One of the silliest things a guy has ever said to me was when I asked whether his ex-girlfriend and I were at all similar (a terrible, terrible question, I know): “No,” he said. “She’s a girl and you’re a woman.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this–besides feeling uncomfortably, vaguely flattered and realizing that his propensity for cheesy commentary was easily exacerbated by red wine.
Frankly, I have no clue what separates “girls” from “women” in guys’ minds. (Thoughts welcome, fellas. I know you’re in double-digits now: out yourselves.)
At the moment, though, I am preoccupied with what separates “men” from “boys” in mine.
This largely stems from the fact that, the other day, my dad sent me an email in response to a post in which I used the term “boy.” (As in, S and I were “talking about boys.”)
“Didn’t you mean ‘men’?” he wrote. “Or am I missing something?”
I honestly hadn’t considered my word choice, which I wrote back and explained. And by way of daughterly edification, I added that many males my age are still, in fact, very much boys.
“That’s a pity,” he responded.
I laughed, and thought: yes. And then, no.
You know the boys I’m talking about: those twenty-something (and sometimes thirty-something, it probably goes on but I’m not dealing with that yet) guys who act like they’re still in college. They probably live with a couple of other guys, have no clue how they’re ever going to make a living and drink and/or smoke pot on a daily basis. Basically: dudes.
On the surface, these do not sound like the most attractive qualities. And generally I think we girls (excuse me, women) do get excited about finding a “real man”: someone with a stable, salaried job, his own apartment and a controlled relationship with drugs and alcohol.
But sometimes a boy is really, oddly compelling. There’s something refreshing–comforting, even–about guys who like to sit around, tell penis jokes and muse enthusiastically about some collaborative movie/website/reality show idea that is perpetually growing more elaborate and less done.
I wonder if it’s that they remind me of the boys I went to college with–the ones I met when all of us were eighteen and impressionable, and toward whom I’ll forever harbor a deep and warm affection.
Or the fact that things like tenderness and chivalry do not usually come naturally to these boys, and so when they actually do make the effort one feels that much more appreciative–and special.
When a “man” drives me home/sends a sweet post-date text/drives me to the beach so I can put my feet in the ocean because I live in the desert, I appreciate it–but I’m not all that impressed. Maybe he really likes me, but maybe he’s doing it because he knows he should. When a boy does any of these things, I’m fairly sure it’s not because he knows anything: chances are he’s kinda smitten.
I also wonder if it has to do with the whole “odyssey” thing that afflicts us twenty-somethings: the tension between the desire to settle down and the one to keep moving. There’s part of me that does feel drawn to stability at this point in my life, and that part is likely the one that generally drives me toward men–the ones with careers and maturity.
There is still, though, the part of me that isn’t totally ready for that: the part that is still wandering around the country figuring out what my own life is gonna look like.
Perhaps this part is the one that can be vulnerable to the charms of those pot-smoking, Lebowski-quoting dudes. Cause they’re not sure either, and they’re okay with that. Once in a while, I am too.