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Straight talk no chaser, p.5
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       Straight Talk, No Chaser, p.5

           Gena D. Lutz
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  We’re not as stupid as you think we are, I promise you that. We don’t just run up on you; we watch you. We watch how you talk to the lady in the cafeteria line at work—how rudely you talk to her, how you don’t say “thank you” when she gives you your change and packs up your sandwich. We see who you choose to sit with—how you sit with only a certain type of person, but avoid anyone who doesn’t fit into your mold of “success.” We sense when you’re throwing off that “you’re really beneath me, why are you over here” vibe when guys with a certain look head your way. We determine things about you before we walk that long stretch to get to you, before we figure out just the right words we’ll say to get you to smile. And if we get the sense that you won’t smile, that you’re going to give off that “why are you over here” attitude, we’re not going to approach you. We’re going to conclude that we don’t need to deal with you.

  If men aren’t approaching you, maybe it’s not because you’re intimidating but because they’re too busy focusing on the woman who isn’t cold and callous—the one who is smiling and comfortable with herself and appears to be having a good time, even if she is sitting alone.

  If a woman looks engaging, we’ll engage her. But if she looks like one of those cold women who will meet our advances with hostility and act disinterested when any man even looks in her direction, well, yeah: men aren’t going to talk to her. Who needs that hassle? Who wants that hassle?

  MYTH 3

  Men Can’t Be in Relationships with Women Who Make More Money

  THE TRUTH: A man who makes less money than you isn’t holding it against you. He’s taking it out on himself.

  First, you must understand that it is possible for men to be in serious relationships with women who bring in more cash. These days, with the economy in flux and men losing their jobs only to leave their women the biggest—and sometimes the sole—breadwinners in the house, there are more examples of unions that fit this bill than ever before. But it is not easy, by any stretch, for a man to swallow that, and it’s going to take some serious strategizing to make this work. His difficulty handling the financial imbalance isn’t about you—it’s about him. He’s not intimidated by or mad at you for succeeding; it’s more that he’s ashamed that he’s not growing with you. If he’s not moving forward financially or in terms of his status and position, if he’s not accomplishing anything special or feels like he’s not living up to his promise, as a man, to provide for his family, then he’s going to have problems seeing where he fits into the equation, particularly if it involves changes he didn’t sign up for.

  Say you’ve gotten a promotion and now you’re taking more phone calls, answering more e-mails, and going on more business trips, whereas he’s stuck at the house, trying to keep the kids quiet while you work or taking them to school and picking them up because you’re not there to do it as regularly as you used to. If this wasn’t something he was doing before, and those changes came along without any discussion or agreement about how familial and household responsibilities will now be divvied up, your man is either going to begrudge his new position or rail against it. For a guy to go from being a workingman all his life to playing Mr. Mom will take a toll on him. When you’re going against everything that feels like the natural order of things and you’re forced to play a role that falls outside your skill set, without your permission or your partner’s acknowledgment of what you’re going through, it’s a hard pill to swallow. If your man didn’t raise his hand and agree to be Mr. Mom, get ready for some degree of rebellion. Some men can make the adjustment, but some can’t.

  Not, at least, without your help.

  This is where it will be important to communicate and be very clear about what it will take to work together to keep the family intact. And this is where your tone will be important. Sit him down and talk to him like the lady you are; acknowledge that the financial dynamic is different and unexpected and unlike any one you’ve ever handled in your relationships, but that the dynamic between you and him is the one that is most important to you and the two of you have to be willing to do what it takes to make it work. Reiterate to him that you two aren’t in some kind of paycheck competition—that the money you’re bringing in isn’t solely for you, but for the team, the family, and that everyone in the house benefits when the two of you work together to keep the cash flowing, no matter whose faucet is flowing harder. Pump him up—tell him that you still have his name as do the children, and you still consider him, without question, the fearless leader and head of the household. Offer him encouragement, support, and show him appreciation; it’ll go a long way in helping him deal.

