Image from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
How ironic is this? This morning, I was reassuring Vered that she’s definitely more of a mommyblogger than I am, and now I’m writing a post about how to be a woman. How did this happen?
Rest assured that I have a good excuse. As I was catching up on reading blogs, I noticed that in Steve Pavlina’s post How to Be a Man, he offered to link to all quality submissions of a “How to Be a Woman” article.
He specifically said that you don’t have to be a woman to enter, but acknowledged that it might help. Handicapped as I may be, I thought I’d give it a shot. Without further ado, here is my guide to being a woman.
1. Don’t apologize for being a woman.
You’re not a man. Surely you already know that. And yet, it’s possible that you’re secretly pretending to be one. Maybe you’re in a profession that’s dominated by men, so you feel you have to hide your femininity by dressing a certain way, acting a certain way, hiding your emotions, and so forth. Maybe you want to have a baby and take extended maternity leave, but you feel guilty that you’re not putting enough emphasis on your career.
The fact is, men and women are different because they’re supposed to be different. Men and women live their lives with their brains soaking in different hormones, so it’s inevitable that they turn out to be different. Men need women to be different, so don’t apologize for being who you are.
2. Realize that men are confused about how to treat women.
While the double standard was unfair, it had the benefit of being clearly defined. Today, women have many more options available to them, but the equality of the sexes has left many men wondering how a woman wants to be treated.
If a man gets out of his car and walks around to open the passenger door for a woman, she might be surprised by this behavior and give him a look that says to him “What, are you gay or something?” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Based on this experience, he might later decide that when she offers to help pay for dinner, that he should let her, and she ends up being silently offended.
Realize that when your man goes back and forth between treating you like a modern liberated woman and a 1950s housewife, it’s quite possible that he just has no idea what you want. He’ll appreciate you for understanding his confusion and dropping hints about how you want to be treated.
3. Be clear about what being a woman means to you.
I once saw a woman who was absolutely furious about something that had happened to her at work, and was complaining about discrimination against women and the gender wage gap. I thought she certainly had some valid points. However, when she later got a speeding ticket, she asked “How could he give me a ticket? I’m just a girl.”
Maybe you have an idea about what being a woman means to you. For example, it might include being entitled to the same career opportunities as men and receiving equal pay for equal work. Fine. But if you play the “I’m just a girl” card whenever it’s convenient, that’s completely inconsistent with the image you had about women being equal to men.
If you keep changing your mental concept of being a woman, you’re sending out inconsistent vibes. If you sometimes expect to be treated as powerful and sometimes expect to be treated as helpless, the world won’t know how to respond to you. Decide who you are, and consistently project that image.
4. Help men out with the “Venus” concept.
In Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, John Gray pointed out some differences between men and women that might be stereotypical, but are also fairly accurate. He says that when women talk about a problem they’re having, what they really want is sympathy, but a man’s instinct is to offer solutions. This results in the man not being appreciated for his efforts, while the woman thinks he doesn’t care.
The reason your man offers solutions instead of sympathy is because in his eyes, sympathy doesn’t help nearly as much. The solutions aren’t because he doesn’t care, but because he doesn’t know any better. But if he understood that sympathy is what you really want (if that’s true for you), he’d be very happy with that, since being sympathetic takes a lot less effort than figuring out solutions.
Just be aware that he needs you to help him figure out what you want. If he starts thinking of solutions, just say that all you really need is a back rub, for example. Then let him know you appreciate it at the end. After doing this a couple of times, he’ll learn this is what he’s supposed to do.
5. At the same time, make an effort to respect the “Mars” principle.
The other point that John Gray made is that men don’t like to be given unsolicited advice. While meant to be helpful, to them it might sound like “I don’t trust you to be able to solve this problem. I need to help you because you’re not capable.”
The classic example is men’s infamous unwillingness to ask for directions. I know this is not universally true because in the days before MapQuest, I once voluntarily pulled over at a gas station to ask for directions, and thought nothing of it. However, some men can be much more difficult, refusing to stop for help, refusing even to call the friend they’re trying to find.
While this behavior may perplex you, know that it’s normal. If possible, try to avoid giving advice, even if you think it will be helpful. You can be the bigger woman here! However, there may be situations where remaining silent stops being an option, such as when you’ve been driving way too long, you still haven’t found the place, and you know you’re not going to.
One possibility is to just take out your cell phone and call someone for help, without telling him in advance what you’re doing. This way, you’ve spared him from “the shame of giving up.” On the other hand, he might not like this at all. There might not be a universal solution for this problem, but you can learn from experience what works best for you.
6. Don’t be offended when your man stares at someone else.
Yes, he’s wrong to do it, but it’s a necessary side effect of the same hormones that helped bring you together in the first place. A confident woman is secure enough not to feel threatened by an occasional peek. Besides, as Marilyn vos Savant said, “A pretty woman turns the heads of the boys, a beautiful woman turns the heads of the men too, but it takes a gorgeous woman to turn the heads of the women.” So if you didn’t turn your head, then she’s not that much of a threat.
If your man is bothering you by excessively staring at other women, one way to handle it is with an unexpected comment such as “check out the ass on her!” In addition to bringing to his attention that he might be staring more than he realizes, he’ll be so impressed you had the courage to say such a thing that he’ll instantly forget about what’s-her-name.
7. Gracefully handle the wedding dress issue.
If you’re an unmarried woman, the odds are good that one day you’ll want to spend thousands of dollars on a custom-made designer silk wedding dress that you’ll only wear once. The odds are also good that you’ll fail miserably in convincing your man that this makes any sense at all.
He wants to marry you, but he doesn’t care about the actual wedding, so don’t try to explain how important the dress is to you. He won’t get that. Instead, relate it to something he does care about. Something like this:
“Honey, did you see that the new Porsche 911 is out? I love this car, but the sticker price starts at $74,000. That seems like an awful lot, and your 1993 Corolla is still holding up. What do you think?”
To you, the car is stupid. To him, the dress is stupid. But they both mean similar things to their prospective owners. If you show that you value his wants even though you don’t understand them, he’s much more likely to reciprocate. Besides, the Porsche is a much better deal in terms of hours of enjoyment per dollar.
(Since finance is one of the topics I write about, I can’t let this go without saying that both a Porsche and an expensive wedding dress are terrible investments, logically speaking. Sure, sometimes it’s not about logic, but think very carefully before deciding that you have money to burn.)