How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘Men to Avoid in Relationships’ Category

Picking A Lover: The Rating Game

Women are moved by sexual impulses towards particular men, not towards men as a whole, and men will never understand women as long as they do not understand this.
—H. M. Swanwick, The Future of the Women’s Movement

When you look around a party or when you go through your email address book or when you count on your fingers and toes men whom you have found attractive, you make implicit decisions about their appeal relative to one other. You also make decisions about their attractiveness to you. You have formed impressions based on appearance and conversations and, perhaps, on reports from other people; and you mesh these together into an overall response to the man. The many factors involved in sex appeal or animal magnetism or whatever it is called are difficult to define, but they combine to form an impression that is easy to recognize.

Every time you meet a new man, you form an opinion about him. Sometimes you feel indifferent, sometimes you feel a faint distaste, sometimes you feel drawn to him. In your responses, you subconsciously rank him from terrible to terrific, from fatuous to fascinating, from disgusting to delectable. It’s fortunate for everyone that the man who seems exactly right to one woman may not even seem passably attractive to another.

Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Marlow in Dr. Faustus describes Helen of Troy as having “the face that launched a thousand ships.” Some irreverent young men, not attuned to the sacredness of classic poetry, borrow this line to rate their women. Out girl watching, they will say cryptically to each other, “Five hundred ships, huh?” “No, I don’t think so. Three hundred at most. But look at that one! Eight hundred easy.” The popular 1980’s movie Ten, featuring Bo Derek wearing rows of corn braids and not much else, was based on a variation of this perennial theme where men rate women on a one-to-ten scale.

Long-distance love affairs call for another sort of rating scheme. Just ask yourself: how far would you be willing to commute for a rendezvous? Some men are attractive enough to draw you across the street. Some are attractive enough to rate a drive across town, if it isn’t raining. Some of the spectacular ones are worth a bus trip from Boston to Philadelphia. A few even rate a transatlantic flight.

On the other end of the scale, to quote a woman friend of mine, “Well, if we had twin beds, and his was all the way across the room, it wouldn’t be worth the trip.”

When you are thinking about rating various men and comparing their pros and cons, there is another problem to be taken into account. In assessing a man and the pleasure he gives you or might give you, you cannot always average out the good with the bad. Sometimes, the bad is so bad that it destroys all of the rest.

In Fats Waller’s song, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” the man turfs out his girlfriend, complaining, “Your feet’s too big!” If shoe size is that important to you, then a beautiful smile and charm won’t compensate. However, it’s important to learn to overlook unimportant quirks and refrain from making arbitrary judgments over insignificant flaws. The more tolerant you can manage to be, the more people you can find potentially compatible, and the more tolerance you can expect in return.

Except for axe murderers, many of the so-called fatal flaws of physique or character are not all that fatal. Sometimes, however, a potential lover has a trait that makes him beyond the pale as far as you are concerned. He’s like a phone number you dial by memory. If you correctly remember six out of seven numbers, your memory is 86 percent correct, but you still don’t get the person you were trying to call.

Six correct out of seven is pretty good; but with phone numbers, as with people, it’s not good enough.


Brothers and Sisters: The Last Taboo

The incidence of incest is much higher than we thought, and its consequences are much less pernicious.
—Simon Van Velikoff, sexologist

You can learn what is really taboo by looking for those things that nobody jokes about. There are endless raunchy jokes about premarital sex, about adultery, about homosexuality. There are comparatively few about incest. Only two jokes are in common circulation. One defines an Appalachian virgin as “any girl under six who can run faster than her brother,” which may be more of a comment on the fragility of virginity than about brother-sister incest. The other defines incest as “the game the whole family can play.” Most of the books of jokes or quotations do not even mention it as part of the folklore. It is the last taboo.

Lemon Incest

Lemon Incest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although there is no one universal incest taboo, some kind of prohibition against some kind of incestuous behavior is found in almost all societies. The most stringent taboos are against mother-son incest, followed by father-daughter relationships. The emotional saliency of mores and laws prohibiting these kinds of relationships has two sources: in part, they stem from the fact of incest per se; and in part, they stem from norms against the sexual involvement of any adult with any child.

There are many theories of the origin of incest taboos. One important element in their perpetuation is the perception that a child born of a union between persons in too close a blood relation to each other would have an unfortunate genetic structure and would run a higher than average risk of being deformed or retarded or at least of having some kind of congenital defect.

Taboos about incest are beginning to change. One source of change is more effective birth control so that unfortunate genetic consequences can be prevented. A second source of change is the changing nature of the family. As long as a man and a woman married once and only once, it was very clear who was related to whom. Biological parenthood coincided with legal parenthood; and that, in turn, coincided with social parenthood as manifested by living together and by assuming the roles of mother and father, son and daughter.

