She’s Just A Friend

You meet a woman—she’s cute, smart, good sense of humor, and is fun to be around. So why can’t you see her as more than a friend? Perhaps she suffers from a condition called: Dude-ish. Let’s face it, a man wants a lady. The type of woman he could take home to mom, or envision mothering his children. A major turn off for most men is when a woman doesn’t embrace or fully understand femininity. I’m not advocating for stilettos and miniskirts, or embracing some commercialized perception of femininity, but it’s more of an attitude. Here are 5 reasons why you likely keep her in the friend zone:

 

  1. Cursing. A woman that curses like it’s going out of style is semi-cute for about two minutes—kind of like the baby that shows up in tons of memes online. You know the one. A little boy at a UK soccer match exhibiting hooliganism—frowned face, middle finger extended, and surrounded by adult fans. It makes you chuckle because it’s the opposite of what modern society considers to be decent. Let’s face it; men want to feel like they exert the masculinity in the relationship. If every time a woman opens her mouth, she reminds you of a frat brother—it’s a turn-off. Nothing against the classic F-bomb, it’s become a quintessential part of the lexicon and has merit in certain situations. But if a woman drops one every other word, it’s definitely a romance killer. As a friend of mine once put it, after I asked him why he wouldn’t date a girl who was clearly into him—“She talks like a dude.”

 

  1. Etiquette. It’s great when a woman gets comfortable with a man, but comfortable enough to burp or pass gas in front of him can be hard to handle. I was once on a date where a woman drank two Diet Cokes in a forty minute sitting. On the second, when she reached the bottom of the glass, after a few final slurps, she released an eardrum-rattling belch. The patrons sitting near us stopped eating for a moment, clearly annoyed and disgusted. I was embarrassed. She brushed it off with an obnoxious laugh. I quickly asked the waitress for the check.

 

  1. Attire. It’s widely accepted that women are keen on how a man dresses. It’s one of the things they consider to be attractive. When a man dresses poorly, a woman can lose interest. A man who doesn’t dress well has become such a social cliché, that it’s inspired make-over segments on morning talk shows and became the basis for the reality TV series—“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. But what of the women who struggle in the fashion department? I’m not saying a woman needs to be a fashionista, but men do notice when a woman presents herself well—a well fitted skirt, a tailored blouse, etc. I recently saw a woman enter a hotel lobby in high heels. I watched her struggle. It looked as if she was going to trip at any minute. She was greeted by a man—well-dressed in a sport coat and denim. After a quick embrace, he placed his hand on the small of her back and followed behind her into the hotel’s bar. A few steps in, and he looked down, clearly noticing that her shoes were too big and the back of the pump was gapping. In that moment, his body language changed. He seemed less in awe, maybe a little blasé. In every situation, confidence is everything. When a woman exudes it, it’s an incredibly attractive quality. And a woman who is comfortable in her clothes will always emerge confident—always. Shoes that are too big aren’t the end of the world, but if it affects how a woman carries herself and it diminishes her confidence, it can leave damper on the first impression.

 

  1. Talking About Other Men. The fastest way for a man to lose romantic interest in a woman is if she constantly talks about the other men she’s dated. Even if it isn’t true, a man wants to feel like he’s different—as if he’s captured a woman’s attention like no other man before him. A man will relegate a woman to friend zone swiftly if she continuously talks about other men. A man recognizes that the woman his dating probably dated and slept with other men; however, reminders are not necessary. This also includes displayed photos of previous boyfriends—especially intimate ones. As a man who’s experienced this, it’s not a good feeling. Though it wasn’t done in spite, when I saw a picture of a girlfriend kissing her ex, who she admittedly still was hung up on; it made me withdraw from the relationship. What some women fail to understand is that mystery is good. Men don’t want, nor do we need, to know everything about you in the first few months of dating. Men need pieces of information, and time to process that information. Unless it’s something highly pertinent; such as, a risk to your partner’s health or safety, a man doesn’t need to know right away. Even if you’ve cheated in the past, don’t drop that chestnut on him after the first few dates. Let him get to know you first and then be upfront. As long as a woman is truthful, a man shouldn’t lose respect for her.

 

  1. Cold and Cavalier. In romance men like a challenge—it’s the taming of the shrew. During the courting phase, playing hard to get can entice men. Once that phase is complete, a woman who’s cold, distant and aloof will only push a man away. A man needs a sign that a woman is interested. Some women seem to think a nonchalant or “whatever” approach to dating is the best policy. Tragically, there are women who will run good men away playing this juvenile game. Men crave directness and decisiveness when it comes to feelings. The marble throne in the high court of the friend zone is reserved for the woman who truly doesn’t know what she wants. Sometimes a man will stay in the picture hoping she’ll figure it out, but in time he’ll move on. It’s always best to have a defined relationship. Leaving someone in limbo only leads to resentment. Men are notorious for pretending not to be interested because they don’t want to come off desperate. However, it’s a double-standard, and though unfair, it’s a game a woman should never engage in. And frankly, if a man is really interested, he should have the balls to pick up the phone sooner rather than later.

