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Tips for Women: How to Have a Relationship with a Guy

[The following passage is from Dave Barry’s hilarious book, Complete Guide to Guys, 1995.]

Contrary to what many women believe, it’s fairly easy to develop a long-term, stable, intimate, and mutually fulfilling relationship with a guy. Of course this guy has to be a Labrador retriever. With human guys, it’s extremely difficult. This is because guys don’t really grasp what women mean by the term relationship.

Let’s say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward... I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking:... so that means it was... let’s see... February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means... lemme check the odometer... Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed—even before I sensed it—that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings: He’s afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s eighty-seven degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieving cretin bastards six hundred dollars.

And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a ninety-day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say, the scumballs.

And Elaine is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a goddamn warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their...

“Roger,” Elaine says aloud.

“What?” says Roger, startled.

“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have... Oh God, I feel so...” (She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Roger.

“I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Roger.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you,” Elaine says.

“No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that... It’s that I... I need some time,” Elaine says.

(There is a fifteen-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

“Yes,” he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

“Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Roger.

“That way about time,” says Elaine.

“Oh,” says Roger. “Yes.”

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

“Thank you, Roger,” she says.

“Thank you,” says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This is also Roger’s policy regarding world hunger.)

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: “Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?”



We’re not talking about different wavelengths here. We’re talking about different planets, in completely different solar systems. Elaine cannot communicate meaningfully with Roger about their relationship any more than she can meaningfully play chess with a duck. Because the sum total of Roger’s thinking on this particular topic is as follows:

Huh?

Women have a lot of trouble accepting this. Despite millions of years of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, women are convinced that guys must spend a certain amount of time thinking about the relationship. How could they not? How could a guy see another human being day after day, night after night, sharing countless hours with this person, becoming physically intimate—how can a guy be doing these things and not be thinking about their relationship? This is what women figure.

They are wrong. A guy in a relationship is like an ant standing on top of a truck tire. The ant is aware, on a very basic level, that something large is there, but he cannot even dimly comprehend what this thing is, or the nature of his involvement with it. And if the truck starts moving, and the tire starts to roll, the ant will sense that something important is happening, but right up until he rolls around to the bottom and is squashed into a small black blot, the only distinct thought that will form in his tiny brain will be, and I quote,

Huh?

Which is exactly what Roger will think when Elaine explodes with fury at him when he commits one of the endless series of petty offenses, such as asking her sister out, that guys are always committing in relationships because they have virtually no clue that they are in one.

“How could he?” Elaine will ask her best friends. “What was he thinking?”

The answer is, He wasn’t thinking, in the sense that women mean the word. He can’t: He doesn’t have the appropriate type of brain. He has a guy brain, which is basically an analytical, problem-solving type of organ. It likes things to be definite and measurable and specific. It’s not comfortable with nebulous and imprecise relationship-type concepts such as love and need and trust. If the guy brain has to form an opinion about another person, it prefers to form that opinion based on something concrete about the person, such as his or her earned-run average.

So the guy brain is not well-suited to grasping relationships. But it’s good at analyzing and solving mechanical problems. For example, if a couple owns a house, and they want to repaint it so they can sell it, it will probably be the guy who will take charge of this project. He will methodically take the necessary measurements, calculate the total surface area, and determine the per-gallon coverage capacity of the paint; then, using his natural analytical and mathematical skills, he will apply himself to the problem of figuring out a good excuse not to paint the house.

“It’s too humid,” he’ll say. Or: “I’ve read that prospective buyers are actually attracted more to a house with a lot of exterior dirt.” Guys simply have a natural flair for this kind of problem-solving. That’s why we always have guys in charge of handling the federal budget deficit.

But the point I’m trying to make is that, if you’re a woman, and you want to have a successful relationship with a guy, the Number One Tip to remember is:

1. Never assume that the guy understands that you and he have a relationship.

The guy will not realize this on his own. You have to plant the idea in his brain by constantly making subtle references to it in your everyday conversation, such as:

“Roger, would you mind passing me a Sweet ‘n’ Low, inasmuch as we have a relationship?”

