“She’s a cougar,” he said, smiling with amusement.
Davy* (not his real name) was dismissing the romantic interest of a woman at the speed dating event – she was an attractive 52-year-old.
“How old are you?” I asked. Davy looked like he might be quite close to 50 himself.
He looked surprised for a second then answered, “I’m 47.”
“But you’d go out with a woman five years younger than you, right?” I queried.
“Yeah, of course,” he said offhandedly before changing the subject.
Davy’s comments shouldn’t have surprised me but they did. I keep hoping that when it comes to gender politics, we will have evolved more. But too many men seem to be stuck in some weird dimension located around the 1950s where double-standards are still in residence and remain quite comfortable, thank you very much.
Over the past year or so, I have watched:
Tony Robbins (a supposedly evolved thought leader) disparage the #metoo movement and use his physicality to push a woman back (into her box?) at an event in front of thousands of people
legislation be passed in some southern states in the United States to control women and their reproductive choices by preventing their access to abortion (even in the cases of rape and incest!). No surprises that the legislators have frequently been white men and religious doctrine has played an influencing role.
increasing commentary on social media about how abortion shouldn’t be permitted in Australia either – once again with a lot of men and religious rhetoric leading the discussion (men + religion often doesn’t always work out so great for women’s rights)
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius (following the murder of yet another woman in Melbourne this week) state, “The key point, is this is about men’s behaviour, it’s not about women’s behaviour. Every time I hear about woman being attacked – for me as a man – it gives me some pause for reflection about what it is in our community that makes men think it’s okay to attack women, or take what they want from women”.
Some public commentators subsequently bleated the same old “but not all men” statement in response to Luke’s words instead of doing some of their own reflection and saying, “Well, yeah, I can see that men are doing this and I’m a man, so I guess I have a role to play. What action can I take?”
Tanya Plibersek pull out of the Labor leadership race stating she could “not reconcile” the “important responsibilities I have to my family with the additional responsibilities of the Labor leadership” (Sydney Morning Herald, May 26, 2019) clearly indicating that perhaps Australia’s parliament isn’t the most family friendly or supportive place for women
Australia’s prime minister give a speech on International Women’s Day saying “We don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.” In other words, women can’t rise if it means others [men] will be displaced. Despite the fact that many women haven’t risen because they haven’t received the same advantages as men.
Let’s just say, as a woman, a feminist and someone who supports equality, these events have been disappointing to say the least. We’re not in the 1950s anymore, so why does it feel like we’re still there?
I understand these are tricky times. Men don’t always know these days what their role is. Most want to do the right thing but there is, I’m afraid, a large degree of apathy when it comes to standing up and saying to other men, “Mate, that’s not how we do things anymore. Women deserve our respect. We don’t control them. And we don’t dismiss their opinions just because they don’t align with our beliefs about how things should (and have always) been.”
There also seems to be a degree of reticence by some men to genuinely reflect on their own behaviour and consider that their ‘normal’ treatment of women is no longer acceptable (not that it ever was). Instead of being calm and less emotional (as they often tell us women to be), some men jump to angry defensiveness at the very mention that they may have a role to play in addressing the issues women are experiencing at the hands of men. It’s much easier it seems to point back to women and somehow blame them for being the problem than take a look at their own behaviour.
Some don’t like the thought that they may not hold exclusive power for much longer and are using their influence to try to retain the status quo. I think this explains the swing to the right we are seeing in the US particularly, and also in other nations globally where governments are increasingly seeking to stifle women’s voices and rights.
For example, a woman’s right to decide if she is going to use her womb to procreate is one of the few things that men cannot directly control – it is one of the few things women have exclusive power over. Yet, we are seeing moves in some places to remove our rights to this body autonomy. If we ever needed a sign that some men were very fearful – then this is a big one. Let’s not delude ourselves. If those men were really concerned about unwanted pregnancies, they would be legislating to make it unlawful for men to have sex without birth control (vasectomy anyone?) or legally ensuring they had to be 100 percent involved post-birth (both financially and in person) and provide adequate flexibility in workplaces, etc. But of course, they’re not doing that. Forcing birth control on men (which would definitely prevent abortions because their would be no accidental pregnancies in the first place) is out of the question yet forcing women to procreate against their will is acceptable, apparently. Double standards anyone?