However, with today’s high rates of divorce and remarriage, who is related to whom and why is no longer so clear. Suppose a woman is married and has a daughter and then remarries a man who has custody of his son by his first marriage. If the remarried couple then has a child together, we can imagine a family of five persons. The three children grow up together as if they were siblings, but there is a girl who lives with a man who acts like a father but is biologically unrelated; a boy who lives with a woman who acts like a mother but is biologically unrelated; and a boy and girl who
seem like brother and sister but are genetically unrelated and have a half sister in common.

This kind of hypothetical family can become even more complex when you add in such ordinary possibilities as children who are adopted and parents who marry more than twice. It is made more ambiguous when such unusual arrangements are made when the children involved are no longer babies but are becoming miniature adults. If boys and girls have been raised apart for some time, they do not necessarily feel like brother and sister just because their parents marry. If a man remarries a much younger woman, his son does not necessarily feel that the new wife, who is close to him in age, is exactly like a mother.

What all this means is that what used to be an absolute and taken-forgranted taboo that clearly designated certain people ineligible as lovers has now become a relative taboo open to interpretation in each new and unique situation.

The kind of incestuous relationship which is least objectionable is that between brother and sister who are approximate age mates. Some research on incest suggests that, perhaps, one in ten of all people have, at some time in their lives, had sexual intercourse with at least one sibling on a least one occasion.

Ask yourself: Who do you love and why? And is one of the young and handsome and affectionate men who you love your own brother? Philosophers using quill pens in silent rooms readily draw the line between Agape, which is spiritual or platonic love, and Eros, which is sexual love. It is not so clear in the real world of the flesh and the psyche.

You cannot marry flesh of your flesh for many good and sound reasons, nor should you have children with them for other reasons that are good and sound. But to love them, that is something else. And if on occasion that love is expressed as men and women tend to express it, then lie down in silence and discretion.

In some cultures, opposite sex twins are allowed to become lovers because it is believed that they have already been intimate in the womb. How could two people be more intimate than that? Brothers and sisters of the ordinary
kind do not have that much in common, but they have been sharing many of life’s circumstances for years. They may understand each other exceptionally well in that they completely relate to one another through their shared background and upbringing. The brother-sister love may be the ultimate kind of self-love in that each sees in the other a reflection of his or her own eyes and features and personality.

A liaison between a bother and a sister is not to be advised as the best choice of a lover relationship—but neither is it necessarily as traumatic or as unfortunate as is commonly believed.

The Lover in the Mob

You can have respect without love, but you cannot have love without respect.
—Jayson VanVerten

Sooner or later, you are likely to encounter an interesting man who does not seem to fit the usual classifications of jobs and professions. He does not seem to actually work anywhere, yet he is well dressed and obviously has lots of money. He talks a lot about business, but what business and where it is located is very vague. Generally, all he will explain is that he has some business to take care of—business that keeps happening outside of business hours and ordinary offices. Exotic trips happen or carefully planned trips are called off or postponed for no apparent reason. General questions are met with a blank look; detailed questions are met with a blank wall. It should not take long for someone to figure out that what is involved here is what Grandma would have referred to as something shady.

The man who is reputed to have underworld connections or who simply has an unsavory reputation or who lives well with no visible means of support is not considered by the conventional world to be respectable and so is not socially acceptable. Even if he does not look like the stereotype of a gangster, if there seems to be a strong possibility that he actually is a gangster, then your role as his woman, or even as merely his close friend, places you in the role of gun moll.

Gun Moll Magazine

Gun Moll Magazine (Photo credit: Terry McCombs)

Some of your acquaintances may find that exotic position to be interesting or titillating, but others will assume that by associating with known criminals, you must yourself have criminal sympathies if not actual criminal inclinations. Most likely, you will find that with a lover from the mob, your social connections are restricted to others who live in the same milieu. He can take you into the demimonde much more readily than you can take him into the company of law-abiding wage earners. Once you are known to have such notorious companions, you may yourself be less welcome if you later wish to return to your more conventional friends.

The underworld is vast and nebulous and operates by quite different rules than the ordinary world. If you are going to accept the many benefits of life on the fringes of respectability, which include for a start the avoidance of routine and access to a ready supply of money, then you must come to terms with the fact that it probably is better that you do not know exactly where the money comes from or what it is for.

A woman I know who was associated with a professional gambler was quite enthusiastic when he was on a winning streak—and quite derogatory when he started to lose. If you accept what men like this have to offer you, you do not necessarily have to take part, but you have to accept the morality of what they are doing. And you do have to accept the drawbacks as well as the advantages.

You must remember that the man of respect demands just that: respect. If you believe in capital punishment for evil persons who sell soft or hard drugs to teenagers because you think that it is a sin, then you had best back off unambiguously and quickly.

