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Straight talk no chaser, p.12
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       Straight Talk, No Chaser, p.12

           Gena D. Lutz
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  Seeing how depressed he was, I’d tell him things to try to cheer him up even though he’d lost the love of his life—the woman he stayed married to for sixty-two years. I’d say, “Wynton just got here—he needs a grandfather,” and I’d take him up to see my son. He’d say, “I guess I can hang around for old shotgun a little while longer.” But as soon as he’d have a moment of quiet—some time to reflect—he’d go there again: “I wonder if the Lord will let me see her just one more time. I’m ready to see your mama, even if it’s just for one more time.”

  Three years after my mother died, my father passed on. He didn’t die from any specific illness—cancer, a stroke, or a heart attack. He just coolly went to sleep one night, tired. His heart was broken, because he couldn’t go on without the woman who completed him.

  The principles I’ve laid out here are the same ones I share with my daughters and my sons. My sons are not being encouraged to go out and “conquer” the opposite sex; instead, I’m talking to them about respecting the young women they date the same way they would expect another man to respect their sisters. I also talk to them about the effects sex can have on their lives and the lives of the girls they may decide to be with sexually—to understand that being thoughtless and careless about intercourse can have devastating consequences for everyone involved. Emotional, mental, and physical consequences. And, if she ends up pregnant, there will be lifelong consequences on their ability to live their best lives.

  My girls are taught that they need to be very clear about what their standards and requirements are and hold the men they date to them. I tell them constantly, too, that they’ve got to be willing to lose in order to win—to be willing to walk away from the bad situation to get to the good one. I add that this is a very simple matter of mathematics: plug in the facts and see if this guy is living up to what you expect. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be treated like a queen. You deserve to be talked to with respect. You deserve to be taken around and presented with respect. You deserve to know what it feels like to feel special. “Don’t let anybody come along and treat you any other way,” I tell my daughters, “because you can always come over here and get special treatment from your father until you can find the man who can treat you the way I do.” And I seal that with the declaration that they absolutely will not find out any of that about a man if they sleep with him too soon. I’ve said elsewhere I’m not a relationship expert—that I’m an expert on how men think and I know this much to be true. When I and the men I know have been confronted by a woman who respected herself and held her future in such high regard that she made it clear that she deserved only the best and would settle for nothing less, we’ve had no choice but to take stock and treat her with due regard. She might not have been the one for us, in which case we moved on. But what we didn’t do after she made her demands clear is try to run our games on her, just kick it until Ms. Right did come along. How could we? She wouldn’t let us. Which means that ultimately, she had the power. And you do too.

  For Ladies Only . . .

  Five Steps to Turning Up the Heat with Your Man

  1. Invite him somewhere tranquil to have a one-on-one talk—preferably where there is water. I find that I have the best conversations with my wife at the beach, where, if you look out as far as you can see, there is nothing but sand, which is the earth; ocean, which is water; and sky, which is the heavens. When those three things are present, you’re dealing only with God’s creations—and that’s got to be peaceful. Nobody is fighting at the beach or, say, at a tranquil place like Niagara Falls. Not near the beach? Go to a water fountain in a public park, or do something as quick and simple as inviting your man to a candlelit bath. All of these things will put him at ease, rather than announcing, “We need to talk!” or worse, trying to have a conversation about what you need sexually from him in the heat of a battle.

  2. Pay a compliment before you offer up criticism. If you start by telling him what’s wrong, he’ll get too disappointed, angry, or embarrassed to hear you when you tell him what he’s doing right. So choose your words carefully; let him know what he is doing that brings you immense pleasure. He’ll appreciate the compliment and make the mental note to keep more of that coming.

  3. Be specific. Tell him what you’d like to see more of in your relationship physically, mentally, and emotionally in order to reconnect in meaningful ways. Be sure to ask him what he would like more of, too, so that the conversation doesn’t end up being one-sided. After all, neither of you are perfect. Acknowledging that there are things you could be doing better, too, will help open him up to receiving your list of (gentle) demands.

  4. Get confirmation from each other. This is a very valuable tool that helps you both be crystal clear on what it is each of you requires from the other. You might even start off the confirmations by saying, “Okay, I’m willing to wear lingerie to bed at least three nights a week; would you be willing to light candles and find some mood music before we touch?” or “I promise to be more attentive and spontaneous, and in exchange, you can leave the lights on when we get it on.”

  5. Immediately put your promises into action. I mean head right into the bedroom/the backseat of the car/your mother’s laundry room and do what the two of you said you were going to do. Nothing solidifies the conversation better than that—and you’re guaranteed to get exactly what you were looking for.


  The “N” Word

  How to Get What You Want Without Nagging

  As much as we love the cookie, as much as we need the cookie, there is one thing that, when we see it, makes us want to run the other way, no matter what flavor the cookie. NAGGING. You can be part Miss America, part Ms. Tollhouse but once you start nagging, we’re simply not interested.