Women are standing up and demanding more. And I won’t lie, a lot of us are angry about the way things have been going. We’re angry because things aren’t changing and, in fact, sometimes it feels like we’re going backwards.
I believe that when we work together, women, men or however you identify, we can achieve great things. But at the moment, many men are sitting on the sidelines and allowing the status quo to be maintained through their silence.
You need to get into the game gentlemen. We need you there. We want you there. We want to hear you standing beside us saying things like:
“It’s not good enough. Women deserve to have autonomy over their bodies, just like I have over my body.”
“Mate, don’t speak about women disrespectfully. No means no and she doesn’t have to stroke your ego and worry you might become abusive just because she hurt your feelings by saying no.”
“We need more flexible work arrangements so parents can work and take care of their children, so I’m going to make that company policy.”
“Being violent towards women is never acceptable and if I know that you are intimidating or being violent towards a woman, I’m going to pull you into line, report you and let you know very clearly that it’s not acceptable behaviour.”
Good men, we need you to do this because a lot of your peers don’t seem to be listening. We need your help. If you want to know what your role is nowadays, this is a big part of it. This is how you help provide for the safety and rights of the women and society you care about – you make sure women have a non-negotiable, equal voice at the table.
This is how we work in partnership to create a better world.
My first (and last) foray into online dating didn’t go very well. Actually, it was an unmitigated disaster. It was early 2012 when I met my first match from a well-known dating site. We’d chatted briefly online and agreed to meet in the Valley for drink to get to know each other better.
That first date went really well. It lasted from 4-11pm and we had drinks, then dinner and saw a movie. It was great. We laughed, had things in common and it was clear he didn’t want the date to end. He was also kind of cute (which always helps).
But the second date didn’t go quite as well. In fact, it was so bad it took me a few days to write down the story (which I later featured in my book The Men I’ve Almost Dated). The truth was, I had to process an interaction with a man who turned out to be a truly awful person before I could write about it. After that experience, I wasn’t sure if I ever want to date again.
Anyway, here’s the story…
On a Saturday night, I dressed up and headed out for a second date with DH. I’ll let you work out what those initials could stand for (hint, the first word is a name for the male genitalia) .
Anyway, the first date went really well. It lasted from 4-11pm and we had drinks, then dinner and saw a movie. It was great. We laughed, had things in common and it was clear he didn’t want the date to end. He was also kind of cute (which always helps).
So when he asked me out for dinner on Saturday night I said yes. I was looking forward to it.
We met a local bar and it probably wasn’t a good sign that he confessed to flinging his chewing gum into the street just as I exited the cab. When he’d removed his shoes and socks in the movie I’d thought it was quirky. But throwing his gum onto the footpath for someone to wear as an unwanted shoe ornament just seemed disrespectful.
We settled into a table for two, he ordered me a glass of wine and we chatted about this and that.
He mentioned he’d seen Underworld: Awakening earlier that day and how much he loved the 3-D effects. Then he said he was hanging out for 3-D porn.
I convinced myself that he was joking and changed the subject. After all, we’ve all said stupid things at the wrong moment and maybe he was just nervous.
The conversation seemed to get back on track and I started telling him about my blog.
When he asked, ‘What’s the point of blogging?’ I thought I detected a hint of disparagement but thought ‘No, that would be crazy. After all, why would someone who has never read my work and barely knows me ever disparage my blog?’ So, I told him it was about the discipline of writing and we talked about the book I’m writing.
Then things definitely went downhill.
I told him I was writing about my own life and hoped that people could relate to the things that happened to me. ‘Nobody wants to see a movie or read about someone who is like them,’ DH said. ‘They want to escape.’
