I know. I know. I could hear the cyber moaning and groaning as I typed the title of this post. I completely understand those who have no interest in Steve Harvey, his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man or his subsequent blockbuster movie. Until I recently read his book for one of my Meetup events, I didn’t believe a black male celebrity on his third wife could possibly have anything to tell me about dating. Then I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he is not presenting himself as the authority on successful relationships and his advice is not specific to dating black men as I assumed it would be. I also enjoyed the movie keeping in mind that it was a romantic comedy, and therefore not altogether realistic. I found it to be a great adaptation of a non-narrative book and genuinely funny. And let’s get real. No matter how many self-help books we may read or write about dating and relationships, a woman will never completely understand what it means to be a man (and vice-versa, of course.) I found this book to be an interesting glimpse of how some, dare I say, most men probably think and operate.
The first thing I did after reading Harvey’s book was re-examine my list of desirable qualities in a mate that every dating book instructs you to write down so that you’re absolutely clear about who you are looking for:
1. He is actively looking for a long-term relationship and wants to be married someday. He probably doesn’t want children. Having children from a previous committed relationship is fine; having five kids from three baby’s mamas is not.
2. He has a strong sense of personal integrity. This covers all the biggies. It means he is honest, loyal and trustworthy. It also means he respects his health and takes care of his body. He should likewise be proud of his work which means more to him than just a paycheck.
3. He is an attractive, skilled, and passionate lover.
4. He is playful, lively and has a lighthearted sense of humor. (I can appreciate dark or biting humor, but I don’t want to marry a Bill Maher or Quentin Tarantino.)
5. He is thoughtful, affectionate and kind.
6. He is a good listener and communicator.
Harvey does not dispute that I could find all of those qualities in one man, only that women create these lists from a female perspective, so some of these things may not show up in the way we expect. For example, this week on Live! With Kelly, the perky little host recounted a story about how her husband brought her back a tacky mug as a souvenir from his trip to Spain. She asked him “Why, with all the beautiful things in Spain, did you choose that particular mug?” and he simply replied, “Because I know you like coffee.” Was that thoughtful of him? Yes. Did he go rummaging through every store in Spain searching for the perfect gift the way she might have? No, but maybe Kelly should go enjoy her coffee in her new mug from Spain just the same.
According to Harvey, if a man truly loves a woman, he will show that love in three ways:
And all that men ask for in exchange is their woman’s support, loyalty and sex, which he refers to as “the cookie.” If you give up the cookie too soon or don’t set any requirements for it, then a man will pretty much try to get away with whatever he thinks he can, and it’s as simple as that. (Of course there will always be DBRs who are only in it for the cookie, but we’re not interested in them anyway, right?) Harvey relates how he had to wait 90 days to receive benefits at his job with the Ford Motor Company and suggests that women allow men an equal amount of time to prove their merit before handing over the cookie.
Speaking of 90 days, the Love in 90 Days program asks that you date three men at once without having sex with any of them until you are positive he is thinking about you in the long term. If you ask me, both of these 90 day plans are easier said than done. Sure, I’ve surpassed 90 days of celibacy many times before, but only when there was no one around worth dipping into cookie jar. Plus, I’m still having trouble finding one guy who comes close to meeting the six basic criteria on my list. The IT guy still has potential, but according to Harvey, he may not be ready for a committed relationship right now. Harvey writes, “[if a man]hasn’t lined up the who he is, the what he does, and the how much he makes in the way that he sees fit, he can’t possibly be to you what he wants to be. Which means that you can’t really have the man you want.” When I asked him about his short term and long term goals, he is clearly dissatisfied with his current situation. He dislikes his job and wants to start his own business. He shares custody of his daughter, but is presently living in a property owned by his parents. He spends a lot of time working on an old hooptie that barely gets him from point A to B. When I was younger, I was open to starting a relationship where the two of us built a life together, but now I’m wondering if that’s a wise decision or, in some cases, even possible. Ladies, I know you’ve got something to say about all this, but this time I’m hoping more of the fellas on BBW will step up and give their input as well.