  Oh, trust me on this: we can see it coming. You walk through the house and start circling around, looking here, there, and everywhere, getting more and more upset with every step you take. Maybe the garbage can is full and there is a little odor to it. Or your man just happened to put his dirty clothes next to the hamper, instead of in it. Or there’s a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Next thing we know, you’re standing in the kitchen with your top lip curled and that look in your eye, attitude so big it practically blocks the television from the next room over. We’re trying hard to concentrate on what LeBron is about to do to Kobe, but your whole demeanor makes us sweat harder than a bottle of ice-cold Corona on a sweltering, hundred-degree summer’s day.

  Clearly, we’ve done something wrong.

  We have no idea what it is, mind you.

  But we know we’re about to suffer greatly for whatever the wrong is.

  “So what, you were just going to sit and watch the game while all those dirty dishes sat in the sink?” you ask, seething, tossing glasses and plates and knives around.

  “Sorry, babe—I was just watching the game,” we say back. “I’ll get to them in a minute.”

  “I don’t need them done in a minute—I need them done now. You saw they needed to be done; how you could watch the game all cozy and comfy and leave this sink full of dirty dishes for me to do . . .”

  And just like that, you’re going from zero to sixty, talking all kinds of crazy at us. You know what’s flashing in our minds? Your transformation into a big, evil monster. It doesn’t matter how tiny you are or how cute you are; when you’re ticked off and blaming whatever you’re ticked off about on us and using that “I’m ticked off” tone, you become a six-feet-tall, 450-pound troll head with a Darth Vader voice.

  You are no longer the woman we fell in love with or a woman we even like.

  In fact, love isn’t even in this.

  Whatever words come out of your mouth, the translation in our heads sounds a little like this: “So what you’re saying is you want me to leave and watch the game elsewhere. That’s cool—that’s what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll call one of the guys, we’ll meet down there at the sports bar. Or I could go have a beer at the park. Or sleep in the car. Or fix the lock
on the basement door—yeah, lock myself down there, where there’s peace.”

  When you’re going off—whether it’s with nasty words, aggressive actions, or the stone-cold silent treatment—we’re responding either by checking out, spacing out, or arguing back.

  No matter our response, you’re likely not getting what you want.

  So how, exactly, does going off on your man—the definition of nagging—help you?

  Let me just go on ahead and tell you now: it doesn’t.

  No matter how good it feels to get it off your chest, no matter if you think what you’re saying is justified, the fact of the matter is that when you talk sideways at a man, it makes it that much easier for him to dismiss you and your needs. He can justify his reaction based on your words and tone—you get loud, he can get louder; you throw out idle threats, here come a couple your way, with extra sauce on them; you give him the silent-but-angry treatment, he now can ignore you and whatever it is you’re fussing about until he feels like the lady he likes is back again.

  Until the environment is ripe for him to go into fix-it mode.

  I wrote in Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man how important it is for a man to simply fix stuff. We don’t want to talk about it and ponder it and mull it over in our minds or argue the merits of it; just as communicating, nurturing, and listening to problems to understand them without any obligation to fix them isn’t a man’s way, neither is standing around and getting hollered at and screamed at over things we don’t think deserve all of that energy, things that are not a priority to us.

  Whatever the issue is, we simply want to fix it—without the ugliness and drama.

  The key words here, ladies, are priority and fix it.

  See, what is a priority to you may not necessarily be a priority to us. You may like the kitchen to be clean, or you may want the trash taken out as soon as the last paper towel makes the garbage reach the top of the bin, or you may want the lawn mowed on Friday evenings instead of Saturday mornings. But I can guarantee you that unless he’s some kind of maniacal neat freak, your man is probably not focused on any of the things that are a priority in your mind. He’s not holding out on washing the dishes or taking out the garbage or picking up his dirty clothes to spite you; he’s simply not paying attention to it. Call it insensitive, argue all you want to about how he should know, by now, how much you can’t stand these things, the truth is he didn’t make these things a priority because dirty dishes, a full trash can, dirty clothes on the floor, and all of the other things that women tend to be particular about don’t bother us. He might just have his mind on other things—things he considers bigger than a dirty glass or a full garbage can. Really, it has nothing to do with you.

  So he left his dirty towel on the floor. Your man didn’t do that to spite you; he just dropped his towel on the floor and forgot to pick it up.

  So he didn’t put the trash out on the curb the night before the garbage man came. He didn’t take it out just as he heard the garbage truck coming around the corner to spite you; he simply thought it didn’t need to be on the curb until just before the trash man came through.

  So he sat down to watch the game instead of washing the dishes right after the family ate the dinner you cooked. He’s not waiting around, biding his time until you break down and wash them; he’s decided to watch the game first and get to the dishes later.

  In each one of these instances, your man had priorities that didn’t coincide with yours right that minute. Or he may have done thirty-nine other things before you started yelling at him about the fortieth thing he didn’t get to yet. For sure, he’s going to get to the fix, just not on your schedule. How does that justify your turning into the 450-pound, six-feet-tall troll with a Darth Vader voice? In our minds, it doesn’t. And your tantrums about these things are really received as nothing more than bratty behavior. So when you’re finished swelling up and transforming and spinning and the argument is over and you’re back to the cute, normal, sweet woman we like, we can fix what was wrong—wash the dishes, take out the garbage, pick up the dirty towel—and go back to what was a priority to us.

