Mind Of Man: How He Knows He’s In A Relationship

When a man gets into a relationship, he’s usually the last to know.

Women fall in love, men slip on it. Women gently twirl down the rabbit hole of love like whirligigs, landing on their feet in a land of wonder. But for men, love is a sudden minor concussion. One moment, we’re strolling down the street like a Pharoah in no hurry, snapping our fingers, whistling a jaunty tune. Maybe we’re leaving the apartment of a recent conquest early in the morning. Women call this the “Walk of Shame.” But to the male species, it’s called the “I Just Got Laid Parade.” Or maybe we’re just walking over to the beer store, smugly satisfied with ourselves for not immediately texting some chick back. Because no one owns the male spirit – it’s like a bacon-scented wind. We’re wild game you can’t tame, oh yeah. Then an ambush of unwanted emotions happens. Love is a banana peel. We wake up on our backs with a throbbing skull, swatting away clouds of mosquito-sized hearts buzzing around.

At least women look before they leap.

When dating, men eventually show up for the sex, but stay for the love. Like gambling, it’s always a surprise when we win.

Whenever I’ve decided to commit in a relationship, the decision was a cognitive thunderclap. Eureka! Cupid is an Army Ranger sniper. But before that light bulb goes off, I’m usually totally in the dark about my own feelings. You know how in the socialist propaganda cartoon “The Smurfs” there’s that guy who’s always handing out exploding presents? And “The Smurfs” always open the present, even though they know it will explode like all the others? That’s me on the cusp of a new relationship. I’m blissfully ignorant of the consequences of my own actions until I’ve untied the bow and set off the ordnance. After that initial shock, however, I’m all in.

For men, sex is not an ends to a mean. We don’t go on a date thinking, “Will this lead to a healthy, mature co-mingling of souls?” We’re thinking “Will this lead to penis tag?” Let me be clear here: Both sex and relationships are equally fantastic life goals. Sex feels good. Being cherished feels good, too. Both having sex and being in a relationship is like, I don’t know, steak and ice cream for dinner. I sometimes wonder if we could eliminate the scourge of dating angst if both genders were forced to give the other exactly what they wanted, up front, no strings attached. Men were saved from their fear of sexual rejection, and women rescued from having to stumble through a sweltering emotional desert. If men had to be emotionally available at gunpoint, and women had no choice but to kiss on the first date, then maybe everyone would be liberated from chains of expectation and disappointment. I know that happiness is not asking what she can do for you, but rather, what you can do for her.

But we’re stuck with our current romantic ritual. A game of tug-of-war that should just be, as the great Shel Silverstein once wrote, hug-of-war. The dating game sometimes feels a lot like casinos that offer super cheap all-you-can-eat buffets. The idea is that suckers come for the cocktail shrimp cocktail, but stay for the gambling. This is a brilliant idea, because a degenerate gambler can always lie to himself that he just went out for an economical dinner, and also emptied his bank account at the blackjack table.

When dating, men eventually show up for the sex, but stay for the love. Like gambling, it’s always a surprise when we win.

The good news here is that once a dude has realized that he’s knee-deep in rose petals, he’s pretty much made up his mind. Or at least, I have.There’s a moment in every action movie when the hero resolves to kick ass. He’s either been pushed too far, or seen too many feckless bureaucrats dither or realizes that if he’s going to die, he might as well take some of the bastards with him. From that moment on, he’s all grim business. There is no turning back. He’s past the point of no return, which is a great song in the musical “Phantom of the Opera,” or so I have heard. The only musical I’ve ever heard was called “My Lawn Mower’s Engine.” Anyway, the action hero is, as his mythic archetypal name would suggest, a man of action. Once a man has accepted he’s in a relationship and in love, he accepts his mission.

And I have accepted my mission.

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