I asked a few more questions just to clarify his meaning. Surely I was misinterpreting him? Sadly, it was very clear. He didn’t think anyone would want to read my writing because it would be too much like their own lives. Just to be clear, this man had never read or asked to see any of my work.
We left the bar and walked along the street to the restaurant. Then it got worse. I wasn’t feeling too great by this stage and he said, ‘You look confused?’
‘I’m perplexed,’ I said. ‘You seem to have a good heart but you’re saying things that are likely to offend me.
‘You’re too sensitive,’ he said. ‘Besides if I don’t say what I think there would be nothing to say.’ Then he tried to make a joke of it.
We didn’t talk a lot during dinner and he continued to act like everything was great. But I wasn’t feeling great. During the strained chitchat, DH said he often offends people and asked me why I thought that was. ‘Maybe you need to consider the feelings of the person you’re talking to,’ I quietly suggested.
Throughout the date I continued to be polite to this man because I’ve been raised to have good manners. Everything I said was politely worded and smilingly delivered because I kept thinking that maybe I was misinterpreting something.
DH had told me on our first date that he always tells his students (he’s a primary school teacher) they can do anything and encourages them to follow their dreams. When I compared this to his comments to me he said, ‘I just wouldn’t want someone to waste their time.’
Yes. That is exactly what he said.
And still I sat there sucking down my sangria like there was no tomorrow and thinking I need to get drunk really quickly or else I’m going to throw this cocktail into his face.
When the waitress returned I declined her offer of dessert because I was really hoping to end the ‘date’ as soon as possible. I put ‘date’ in inverted commas because dates are supposed to be pleasurable and this was definitely not.
But DH went ahead and ordered dessert for us to share!
Then he made some crack that no one wants to see another Sex and the City and laughed when he saw my face. ‘Ha ha, that’s what you’re aiming for isn’t it?’ he said. Then he laughed some more.
That’s not what I’m aiming for and the look on my face was pure shock at his atrocious behaviour. What a jerk. What a complete and utter jerk.
Often when I’m confronted with an insensitive and rude person I continue to smile, be polite and pretend that everything is fine.
But this time I chose a different route. This time I left. I excused myself and went to the bathroom. While there I accosted some poor woman and asked her if she had change for a $50 note. You see, I wanted to go back into the restaurant, fling my half of the money on the table and leave. But the woman (who probably thought I was a little nuts) said, ‘Um, no,’ then fled out the door. I followed close behind but stopped short of making my way back up the hallway to the restaurant.
The woman had gone in the opposite direction and exited through the glass doors into the car park. I watched her leave, then looked back towards the restaurant. Then I looked back at the glass doors. Then back to the restaurant entrance again.
Suddenly I was half-running down the hallway, shoving open those glass doors and emerging into the dark car park beyond.
Yes, I was legging it!
I remember ducking and weaving behind the parked cars because I didn’t want DH to spot me leaving (there was a concrete wall between us but my adrenaline was running and I felt a little crazy). I’d never done anything like that before. My parents had brought me up with good manners for heaven’s sake! Yet there I was fleeing like a fugitive before somehow flagging down a passing cab and throwing myself into the backseat.
When I started laughing (probably a little hysterically) the cab driver asked if I’d had a good date. That made me laugh even more. When he heard the story, the driver started laughing too.
Although I did laugh about it, I think I was also really shocked. The whole thing was unbelievable. I mean, who acts like that?
After about 10 minutes in the cab I sent DH a text saying, ‘Thanks for the not so lovely evening. If you’d like to send me your account details I will transfer you the funds for dinner.’
But I didn’t hear from him and blocked all communication with him on the xxx dating site.
I guess he probably felt humiliated sitting there in the restaurant on his own with his dessert for two. But I can’t really find it in my heart to feel sorry for him. Beside it could have been worse – I could have stained his shirt with my sangria.