It is also important to remember that men in the underworld, even those on the fringes of the underworld, are used to breaking rules and to getting what they want. Often, they will be more territorial with “their” women than will men who are upstanding citizens, and they are often more ready to turn to violence as an expression of their feelings or as a way of enforcing their demands. There is also the potential danger of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” with him.

The lover in the mob may be exciting, but he can also be dangerous.

Witches, Bitches, and Broads

If there is no word for shrew or slut in male form, is it because there were no bad-tempered, no slovenly men? Or is it because only the male tongue might safely point out defects?
—Elizabeth Robins, Ancilla’s Share

When a man who hates women begins to talk, it soon becomes apparent that all the women he has ever encountered were villainous. Starting with his mother, they are portrayed as promiscuous, untrustworthy, or just downright evil.

The man who hates women has a well-developed lexicon to express his distain. If well educated, he will have discovered words such as “gorgon” (a repulsive woman), “virago” (a sharp-tongued woman), “termagant” (a violent woman), or “harridan” (a hateful woman). He will pepper his conversation with references to “crones” (old women), “shrews” (scolding women), “battleaxes” (aggressive women), “slatterns” (slovenly women), and “gold diggers” (greedy women). There will be a lot of references to women who are too sexual: “sluts,” “harlots,” “tramps,” “hookers,” and “tarts.” Women who are sexual and who use that sexuality for wickedness or treachery, which is what a misogynist expects, may be called, in biblical terms, Jezebel or Delilah.

Paradoxically, the man who hates women is equally scornful of women who are not sexual or are not sexual enough. He considers them frigid and includes in that category icebergs, ballbusters, castrators, teases, cock-teasers, dykes, lesbians, and nutcrackers. He describes things that are negative as being like the female genitals, usually in four-letter terms. Often in the conversation of a misogynist, there will be lots of references to women in animal terms: chicks, hens, cows, sows, porkers, pigs, broodmares, birds, biddies, foxes, bunnies, and of course, the ubiquitous bitches. The endearment “bed rabbit” is an especially nice touch.

Misogyny / Hate Speech

Misogyny / Hate Speech (Photo credit: dannyman)

All people, men and women, use some pejorative terms for women when they are saying something negative about a particular woman or a particular situation. The profile, which reveals a misogynist, is that he uses many of these terms. He uses them often, and in his conversation, the situations involving women are so consistently negative that only pejorative terms convey the appropriate connotation.

I know a man who called his former wife the Ex-Witch to distinguish her from his former mother-in-law, who was the Head Witch. Does that tell you something? Was his daughter then known as the Little Witch? And would you be surprised if you were fool enough to be involved with him that, in a short while, you would become known as the New Witch?

If women in general are witches, you can be sure that you, too, will be included and you, too, will be burned.

Lovers: Birds of a (Different) Feather

A man only understands what is akin to something already existing in himself.
—Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philosopher

One dimension of loving is the feeling that you understand the other person and that he understands you. The more completely you can feel that his actions are predictable and the sources of his emotions comprehensible, the more you can be tolerant of his behavior and appreciative of his actions. Whether or not you really understand him, and vice versa, is perhaps of secondary importance to the belief that you do.

Some men who would make exemplary lovers for some women may not be quite right for you either because you do not understand the issues which are of prime concern to them or because you do not understand the morality or lack of it which governs their behavior. They remain enigmas to you and may, therefore, be difficult or impossible to relate to satisfactorily.

You Just Don't Understand


Although similarly held worldviews can be important for compatibility, some differences are not all that critical. For instance, there is no need to pick a lover who is in the same profession as you are. In fact, there are a number of disadvantages when this occurs, not the least of which is the implicit problem of too direct competition. You can have good relationships with people in diverse fields as long as you have some understanding of what their work involves.

The more passionate you are about your work and the more passionate he is about his, the more important it is that you be in some way fellow travelers. This means that your fields of interests must at least be conterminous—that is, share some boundary where they touch on common ground. Anthropologists are like sociologists, singers are like musicians, chemists are like physicists, and salesmen of any product have a lot in common with all other salesmen. If there is, at least, some sharing of areas of interest, the work-focused conversation of one party has a chance of striking a spark of sympathy and comprehension in the other.

If a potential lover is in a totally different field, talking about your work will be like speaking Greek to a non-Greek and you must then make the uncomfortable choice between keeping silent or being alternately bored and boring. Of course, you can take the time to learn about your lover’s profession; but if he does not reciprocate by learning about yours, you are very likely to be resentful, which is hardly an auspicious foundation on which to build a relationship.

A lover of similar, if not identical, interests is of special importance when one of you is involved in a field of great passion such as religion or politics. If you meet a union organizer who is devoted to the cause and you think that an “agitator” is something in a washing machine, you are headed for trouble. Not only will you not appreciate his greatness and his accomplishments, such as they may be, but you will also be unwilling to recognize the legitimacy in his mind of the many occasions when his passion for the world and its concerns will take precedence over his passion for you.

