Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ah, the vagaries of the human heart. When I talk about love and what it means, I get all kinds of responses. Many women cut loose with Oprah-speak, Dr. Phil-speak, and Dr. Laura-speak. Whatever pop psychology that is currently being turned out into the world. I talk to men about it, and most of them don’t want to talk about it at all, or immediately tie it to the present sexual climate they have in their relationships.

Poets have written volumes on it. Wars have been fought because of it. And divorce lawyers have made mints. Not to mention the latest dating/sex gurus that are on tour.

So what is it about men and women that we can’t speak our minds? Women I know tell me that it must be great to be married to me. They tell my wife that as well. I’m a writer by trade, so I speak my mind. But I don’t think that’s why I’m as communicative as I am. I see myself as a student of the world. I’m constantly learning, and no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to be able to understand it all. But I put forth the effort because I have to, because that’s the way I am. I’m ADHD, and explaining what I think I understand to other people – the sheer act of putting it into words – helps me understand things a little better.

My wife agrees with some of the women who have told her that they enjoy the way I’m in touch with my feelings, but she also points out that as communicative as I am, I still don’t always listen and it’s usually my socks that are found lying around the bedroom. Also, I suffer from the male blindness syndrome of not being able to find my keys, my wallet, or a favorite shirt when I’m trying to head out. I’m more communicative, but at the end of the day, I’m still limited, still male. She’s okay with that, though, and it’s part of what makes me attractive to her. Frankly, it’s my guyness that makes me look on her with love and desire. Even without the physical relationship, though, we’d still be good friends. I’m really glad everything has worked out the way it has.

But what do you do for women who want to understand men? You buy ‘em Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User’s Guide for Women by David Zinczenko with Ted Spiker, of course!

Zinczenko is the editor of Men’s Health, a magazine devoted to helping guys understand all there is to know about being a guy, and how to get the best out of that Y chromosome that makes us so alien to the female of the species. He’s written op-ed pieces and articles for several metropolitan newspapers and USA Today. And People magazine listed him as one of the 50 Most Eligible Bachelors. This is obviously a man who knows men.

Ted Spiker is a contributing editor at Men’s Health and an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Florida.

So why are they spilling their guts to women?

Because, as Zinczenko mentions on several occasions throughout his book, men tend to be sedentary and won’t bring change in their lives unless they have to. Therefore, it’s up to the women to bring about the change in a man that he needs but doesn’t know how to reach for or is too frightened about do. Yep, you read that right. Men get frightened about relationships. That’s another point Zinczenko makes in his book.

When it comes down to it, Zinczenko says, men and women really want the same things out of life. It’s just that too many people (on both sides of the gender line) don’t know that. They tend to accept that they’re just “different”.

Men, Zinczenko contends – and rightly so from where I’m seated, can’t fathom their own feelings about things. And then, even those few that are blessed enough to truly know, lack the words to say it to anyone else. Even among themselves. Part of being male is being a guy who has no weaknesses. We’ve all got to be tough guys. Which means that we’re not going to tell even each other when things aren’t going so well for us health-wise, financially, or in relationships that we really care about.

Five thousand men and women were polled for answers to the questions posed in the book, so it’s not just a personal memoir that Zinczenko has put together. It’s well researched, filled with the burning questions that women want to know – as well as the surprising answers men have given.

One of the most attractive things about the book is its presentation. First of all, it’s only a little over 200 pages in length. It’s a fairly quick read, but it doesn’t stint on information. As a further enticement, the chapters are short as well, and the pages are broken up into sections dealing with Q&A topics.

A chapter is generally outlined at the beginning, then broken into three or more questions from women that detail that topic with clear, insightful answers given by Zinczenko and supported by answers from men. As a result, there’s an awful lot of dialogue in the book, and we all know how much we like to gossip and listen in on other people’s conversations. This book lends itself to that, almost like sitting across an aisle in a restaurant and eavesdropping on the couple seated at that table as they discuss private matters.

The book gets further divided up by sidebars tossed in by the author. Almost every chapter contains a “Say This, Not That” section, a “What It Means When” section, a “Male Mysteries” factoid that breaks men’s reactions to different things down into a percentage, a “Wondering Woman” section that offers another short but defining question, and a “Say This Tonight!” featuring quotes by men and women.

The book, cleverly disguised of course – unless you don’t mind people knowing what you’re reading, is the perfect material for subway rides, trips to the dentist, anywhere that you’re going to have five or ten minutes at a stretch to devote to it. The sections are just like Hershey’s Kisses, easy to pop one down, and before you know it, you’ve read a whole chapter!

As a woman, you’ll find a lot to talk about with your girlfriends. As a man (and yes, I do recommend this book to men as well), you’re going to find out a lot about yourself – primarily that you’re not the only one who thinks or acts a certain way. Of course, that doesn’t excuse some of how you think or act, but at least you know it’s not just you.

You can read the book from cover to cover if you want. Or you can read through by chapters. With 25 chapters to choose from, all of them titled tantalizing questions from Must-Know lists, you can just dive right in and begin your education. The material is definitely worth more than one trip through, though. Learning comes along in layers, and the more you get introduced to and understand, the more you’ll be able to discover on return visits. Plan on buying this one and putting it in an easy to get to place.

I found out a lot about myself as I read the book. Men and women are different, but we want the same things. The journeys we take to get them can be quite different, though. Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User’s Guide For Women is the perfect field guide for the trip across the wide gulf that separates the sexes.

1 comment:

Katie said...

yep, going to have to buy this one.