“Wake up, Roger! There’s a prowler in the den and we have a relationship! You and I do, I mean.”

“Good news, Roger! The gynecologist says we’re going to have our fourth child, which will serve as yet another indication that we have a relationship!”

“Roger, inasmuch as this plane is crashing and we probably have only about a minute to live, I want you to know that we’ve had a wonderful fifty-three years of marriage together, which clearly constitutes a relationship.”

Never let up, women. Pound away relentlessly at this concept, and eventually it will start to penetrate the guy’s brain. Some day he might even start thinking about it on his own. He’ll be talking with some other guys about women, and, out of the blue, he’ll say, “Elaine and I, we have, ummm... We have, ahhh... We... We have this thing.”

And he will sincerely mean it.

The next relationship-enhancement tip is:

2. Do not expect the guy to make a hasty commitment.

By “hasty,” I mean, “within your lifetime.” Guys are extremely reluctant to make commitments. This is because they never feel ready.

“I’m sorry,” guys are always telling women, “but I’m just not ready to make a commitment.” Guys are in a permanent state of nonreadiness. If guys were turkey breasts, you could put them in a 350-degree oven on July Fourth, and they still wouldn’t be done in time for Thanksgiving.

Women have a lot of trouble understanding this. Women ask themselves: How can a guy say he’s “not ready” to make a permanent commitment to a woman with whom he is obviously compatible; a woman whom he has been seeing for years; a woman who once drove his dog to the veterinarian in her new car when it (the dog) started making unusual stomach noises and then barfing prolifically after eating an entire birthday cake, including candles, that she made from scratch for him (the guy), the result being that her car will smell like a stadium rest room for the next five years, at the end of which this guy will probably still say he’s “not ready”? And how come this same guy was somehow capable, at age seven, of committing himself to a lifelong, passionate, win-or-lose relationship with the Kansas City Royals, who have never so much as sent him a card?

A lot of women have concluded that the problem is that guys, as a group, have the emotional maturity of hamsters. No, this is not the case. A hamster is much more capable of making a lasting commitment to a woman, especially if she gives it those little food pellets. Whereas a guy, in a relationship, will consume the pellets of companionship, and he will run on the exercise wheel of lust; but as soon as he senses that the door of commitment is about to close and trap him in the wire cage of true intimacy, he’ll squirm out, scamper across the kitchen floor of uncertainty and hide under the refrigerator of nonreadiness. (I am a professional writer. Do not try these metaphors at home.)

This is natural behavior. Guys are born with a fundamental, genetically transmitted mental condition known to psychologists as: The Fear That If You Get Attached to a Woman, Some Unattached Guy, Somewhere, Will Be Having More Fun Than You. This is why all married guys assume that all unmarried guys lead lives of constant excitement involving hot tubs full of naked international fashion models; whereas in fact for most unmarried guys, the climax of the typical evening is watching an infomercial for Hair-in-a-Spray-Can while eating onion dip straight from the container. (This is also true of married guys, although statistically they are far more likely to be using a spoon.)

So guys are extremely reluctant to make commitments, or even to take any steps that might lead to commitments. This is why, when a guy goes out on a date with a woman and finds himself really liking her, he often will demonstrate his affection by avoiding her for the rest of his life.

Women are puzzled by this. “I don’t understand,” they say. “We had such a great time! Why doesn’t he call?”

The reason is that the guy, using the linear guy thought process, has realized that if he takes her out again, he’ll probably like her even more, so he’ll take her out again, and eventually they’ll fall in love with each other, and they’ll get married, and they’ll have children, and then they’ll have grandchildren, and eventually they’ll retire and take a trip around the world, and they’ll be walking hand-in-hand on some spectacular beach in the South Pacific, reminiscing about the lifetime of experiences they’ve shared together, and then several naked international fashion models will walk up and invite him to join them in a hot tub, and he won’t be able to do it.

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