  Sure, there will be some of you who take issue with this, who think that putting him on a pedestal will somehow devalue you. But I ask you this: Isn’t your relationship worth it? His feelings? Is it so awful to boost up the man you love? Wouldn’t you want him to do the same if the tables were turned?

  I’m guessing you would.

  He can deal with the changes as long as your attitude and your tone don’t devalue his worth. Success outside the home will not translate into success inside your home if you’re using your financial upper hand as an excuse to talk to and treat your man like an employee or your child. Men are not inflexible; it’s all in the approach.

  MYTH 4

  Men Expect and Want Strong, Independent Women to Lower Their Standards or Get Comfortable Being Alone

  THE TRUTH: Men really don’t care about what model, make, and specification of a man you prefer; if you’re looking for a mate who, like you, has a couple degrees, a high-paying salary in a fast-paced career, a mansion on the hill, and a fancy car to drive you to expensive restaurants, that’s your business. It bears no reflection on us, and we applaud you for sticking to your guns about the kind of man you want. But if there aren’t a bunch of those guys fitting that specific bill standing around waiting for you, don’t go broadcasting from the mountaintops that there aren’t any good men around, because there are plenty of “good” men around. What gets our goat is the refusal of strong, independent, extremely picky women to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, one of the biggest reasons they’re alone is because they’ve severely limited their dating pool by skipping over perfectly good guys for less attainable ones.

  To us it’s like when we’re twelve and we’re thinking about what we want to be when we grow up. We tell everybody we want to play center field for the New York Yankees. Even though there are a billion of us who want that job, only a few of us will actually get the job, and at some point, we realize it’s probably not going to be us. Consequently, we adjust our expectations and come up with a more reasonable, attainable career goal.

  There might be some benefit to applying this logic to dating. If you feel like your MBA, bank account, and baubles make you a contender for center field—the cream-of-the-crop bachelors, the men who are handsome, fit, smart, tall, educated, and rich, in addition to all of the other things you expect from a man—go for it. But if you keep getting passed up for the gig, don’t get bitter about it. There’s nothing worse or more annoying to a man than the old guy standing around with nothing but a dollar and a dream and his coulda, shoulda, woulda stories about how he’d have been the greatest center fielder the Yankees ever had if someone would have just given him a chance. He’s broke and jobless and bitter because he couldn’t see the bigger picture—refused to exercise his options.

  Men get it: you worked hard to get where you are, and you feel like you need and deserve someone who worked hard in the same way and acquired the same education and status as you did and has similar experiences and goals. But there are a lot of different ways of working hard and striving, and men can’t—and won’t—tolerate it when women dismiss their idea of success for their narrowly defined way of characterizing accomplishments and achievements. In essence, you’re looking for a man who is your financial and educational twin; you’re exceptional in a certain kind of way and you want him to be exceptional in a similar vein, which means you
re limiting your dating pool to a very small subset of men. This would be fine if men in the subset you’re looking in were limiting their dating pool to their economic and educational twin as well. But chances are, they’re not, because those aren’t the qualities that men tend to prize in a mate. Men look at qualities that draw from a much larger subset—someone who is good-looking, nurturing, kind, smart (enough), stable, noncompetitive, cheerful, fun to be around. Those traits may lead a man to a whole other subset of women who bring something entirely different to the table than you can or would.

  What people—men in particular—are saying is that it might be more helpful to you to adjust your priorities and focus on traits that are the hallmark of a true relationship built on a solid foundation. A man who works a blue-collar job, drives a Taurus, and is attractive, family-oriented, respectful, and trustworthy may not ever help you achieve your wildest financial aspirations, but isn’t that the kind of guy who brings to the table the standards that will help you build a good relationship and life together? And say the guy driving the Range Rover with a collection of impressive titles and the big salary fits your bill financially and educationally, but he’s not trustworthy or honest and is, oh, I don’t know, horrible in bed. Would he still fit the bill of the perfect guy?

