Saturday, November 19, 2011

Better Boyfriend 101

10 Tips For Boyfriends Who Want To Be Above Average

With a few notable exceptions, my closest friends are women. I get along with them better. The complexity. The self-reflection. The fashion senses. There’s just more room in the ranks of women for all of my idiosyncrasies. So, ever since forever I’ve been one of the girls. As a direct result, despite the immense complexities among individual women, I’ve had the chance to observe a lot of overlap.  The overlap provides me with information. And my friends provide me with a cabinet of wisdom so great that any president with equivalent depth would add world peace, and the cure for cancer to his or her resume.

So, between this life experience, and the ocean of insightful pages I’ve read? I don’t suck. That’s all we can hope for, I think. I make a good friend, and, I believe, an okay boyfriend. The women in my life have, joked, asked, and at times flatly insisted that I teach a class on women in which I help guys of all ages to make themselves the men that women want to date… or at least, not to suck.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love women. I respect women. And think to myself, perpetuation of the species or no, I don’t know how women put up with most of the garbage pulled by boys masquerading as men…or something. Most guys joke that women should come with an instruction manual. The problem with a manual on women is that most guys, who should read it? Won’t.

So here’s a little something that even the laziest boyfriend or suitor can muddle through if he has an actual eye to being a better man.  Most of it, you’ve seen, read, or heard before, but I promise, it bears repeating. Others are personal tips and bits of experience I’ve garnered through life experience. So, here are your ten tips. Do not take them lightly. They are intended to be used by men, or the masculine partner, with a woman or the feminine partner, who are seriously intending to improve a long term relationship. If you use these tips for any other ploy, trick, scam, or whatever, the Universe will come in and drop a monstrous…batch of karma on you.

I. There are three photos you should have. (1) Get a print of you and her. Put it in a frame. Make it prominent. It should be visible within five steps of the entrance to your space, house, apartment, or room (if you have roommates without much useful shared space). It should be a brightly lit shot, not more than half a body, ideally a head shot ending around the shoulders. (2) Grab a nice shot of her alone. Ask her to provide you with the picture so that a) she knows it exists and b) it's a picture that SHE is confident about. Full body, if you can swing it. It should also be printed. This one goes in your room, also in a frame. Keep it visible, but it doesn’t have to be as much so. (3) The third shot I recommend is THE action shot. This one comes with you wherever you go. It could be printed or on your phone. It could be her, or both of you, but no one else. It’s only important that you have an excuse to show it often, preferably a story that’s not too mind numbing. Make it happen.

II. Do something ordinary. Awesomely. A personal favorite of mine was having a picnic with my girlfriend in my living room. A cheese tray, a basket of fruit, and a bunch of flowers went a long way. Another few options: You love sports. She loves kids. Take her to a little league game. And if you can swing it, go to a game from her hometown or school. Bring coloring pages to the restaurant with you and have a coloring contest. Let the server judge it and figure out a prize of some sort.

III. Create something about her or for her. A poem, a story, a painting, a drawing, a song would be a nice gesture. You want it to exist permanently, and be referred to for reasons greater than practicality or function.

IV. Heads up! Your girlfriend has a thing she hates. It’s totally irrational. And guess what? You don’t even know what it is. One of my best friends, and closest advisors, positively hates the smell of…candle smoke. You know how, when you blow out a candle, a wisp of dense smoke slowly creeps up; it bothers her to no end. Do you want to be her knight in shining armor? Lick your two fingers and stop the smoke.

V. Stick out your arm and open her door. When you’re walking with your partner, stick your arm out in a way that recalls European High society. Amazingly, it is less inconvenient than holding hands (by keeping them from getting cold). It looks cool. And your girlfriend’s friends will think it’s nice. By the same vein, open the door for her. Don’t “happen to be walking in front of her and grab the door.” You have to, “do the awkward double time step to beat her to the door and hold it open while she walks in, before you.” And though my sources tell me that getting out of the car is less important, when you’re getting IN to the car, make sure you open her door. You've been warned.

VI & VII. Listen & Respond

These could have been numbers One through Ten. I’ll drop them in as two very centrally located numbers, with a slight twist. Listen to her. One hour per week. Not four 15-min sessions. Not two 30-min sessions. Not even a 55 and a 5. Sixty uninterrupted minutes, you can find it in your schedule; it’s the length of a TV Drama. Get two chairs, point them at each other, and listen to her talk about her day, her dreams, the neighbors, it doesn’t matter at all; just do it. Just as important, you have to talk back. Hitch was right. Sorry guys, there’s no good way around it. Your partner wants to hear your voice. Even if you have to write your talking points on your hand. That I, “communicate, clearly and effectively,” is one of my best qualities, according to my dear friend. Turn off your phone, and Duty will still be Calling when your hour is up. There is a massive amount of value hidden in conversation. Dig.

IX. Take a cue from Barney Stinson. “Suit up!” Well, you don’t have to suit up entirely, but once a month, you have to take it up a notch. A button-down shirt with full length sleeves, and a pair of dress trousers, and an honest to goodness tie are your uniform for the night. If you look special, she feels special. She can take you out with pride, instead of buyer’s remorse. So button your shirt, all the way to the top (no faking). Dust off/Salvo/borrow a tie. Sorry, no polos or jeans allowed. Shy away from khakis, even.
For a value bump: Get a haircut. Let your significant other or someone better than you with clothes to create your ensemble.

X. God is in the details.
The same way that protecting her from the little things she hates, is important, it’s a million tiny things that make you the boyfriend that she talks about with her friends. Brush her hair away when it falls into her eyes. Carry an umbrella that you hold over her when it rains. Slip a hair tie in your briefcase, sometimes she’ll need it. Write “thinking of you” on a post-it and stick it in her glove box, or the bottom of her laptop, or inside her jacket pocket. You’ve heard that it’s the little things…I’m telling you, it’s true.