In my life I have had the privilege of living with many women. This is, of course, a blessing from God, kind of like work, but much more rewarding. I believe that this reality was not an accident. At times I think I must have willed that reality into existence. Maybe it was an unconscious prayer I uttered at night just before falling asleep as my brothers ranted on about football.
It was much the same for comedian Margaret Cho, who once said, “As a little girl I prayed that when I grew up I would be surrounded by gorgeous men all the time, and I am. However, I wasn’t specific enough. All of my friends are gorgeous men—gorgeous gay men.”
Now the women in my life aren’t gay, but like Margaret, the experience of being in the near-constant company of women is not exactly the way I imagined it would be in the midst of this youthful fantasy. I grew up in a house of mostly boys and men, which might explain my desire to be in the company of women. I take great comfort in the camaraderie of my childhood brothers— but seriously: by the time I was 18 I had all the testosterone- laden company I could take (women, you understand, don’t you?).
To be fair, my brothers and I had a lot of fun times mostly playing games, games like beat each other up over a scoring dispute in football, beat each other up over a rule dispute in Monopoly, and beat each other up over a dispute about whether you were actually hit by the shot from your brother or friend during a game of combat.
I imagined that life in the company of women would be more civilized and nurturing than my youthful experience with boys, and sometimes it is. But what I didn’t consider was the very real differences between the genders that produce these different behaviors.
At a very basic level this book is about the differences between men and women, and what my experience has indicated to me about why those differences exist. But what really makes this book worth reading is (forgive the lack of humility) something much more profound. Namely covenants.
When you enter into a relationship with someone, you enter into a covenant with that person. In the case of marriage, some aspects of the covenant are very explicit. Both parties, for example, promise to Love, Honor, and Cherish each other. In my experience it’s the implicit covenants, however, that usually
cause trouble in a marriage or friendship.
When I married my second wife, for example, I did not promise to be understanding of and minister to her hypoglycemic attacks, and she did not promise to be understanding of and tolerate my poor driving habits.
I was confronted with an excellent example of an implicit covenant violation on a Sunday afternoon outing at Hooters for a beer. I went in and sat in my usual section and after a few minutes a waitress approached me and inquired about my preference in adult libations. I ordered a Belgian-style wheat ale and as she left I could only think, “There’s a special place in Hell for you Guy Oliver.”
The woman was unattractive. There is no nice way to say it, and I was honestly disappointed by that fact. Now I challenge you to comb the Internet, the Hooters website, and all the Hooters advertising ever created. Were I a betting man, I would wager that you can’t find a single instance in which Hooters claims that all their waitresses are stunning or even attractive.
They unabashedly emphasize the waitress’s anatomy, offer many off-color double entendres, and employ colorful sexual metaphors, but they never promise you an attractive waitress. Yet somehow I assumed an implicit commitment that every Hooters girl would be easy on the eyes. I mean, they have hiring standards, right?
The woman who served me, as nice as she was, simply did not fall into the category of attractive, and that fact caused me to think about the notion of implied covenants. We imagine when we enter into a relationship that things will be a certain way—an idealized way.
Just as I imagined both my trip to Hooters that fateful Sunday afternoon and my childhood idea of living with many women in an idealized way, most people see a friendship, a courtship, a marriage, or a business relationship as unfolding in a way that is ideal to them. It almost never does, though, because what is ideal to one person can be frightening to another. And by the way, we don’t know as much about the other party at the beginning of a relationship as we think we do.
This is particularly true of how the two genders approach each other (at least in my experience). They each have a set of expectations about the other, which is influenced by their own proclivity and worldview, and reality tends not to be aligned with those expectations.
If I have any hope in writing this particular story it’s merely to narrow the cognitive gap between the sexes. It’s not a new topic; it’s merely my take on something as ancient as the Human species itself: who, exactly, is that person in the bed next to me? Hang with me for the next few minutes; you just might enjoy the ride.
come on in, the water’s fine!