DEAR SUSAN: Your "true or false" quiz really has me thinking!
You ask us to respond to the statement "Men and women cannot be friends; they're too dissimilar." I find that to be both true and false. Men I've already had a relationship with can continue our friendship but at arm's length. The emotional closeness I feel with female friends simply isn't there with a man without problems developing. Because when I divulge too much information about myself — information I consider no more than friendly — men get the wrong idea. But when he's already in a relationship when we meet, the pressure seems to be off him, and just maybe, true friendship can emerge. Also, I've found that the pressure's off him when an insurmountable obstacle is present, i.e. he only dates Catholic or Hindu women (I'm neither) or childless women (I have two great kids). Or if he's got six kids from a previous marriage, then maybe (just maybe) a solid friendship can be built!
And Susan, when you ask if it's true or false that men are turned off by assertive, strong women, my response has to be a loud "true"! Even men with strong mothers seem to like their women bubbly and interesting but definitely not independent or assertive! Men are intimidated by strong women. I can't even find a man willing to argue with me as strongly as my female friends do. In my experience, men want their woman to always be positive and upbeat (no room for a "bitch session"), always "go with the flow" and to definitely not make waves or, in any way, be "difficult." The only men who allow me to be as assertive with them as I am with women let me walk all over them.
No matter how I behave in the classroom or the office, in an intimate relationship I feel I must tone down and not be too confident, decisive, firm, forceful, forward, insistent, self-assured, self-confident or strong-willed. For example, men usually let me choose the restaurant, but when it comes to choosing the wine for dinner, when they make the decision without consulting me, even though I'm quite knowledgeable about wines, I feel it would be out of bounds to help them.
DEAR READER: OK, I'm going to use my little gray cells to weigh in on this: Successful relationships need maturity, intelligence and a whole bunch of care. It's a matter of trusting your instincts. ("Going with your gut" seems to sum it up nicely.) And now that I'm single again, I rely on them more than ever to guide me through the shallows of dating. But they're not the whole story. Along with keen instincts come understanding — and kindness. And not just a little dash of kindness! We're all in this together, you know, the fellow displaying his manhood by ordering wine, the woman (you) smiling even though you're tired from the day's demands. A little understanding goes a long way in the rigors of dating, and it's usually the woman who sets the tone. Take the challenge.
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