Would you like to read more disastrous dating and men-related stories like this one? Check out my new book The Men I’ve Almost Dated.It’s available in eBook and paperback today.
It’s interesting to observe people’s reactions when I start telling people about some of the less than ideal male behaviour I’ve described in my book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated. The thing is, I’ve been pretty honest about my dating experiences and often men don’t come off as behaving very well.
One recent conversation with a couple (let’s call them Maggie and James) went something like this.
‘I think it sounds great!’ Maggie said enthusiastically after I’d briefly described the content of the book.
‘Are you dating anyone now?’ James asked.
‘No,’ I said.
‘Well no one’s going to ask you out once you publish,’ he said. ‘No one will want to date you!’
‘Of course they will. It will just weed at the ones she doesn’t want because they’ll know she’ll just call them on their crap if they try it on,’ Maggie said indignantly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve to the fact that occasionally the things I mention in my book might polarise opinion or make some people uncomfortable. The very topics of divorce, dating, sex and pursuing the wrong men is highly topical and a lot of people will have opinions about it.
The suggestion that I will be deemed less attractive by the opposite sex because I’m honest about some very ordinary male behaviour is a little disconcerting yet not surprising. The inference from James’ comments was that I might be too ‘scary’ or ‘intimidating’ because I put it all out there.
I’ve heard this argument before about women being ‘intimidating’ or ‘too confident’ and that it apparently scares men off. James’ remarks were just another edition of that same old story. Honestly, I think these types of comments are just another way to keep women small. The very idea that we should hold ourselves back in some way to make men more comfortable is completely repellant to me. That being said, I don’t believe women are better than men or that we should exclude them from our lives. Relationships between men and women are a delicate balancing act that should be based on mutual respect and freedom to be precisely who you are. But that’s a soapbox for another day.
In the meantime, am I worried that no man will ever ask me out once they read my book?
Um, no, because I’m more in Maggie’s camp and hope that it actually turns away the players from my life. Because the truth is, I don’t want any more men I’ve almost dated. I want the real thing now. If some men find me too intimidating, full frontal or whatever because I choose to tell a story based on my perspectives and experience, then they are clearly not the men for me.
Yikes! After such a long period of time, I can hardly believe it.
What if people hate it? What if they love it? What if they don’t care? The thoughts scurry through my brain before I come back, for a moment, to a place of inner calm because it’s done now. It’s born. All I can do is tell people about it.
So here’s the summary. The Men I’ve Almost Dated is about my life in my 30s, the men I dated (or almost dated), sex, dubious decision-making, divorce and men behaving badly. It’s not a ‘how-to guide’ on getting it right when it comes to men and dating. However, it may be a ‘how-to guide’ on how to get it atrociously wrong. I’ll let you be the judge.
Over the coming days and weeks I’ll be sharing more about my book on this blog and my social media channels – so keep your eyes peeled. But for now, if you’d like to grab yourself a copy, head over to my webpage for all the details. You can buy the eBook version today and the print version will be available in coming weeks.
Do you remember that scene from the Wizard of Oz with the flying monkeys? I can’t remember all the details but I do remember the absolute terror they created within me. I still can’t watch that movie as an adult for the same reason. If I was to put an image with my feelings of fear about something, I’d have to say those flying monkeys epitomise what it looks like. Fear is an ever-present resident in my psyche and can serve as a both a catalyst for positive change and an epic destructor of what could be possible in my life. I am as familiar as anyone with its capacity to help create and decimate.
The adrenalin of facing fear and ‘doing it anyway’ has helped me take massive steps forward in my life. Standing in front of my first-ever class of university students four years ago, I was overflowing with fear.
‘What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m a terrible tutor? I just want to get this right!!!’ My internal voice of fear screamed hysterically.
But I was determined to face the fear and ‘do it anyway’. Nowadays, when asked about my teaching, I say it is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing parts of my life where I get to help people on their path. Imagine if I’d let my fear vanquish my desire to teach? I would never have met all the amazing students I’ve had the honour to work with.