If your lover is a man of the cloth or aspires to be one, then even if you do not share the same religion exactly, it is important that you, at least, share enough of the spiritual worldview to be sympathetic with matters of conscience and with such psychological dynamics as the inevitable crisis of faith. The happy heathen has no patience with such problems. From the start, you will find such men with their manifold doubts unfulfilling as lovers, no matter how passionate the Elmer Gantry part of them remains.

Picking a Lover: The Charming Con Man

Charm seems to me to be the ability to captivate other people without doing anything about it. The “charm” of it is that one cannot define its ingredients.
—Rudolf Bing of the Metropolitan Opera

Women who desire a man to be tall, dark, handsome, and successful may also add “charming” to their list of ideal characteristics. Some men who have the “happy fierceness” associated with presence have an intrinsic appeal in their manner and presentation. Others, who seem to have it, have merely learned to go through the motions, adopting an appealing persona in much the same way that a good salesman or a good confidence man learns to tailor his responses to what his audience or victim wants to hear.

Brooklyn Museum - The Confidence Man - Guy Pèn...

Brooklyn Museum - The Confidence Man - Guy Pène du Bois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there was ever a single sentence to alert you to the approach of trouble, it is the apparently innocuous comment: “He can be quite charming, you know.” This may not sound like faint praise, but it is. It is quite different from the comment: “He is charming.” The man who “can be” charming is commented upon, in the first place, because charm is not his natural state and it comes as some surprise to discover that sometimes he has it. Such a reflection also tells you that charm is something which he can deliberately turn on if he wants to, which tells you in advance that he will also turn it off when he is so inclined.

The man who “can be” charming is not only manipulative but is the sort who uses whatever sex appeal he may have as a tool for or a means of manipulation. Rather than feeling warmed and flattered by a woman’s response to him, he is likely to be vaguely contemptuous at her being so easily taken in. Real charm in a man stems from his genuine affection for women; acting charming stems from a well-disguised wish to dominate, manipulate, or deflect.

Hire a charming con man as your top salesman, but don’t make the mistake of falling in love with his superficialities.

Beware of the Casanova Complex

Hunters of women burn to show their skill,
Yet when the panting quarry has been caught
Mere force of habit drives them to the kill:
The soft flesh is less savory than their sport.
—John Press, “Womanizers”

For some men, the most thrilling and most important aspect of sexuality is the ability to persuade a new woman to have sex with them. Some psychiatrists refer to this syndrome as the Casanova complex after the legendary Giacomo Casanova who seduced hundreds of women and detailed his exploits in his memoirs.

English: Alessandro Longhi (1733-1813) portrai...

Casanova via Wikipedia

Casanovas, who are also sometimes called Don Juans, after another historical figure with extensive seductions under his belt, are usually very attractive to women because they have made a careful study of the components of masculine appeal, and they work diligently at being attractive. They have an excellent and persuasive line or, rather, a series of lines, one for all possibleoccasions with all possible kinds of women. In some places, they are called scalp hunters. Sometimes, they are said to be concerned with making notches on their gun, like old-time gunmen of the West who were reputed to carve a notch for every man they killed. Casanovas are obsessed with the idea that they can entice any woman into their net. The more unlikely you are as a sex partner, the more of a challenge you present to their supposedly irresistible charms, and the more diligently they will work at wooing you effectively.

The Casanova has a wide repertoire of seductive tricks. He talks a good game, he has practiced hands, he looks at you with melting eyes, and he simply does not take no for an answer. He declares his undying love or his overwhelming passion or whatever other hyperbolic state of affairs he thinks might please you. Heady stuff.

When you finally succumb to the blandishments of a Casanova and let him take you to bed, you are likely to experience a profound sense of anticlimax. For him, the fun of seducing a woman is all in the chase; and in establishing that, his personality and will are dominant over yours. Once you have submitted to his will, you are no longer very interesting.

The Casanova is often an indifferent lover. He is almost never interested in following up a conquest with an encore and certainly not with a relationship. An encounter with a Casanova, should you have been unfortunate enough to have actually believed his line, is a profound disappointment

How can you recognize a Casanova in advance? Like misogynists, Casanovas do not necessarily wear identity badges, but there are several clues. Usually, their reputation precedes them, especially since they are proud of their conquests rather than ashamed; many may even brag about them. They certainly do not try to conceal their numerous involvements. Scott Fitzgerald
described such a man about town as “one of those men who come in a door and make any woman with them look guilty.” The Casanova tends to come on too strong too soon, declaring a passion far and above what would be reasonable and predictable in a given situation.

Finally, although a Casanova may have had many women, his is unlikely to have had any one woman for any length of time. When he is thirty-five, and the longest he has ever been involved with one woman is five weeks, beware.

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