By Raymond Bechard
Only a woman of pride, complexity and emotional tension is genuinely worth the act of love, and there are only two ways to get yourself one of them. Either you lie, and stain the relationship with your own sense of guile, or you accept the involvement, the emotional responsibility, the permanence she must by nature crave. I love you can be said only two ways.
Travis McGee, The Deep Blue Good-By, 1964
If you’ve never read any of John D. MacDonald’s “Travis McGee” novels, you should immediately go get yourself all 21 volumes beginning with The Deep Blue Good-by (1964) to The Lonely Silver Rain (1984). Once you start you won’t stop. And though you’ll be able to finish them all by summer’s end, don’t. Savor them.
What makes these books so special? You’ll learn all about what it took to be a man when MacDonald started writing the books during the “Man Men” era, and how to be one 50 years later. You’ll look at life—and being a man—differently.
Who is Travis McGee? He’s a self-described “Salvage Consultant,” a kind of private detective who finds things for people, important things. Then he keeps half the value as his fee. He lives on a houseboat in Fort Lauderdale. He is a bad-ass philosopher and critic of modern day life. His observations on being a man, a human and an inhabitant of planet earth are timeless.
Along the way Travis offers insights into women that will bring your thinking to a sudden, jolting halt, turn it, and send it on its merry way in an entirely new direction. Basically, everything you’ve read about the ladies in Men’s magazines for the last half-century is a repeat of something Travis McGee already said. While all of it is valuable in some way (and should be taken with a 21st century grain of salt) the most valuable piece of advice he has remains the same. It goes something like this: Treat a woman so that she knows you believe she is the most important and interesting person you have ever met and will ever meet.
McGee’s advise on women is often harsh—to both men and women. His cynicism will cut you and leave you stinging. He’s not the kind of man to gently nudge you awake. He’s more of a slap in the face guy. Having read all 21 books multiple times, I’ve summarized Travis McGee’s view on women. In the McGee tradition of constant sarcasm and criticism, this compilation is a list of rules to break if you would like to lose a woman forever.
1. Don’t protect her.
She’s a big girl. There’s no reason to help her feel safe in the way she needs to feel safe. There are no guarantees in life so it’s not rational to expect security in relationships. (And nothing is more rational than love.) Her emotional security is paramount to her. This means she wants to rely on you to always be there for her and can count on you to be her best friend. Allow her to feel alone and abandoned, and you will experience both.
2. Don’t respect her.
Simple. Treat her like crap. If she doesn’t take it, she’ll leave and you’ll be miserable. If she does, she’ll stay and you’ll both be miserable. Treating her like the extraordinary woman she is will only increase her expectations, attitude, and hope, and courage, and affection, and love …
3. Don’t listen to her.
Every time she talks either tune her out or try to solve her problems. Do not, under any circumstances come to the realization that her feelings are the problem she needs to communicate to you. She doesn’t want you to DO anything. (After all, if she wanted your help she would ask for it. Seriously, she will.) And if you wanted her to feel closer to you than anyone else in the world you would not listen to her problems, but to her feelings. That takes paying sharp attention to her and learning how to really listen beyond her words. You would have to look at her as a person of near limitless emotional capacity. And all of that would only show her how much you truly value her. Who has that kind of time?
4. Look at her like an object.
All your life you’ve been sizing women up, judging them, taking in their physical being the same way you do with cars, boats or maybe fishing gear. Women are their words, their silence, their movement, the expressions, their work, their art, their friends, their children, their emotions, their thoughts, their hearts and their minds. They are more complex than anything else in the world. If you’re lucky, you might be smart enough to take on the challenge of understanding one someday.
5. Take her for granted.
Let her know she’s nothing special. Devalue everything she does, especially the things she does for you. If you want to make her miserable, sad, hopeless, or just lose her self-esteem make sure she knows she really doesn’t mean that much to you. You can’t be bothered with the fact that she’ll be looking for some kind of positive affirmation from you every day. And giving it to her is not something you can do once a month or week, on holidays or special occasions. She knows you appreciate her when you work at it all the time, especially those times when you don’t have to.
6. Don’t let her know she is important.
This one’s easy. If her father let her know that she is important as a person and you don’t show her the same thing, she won’t even consider a real relationship with you (because she knows you’re wrong.) However, if he didn’t teach her these things (making him was a heartless jerk) then you have to go along with him. Otherwise, if you try to prove her father wrong and treat her with the love and respect she deserves, she will fight you. She may never unbelieve her father’s lie. But if you do choose to take on the job, commit to it like a man.