I haven’t always been quite so successful at facing down the flying monkeys. Recently, I found myself in a situation that pushed all my boundaries and insecurities, and fear had a field day. It was like the closet door swung open so violently it almost ripped off the hinges and a horde of flying monkeys poured forth and kept coming until the sky was darkened and the light was almost gone. All those fears I thought I’d dealt with or buried came out to play their vicious games in my present.
It was awful and, as I felt myself in the grip of those monkeys’ claws, my behaviour deteriorated. I was not my best self in the situation and afterwards I felt so very ashamed because I hurt not only me but also someone I cared about.
Mortified and yes, shocked at myself, I slunk away to lick my wounds and regroup.
As I reflected on the situation and sought the counsel of some wise friends over the following days, I came to some realisations about what had happened and the role of fear in my life in general.
Firstly, and quite obviously, fear had taken over my mind that day and I needed to take a good look at all the emotions and memories it had flung into the present. Then I needed to make peace with them and let them go. I needed to acknowledge that while they had taught me a lot, they had no place in present day or in the current situation.
Secondly, I needed to recognise that while the other person’s behaviour had upset me, it wasn’t their fault they had triggered my fears. My response to the situation was my responsibility and, if I’d responded in another way, things might have been resolved a lot more easily and calmly. That’s the ‘downside’ of self-development because invariably and inevitably you have to take ownership of your own role in life rather than place the blame at the feet of someone else.
Thirdly, I owed the person involved a huge and unequivocal apology (which I communicated as soon as possible).
And finally, I understood something fundamental about fear itself. You see, we all have fears and sometimes situations and the behaviours of others are going to trigger those fears in a big way because at those moments you’re being pushed to take a great leap forward in understanding yourself. And you’re also being asked to recognise and release the fears that have been holding you back from where you could be. That place you ‘could be’ is your present where amazing things are right in front of you if only you choose to claim them. But in doing so you must leave the fears of the past behind; you cannot take them with you. It’s by recognising your fears then choosing to let them go that you can create something magical. If you let them take over, you are simply allowing them to decimate what is possible.
Above all, as one wise friend put it, the most important thing to remember when fear rises is, ‘They’re just flying monkeys’.
Being the cool girl has never worked for me. I’ve tried to play it cool, not crowd the guy I’m interested in, not acted needy, not asked for anything from him (like, even a date) but it’s never gone well. Instead I’ve frequently ended up frustrated, frequently screwed over (figuratively, if not metaphorically, speaking) and then in true Lucy-style I’ve exploded.
It’s not a part of my personality I’m particularly proud of, this capacity to lose my head and throw a bit of a tantrum. But I am startling good at it. The crazy thing is the explosion and tantrum are a direct result of trying to be the cool girl. So I bring it upon myself. Then of course, the man in question often freaks out, withdraws, throws a tantrum back and well, you get the drift.
It’s a no-win situation for me.
Someone reminded me recently of my tendency to become more than a little high-handed in my tantrum-phase. They are completely right. It’s easy to take the high ground when you feel wronged. Particularly when the object of your affection is proving evasive, indecisive or bloody-minded. But every time this has happened I know it’s only got to that point because I was trying to play it cool at the start. When I talk to others about this, it seems to be a bit of an epidemic. Women feel like they should play it cool so they don’t seem ‘needy’ while men think that if a woman isn’t playing it cool then there’s something wrong with her. Yep, that little gem came from an ex of mine who, when his mate said the girl he wanted to date told him she was available any night of the following week, my ex said, ‘Mate, I’d be careful there. There’s probably something wrong with her.’ He meant it!! Meanwhile I said, flabbergasted at his stupidity, ‘Maybe she just really likes him!’
Is it any wonder the male/female dating dynamic is a freaking mess?! (And yes, that was a red flag conversation I should’ve paid more attention to with my ex).
