Thursday, April 02, 2009

'It's Not You, It's Him' ...

The other night, headed out to pick up dinner, a thought struck me as I put on my coat: "What's wrong with you, Beth? Why are you willing to accept crumbs from men?"

I am not the crumb type in most aspects of my life, but when it comes to men, I have been far too tolerant and have accepted less than what is acceptable.

This morning, coffee in hand, I wandered over to my bookshelf to find something to read.

I've had this tome on my shelf for more than a year, having rescued it from a bookcase overflowing with review copies in a friend's office. But there, on my shelf, it languished. Until this morning, when I plucked it from the pile and proceeded to read the whole thing. (Despite the bite-size title, the author, Dr. Georgia Witkin, has more to say; 174 pages worth.)

But let me assure you (and all the men who may be raising their hackles), a man-bashing book it is not.

On the heels of reading Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man (you can read that post here, if you're so inclined), I thought today was as good a time as any to give equal time to a woman's take on this crazy little thing called love.

Unlike Harvey's three Ps that he says define the behavior all men – Profess, Provide, and Protect – Witkin supplies three Ps of her own, suggesting that many women have begun to believe that they're single because they're too picky, too pushy, or a princess.

But no, she says: It's not you, it's him.

By which she means that every relationship that hasn't worked out hasn't worked out because it wasn't the right relationship.

This book strikes me as the sequel to He's Just Not That Into You, the answer to the inevitable question, "But why?"

Because when relationships end, many women wonder what's wrong with us, and we run through every reason we can conjure and check one or more mental boxes:

❏ I'm not thin enough
❏ I'm not pretty enough
❏ I'm not smart enough
❏ I'm not _____ enough

And then we vow to change. But change to attract who, exactly? The guys who just dumped us? Future guys who might dump us once they meet us and decide that we're not "enough"?

Witkin's not suggesting that women shouldn't change. She is, however, suggesting that we should change to make ourselves happy, "not to get the guy or so that the next guy will find you more lovable."

When it comes to the "But why?", sometimes we just have to accept that we may never know, we may never understand. "You can't make someone love you," she writes, "and you shouldn't try."

The key to Witkin's thinking is that we're all fine as we are, "perfectly lovable," she writes. Today. And that somewhere out there are men who will love us for who we are today, not who we will be once we lose 20 pounds or who we will be once we earn that master's degree or who we will be once we get nipped or tucked or otherwise made over.

Live your life, she says. Don't hang out in sports bars hoping to snag a man unless you love sports, too. She writes, "Look at it this way: when we go on dates, we act like dates and find dates; when we go to singles bars, we act like singles and find singles; but when we go our own way, we find others who are going the same way. In other words, when we go on with our life, we find life partners. So be out there, going where you love to go, wearing what you love to wear, doing all you love to do, and men will find you. Then you can choose your great mate from among them."

I find that at once both painfully obvious and astonishingly revolutionary.

I once worked with a woman who wanted to snag a rich guy, so she started taking sailing lessons, figuring that men at yacht clubs would necessarily be somewhat loaded. I didn't know her very well, but nothing I knew about her ever suggested that she cared a whit about sailing. Now, sailing doesn't seem like it sucks, so maybe it wasn't hard for her to get into, but it always struck me as awfully manipulative, as though she were predicating any future relationship on a charade.

Witkin also tells women to "lose the list." Forget your type, she says. Don't automatically dismiss guys because they don't fit the notion of who you think you want to be with.

Because you've probably dated guys who fit your parameters and you're still single, aren't you? So maybe it's time to broaden your horizons. "[M]en are real, not ideal. Perfectly lovable, never perfect," just like us. "[P]ick which traits you must have, then let the others be a surprise. ... A perfect match does not exist; the man who loves you does."

Still, timing is everything. "Sometimes, the only thing wrong with a 'perfect' man—the man who matches everything on your list—is that he doesn't want to marry you. But that's the biggest imperfection of all. If he's not ready to be with you, then he's not the perfect guy. Not now. Maybe not ever. Don't wait. Don't try to change his mind. Let him go."

Yup. Been there.

"You need to spend your time looking for someone who thinks you're perfectly lovable—and who is ready to commit to you," she writes.

