Explain yourself!

Following a post about how much I’ve learnt from reading blogs by and for women, one of those writers and I decided to do our bit for the battle of the sexes. We've asked and answered questions which hopefully will help men and women understand each other better. Of course we both write with our own unique perspectives and preferences, so you may read what ‘your side’ thinks and disagree strongly but if we’ve helped stop one argument before it starts then I think we’ll have done our job. We’re also both Christians so if you read this and think, ‘Wow, I haven’t met men and women like this’ then you should find yourself a good church.

For Emily’s answers to my questions, and a load of other great articles, visit her Unfurling Flower site.

What things do we do that you really like, and what do we do that you don't like?
Recently I read an article in The Times about what makes the ideal woman. These kind of articles are usually best avoided but I found something in this one which struck me as true even though I don’t fully know it for myself yet: “I suppose all men must conjure notions of their ideal partner. Mmmm, let’s see, I’ll take a big slice of Zeta-Jones with some Germaine Greer on top and the Abi Titmuss sauce — but these Frankenstein birds would never fly. Choosing a mate is not like buying a car or a house. Until she comes along, we have no idea what we really like: my imagination couldn’t hold a candle to the real thing. The best part of falling in love with my wife was discovering all the things I didn’t know I wanted or needed.”

That said, I do have some ideas, the first of which is less about doing and more about being. I love seeing a woman who knows who she is in God. She is secure, accepted and significant, and so she stops trying and just is. A lot of the things that someone like this does, rooted in who she knows she is, will be ace.

We also love it when you help us. From cooking things to laughing at our jokes, being helped is brilliant. Of course guys should be able to stand on their own two feet, but when we get a break from that we’re all gratitude. Thankfulness and encouragement are in this category as well because, given genuinely and received humbly, they are so helpful.

When you show compassion, or generosity, or empathy – or any godly characteristics that you display in a different way from us - that's pretty amazing. Because our minds tend to work differently, you will often think about things in a completely different way. Sometimes this can cause tension but it often causes amazement: ‘Why would you think that?’ ‘How did you notice that?’ I’ve had conversations with women about people going through a tough time and (selfishly) I tend to see it as a problem to be solved so I can get on with doing other things. But then the the woman's compassion shows me a completely different perspective: often, I’m sure, God’s perspective.

This one could be seen as a combination of the previous two: when you encourage one another. I noticed this often when I was leading the youth work at my church. Girls would come in – from Christians families or for the first time – and when our female youth servers connected with them you could see wonderful things happening. Caring comments about their appearance, insightful understanding that the girl was having a tough time, and an unconditional love that gave these girls – often confused, certainly being lied to elsewhere – an environment in which they could grow as God wanted them to. Looking at that happening and knowing there was no way I could have made that happen was always a wonderful thing.

I think the thing we dislike the most is inconsistency. I know we’re not perfect at this either but it’s so confusing, especially when our emotions are on the line. We tend not to operate emotionally so we’re way outside our comfort zone and when you seem to change the rules every five minutes it’s pretty rough for us. Yes you do.

Let’s deal here with the issue of what you wear. Here’s the good Christian guy’s three-stage response to a girl displaying parts of her body that only her husband should know about: 1. Attraction. We’re visual creatures so immediately we’re drawn to what’s on show. 2. Confusion. ‘She’s my sister in the Lord, why am I treating her this way?’ And ‘Why does she feel she has to dress like that?’ 3. Revulsion. We want to shy away from sin and so we shy away from you. It’s a sad irony that a girl who thinks she has to put more on show to get a guy is likely attract the wrong kind of guy. There are better ways to get our attention.

Related to that is seeing you deceived. Hate that. Part of the reason this infuriates is because we know we’re somewhat responsible: we’ve been the bad guy tricking the gullible girl, we’ve bought the magazine with a twisted version of femininity on the cover, etc. Can’t you see he’s an idiot? Don’t you realise that’s not what a woman should be like? Why won’t you believe me?!

Personally I also don’t like girls putting kisses on the end of texts or emails.

How is it that a bunch of you can be together and not talk for ages, and for it to be normal?
I’m fairly chatty so I’m not much like that. It might be because we’re doing something else in which talking isn’t necessary. Watching TV totally counts as doing something, especially if it’s sport or a movie. We don’t need a commentary on what’s happening, let alone a commentary about something else! We do talk, we’re just perhaps a bit more efficient.

Why do so many of you play around with and mock the girl you like?
When I first read this I thought this was a rather inaccurate generalisation, and then I reflected a bit more and decided that perhaps it wasn’t quite so far from the truth after all. I’ve got two ideas which suggest that you could take this kind of behaviour as a compliment.

I don’t know if girls react like this (or even other guys), but when someone I’m interested in walks into the same room as me – and it can be a huge room – everything changes. My BPM rises and my confidence falls. If she comes closer, things get worse, and if she looks me in the eyes… All I can think about is that she’s there and I’m here and this is traumatically brilliant and now what am I supposed to say?! Think, idiot, think. Say something, anything! Oh no, you shouldn’t have said that!… I’m a preacher and a writer so using words is a specialist subject for me and yet in the presence of a beautiful, mysterious creature all these gifts can go AWOL. If you’re not sure how manly that sounds, look again at Adam’s song in the garden and realise how stunned and delighted he was. And that was pre-fall, with no other options for Eve to choose from!

The second is the more subtle. Have you seen what we’re like with our close friends, the ones we’re really at ease with? What do we do? We take the mickey. All the time. It’s a sign that we’re comfortable with someone that we can joke around with them, and with most (British?) guys that usually means casual personal attacks. I know Scripture says we should build one another up with what we say but for guys this isn’t necessarily demeaning – it’s part of being close. I’m not saying we should treat you like this but sometimes we feel comfortable enough to do so and then we get in trouble.

Thirdly, if we’re trying to go after you but keep getting mixed messages (intentionally or not), it’s confusing and embarrassing and so we might not react as well as we should.

Having said all this, if the guy is actually mucking you around then he’s a chump, and if all his mates are like that too then you should get a new crowd. He should ought to be trying to honouring you right from the start, even if he isn’t entirely sure how to do that.

What's the most important thing we don't understand about you?
I’ve thought about this the most and written about it the least. I’ve decided to go for this: we want to change the world. Honestly, every one of us. It may have been crushed when he was very young, it may have been perverted into something ridiculous or evil, but inside every man God’s call to Adam still echoes.

Why are you so in love with machines (cars, computers, etc)?
We don’t love them more than you, of course, but sometimes they do seem make a bit more sense. And if we didn’t care about them, who would fix them? Those are two lame jokes, and here’s the lame reason for our fascination: there is great scope for one-upmanship with machines and you know that we’re pretty big on that. Not good, but true. I don’t suppose the better reasons will satisfy you either but here we go…

Firstly, we love doing things! God told us to get to work and anything that helps with that is a good thing. And when you’ve got a tool that does lots of jobs which therefore helps you do lots of other jobs (like the mechanics of a car or computer) then that’s even more brilliant. That’s one of the ways to get us to do things we don’t want to do, by the way: get us a cool machine that helps.

Secondly, aesthetics. As mentioned above, we’re very visually stimulated. So if something can do things and look good, that’s a pretty great combination. For example, it's great that my iPod holds all my music, photos, podcasts, etc. But I like it even more because it’s such a good-looking piece of kit: it works good, it looks good, it even feels good. We like that.


If you haven’t read Emily’s answers yet, do so.

For yet more reading, check out two helpful articles from Boundless webzine: "What guys wish you know" and "What girls wish you knew".

I hope this has helped and that I'm not in too much trouble.