As I work my way through the last edits of my book, evidence of my tantrum-throwing behaviour is particularly apparent in Part 2: Dysfunctional Dating and Other Disasters. In one situation, I’d been playing the ‘cool girl’ with a man I’ve called Salsa Cat. He was in my dance class and he’d been flirting with me and coming on to me for months and months. It was obvious, it was frequent and it was persistent. Then we hit a turning point when he told me that he didn’t want me invading his personal space…when he had been actively and intentionally invading mine for months. Gah!! What followed was a Lucy-tantrum that I believe could have been avoided if I’d just not tried to be the ‘cool girl’ in the first place.
“I threw myself on the bed that night and shed tears of frustration and disappointment. I was terribly hurt. Then anger started to bubble up inside me. A couple of days later I did something I had never done as a single woman before – I told a man he’d upset me. Instead of just taking it, blaming myself and feeling like crap, I stood up for myself and said it wasn’t good enough.
Actually, let’s face it, I completely lost my temper and acted like a crazy person. Salsa Cat bore the brunt of years of singledom involving game-playing, non-committal and dishonest men.
I kept as far away from him as possible during the next class– that’s quite a feat when you’re dancing salsa. At the end of the our first dance together I very particularly and noticeably disengaged my fingers from his and moved on to the next dance partner, and then the next and so on around the circle of about 20 men. A few minutes later we were opposite each other again. My anger was palpable and visible in every line of my body.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘I’d just hate to invade your personal space,’ I said sarcastically. Then we changed partners.
He wasn’t so cheerful by the time we danced together again. ‘I don’t know what your problem is. But I’m not doing anything,’ he ground out. I somehow restrained myself from punching him in the nose and flounced off to the next partner. I danced my way around the circle, forcing a smile for everyone else and continued to fume.
He was apologising as soon as I was within earshot. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I know my behaviour must have seemed a bit hot and cold.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘It has been.’ Then I moved on to the next partner.
The class finished a few minutes later but he didn’t seek me out to explain further. Instead he retreated to his group of friends and watched me nervously, casting sideways glances in my direction as I walked out the door.
He didn’t show up for end-of-term classes the following week. I guess he felt like an idiot and didn’t want to face a psycho dance partner again. Or maybe his absence had nothing at all to do with me.
It was a month before I saw him again and this time he did seek me out after class. He sat down beside me while I talked to two of our classmates, Dave and Ken. But Dave and Ken didn’t get the hint that they should move on and I couldn’t just end the conversation abruptly without being impolite. So I was stuck.
I guess Salsa Cat got sick of waiting because he got up and left after a minute or two. I’d started seeing someone else by that point so I didn’t run after him. We would dance together over the following years but he never gave me any further explanation. To this day, I’m still not sure what he was thinking.
There was never a resolution with Salsa Cat. Ever. My tantrum-throwing was not conducive to creating a situation where any kind of honest conversation could happen.
I think there is a middle-ground between cool girl and ‘honesty with a bludgeon and resulting head trauma’. Unfortunately, it’s clear I haven’t mastered that yet. Instead I seem to swing from one extreme to the other with the occasional explosion. The extremes don’t lead to a healthy relationship with the opposite sex so the middle ground is kind of important.
Anyway, whenever I talk with single friends about this, my advice is always the same. Be as honest as possible (in an open non-bludgeon-type way), as early as possible, and let the cards fall where they will. Maybe the object of your affection will not respond positively or in the way you like. But it’s not needy to want to know where you stand and if you play the ‘cool girl’ you’re just reducing yourself in your own eyes because you’re not saying what you want and you’re not being who you really are. You may also be leaving yourself open to be taken advantage of if the man/woman in question isn’t genuine.
Of course, I’m still mastering this advice myself. It’s an ongoing process. But playing the ‘cool girl’ has never worked out for me. Instead it has possibly shut doors that could’ve been left open, and that is really quite sad. I also I think I’d rather be not a ‘cool girl’ because acting like a passive-aggressive nightmare in a dance class is not a good look. Just saying.