men and women

February 11, 2002

My producer, Rich Ball, suggested that I talk about men and women and relationships today. Maybe I should just speak for myself and the ongoing series of disasters that I have been involved in where women are concerned. The root of my problems with women can be summed up pretty simply.

Put me in a room with ten intelligent, beautiful women. Now of those ten, nine would be just perfect for me, each holding the promise of a truly wonderful relationship. But one would hold the promise of a guaranteed catastrophe.

And every single time I walk into that room, there’s no question, I will make a beeline to that one catastrophe. Every single time. And I know this about myself, so you’d think that knowing my tendency to be attracted to that one woman would force me to figure out a different strategy.

Nope, not me. I just fall in love with the disaster, every time. I’ve been doing it all my life and have learned that just being aware of how stupid I can be doesn’t make me the slight bit less stupid — at least, not when it comes to women.

This is something that, over the years, I have come to accept about myself. And I feel a bit better when I remind myself that at least all of the disasters I have been in have been pretty interesting. I have the scars to prove it.

My best friend and I have known each other for thirty years, and we kind of take turns getting in trouble with women. A long, long time ago, he and I decided to see if we could come up with criteria for the right woman. And what we came up with was pretty simple.

All either of us really wanted was a woman less screwed up than we were. This seemed to leave, in our minds anyway, a very large field of candidates.

But a number of years later, my friend and I revisited our criteria, and boy were we dismayed. We realized that we couldn’t find a woman less screwed up than we were, and this fact left us both depressed for about twenty years.

I think all men and women have the same question for their opposites: What do you want? For me, it’s not that I am not willing to give a woman what she wants, it’s that I am just clueless about what it is that she is after. And just when you think that you finally have it figured out, and you do the thing you think she wants, it inevitably leads to her not talking to you for a week.

And then it occurs to you that, just maybe, that was the thing she wanted — not to have to deal with you for a week. I don’t know.

Maybe we all just want too much from each other. The women I have been with seem to want me to be a very strong and “take care of business” kind of guy. But they also want me to show my vulnerability and be sensitive. And then they want me to let them take care of business so that they don’t feel like I think they can’t take care of business. They want my undivided attention, except when they need their space.

They want me to be strong and independent, except they want to know that I am ultimately dependant on them. They want me to take charge, but also want to regularly assault me for being “too controlling.”

They want me to respect their boundaries and then want to end the relationship because they have just discovered they have boundary problems.

What else have I run into?

They want me to be a great lover, except when they’re not in the mood. They often want me to engage in prolonged conversations, even when I have absolutely no idea what the hell we are talking about.

They want complete honesty, unless it sounds like I’m making a critical remark, in which case it is no longer considered being honest and somehow has transmuted into some version of emotional abuse.

When you get right down to it, I never really stood a chance.

I’ve been single so much of my life that my problem isn’t meeting somebody who isn’t screwed up, it is meeting somebody who is screwed up in the same way that I am.

I’m proud of the fact that my mother and father were married for fifty-five years. In this day and age, that kind of longevity is amazing.

But at the same time, I can’t begin to comprehend the idea of waking up next to the same person every morning for fifty-five years. To be honest, it scares the hell out of me. I’d be willing to try waking up with the same person for like a month, and then I think I’d have to evaluate the whole thing.

Years ago, I had a lovely professional woman friend who had been happily married for eighteen years. She considered me her most eligible bachelor friend and actually thought any woman would be lucky to have me.

Anyway, one day were talking and she asked me why I wasn’t married then, knowing that I had already been hitched twice already. At the time my work had me traveling a lot, so I said to her that I had to admit that most nights when I got home from the airport and got to my apartment door, I would think to myself “Thank God there isn’t anyone on the other side of this door.”

I guess I still think that.

And because of this, I get tired of women accusing me of being afraid of commitment. Fear of commitment, that’s every woman’s explanation for every single guy. I’m not afraid; it’s just the kind of women I tend to make the commitment to that scare the living hell out of me.

I tried the commitment thing recently; last spring, in fact. I moved all the way to the American Northwest to do the commitment thing. But once I got there, I realized that she really was more screwed up than me. And, as a result, I literally wound up sleepless in Seattle. Actually, I wound up on the couch in Seattle, but I gave it a try.

I’m neither bitter nor angry. And I have no doubt that I’ll be ready to try a relationship sometime soon — like in the next century.

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