I edited Maxim for four years, and let me tell you, we knew everything there was to know about guys. Like this: All guys really care about is girls. Our sex and relationship pieces tried to break down the great female mystery, and they were consistently the highest-rated articles in the magazine aside from, well, the pictorials. And we learned a lot ourselves. Here are nine interesting nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from my job presenting women to men.
1. Women like when you play with their hair.
Not while she’s in the front seat reasoning with the state trooper, maybe… but during sex for sure. This female-only erogenous zone is news to most guys. (For us, hair is nothing but a nuisance.) Men who figure this out, and learn to run their fingers through her tresses, can log major brownie points. And here’s the key: They don’t tell other guys, because that would give up a competitive advantage. If you don’t say something—or at least coo invitingly when his fingers accidentally stumble through your hair—odds are he’ll go to his grave never knowing.
2. Arguments are ALWAYS about the relationship.
When it comes to fighting, women get a bad rap for being irrational and melodramatic. The real problem? Men foolishly think the thing you’re mad about is the thing you SAID you were mad about. Let’s say he’s once again left his dirty socks on the floor. A 4-year-old girl would recognize you’re steamed because he’s taking you for granted. But an adult male will take you at your word. And—stay with me—if he thinks you’re complaining about the socks, well, jeez, what kind of nagging, shrieking harpy are you? Do you want me to pick up the goddamn socks—is that it? Men should figure out what the argument’s REALLY about BEFORE opening their big fat mouths, yes, but we almost never do. I know you’re all holding out for us to magically develop intuition just because we love you, like the romantic leads do in the movies, but in the real world, that is a fantasy. Be direct and precise when expressing your frustration with guys and it will yield better results. Aww… isn’t that sweet?
3. Women have a raw deal.
This will sound like I’m just sucking up, but I’m not. We actually catalogued the details in one of the earliest Maxim pieces, “50 Reasons It’s Great To Be a Guy.” You know: “you don’t have to carry a purse around,” and “just one mood, all month long, ha ha!” and so on. Well, as the guys brainstormed, our list kept growing (“haircuts are cheaper!” and “more pay for the same work!” and “nobody is ever, ever looking at your ass!”) and it started to dawn on us that this wasn’t just a funny conceit: Biology and society have conspired to stack the deck unfairly against the fairer sex in dozens of ways. So, uh… sorry.
4. Women want a simple, clean apology.
Men feel an aching need, when apologizing, to tell you WHY they screwed up, incorrectly assuming this information will be of some interest to you. But women interpret this as waffling; they think the guy’s trying to say: “Here’s why it’s not really my fault.” Mitigating factors can come later, maybe, but only after a solid, clean, “I’m sorry” with no strings attached. On average, it takes men seven years and three relationships to learn this one on their own. To speed up the process, be blunt: Cut him off and say “Could you just apologize? For once?” He might get mad, but you’re already fighting, so who cares; he really will start to absorb this once it’s brought to his attention.
5. Women don’t believe men’s wandering gaze is innocent.
Sure, you understand the argument that men are natural-born “hunters,” with biological needs that require us to peruse the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. You just don’t believe it. So when you’re out to dinner with a guy and glance up from the menu to catch him watching the mini-skirted waitress wriggle a coffeepot off the top shelf, you don’t get how innocent this really is, because there is no hardwired female equivalent. I think in this case guys should stop trying to explain dogs to cats, and simply work harder not to get caught. And if you do catch him, really? All this proves is that he’s truly, deeply heterosexual, and unlikely to hit you with a nasty identity surprise three days before your wedding.
6. Women are vulnerable to the curveball.
Compliment a hot woman on being hot and a man will run smack into her defenses, no matter how creative he is (and we can get very creative; this is Prime Directive stuff). But compliment a smart woman on being hot, or a funny woman on being smart, and unless he is a total dorkasaurus about it the man will double his odds at least, as his target correctly recognizes him as unusually perceptive, sensitive, brilliant, etc. Just a minor weakness in your defensive shield, that’s all… nothing to be concerned about.
With men it’s different: We assume you’re just telling us what you think we want to hear… and that’s fine! If you tell a successful man he’s sexy, for example, he doesn’t believe it the way you mean it; he has no new illusions of aesthetic grandeur. He thinks you’re saying that his whole package, whatever it is, is enough a turn-on to fire your engines, and that’s all. And that is all we need to hear, really.
7. Women dress up for their girlfriends, not for us.
Consider: All women are crazy for nice shoes… yet no self-respecting straight guy has ever noticed anything below his date’s knee. The conclusion is inevitable. When a girl unbuttons her top two shirt buttons, that’s for me, but everything else is for the ladies. Women can be highly critical of one another (“Is it just me or has Lois gained weight?” “What’s Janet thinking with that TMI skirt?”) and so have to remain cosmetically vigilant at all times. So keep asking us how we like this sweater or these pants or whatever if it amuses you to watch us squirm, but please know you’re not really getting a second opinion; you’re getting your own opinion reflected back in what he thinks you want to hear. If it were up to us you would just be naked, all the time. Honestly, seriously.
8. For women, no date is over until they’ve shared it with their friends.
This is not trivial. Her girlfriends are sure to grill her in the morning—and their opinion matters. And a pleasant, unremarkable date does not a story make. The advice Maxim gave guys was: Make sure, at some point in the evening, to provide her with some heroic conversational hook she can breathlessly convey in the AM. (“He picked a fight with the maitre d’ because he didn’t hold the door open for me!”) Otherwise, she’s left with “I mean, it was good, he was nice,” and her friends will shrug, and she’ll start rethinking your interestingness, and before you know it the whole thing will collapse like a soufflé baking on a firing range. So ladies, if you like a guy and the date is heading down a boring path through no fault of his, feel free to step in and throw a wrench in the works just to see what he’ll do. If he duds out it’s better to find out sooner, and if you DO end up together, your “first date” story is going to live forever… so it’ll strengthen your memoirs to make it a good one.
9. Women don’t want you to fix it; they want you to shut up and sympathize first.
Men suck at listening because we always try to skip ahead and solve your problem, like filling in the end of a stutterer’s sentence. Why? Because we assume that’s what you want. Sympathy is alien to us; no guy ever brings up a problem out loud (sign of weakness) unless he is asking for answers. So when you say, “This girl at work is such a bitch to me every day…” to us it has the urgency of “Honey, my car is broken down on I-35 and it’s raining and this cellphone’s about to die.” So we jump up and throw the toolbox in the car; it’s hard for us to absorb that all you want is, “You must feel so wet and frustrated! How’s your hair holding out?”
Maybe we didn’t learn everything there was to learn about women, and maybe I actually learned some of these gems from my long-suffering best friend and wife, Leslie. But we Maxim editors found that, for a bunch of lusty louts drooling over lingerie shoots, our readers sure did eagerly lap up all the relationship advice we could dish out. They truly wanted to be better lovers, better listeners, and better men. So my best advice for you in dealing with your own “reader” is to be completely straightforward about what you want and how you feel. Deep down all men want to know your secrets… and if you encounter any token resistance, just unbutton two more buttons and try again.