On two separate occasions in the past month, I’ve had female friends ask me to explain the behavior of a particular man in their life. In one case, my friend received an unsolicited email from a man she had briefly dated a year prior, awkwardly trying to re-initiate a relationship without any awareness of why they broke up in the first place. In the second situation, my friend received a message via Facebook from an ex-boyfriend, 10 years later: he now has a wife and two kids, but still feels the need to contact my friend and explore what could have been.
In each case, I successfully (I think) explained how poorly most men deal with their emotions and how we often fail at communicating with women in general, but about our feelings specifically. I told them that men these days, I believe, are torn between the intellectual understanding of what women want from us (honesty, emotional availability) and our inability to deliver that to them. I think our generation still remains tied to old fashioned ideas about masculinity and ultimately are not properly ‘trained’ in how to interact with modern, sophisticated women. We know what you want, ladies, but we don’t really know how to give it to you without completely freaking you out. Not to mention the complications that arise when you hold on to stereotypical gender roles yourself: you might want a man who can share his feelings, but you also want a strong provider/protector who’s not going to be weak by revealing too much insecurity.
Regardless of whether or not my theories are correct, I am struck by the role of technology in my friends’ situations: Facebook and email were certainly accomplices in these men’s emotional missteps. We all have our moments of weakness, but the insanely convenient means of communication we have these days are laying out minefields of embarrassment, if not complete relationship sabotage, for those of us who don’t know how to deal with our issues. It’s drunk dialing magnified, but instead of a woman receiving an easily-discounted late night phone call from a guy who thinks she’s hot, she’s receiving a over-analyze-able message in black-and-white that could only serve to confuse and confound her, and to kill off any chances the guy had with her in the first place.
I wonder if there won’t soon be a chapter of the “guy code” about how to deal with these sort of situations. A set of rules for how a man should email or Facebook a female, how he should communicate to her in a way that doesn’t send her running for the hills. We’ve all heard about the “don’t call her the next day” type of rules, but I wonder if that doesn’t need to be expanded to address our social media world. There certainly seems to be new scenarios that the guys in locker room didn’t think to address back in high school.
In any case, I was happy to provide my interpretation skills to my female friends, and for one of them, was able to turn her emotionally-retarded ex-boyfriend into a current prospect, which she is cautiously pursuing. If only he knew how close he was to screwing it up completely.