  There are plenty of good men ready, willing, and capable of doing right by you if you let them. And you have every right to weed through them to get to what you want and stand firm until you get it. Just remember that you’re the one making the decision to limit your dating pool, and if you end up alone, it’s on you. We don’t take any pleasure in your being alone, but we’re certainly not going to take the blame for it either.

  MYTH 5

  Men Who Date/Marry Independent Women Are Lazy and Just Looking for a Sugar Mama to Take Care of Them

  THE TRUTH: Sure, a few guys out there take advantage of women with money to burn. That’s human nature. But it’s not a trait even remotely embraced by men. In fact, this kind of behavior goes against every cell in our being. It’s admitting weakness and failure to a woman, and to a man, that’s the worst thing in the world. We want women to think of us as strong and capable—especially the women we love. We’re raised to believe and internalize the age-old notion that we’re supposed to be the protector and the provider; when that’s in a man’s mind, there’s little room for fantasies featuring a financial princess who swoops in and takes responsibility for our subsistence. It’s one thing to accept gifts from a woman who likes to give them, but if she’s helping a man eat and providing a place for him to lay his head and buying his clothes and making it so he can survive because he can’t do it on his own, he’s not going to stick around for long. Don’t believe me? Why do you think there are so many single-parent families and absentee fathers? Some men leave because they can’t take being in the home if they can’t provide for their women and children. It’s unfortunate that these two things are interconnected, but a man can’t see himself being a good father if he can’t see himself providing for his family. In our minds and in yours, and the collective mind of society, the two—fatherhood and income—are inextricably linked. So if he’s not providing, the last thing he wants is someone—particularly his woman—accusing him of being less than a man. As a result, he’ll leave before he signs up to be taken care of by a “sugar mama.”

  This doesn’t, however, mean that men aren’t willing to even entertain the offer of help. That you’re willing to open your heart and make a personal sacrifice so that we can have something better for ourselves is never lost on us. Indeed, it tells us something about the kind of woman you are—what kind of partner we might expect if we decide to hitch our wagons together. For sure, Marjorie won me over with her willingness to be selfless. She was there when I went from making a lot of money to making absolutely no money. I’d just given up my radio show in Los Angeles, and my TV show, Steve Harvey’s Big Time, had been canceled; to make matters worse, it was summer, a difficult time for comedy tours, so from June through August, I wasn’t going to make money touring. I was also tied up in an asset division case and had moved to New York without any real home in which to settle. Marjorie saw all of this but she didn’t say, “You know what? I’m not going to get more involved with you.” Instead, this woman, who is extremely strong and independent, who was living in her own home, helping to run her own family’s successful business, raising her own kids, and living her own life, offered to open her home to me. She literally took me to her house in Memphis and said, “Steve, we can live here.”

  As I looked around, I said to myself, “Well, um, this is cute and all.” She’d decorated her home beautifully and she’s an amazing housekeeper (her home was immaculate), but it was small and there was no gate. I kept trying to explain to her that up until that very moment, after years of struggle, I’d been doing really well professionally and had every intention of doing even better going forward, these setbacks notwithstanding, and that a home without a gate could get really tricky for a celebrity. But none of that mattered to her. She kept telling me, “You don’t have to tell me that.” She had her own money and her own struggles, but she was riding out the latter and was willing to share her money with me, as long as I came to the table with the things she required: that I act like a father to her children, that I was a faithful husband, that I was a partner with whom she could share her dreams of the future, and that I could make her feel safe.

  For her, everything was about family and the quality of her relationship, which told me where she was in her life and that what she wanted was much bigger than a bank account.

  All this myth debunking is meant to help you understand that it’s time to let go of the whole notion that the reason strong, independent women can’t find men is because we men are afraid of your power. We are not afraid of you. We applaud your success. We’re not looking for you to take care of us. We don’t have a problem with you making more money. Indeed, we want you to be happy. And we don’t revel in your being alone. We do care about attitude, however—your attitude toward material things, your attitude toward others, your attitude toward us when we’re down and going through a transition of sorts.


  Every Sugar Daddy Ain’t Sweet

  I get why it’s so easy to get sucked in.

  Here’s this guy at your door bearing gifts—say it’s the latest Fendi bag, a pair of Christian Louboutins to match the hot, body-skimming dress he laid across your bed last month, or a pair of diamond earrings the size of fists and a matching bangle so sparkly it makes your wrist look like a constellation. Or those gifts might be something much more practical—a check to cover a month’s worth of rent for the condo you all spend time in, or a payment for that Chrysler you’ve been driving around town, or a date in the chair of that stylist you love who sews in your tracks just the way you (and he!) like them or gives you highlights that all the women in the office envy. Hell, he might be bringing something as basic as a bag of groceries or lunch money for the kids.

  Whatever the gift, you’re happy to receive it, aren’t you? Because it keeps money in your pocket and, more important, it makes you feel like this man cares about you—wants you to look good, live comfortably, eat right, and have some of your needs and even some of your wants taken care of. Who wouldn’t sign up for that, especially if this guy is bringing these gifts and showing you what appears to be genuine affection?

  But you know, back in the day, that guy was referred to as a “sugar daddy.” Sugar Daddy is a sweet person who takes care of you like your daddy would—gives you clothes, food, shelter. Delivers it all with sweetness beyond compare, but with expectations no “daddy” would ever expect of his real daughters. The sugar daddy motto: you be sweet to him, and he’ll be sweet to you.

  These days, a sugar daddy has a different name: sponsor. No matter if you all call this man a “sugar daddy” or a “sponsor,” we men simply refer to him as a player and you as a woman willing to prostitute yourself without even realizing it.

; Yup, I said it.

  Sure, you may be getting some nice things, but honestly, accepting gifts from a guy without getting what you want in return is nothing more than an advanced form of prostitution. See, we men understand this much: there’s a “cost”—direct or indirect—associated with sex. We can buy it at the strip club or at a brothel or online, or we can take you to dinner and the movies, pay your rent, buy you some jewelry, send you to get your hair done on our dime, or hand you money. Either way, we fully expect that if we’re spending money, we’re going to get something in return: sex.

  And trust me when I tell you, there is nothing sugary or sweet about giving so much of yourself to a man who, at the end of the day, is giving up so little in return. Oh, it may look like he’s giving you the world. Hell, a sugar daddy/sponsor/player will go out of his way to make it seem like he’s going all out, just for you. But a sugar daddy who is, in essence, paying for sex will never make any real, long-term sacrifice, will never pursue anything that substantially chips away at his own bottom line. He’ll play the game as long as it goes undetected and will not interfere with a relationship that’s important to him.

  He will not pay your rent if it means he can’t pay his.

  He will not buy you a car if he doesn’t have one for himself.

  He will not buy you groceries if his refrigerator isn’t full.

  He will not take you to the hot party if a woman he cares for more wants to go too.

  And he most certainly will not fall in love with you just because you’re giving him some tail.

  In my line of business, I see this all the time. Men with means—celebrities, athletes, bankers, businessmen—have one, two, three, and even more women on the side, and each one of them will be the proud recipient of a sponsorship package: they might get $2,000 for rent in a luxurious condo, maybe $700 for a car note, $300 for hair and nail appointments, an expensive pair of shoes or a dress every now and again. Tally that up, and those women have gotten something very valuable from their sugar daddies, haven’t they? They have a place to live and transportation, and they get to look good from head to toe—all on someone else’s dime. But what they’re getting from their sponsors is worth nothing more than a dime to a sugar daddy in the scheme of things; if he’s making millions, what is that little $3,000 a month costing him? The woman who’s getting that sponsorship package is worth very little—the equivalent of a drawerful of cashmere Marcoliani socks, a few fancy Hermès ties, and a pair of expensive cuff links. He might as well be flipping a quarter in her direction.

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