7. Don’t let her know she is interesting.
Don’t show any interest in her life, her passions, her story, her friends, work, hobbies, troubles, etc. Showing her she bores you is the best way to prove to her that she will never be her best with you.
No joking around on this one. Don’t cheat. Have the courage to say no or the decency to end the relationship. Stop and think of the damage you are doing to her for the rest of her life. However, if you want to permanently kill a good section her heart then go ahead. Tell yourself whatever you want. She will never recover, especially if she stays with you.
9. Don’t commit.
She’ll feel fine if you can’t commit to anything, large or small. Can’t make little plans because of work or your family or your friends or your other interests? No problem. She’ll make plans without you. Can’t make big plans like spending the rest of your life with her? She’ll make those plans without you as well.
10. Don’t kiss her.
If you don’t want her, don’t touch her. And especially don’t kiss her. However, if you want to be a man, shut up and take five completely uninterrupted minutes every day to hold her and kiss her.
11. Don’t cherish and adore her.
Don’t pay any attention to the needs she’s had since she was a child. Yes she is all grown up, but there is a part of the little girl she once was still living inside her. She needs your help in telling the little girl that everything is going to be okay because she is truly loved. Yeah, she can certainly handle that on her own, or with somebody else.
12. Don’t provide for her.
Screw Travis McGee. It’s the 21st Century and women should be able to carry their own weight. Sorry, but if you can’t provide for her financially she will never be able to completely rely on you. She needs to count on you no matter what happens. Unpredictability is her worst enemy and the world is becoming more unpredictable ever day. You must be her safe harbor, her one place to go when it all goes to hell.
13. Don’t compliment her.
If you want her to find proof that she is attractive from someone else, don’t show her how attracted you are to her. If you want her to know how much you adore her, tell her how your attraction to her makes you feel. “Seeing your eyes make me feel like I’m really home,” is better than, “You have nice eyes.” But don’t do that. You’d have to examine all the great feelings she gives you. And who needs that much self awareness?
14. Ignore Adventure.
Needing security must mean she wants routine and dullness, right? Do you realize how much a woman wants adventure? Not the adventure of being with you or the ups and downs of your relationship, but the adventures—large and small—you embark on together. She wants to be safe/secure enough in you so that you are the only one she will dare travel with on the adventures she desires so deeply.
15. Don’t surprise her.
Going to the trouble to be spontaneous or romantic without her knowing proves to her that she is precious to you. She needs to see you going to a lot of trouble for her to truly know she is loved and safe. That’s a lot of work.
16. Don’t romance her.
Your first date was a long time ago. No need to act like that idiot anymore. It’s probably best to just settle into a routine and ignore her need for unique expressions of your love for her. On the other hand, if you bring her out on a “first date” once in a while, or go out of your way for her romantically, you will reset the emotional freshness of her heart and your relationship.
17. Don’t be a hero.
She may not want you to solve all her problems, but she definitely wants a champion. Who the hell even knows what that means? It’s a fine line to walk. And it’s only attempted by the truest of men with the utmost courage and conviction.
18. Don’t take her anywhere.
She is feeling things emotionally that you will never even come close to. Imagine all emotions—good and bad—are rocks. Someone hands two identical rocks to you and to your woman. To you it feels like a rock. To her it’s a boulder. The weight of all that, all day, every day, gets to be a burden. Weather you take her to dinner, a spa, on vacation, or just sit and watch her try on dresses, you will be her hero for taking her out from under her own personal pile of boulders.
19. Don’t change your habits.
Let pride be your guide. Never improve. You’ve gone far too long becoming just as perfect as you are. Why switch up your game now? Remember, compromise and consideration has no place in relationships … unless you want them to work. Anyway, who has strength enough to be flexible?
20. Hate apologizing.
If you wanted to make this work, you would love apologizing. Point out your mistakes and apologize for them until she tells you to stop. But, that will only make her trust you and rely on your decency and trustworthiness as a man.
21. Don’t learn what emotional intimacy is.
Forget that emotional intimacy is the utterly close connection that will exist only when you are truly committed to and trust one another. It means you are both devoted to the well being and individual growth of the other, that you fully trust her and her you. It means knowing with absolute certainty that you are perfectly safe with each other. So, you would have to take the time to find a woman with whom you can build trust and be yourself. Worst of all it would mean not just accepting her for who she is, but celebrating who she is.
22. Don’t man up and deal with it.
You have issues. Everybody does. But you’re strong enough to handle them and not let them affect your life or your relationships. Certainly, you don’t need to deal with your past, your humiliations, shame, failures, addictions, etc. Getting help and staying strong only means you’re weak.