father, but to everyone else. Or, in other words, he maintains his Facebook status as “in a relationship with X.”
Harvey’s example of protecting extends back to his recollections of being a child and having his father tell him the he was supposed to walk next to his mother on the street side of the walkway. Thus, if any car passed dangerously close, he would be able to protect her. This notion of protection should extend to fixing things around the house, opening doors, giving their daughter’s suitors the “what are your intentions” speech.
Finally, according to Harvey, the man provides, which means he is able to turn his paycheck over to his wife without feeling as if he has lost control. The author himself notes that this is one of the most difficult things for men to do. This is because men must have a vision in life and must have an idea of what kind of lifestyle they are going to have for them to truly know themselves. Until they do this, they tell themselves countless stories of women whose only ambition is to be maintained by their boyfriends or sugar-daddy husbands. The “goldbricker” syndrome is, however, a male fear of attachment and connection that hides insecurity.
Some of these notions sounded fairly conservative. Nonetheless, I decided to apply some of the ideas from the book to see where it got me. One of my daughter’s friends had spent plenty of time at my house in the wake of her relationship implosion. She frequently called one of my daughters in tears and invariably came right over to the house. Over time, they filled me in on what happened. While we were in Punta Mita, I asked her a few questions about her former relationship.
How did your boyfriend introduce you?
When you went out, met his family or friends, how did he present you to them?
He didn’t. I introduced myself.
That’s a bad sign. This means he’s not telling the world that he’s dedicated to you. Men don’t buy women rings because they’re on sale. They do it because they declare to everyone on the planet that “you are with them.” They used to go and ask the father’s permission and blessing, now they tell everybody. If they don’t they’re just enjoying the moment.
Does he have a plan?
What do you mean?
Did he have some goal in life? Did he have a career in mind? Did he have some direction in life? Skateboarding isn’t a profession unless you’re Tony Hawk.
Well, he wanted to learn how to work a sound board to be able to work with a band.
Did you really think this guy was long-term material?
Final question, did he support himself?
Oh, yeah. He lived in a house that his uncle owns and his roommates pay the bills.
That’s not really what I had in mind.
This is not to say that the books are pure gospel. There are two chapters that really pissed me off:
Harvey has a chapter entitled, “why men cheat,” which at times comes very close to justifying infidelity. The “I’ve got to have it and if I’m not getting it at home I’ll go elsewhere” argument is on weak ground because there are times in every couple’s life when everyone is too tired, too high strung, or too weirded out to knock it out every three or four days. (Didn’t the Taliban say once every three days was a marital right?) This isn’t to say that couples shouldn’t reserve times, make reservations or appointments to do the nasty. Hair cut sex, I call it. It’s a hassle, but you feel better when it’s done so you schedule it.
Argov’s chapter, “dumb like a fox” doesn’t cut it for me, either. She suggests letting the man be the man. That is, do things like pick the restaurants. I have to admit that I’m terrible at picking restaurants. Most of the time, I’d be happy with pizza and salad every night. The idea, however, is pretty common. I saw the same thing echoed in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when one of the women said that the “man is the head, but the woman is the neck.”
Argov suggests that women should make the guy think everything positive is his idea. Give me a break! I’m perfectly content with my wife telling me what she wants as long as I am not asked to weigh in on the purchase of two objects that look identical. I know men have fragile egos, but this kind of stroking is so transparent that it looks like “The Truman Show.”
I don’t mind hearing I had a bad idea, I just want to hear when she thinks one of them is good.
Whatever happened to just being listened to? Showing that as a partner, my wife did her duty by listening to even my stupidest ideas. A simple, “I still love you, but Goddamn, that’s a stupid fucking idea, Jesus Christ, you out did yourself, are you going to get us all killed?”
In any case, I feel I have a better grasp on what to look for in a man. I have no idea if this information is going to be any help to my daughter and her friend, but it does vindicate the role of a dad in today’s day and age. In short, it tells me that there is nothing wrong with being protective, and if Harvey is right, it is the way I show that I love them.
To be continued…
Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy