Revealed: The real reasons why he's just not that into you...
A new book gets inside a bloke's mind to figure out all of those mixed signals, writes Susan Daly
A few years ago, a book title proposed a simple six-word explanation for shoddy male romantic behaviour: He's Just Not That Into You.
The book was inspired by an episode of Sex and the City -- of course -- in which Carrie's boyfriend Berger claims that women waste too much time trying to analyse why men turn cold/avoid commitment/don't call when they say they will.
Don't take it personally girls, says Berger. When a man behaves like this it is because 'he's just not that into you'. Forget him and find a man who is.
Liberating as this little aphorism is, it is beyond simplistic. It also implies that if a guy is acting peculiar, it's not him, it's you.
Dating columnist Zoe Strimpel decided that there must be more behind the mixed messages women receive from men than simple disinterest. (There's probably a book waiting to be written about signals flying from the opposite direction too.)
Instead of torturing herself over cocktails with her girlfriends about what goes on inside a man's mind, Strimpel spent a year interviewing hundreds of men for her new book: What The Hell Is He Thinking? She stresses that the men she interviewed were “all articulate, smart, thoughtful and basically good guys”.
Yet even the saintliest of these -- even if they didn't condone certain bad behaviour among their cohorts -- could at least explain why it happens.
“The name of the game is not to be thrown when a guy does something weird,” says Strimpel. “Rather, to recognise what it might mean, and where it's coming from.”
So, straight from the horses' mouths came these surprising revelations:
Men read women's magazines ...
Some men do actually pick up tips from women's mags -- and it is not necessarily a good thing. Strimpel relates the tale of Christian, a guy who brought her on luxurious dates, bought her a toothbrush to keep at his, and texted her loving messages while away on business.
After a perfect weekend together, he left her at a train station on Sunday evening with a chilly 'Don't be a stranger' parting.
One man explained: “Unlike dogs, men can and do read what's written about them, so they also know how to manipulate perceptions.
“While it suited him he was more than happy to keep the relationship going, and pulling all the tricks he'd learnt from reading girlfriend's copies of Cosmopolitan... But when it didn't suit him he let it slip.”
Your mum wasn't wrong when she said, 'Once a cheater, always a cheater' ...
Most of the men interviewed were clear about one thing with adultery: if you end up in a relationship with an attached man, never fool yourself that you were simply too irresistible.
Says Gary: “The chance to cheat is constantly available and yet so far I've resisted it. I could do all sorts of psychoanalysis, but the bottom line is: that's just who they are. And the bottom line for (a cheater): that's just who they are ... . If he cheats on you, he's an adulterer at heart.” We have been warned.
Some women end up finishing a relationship -- when it's really the man who wants out ...
A woman ends a relationship because she can't seem to make her man happy: why then does she feel so bad when she's the one who has done the dumping?
Barry, a “lovely guy” and old school friend of Strimpel's, explains: “Obviously if you've been going out with a girl you like her, so you don't necessarily want to dump her and you don't want to hurt her. So you just make the relationship deteriorate until she is forced to dump you.”
Rob, a serial monogamist, is more blunt: “Men are cowards. If we can avoid confrontation and letting someone down, we will.”
So women get to do the dirty work. Thanks guys.
A man who doesn't mind if you leave a whole set of clothes at their house might freak out over a few bracelets left by the sink ...
Women are supposed to be the drama queens in relationships but if some of the men in Strimpel's book are to go by, we don't read half as much into the little things as men do.
One guy dumps a new-ish girlfriend when she leaves her watch and bracelets in the bathroom. Many of her male interviewees understood his reaction.
“I wouldn't mind if my girlfriend, who stays at mine regularly, leaves in my room a toothbrush, contact lenses liquid or even a spare pair of pants for practical reasons,” says Peter.
But anything other than purely functional items are seen as precursors to leaving a lot more, “and then, basically, her moving in “.
Men have feelings too ...
There is a common perception that men are more libidinous than women and that if they are not looking for some action of an evening they are tired, burnt out or drunk.
Sometimes men -- just like women -- lack the confidence to make the first move.
“It's not that I have any weird issue with it, “ says one poor soul, “It's like you're frozen by an irrational fear of being rejected, even though you know you won't be.”
Intelligence can be a turn-off ...
I know, I know. All those bras burned for nothing.
“Women should be intelligent, yes, but lovely and smelling of roses,” says a charmer called Rob. What?! “It's just biology: it's hard-wired into us.”
Thankfully many of Strimpel's interviewees disagreed.
“Maybe it comes down to ambition rather than intelligence,” suggests one.
“No one, man or woman, wants to feel like they'll play second fiddle to someone else's career. There are ways to talk about how much you like your job that don't make it seem it's the only thing in your life.”
Women need to toughen up ...
Clearly, men are not all either wimps or bastards, but there are some serious bad pennies out there.
The key to not getting landed with one, say Strimpel's men, is to demand to be treated well and to leave if you're not. Women should take more responsibility, they conclude.
“Hardly the response you'd expect when the guy is the one acting like a tosser,” says Strimpel.
“But we need to get tough and have the courage to walk away. If we hang about for sub-standard treatment, it's our fault when we get it.”
What The Hell Is He Thinking: All the questions you've ever asked about men answered. By Zoe Strimpel, published by Penguin, €10.80, on sale now.