By Dan Geoffrey
Am I qualified to write this editorial? It was the first question I asked myself after this idea popped into my head at about 11:45 on a Saturday night. I grew up with three younger sisters and don’t remember a time before at least one of them was born. I’m also one of only two guys on the entire newspaper staff, so evidently I have the experience. But even after 17 years living side by side with girls, I can’t claim to understand them in the least. Still, the title is ‘For what it’s worth,’ so take it for what it’s worth to you and consider it free insight into a guy’s perspective.
Before we start, like I said, I won’t pretend to understand the many difficulties of womanhood: Mercifully, I have never endured the monthly wrath of Mother Nature, though I’ve certainly found myself caught in the crossfire; I have never had to work through the intricacies of underwear shopping, beyond grabbing a package of boxers or t-shirts off the shelf at Target; I have never had to sort out ‘girl drama,’ though, again, I have been caught in the midst of the struggle on several occasions, none of which produced particularly fond memories; I’ve never had to learn to apply makeup, and with any luck I never will. But that’s not the point. It’s safe to say that all people are confusing, regardless of gender.
Yet it shouldn’t stop us – and won’t stop me – from offering advice when and where advice is due.
You have heard it said that chivalry is dead. Or at least I have, every time I neglect to hold a door or pull out a chair or offer a hand carrying bags to the car. It’s the favorite saying of several prominent women in my life, in fact.
Just a few months ago when my father was in the hospital, my sister, my mother, and I drove out to visit him one afternoon. My sister was carrying a bag with fresh clothing for him when she pushed it into my hands. I handed it back and told her that she was a strong and capable individual, and could surely handle a bag of sweatpants and t-shirts herself.
“You’re so unchivalrous Danny, I can’t believe you!” she said, indignant. “Is this how you’ll treat your girlfriend one day?”
I remember doing a turn on my heel and looking her square in the eye. The words sort of tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop myself. “Chivalry is about helping people in need, regardless of gender. You are not a cripple. You are strong, intelligent, and independent. You don’t need me. Other people do. Chivalry isn’t about serving people who can serve themselves; it’s about helping the helpless. You can carry this bag yourself.”
I didn’t think it was a particularly rude response, but she disagreed vehemently. I don’t remember what exactly she said in reply, but it got mom involved, and yes, I did end up carrying the bag to dad’s hospital room. Even after that, I don’t regret what I said.
On this subject, I believe there are two main opinions among women: Either the notion of chivalry is something to be observed flawlessly by every man on earth in his every waking moment, or chivalry is a barbaric practice dating to a period when women were little more than property. Both ideas have their own flaws and hypocrisies to them, but that’s outside the range of this thought right now. Chivalry, according to most people today, is a general desire to help others and be an upstanding member of society. Why that has to apply only to the way a man treats women is completely beyond me. There are plenty of reasons why a man may find himself unable to hold open a door for somebody: Maybe he’s deep in thought and didn’t notice a door needed to be held (the usual case for me), maybe he’s not feeling well, or maybe he just doesn’t have the time. The point is that nobody on Earth walks around with their eyes trained on finding doors to open for people. But just because he doesn’t find himself able to grab that door every time somebody needs it doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. The true measure of a man is seen in his treatment of people who are in need of help. A man who doesn’t open the door for a person in a wheelchair, or an elder with a cane, or maybe a person who simply has their hands full, on the other hand, is probably not the best guy on Earth.
My advice to women here is to stop placing so much emphasis on having a man to care for them in the most trivial of ways. Instead, when you look at a man, look at how he treats you when you do need help, or when somebody else needs help. It’s when the chips are down and somebody needs to save the day (even if saving somebody’s day is accomplished in the smallest of ways), that we see a person’s true character. This goes for men and women in equal measure. A real chivalrous man, a real knight in shining armor, is a guy who takes care of those who need it most. If that doesn’t happen to be you at the time just because you’re a member of ‘the fairer sex,’ that shouldn’t necessarily speak ill of his character.
On Daily Struggles
The group of people I hang out with regularly consists of a pretty good mix of guys and girls. One of their favorite and also most awkward things to talk about is who has the harder life: men or women. Usually when this topic comes around I try my best to get the heck out of the way, because it’s quite possibly one of the most pointless things for anybody to discuss.
No matter where you come from, what your experiences are, or whether you’re a man or a woman, nobody’s life is truly easy. Your problems are not mine, and my problems are not yours. They are everybody’s problems in that we should work together to solve them, but they are not exactly the same among individuals. Arguing about which group of people has a generally harder life than the other is probably one of the worst things you can put brainpower to. Yes it’s true, women deal with plenty of their own problems, but you are not the only ones. Instead of wasting time fighting about who has it worse, put your time to better use by trying to make everybody’s lives easier.
On ‘The Friend Zone’
I’m not the kind of guy who gripes about the ‘friend zone,’ but we all know at least one guy who does. I’ve been there before, odds are every guy has been there, and yes, it sucks. But there are a lot of things in life that suck, and sitting around telling ourselves how much they suck isn’t going to do anything to solve the problem, or make us feel better about ourselves. The fact of the matter is that to be ‘friendzoned’ is a perfectly natural and normal part of life for both people involved. If a guy happens to be a better friend to a girl than a potential boyfriend, then that’s just the breaks. All it comes down to is what an individual finds attractive. Just because that doesn’t happen to be you doesn’t mean you won’t be what somebody else is looking for. It’s still not an easy thing to face by any means, but you can never move forward until you do. Nothing is temporary unless you allow it to be.