  Now, we men get that our women are particular people with particular needs, and we’re prepared to fulfill those needs. You just have to be more diplomatic about getting what you want from us. First, try to remember these five things before you go all in on a man about something you need done or don’t like.

  1. Adjust your tone.

  Your man is not your child. If you’re talking to us in that stern, accusatory, “I’m your mama” tone, like we’re little boys, then we’re going to square off like grown men. We have to stand up to that because you’re questioning our principles. You’re suggesting, in that motherly tone, that we’re nasty creatures who don’t care about clean houses, or that we’re lazy creatures who sit around waiting for everyone else to do stuff, or, the most hurtful, that we purposely hold out on helping you because we don’t care about or respect you. Of course, none of these things could be further from the truth. But as a result of your tone, now we’re really not going to give you what you need or want the second you need and want it.

  2. Let your man get to what needs to be done in his own time.

  Sure, you may want it done right this second, but really? Is the sun going to stop shining if he washes the dishes during halftime? Is the earth going to fall off its rotational axis because he chooses to put his towel on the rack when he goes back upstairs in an hour, rather than right this minute? Is your heart going to stop beating because he left the mail out on the counter and made plans to file it after he got back from a round of golf? I mean, gold star for insistence, but the fact of the matter is that most of us already know you want the dishes washed and the towel up off the floor and the mail filed and we fully intend on getting to it. Just not right now. So hold your horses—exercise a little patience. Leave the kitchen and stop looking in the sink. Stay out of the bathroom if that towel is driving you that crazy. Don’t worry about the mail. We’ll (eventually) get to it.

  3. Choose your battles.

  If you’re going from zero to sixty on every little thing, your man is going to automatically tune you out every time he sees the attitude coming. And I can assure you, when a man tunes out, he has a hard time figuring out when something’s a not-so-big deal to you versus something that’s a really big deal to you. For instance, if you’re giving him a hard time every time he wants to play basketball with his friends on a Saturday morning, even when you know good and well that if he stayed home, he’d likely be right up under you, he’ll be less likely to take you seriously on the one Saturday that you actually need him to stay home so that you can run to the office and put in extra time for a big meeting on Monday, or run an errand, or take some much-needed time with your girlfriends. All the fussing and nagging make him insensitive to the things that are really important to you. It’s like the boy crying wolf; after a while neither your idle threats nor your nastiness are taken seriously.

  4. Understand what’s a priority for men.

  There are some universal things that simply aren’t a priority for most men: Housecleaning. Keeping the refrigerator stocked with healthy stuff. Attending PTA meetings. Making up the bed in the morning. Asking for directions. If we have a place to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom, most of us don’t necessarily care if the floors are clean enough for you to eat off them. And as long as there’s beer and one or two things to suck down—a pack of hot dogs and some chips—we’re happy with our meal plan. Who needs to go to the PTA meetings? We’d rather have our toenails pulled out one by one than sit around listening to a bunch of parents plotting out what color Kool-Aid to serve at the fifth-grade dance. Why make up the bed? We’re just going to get back in it. And there is absolutely no way we’re going to trot into the gas station and admit to another human being that we don’t know where we’re going. You know these things about us. Still, you expect us not only to notice when we need to stock up on more vegetables, make the bed, or go to t
he PTA meeting, but to be excited about them. Not happening. The universal truth of the matter is that this is how men are made. Women, on the other hand, generally have that magical ability to be attuned to their surroundings and the needs of others and to detect when something is wrong the moment there is a problem. You seem to absorb everything—to take it in, process it, and make sound decisions for everyone involved. Us guys? To hell with what needs to be done or what anybody has to say about it; we have the unique ability to block out what we consider minutiae. Think about it: Your child gets hurt and he goes to his father for comfort. What’s he going to get? A fix-it solution: “Go over there and sit down until it stops hurting,” the father will say. And that kid will look up at his dad with that look in his eye, like, “Dang, I need a hug, kiss my boo-boo, you need to blow on it or something!” That same kid goes to the mother and knows he’s going to be nurtured, that she’ll make it better, clean it up. Admittedly, this is a burden. It is your blessing and your beautiful burden. You all look at the painting and notice the brushstrokes and different shades of blue and how the texture makes the lady’s eyes stand out, and all we see is a lady in a picture in a frame. The same applies with life: women are detail-oriented; men operate in broad strokes. This is not to spite you. It is what it is. Now, if something is a priority for you, you need to let us know that, or we won’t treat it as such. I’ll address later how you go about doing this, but the best way to get someone’s priorities to synchronize with yours is to let him know the urgency and be genuine about it. If having the bed made is a priority for you, let him know it. He may not make it a habit to live up to your standards of having a made bed every single, solitary day, but chances are if he sees how important it is to you, most men won’t have a problem putting in work to at least meet some of your needs.

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