black man walking with his lady

Is he leading you where you want to go?

A few months ago, I wrote an article titled “The Truth About New York: How Big City Dating Corrupts Single Men.” It was about how big cities make it easier for men to buck traditional trends when it comes to dating. Put more succinctly, it was about how big cities make it easier for men to be assholes. One of the last comments on that article posed a question that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, but haven’t been able to put into enough words to make it a substantial article until now:

“Does there EVER come a point when we expect men to hold _themselves_ to a “higher” standard that is _NOT_ based on women’s actions/inactions?

No. Expectations communicated through words and actions will forever be key. They’re what set the tone for things to come. Managers are often promoted to their highest level of incompetence. Men are often promoted to the highest level of what they’re allowed to get away with. People don’t perform unless you require them to. And even then, sometimes they still don’t perform and you gotta drop ’em from the team. That’s the simple answer. But then it occurred to me how often I get questions or scenarios from women involving men they took an initial liking to that eventually fell short of hopes and evaded dreams.

I really like this guy, but he just keeps on texting instead of calling. How do I get him to pick up the phone?

I give guys my number and they don’t call. What can I do to get them to take it to the next level?

We got physical, I thought we were on the same page, then next thing you know he had a girlfriend. What the f*ck gives?

The advice I’ve given more and more frequently: Stop worrying about us and do you. You can’t make us do anything, but you can point us in the right direction. If we choose to go the other way, that’s on us.

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When it comes to men stringing women along in a fluid state of ambiguity, I hear a lot about how men need to “man up” and say what it is…even though we initially tell women exactly that. But apparently and for reasons I’ll never understand, many women believe men are responsible for periodically checking in and saying stuff like “You know I’m not looking for anything serious right? Right? You know what? Let me put this thing away. We’re not on the same page.” Yeah, that’s the noble thing to do…in a fantasy world where every guy looks like Idris and shares his feelings. Sometimes reality tastes like booboo. I say that with a smiley face.

For all that I’ve gotten away with over the years, there’s always been a woman on the other side with equal opportunity to put the kibosh on us — whatever we were. But they didn’t. They allowed me to be a minimalist. I knew I could save my best for the last woman I’d date before hanging up my jersey and becoming a color commentator on marriage.

Nah. Ain't having it.

Nah. Ain’t having it.

People say it’s a man’s job to lead and set the tone. I agree, in part at least. Women have an equally important role that often gets forgotten. They have the opportunity to walk away, wag a Mutumbo finger, and tell us they’ll have nothing less than our best, and that we’re not taking them down the path they’d like to walk. But for whatever reason, many don’t. They toss us the role of leader and allow our lackluster vision of “us” to lead them down a dirt road to drink from a pond of disappointment and lava. The result? “How come he didn’t step up?!”

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My answer and reiteration: Don’t worry about when we’ll step up, because we’re going to do whatever you allow us to. Worry about what you can do for yourself even if that means cutting us out of the picture.

The women that I’ve worked the hardest for are the ones that told me — verbally and/or through actions — that they’d have nothing less than my best effort. It was that simple. It continues to be that simple. Not too long ago, if I knew it’d require work, I’d walk away. That’s what a lot of men do today. It’s not right or wrong. That’s a man’s prerogative. Sh*t, that’s a woman’s prerogative too. We all have free will to make decisions. We just need to be comfortable living with the consequences…whatever they may be. Telling a man that infrequent communication isn’t gonna fly or that there will be no sideways pokey without some type of commitment may lead him to the door. But that’s okay because you’ve saved yourself time. You’ve asserted your worth. And at the end of the day, the value you place on yourself exceeds anything that a man could ever tell you.

So even with putting the proverbial foot down, things may still go awry. That’s life. But the power is in being able to say you did what you needed and that the other person wasn’t the right person. Know that all you can control is the precedent you establish and the limits on what you’re willing to put up with. That’s in your circle of control. What we choose to do isn’t. So stop running in one trying to figure out why we won’t do what you want. Just do what’s best for yourself.

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It ain’t always a crystal stair,

Slim Jackson