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Gambit Weekly The Hairy Primate's Guide to Women

By Amy Alkon, "The Advice Goddess"

AUGUST 4, 1997:  The average guy's home audio system may rival the technological advancements of NASA, but when it comes to understanding women, he hasn't progressed much since the days when his hominid brethren were running after their dinner with spears.

Admittedly, the emotional havoc wreaked upon women by the modern-day Hairy Primate has been good for commerce. In fact, the entire women's magazine industry is based on the idea that guys are a mess. The articles they publish usually fit one of three categories:

    1. Why don't men (fill in the blank)?

    2. How to get men to (fill in the blank)

    3. When should you stop trying to make men (fill in the blank)?

The blanks are always filled in with words and phrases like "commit," "listen," and "call when they say they will." But, no matter how often editors run and rerun the same types of articles, things never change. For that to happen, one must go right to the source of the "problem." So here it is, guys, the answer to that eternal question: What do women want?

1. Love. If you need help figuring out this one, you might as well drop the paper and go back to Golf Digest. You'll be just as frustrated trying to break 90 as you are trying to make a woman stick around -- but at least you have a mathematical chance with golf.

2. Security. Admittedly, to some women, this means dating or marrying a man who has a vice presidency at Shearson-Lehman, a '97 Lexus, and a home that's been featured at least twice in the pages of Town and Country. However, to women, emotional security means more than a man's rank in the Yuppie 500. If, through your words and deeds, you make a woman feel that you find her beautiful, irresistible and exciting, you'll probably reap dividends impressive enough to raise the remaining hair follicles on Alan Greenspan's head.

For example, women who are confident that they are loved, desired and accepted by the man they're seeing tend to be much more willing to be sexually adventuresome than their less-secure sisters. They also tend not to need to "discuss our relationship" when you're 10 minutes late for the playoffs.

3. Commitment. Unfortunately, most men and women still have a difference of opinion on the proper use of handcuffs. There are a few Dana Date-A-Lots who are just as stray dog-like as some of you boys. However, many women feel compelled to define a series of dates with a particular man as "a relationship" long before that man is ready. Ironically, this frequently causes a break-up of their blossoming whatever-it-was -- sometimes solely over what to call it.

If this happens to you, keep your track shoes in the closet. Remind yourself that the leash she's trying to put around you exists in name only; you can leave any time. Do your best to ignore those butterflies in your stomach until you have spent enough time with her to figure out whether you'd like to run with (or from) her definition of what the two of you are doing.

You shouldn't, however, allow a woman to push you into a long-term commitment -- the kind you make before a rabbi, priest or justice of the peace -- if that's not what you really want. If you start dating a woman who is clearly on the accelerated Mommy Track or who appears to be hell bent upon getting married long before you are ready, be open and honest about the difference in your goals. Getting the facts on the table may mean the painful (and immediate) end of a relationship you enjoy, but in the long run you'll save yourself and your girlfriend a lot of agony.

4. Communication. According to a decidedly spurious survey conducted by me, the seven words from women that are most likely to inspire men to hide under small pieces of furniture are, "I want to talk about our relationship." To avoid hearing these words from your woman, you need only take these three easy steps:

    1. Ask
    2. Talk
    3. Listen

When applied regularly to your relationship, these three steps can be a form of happiness insurance. Keep in mind that sincerity is a key ingredient in their successful application. Also know that you should extend yourself in each area to realize maximum benefits. On number two, for example, don't ramble about the weather; reveal your fears, your ambitions -- even silly thoughts that fly through your head.

While we're on the often-painful subject of communication, try this one, boys: call when you say you will! In a town like New Orleans, you really don't want to leave in your wake a trail of angry women contemplating voodoo.

The following should further assist you in your communication with women. Cut it out and paste it on your refrigerator.

Words women like to hear:

  • "I love you."
  • "Will you marry me?"
  • "You look beautiful."
  • "I'm sorry." (Especially if you appear to be sincere).
  • "Is that a new haircut? It looks fantastic."

Things not to say to women:

  • "Can we have a threesome with your best friend?"
  • In responding to her question, "Do I look fat?", never say yes, even if it's true.

5. Foreplay. I hope this is not news to many of you, but it generally takes us girls longer to get there (you know where) than it does for you. If you really want to please your audience (i.e., keep 'em coming back for more), take your time.

And take note: foreplay shouldn't just happen in the bedroom. Beyond those times when you expand upon the recommended uses for your kitchen table, a different kind of foreplay should regularly take place at times when you're not about to have sex. This kind of foreplay should include rubbing your wife or girlfriend's feet, massaging her shoulders, caressing her hand or face, and letting her know how beautiful and sexy you find her. Trust me. Engaging in this kind of foreplay will bring you long-term benefits, both in bed and in day-to-day life.

6. Jerks? Contrary to what you may believe, jerks do not get all the best girls. However, to a lot of women, the perfect man is a nice guy in jerk's clothing. The jerk gives a girl a roller coaster ride -- albeit a negative one. When is he going to call? Why doesn't he call? Why does he say he's going to be here Tuesday night, then show up Friday morning -- just to snag a 20? And so on.