Very few men, though, are truly commitment-phobic, she writes: "They may be avoiding marriage, but not because they are incapable of making the decision or would suffer from panic attacks if they did. It's more likely to be immaturity, unrealistic expectations, reluctance to share, romantic notions, disinterest, or career concerns. In other words, just bad timing. And it doesn't really matter. Instead of figuring out fancy diagnoses, move on."

She sums it all up nicely thusly: "Love should make you feel good—if you feel bad, it's not love. Wait for the real thing."

Sometimes, out and about, I see the most unlikely of couples, and I smile, thinking, "There really is a lid for every pot."

We just need to find each other.

Witkin writes, "You are a mix of your temperament, your knowledge, your experiences, your talents, your challenges, your vulnerabilities, your feedback, your traumas, and your victories. As with a cake, the ingredients can't be changed once they're all baked together. Add a layer if you want. Ice it. Decorate it. But most of all, enjoy it!

"And as for his cake—it's also already baked. Too late to add more sugar or salt to the batter. If it's not your taste, don't try to remix it. You'll end up with crumbs. Acquire a taste, or save your appetite for the next one."

And with that I say, "No more crumbs."


Blogger J. Marquis said...

Can I ask you something, Beth? I have no agenda here, I'm just you think the sexual revolution (and freedom) has ultimately put women at a disadvantage? I'm not saying men aren't capable of love and commitment but I do know we often need a little shove in the right direction...

7:16 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Interesting question, J.

My gut reaction is: Yes.

But I wonder how much of what transpires is a shift in specific behaviors and mores in recent decades versus simply understanding more about the interaction between men and women because it's become more acceptable to talk about it openly, which in and of itself is a function of the same revolution.

I'm finding myself writing paragraphs of comment and then deleting them.

So I'll ruminate on this and write a post when have my thoughts more composed.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Honestly, I think Dr. Witkin's analysis could be applied to men as well. I think wanting the wrong people is something that happens to members of both sexes. I look at myself and my male friends, and I have to say a lot of what she says holds true of us as well.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Another thought just occurred to me. The book reminds me of something I read in a magazine a good two decades ago. It was by a psychologist who had this theory about "Lois Lane syndrome (I think that's what she called it)." Essentially, a woman suffering from "Lois Lane syndrome" is so busy waiting for Superman that she doesn't realise that Superman could be the nice guy and fellow reporter with glasses who is obviously crazy about her. Of course, again, I think this can be applied to men too.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

There's a whole chapter in the book about friends, that maybe someone someone is friends with is really the man that person is meant to be with.

And I have a friend who is married to someone she once only thought of as a friend. So it happens, for sure.

And I'm sure both men and women have lamentations about being friends with someone of the opposite sex and wishing the other person would get a clue.

I wonder how many of those situations are lopsided, if Nora Ephron was right when she asserted that men and women can never really be friends in "When Harry Met Sally ... ."

9:34 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Well, I think Nora was wrong--men and women can be friends, but then I also think she blew her thesis by giving us two people who were so obviously meant to be together--Harry and Sally! It wasn't exactly a fair test!

1:40 PM  
Anonymous martha said...

i like a lot of the comments you relay from the book. elmore completely surprised me -- if i'd made a list of what i wanted, he could not have been more different from what i might have expected. i met him living my life -- going to art/craft fairs and chatting with the artists the way i do -- so we share a lifestyle of creativity. but he's athletic (amazingly i'm a kayaker now, but no one who knew me before elmore would have believed it), shy and not very talkative, not a dancer, and shorter than i am.

he had that something, though, that really caught me. my sister says, there's a hollywood script out there where you expect certain scenes to be played out, and even if they are, you're not surprised or delighted because they're just what you expect. she likes her horses because there's no script, so everything is a gift. elmore is the opposite of my swoony romantic self, but because he's so different, the thing he does for me are unexpected and very touching.

that's a long way of saying, "don't write anyone off because they don't fit your list/expectations." unexpected can be marvellous.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well said, Martha! Thanks! I was just looking at photos of the two of you on your FB page. You look like the ideal couple!

7:56 PM  
Anonymous martha said...

writing on your blog inspired me to dig out a few wedding photos for fb. i can't believe it took me this long. and yes, i'm incredibly lucky, but it took me a good long time.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm glad I got to see them! And Elmore is lucky, too!

10:41 PM  

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