Before we go any further, know that I’m not here to defend the practice of friendzoning as anything more than a necessary evil and another one of life’s many struggles. I have a massive problem with the way that friendzoning tends to be carried out. Girls, all I ask is that when you have to friendzone a guy, as you inevitably will, for the love of God be gentle. It’s okay if you only want to be friends with a guy and nothing more. As I’ve already said it’s a completely natural thing, and in fact guys probably have to do it just as much as girls do. What’s not okay is to leave somebody who you consider a friend with unanswered questions, hurt feelings, or to force them to wonder alone about what they did wrong, or worse, why they weren’t good enough for you. If you would never want to feel that way yourself, then you should do everything in your power to keep somebody else from feeling that way.
It’s a hard subject to approach for the one doing the friendzoning, but I guarantee you it’s even harder to face alone. Guys are not nearly as simple and insensitive as we like to think we are, and certainly not as much girls think we are. If after the unavoidable awkwardness blows away you feel as if things have gone back to normal and there’s nothing left to be said, your friend will probably not feel the same way.
In fact, for him, even after reconciling and moving on, things will never truly be able to go back to the way they were. There’s a difference now that everything is out in the open, and it’s not something that just goes away. It’s a rare man indeed who can move on from rejection immediately. If a guy buries his emotions and attempts to return to a state of normalcy, it’s probably because he doesn’t want you to feel bad about what has happened, something that he may even blame himself for. Unrequited love can be painful, but by its very nature it is a cross borne for the good of somebody else at the expense of the one whose affection is not reciprocated. It’s a selfless act, and it should be treated with respect.
I get it; it can be a thin line to walk: On one hand, you don’t want to leave the guy devastated, but on the other hand you don’t want to be too soft with your approach and string him along because he didn’t understand what you were trying to tell him. But if you have rejected the guy on the basis of wanting to be nothing more than friends, then you have to follow up by actually being a friend. Friendship requires some sacrifice; it asks something of both parties involved. For the ‘friendzoning party,’ the sacrifice is seen in the way you treat the person you now have to reject. It should be worth the effort to be a good friend. Remember also that as your relationship grows and changes you may find yourself feeling differently about this guy you turned down in the past. If that’s the case, he’ll remember the way you treated him the first time, and dependent upon that, he may also feel differently about you. If you handled it poorly, odds are he won’t be quite so willing to take a second shot, even if you happen to be the one doing the asking this time. He’ll have to move on eventually, and the way in which he does is influenced by how well things went the first time around. To sum it up, be careful of the bridges you burn, for if you burn too many how can you ever go back?
This little thought bubble can be summed up in one brief idea: If you like a guy, tell him! Yes, that was underlined, bolded, and italicized! There’s no guarantee in anything, but if you are attractive by some definition, have similar interests, he’s single, and you make him laugh (yes, humor matters to us too), there’s a pretty good chance he feels the same way or would at least be willing to give things a shot. If it turns out that he doesn’t, then what have you really lost? Also, in relation to what I said earlier about the friend zone, if he doesn’t treat you well for trying; odds are he’s not worth your time anyway, either as a friend or otherwise.
I’d also like to take this little heading to discuss the things that women typically seem to find attractive. Many guys I know complain that women only go for ‘bad boy’ types, but in my experience I don’t think that’s true. What women like is confidence, and it just so happens to be that bad boy types ooze confidence, that’s what makes them bad boys in the first place. Nice guys finish last because nice guys don’t have the cajones to say what they need to say. Furthermore, if a guy considers himself a nice guy but does every little good deed or makes every little compliment just because he wants to ‘win the girl,’ and then complains when it doesn’t work out, he’s not a nice guy. In fact, he’s probably a worse person than the average bad boy.
You may have noticed there was no advice in that last paragraph. That means I’m not done yet. Ladies, confidence is not everything. I know plenty of quiet guys who lack social confidence, but are people of some of the greatest quality I’ve ever met. Nobody is born quiet, and a guy doesn’t get quiet because he wants to, take it from somebody who knows. If a guy is quiet and under-confident, it’s probably because of some event, or series of events, that hurt him in the past. He might not ever admit it to you, or even to himself, but that’s probably why. Seneca once said: “As gold is tempered by fire, so strong men are tempered by suffering.” Don’t fault a man if he’s not confident because odds are it’s not his fault, not completely anyway. Everybody has their demons. Maybe you’ll find yourself in the position to help somebody slay theirs one day. As it is also said, “behind every great man is a great woman.” Why shouldn’t it be you?
On the Value of a Person
Finally, and on a slightly less serious note, one of my all time biggest pet-peeves is women who talk and talk about the value of each human being and objectification and how men should care more about brains than looks, and then proceed to do the opposite with their own lives. If you want to be taken seriously, as in all things, it’s important to put your money where your mouth is: Don’t want men to feel like they can talk about women in a physical way? Don’t talk about men in a physical way!
Don’t want men to judge you based on your appearance? Don’t judge us based on our appearance! We lead by example. The problem with ‘feminism’ and ‘equality’ in the modern sense is that it’s hypocritical, and more interested in one-sided vengeance than egalitarianism. If you want equality, then fight for it for everybody, not just your own little faction. The fact that men and women can even be identified as ‘factions’ is shameful. In short, people are important for reasons well beyond their physical appearance. Live your every waking moment with that in mind, or you will never find the equality and respect you’re looking for.
Wrapping it all up…
Maybe this wasn’t necessary. Maybe you already know this and I’ve been sitting here tapping away at my keyboard for absolutely no reason. If that’s the case, great, you’re a shining example of womankind, and humanity in general I’d imagine. Keep up the great work! But for those people who did need to hear whatever small modicum of wisdom my eighteen short years can provide, I hope you take it on.
At the end of the day, dealing with guys isn’t all that different from dealing with girls. We’re all human, and it should be our top priority to treat people with the same humanity we expect to be treated with ourselves.