The trick for you is not to become a Jerk. Instead, borrow a few of his trusty tools -- mystery and unpredictability. Keep in mind that when a woman can predict your next move with near-atomic precision, she's probably getting bored. That's the time when you should stop by her house unexpectedly, make her drop whatever she's doing, and whisk her off to some mysterious location.

7. The Alpha Male. This is one of those trendy names for a slightly more evolved version of Mr. Macho.

Men are understandably confused about how women expect them to behave. They heard women in the '70s and '80s complaining that they didn't want to be seen as pieces of meat -- they wanted respect. Well, respect alone will probably guarantee you a lifetime box seat at the girls' afternoon tea, where you will be privy to sad stories about their encounters with men who don't know the meaning of the word. While women do want respect from men, it's not all they want. They also want to see a bit of that Hairy Primate that so many of them claim to loathe.

Jane, 33, notes, "I'm not unattractive, but I find, a lot of times, that I have to be the aggressor with men, both sexually and in getting dates. If a guy who seems interested doesn't make a move on me, it makes me feel like he thinks there's something wrong with me."

Anna, 29, adds, "If a guy makes the moves, you feel wanted and flattered. Even if he's a bit of a geek, it's better than these guys who just stand around waiting for women to chase after them."

8. Manners. If you were raised by wolves, try not to let it show in the presence of women. Nothing turns a woman's romantic "maybe" into a resounding "no" quite as fast as bad table manners. No woman is going to give you a prize for breaking the speed record for gnawing a 16-oz. steak off the bone.

When deciding how to treat a lady, many men are still unsure about where the blurry line between chivalry and sexism is drawn. Here's my take on it: go ahead and open doors and do all of that other gentlemanly stuff that a small minority of fat, hairy, angry radical feminists profess that women despise. While a few women will be upset when you do such things, most of them are not the ones with whom you would wish to be seen in public or private.

9. Attractive Packaging. Accessories are very important to women. Your shoes and car, especially, tell women a lot about you. Are you sure you want to be considered a paneled mini-van kind of guy? By the same token, take care not to go overboard trying to attract a woman's attention. Men with excess disposable income who want to make a "big" impression on women often do exactly the opposite by purchasing an overly flashy sports car. A new red Porsche is one of the worst offenders, especially one with a lot of unnecessary racing add-ons. Overly loud, over-accessorized Harleys can also lead women to "think small."

If you are taste-blind, ask for charity. Invite a woman friend with very good taste on a shopping mission to make you look "girl-friendly." If you're short on cash, invest what wardrobe funds you have in the staples -- a great haircut, fashionable glasses, and good shoes.

While we're in the shoe department, let me tell you that no one looks sexy in Birkenstocks. No one. If you own a pair, melt them down into personalized rubber jar openers for all of your friends or donate them to your dog, and pray that he buries them far, far away so you'll never be tempted.

10. To Steal Your Favorite Clothes. Face it, accept it: that perfectly-faded 1989 college crew champions sweatshirt that you love dearly is going to end up in her closet.

11. Gifts. A diamond still tops most women's lists. Similar items that come in boxes from Tiffany's are also popular. However, if your funds are limited, take heart: smaller gifts, on an ongoing basis, can actually win you more brownie points. Buy her a bag of gourmet groceries. Get to know your local florist, or pick wildflowers and leave them in a vase on her stoop.

A word of caution: If you bring her flowers or gifts too infrequently, she may assume you are trying to repent for an affair or some other crime. In this, as well as in other areas, it pays to get regular.

By the way, forgetting a woman's birthday, Valentines Day, or your anniversary is a cardinal offense, usually punishable by a renewed acquaintance with the living room couch. Ask your mother to write important dates on her calendar and remind you incessantly about each the week before it comes.

12. You to change. Many a man has wished that women would take up needlepoint or rock climbing if they want another hobby so badly. Unfortunately, guys, you're it. And change is the name of the game. Fortunately, you can prevent your wife or girlfriend from turning your cigar den into a shrine to Laura Ashley. Just learn from the people who write network television shows. These crafty scribes often add a few unnecessary, objectionable words or phrases into their scripts so the network censors will have something to cut. Take a similar tack in your life. It may also help if you carve out some negligibly important area of your existence on which your wife or girlfriend can leave her mark. The rest is yours.

In those areas in which you grudgingly agree with your wife or girlfriend that change is needed, remember that a sincere and valiant effort counts almost as much as a mission accomplished.

In all of this, please keep in mind the big picture: While women do spend a good deal of their free time protesting the male animal's uncivilized nature, they really don't want men to be totally evolved and domesticated. Such an ascent of man would not only cause a half-dozen magazine empires to crumble, but it also would leave women with nothing to talk about but golf and the playoffs. And no matter how much you think we want to "invade your space," there are a few territories we prefer you keep for yourselves. . ____________________________________

Amy Alkon, a.k.a. the Advice Goddess, writes a syndicated weekly advice column premiering in the Personals Section of this week's issue of Gambit Weekly.

Special thanks to actor Ron Williams for modeling. The tuxedo was provided by Porter-Stevens Men's Wear, Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 834-3771. The silver evening gown and wrap was provided by Savvy Clothier & Footwear, 200 Metairie Road, Metairie, 833-7000. The lovely but coy mannequin was courtesy of MW Display, 2726 Toulouse St., 486-5701.

(c)1997, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved

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