My sister said something yesterday. Something so profound yet so late teens/very early twenties like. It is a phrase we laugh at when young girls say it or roll our eyes. It is a case of longing, and to many women a, “yeah wishful thinking”, response. The phrase that has been in and out of my mind so deeply today, that I strayed away from the topics I had planned to write about (which were planned to be written already, but I’m sorry, I’ve been tired). I want a man.
Now, before you jump to conclusions let me explain the context in which it was said. It was the typical, I don’t want a boy, I want a man phrase. Not an, I want a man because I’m lonely. And it just struck something in me today. Last night, I rolled my eyes. Today, I deeply pondered this over used phrase. Coming upon the big 30 and having found a “real man”, I think I can do this less jaded than others. I say less jaded because we all know my heart is still jaded by default. I also read something interesting a few days ago. Something we all knew, but it came back to me today. Women reach maturity before men. There is in fact about a 6 to 7 year age gap in the maturity levels. A woman of 24 may be ready to settle down and stop partying, where a man of 24 is generally still not ready to grasp the responsibilities of a family. Before I go on let me stress that THIS IS OK. There is no judgement in my saying this. Also, let me disclose I am about to use some terms like jackass.
I don’t remember where I read this. I only remember the details because as I was reading, I was telling Brad about it and how perfect our age gap was. According to this unforgettable article or blog, men start getting ready to settle at around 30. So let me time warp you a little to 2007, when I was a mere 20 years old and freshly separated from my high school boyfriend turned too young husband, now ex husband. I was young, I had a son, and I was highly aware older men had more in common with my maturity level. I was very mature from a young age, although naive. So I dated men 26 to 32. Not one of them was ready to settle down. Now, some of them had very good potential. They weren’t quite ready then, but I could sense they would one day make excellent husbands and fathers. Others I could tell would probably be jackasses for life. How did I know this? Oh young ones, let me explain in one word: respect.
I could give you the literal definition of respect, but I won’t. I don’t know why it took me so long to understand the meaning of respect. Maybe because it was thrown at me and overused so much as a child and then again in my hellacious 7 year relationship from people that I had no admiration for. Bare with me here because all of this is very important to a “real man”. One day it just clicked. It was last year some time during some very in depth conversations with myself. Respect, in terms of people, is when someone cares about another human’s feelings. By default, I think most of us respect a everyone at first and keep in mind, there is a HUGE difference in respecting someone and just plain being respectful to people. You don’t have to respect someone just to be kind and respectful to them. I will use some examples here. My last boss who I decided I did not respect, my jackass ex, and my now wonderful husband who I decided I respected very much. At first, I had respect for my boss, because she was my superior. She had done things to get her to her position and I assumed without knowing her, she must know what she was doing. I was wrong. She turned out to be argumentative, loud, demanding, and demeaning in her tone. She didn’t receive nor implement feedback well at all which showed little respect for her team. This, my friends, diminished her ability to coach me or for me to take her seriously. I did not respect her.
My ex at first showed cursory signs of respect. He held doors, he didn’t say bad things in front of my son, yet those things changed very quickly. I chose to ignore them as bad days. He yelled in front of John Thomas, he would let doors slam in my face while I was carrying a child, he would talk to multiple women about personal things, and the list goes on. He would talk about how I didn’t show him respect and the way he acted was MY fault. Now in my situation, things escalated a lot and became verbally abusive. Keep in mind, every situation where people do those things, isn’t going to escalate that far. But the truth was, I didn’t respect him because of those things. He felt I owed him respect simply because he was the “man”, yet he had no respect for me or my children. Another red flag as a huge sign of no respect in the future I didn’t catch: he was ok with my 16 month old son coming on our first date. Single parents, anyone who will have respect for you in your future relationship will not do this. They will show respect for your child and say, hey if you can’t get a sitter, let’s postpone this. Not only should they do this, you should throw a pro mark up for them and run like hell if they seem even a little slighted by the fact that you have a child to put first.
The very vast difference in the man I married is he shows me respect angry or not. I’ve written about the amount of respect he had for my children. He didn’t want to meet them until we had made sure we were solid and I knew their emotions were ready. The respect between us is why we don’t argue or fight. Not only does he open doors, ask my opinion, and speak kindly. He understands factors like, talking to other women about personal things is not ok. He understands that complaining to his parents about how much of a bitch I’m being that day isn’t ok. Those things are huge. I don’t remember if I talked about our “fight” a couple weeks ago. I got upset about something. Whether it was an over reaction or not, I was mad. I went to him, was snippy, and he was snippy back and this was in private. My mom was here, the kids were home. In front of everyone, we were polite and didn’t show a hint of anger. Then, in a moment where we were alone again, he apologized. Not for being snippy, but for me being upset. He said, I’m sorry for doing *insert offense here*. I don’t want us to be upset with each other and I’ll do *insert fix here*. He showed me respect. He showed my mom respect and the children respect. He showed me he cared about my feelings enough to take responsibility for his actions. There have been several days I have been in a bad mood or irrationally mad, and I apologized to him in the same way. Here’s where you know he’s a keeper. He shows this kindness to EVERYONE. These small little things and reactions are signs of a person who is generally able to be respectful.
And that is my point. A 24 year old man may not be ready to settle down and stop partying. He may not be ready to stop going out with his friends or dedicate all of is free time to his significant other. However, you will be able to tell if he has the potential later on. He will be kind to people and he will speak kindly about his family. He will hold doors and be kind to your friends you know he dislikes. Don’t, I REPEAT, don’t confuse venting with disrespect. At 19 years old, my sister isn’t there yet. She wants a “man”, but unfortunately it will be rare she finds one fully capable yet. Her job now is to date and find out the differences in the keepers and the nots. Then when the right one comes along she will know with certainty he is the ONE.