 

At the end of the day, when a man truly likes a woman, he will overlook some things. The same goes for women. The friend zone is a place neither party wants to end up in, and a way to avoid it is to exercise tact and ethical judgment—along with staying humble, being honest and keeping these five tidbits in mind. After all, anything is worth a try when it comes to having a successful relationship.

The Swirl: Race and Dating in LA

It’s well-known that Los Angeles touts itself as a cultural melting pot—a liberal Mecca with a thriving culture of art, music and film. It’s a place of sophistication and forward thinking, and where the only societal pressure is to be the hippest version of you. People are free to date whomever they like, and most onlookers won’t give a second glance. Having lived in the South where interracial dating is still taboo, LA is in direct opposite. I have had the pleasure of dating women of various ethnicities. What I look for in a woman has always been substance and depth. I’ve always been attracted to a woman who has something to say and isn’t afraid to say it. And in my life, these women have come in various tones and shades.

 

However, like with anything, there is a less appealing side to what talk show host and radio personality, Wendy Williams, calls “the swirl”. On three occasions, I’ve dated women of European descent—most recently, German. She was a sweet, attractive and pleasant woman. Though we had our disagreements and ultimately a failure to sustain what we had, we ended things on honest terms. Yet, there was always an elephant in the room. She always seemed apprehensive to introduce me to her friends with the exception of her roommate. Once, as we sat in a Mexican restaurant near her hometown, a young white woman she recognized approached us. They greeted each other quickly and without introduction, the woman left and my date seemed relieved she didn’t stick around. I didn’t bother asking who it was, since it wasn’t my business, but it was strange.

She would later explain she had no black friends, and limited friends of color. Out of curiosity, I once asked her, why that was? She didn’t really know, but she assumed she just spent time with people who were mostly like her. I found it odd. Living in a metropolis like Los Angeles, I had grown up with friends from all ethnic backgrounds, and I realized how much of a gift it was. I learned so much about other ethnicities and cultures. I learned to see the beauty of humanity; tolerance was imprinted into my upbringing. My parents had a diverse group of friends as well, and I remember as a child thinking that’s how friendship should be—a melting pot.

In a later conversation, she explained she had dated black men before, but nothing serious had materialized. Her friends thought she simply had “the fever”, and that it was more of a phase she was going through since she could never stick it out with a man of color. She assured me that wasn’t the case; instead, she felt she could only see herself marrying a black man. Every now and then we’d have conversations concerning race and identity. She didn’t know much about black history, and rarely shared any tidbits about growing up German. We never attended cultural events in the city, or ventured into neighborhoods that predominately had an ethnic make-up other than white. She lived in the valley, and much of our time was spent there. Looking back, I realize there were times she was clearly uncomfortable. It made me wonder, was I that edgy accessory? Was I the equivalent of getting a tattoo or a piercing in an unexpected place? Was it a case of fetishization and rebellion?

I remember in high school how certain girls from prominent white families would take a black boy to the prom. It was seldom that they would date them for longer than a month, but for the prom they were showcased in photos with the star black athlete—the award-winning wide receiver, the basketball playing MVP, the captain of the wrestling team. Sure, one could say girls just like athletes, but it was peculiar.

I’m an eternal optimist and a racial deconstructionist. I believe racism will only be eliminated when great distinctions in color no longer exist—similar to what was broached in the National Geographic article, “Changing Faces: What Americans Will Look Like in 2050”. But I’m also a realist and understand the nature of people—some like to experiment, and LA is a great place to do it without facing judgment. However, there is something inherently racist in doing so. I faced moments where I felt less like a person and more like “the non-threatening black guy she was dating.” She once said, “From your voice on the phone, I’d never guess you were a black person.” This wasn’t so alarming since I’ve heard it all my life, and I’ve actually mastered sounding ambiguous on the phone—it’s helped me land job interview after job interview. Yet, it still bothered me. What is talking ‘black’? It’s a concept I’ve never gotten. I’m college educated with a master’s degree, so sue me. I read books, sometimes a book a week. Am I an anomaly? I don’t know, but I sure feel like one sometimes. It all boils down to cultural understanding and experience. I don’t think the girl I dated was a closet racist. On the contrary, I think she saw race in America as something that could be shelved and perhaps not really dealt with. After all, people can connect over music, films, food, books, etc. But there will always be that elephant in the room, and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

I believe people should date others not because of their racial identities, but because they find them interesting. But if you are going to participate in “the swirl”, just be sure you’re dating someone who has a true interest in your culture. Since it’s a component to identity, someone who has no understanding or interest in learning about where you come from, may have an even less interest in really getting to know you on a deeper level. 

I’d like to think these issues are going away soon, but I think they are here to stay for a while. Misunderstandings and stereotypes are traps, and if they burrow their way into a relationship it will prove to be disastrous. More education is needed and an even greater willingness to expose our ignorance to each other, especially if love is at stake. For those participating in the black and white “swirl”, for your next date, skip the romantic comedy and check out “Dear White People”. It might be just the thing that lets that elephant out of the room. 

Good luck, Dreamlanders!

 

You Scare Me To Death (Working through “Gone Girl”) (Spoiler Alert)

I recently saw David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” which resonated on a few levels. It’s a slick film based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, with an underlying metaphor about the futility of marriage. The female protagonist is Amy, a scorned woman who is also a psychopath. She constructs a revenge scenario of biblical proportions and sets out to make her husband suffer in unimaginable ways.

The film treats marriage as some type of shared psychosis. It’s emotional but also very mental. What exactly happens to a person’s brain when they get married, or better yet, fall deeply in love? Things change upstairs–chemicals and neurons, an altered psychosis.

Amy’s mission is to make her husband feel as bad as she did–worse. She recognizes that at some point, early on, she did love her husband but that love turns to hate upon discovering his infidelity. I understand that Amy is a murderous psychopath, but how she sees marriage may not be that far-fetched. Her philosophy is that when we meet someone and begin to build a relationship, we enter into a social contract. Who you say you are or pretend to be, is who we accept as the truth. It’s like both parties are agreeing to this lie or revision of who they both are–sure, things will come out later but they shouldn’t be earth-shaking shockers.

Where the overall theme becomes apparent, is within the last 15 minutes that leads to the climax and resolution. Amy attempts to restore the contract she had with her husband and in the process she kills. She reclaims her marriage and renegotiates the terms of their agreement. This time with a trump card–pregnancy. The fear of Amy having a child and raising it is what propels her husband to stay. And their marriage becomes an even bigger production. Most marriages are just that–a production. There’s the public version, the private version, and then the version that exists in silence. It’s what isn’t said in the moments at the dinner table. There are people who have been married for years and quietly resent each other, but they don’t divorce. It’s that shared psychosis–a mental illness. Yes, Amy is insane but marriage isn’t for the sane. And they aren’t always about happiness for some. There are those who take comfort in knowing the devil they sleep with. Once you understand the nature of a thing, you know what it’s capable of. It can be much more frightening starting something new and having to get to know the ends and outs of that person. What if they’re worse than the person you left? What if they hurt you again and you can’t recover? These are frightening thoughts for most. 

In marriages people hurt each other–some hurt big, some small. Some go out of their way to hurt, and some just make horrible mistakes. Meeting someone sets unknown events into motion. It’s the unknown that we crave and that’s healthy. However, when venturing into the unknown, always be sure you can see a light at the end of the tunnel or at least a good exit route.  

The Rewind

Looking back on a past relationship is never pretty. It requires having to filter through moments you thought mattered but didn’t. Those moments that resonated on an emotional level, but for the other person were simply a series of seconds that made up the minutes of some mundane event. It’s harsh but real. When entering a relationship, you must face the possibility that the person you are with isn’t with you because they love you. They can be with you because they fear being alone. Or you may be that experiment–that person they think will save them. 

The following are rules when rewinding through the past:

1. It’s going to hurt–it’s going to hurt bad. Even if you weren’t in love with the person, humans have an insatiable need to never give up. There’s always going to be that feeling of–“What if I tried harder?” or “Communicated more?”. The fact is, there is nothing you could have done. In the words of James Caan, “Sometimes we just don’t mix.”

2. Was it really romantic? Romance is a major part of sustaining a relationship. For some, they believe sex over romance will keep something going, but that always fails. Sex changes things. What begins as one thing, is something completely different in the end. You don’t include love, respect, romance, faithfulness–it’s doomed. It’s imperative that you ask yourself, was it ever romantic. Did you get those butterflies in your stomach when that person came around. I’ve felt it a few times in my life and it’s unmistakable. The most recent was with a girl, almost a year ago. She’s gone to Louisiana now, but I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since. I remember standing at her door and waiting for her to open it. I always had a lump in my throat and my stomach was doing flips.

3. Were you inspired? This is major because I’m a firm believer that the person you’re with should inspire you in some way. You should wake up and want to be better for that person because you care what they think of you. If you don’t feel inspired by the moments shared, then they weren’t anything special.

4. Now this is difficult but were they always present in the moment? Was there a time you caught the person drifting off or looking at someone else in front of you? Were they always intently focused on you, like you were the only one in the room? It’s painful to confront but it must be done. If you ever felt like they weren’t fully engaged–eye contact, body language, listening, etc. Then you experienced that so-called “connection” alone. They were simply occupying the chair next you.

5. This may be the hardest, but were they honest with you? Honesty is key, always. Was there ever a time when you just knew they were holding back information (omission), maybe even flat-out lying? I’m one for the truth, no matter how terrible it is. However, there are those who con and through deceit, gain your trust and access to your heart. But with any lie, it falls apart sooner or later. That little lie was a sign of things to come. It meant that you didn’t truly matter, not enough for the person to be straight with you. And it can easily snowball into cheating or more terrible forms of deceit. 

In the end, we do the best we can. Dating and relationships of any kind come with risk, but with great risk is the potential for great reward. In the city of dreams, it’s easy to get lost. But Drake put it best, “Know yourself, know your worth.” Don’t ever compromise. Good luck out there Dreamlanders!