Dear Father Tony,
What the hell do men want?
Running on Empty
What Men Want
With men, I really think it's all about mission, admission, commission and permission.
I think all people are born with some sense of mission or task, but a man is what you get when you cross a puppy with a fortune cookie. The problem is that when you marry one, you need to catch the puppy in order to read the message inside the cookie, but the puppy snatches it away because that is what playful puppies do by nature. Eventually they get old, and parking their muzzles on the rug in front of the fireplace, they doze through incomprehensible dreams while their owners/lovers, leafing through their scrapbooked images, wonder who they were, the cookie and its mission long ago gulped unread.
The greater among men are those who can make some admission about themselves. This may happen in your union with a man more rarely than the passage overhead of some rare comet, but with a gratifying shimmer that can light up the darkness of years spent blindly groping through a relationship with an unilluminated man. It is best not to miss your man's admission. It might happen at a time of crisis or death or illness, or it might be phoned in over thousands of miles. It is often clumsy and badly aimed because a man making an admission is not an archer and you are not his target. He is for one brief redemptive moment an instinctive oracle. His admission might be one of yearning, or one of fear or frustration or satisfaction. You will know it when it happens and would do well to inscribe it deeply within you because you know how fast a comet moves and the length of night that follows its tail is often longer than what came before it. Men who can never make an admission lack courage. You should help not shun such a man.
I sometimes think that commission and the related act of commitment spring forth generally from women and generally cause terror in the hearts of men. Let's trash that notion for a moment but let's wonder if in any same-sex partnering there is an unequal distribution of the sense of commitment and commission. You want to explore the globe of your life together with your man in a galleon, discovering unknown continents, by his side and naming them with a private language spoken only by the pair of you. He, however, will shout "Land ho!" and jump into the shallows with a knife in his teeth without bothering to alert you, peeling potatoes below in the scullery. You can complain, or you can put down the bitter paring knife, scramble up onto deck and jump into the same adventurous waters. I would seriously advise against the complaint.
Finally, men need permission. Many permissions. All kinds of permissions. Every kind, really. Especially the ones that can result in terrifically hurtful and injurious mistakes. Men savor the breakage of their bones more than they do their wholeness. A man who has never broken something big should worry you. Men build and break and build and break, with one action always leading to the other. They watch the sun melt their snowmen with solemn understanding. That is why I have often wondered why the poets typically think of the ocean as a woman, what with its regular tides and its wrecking or its wearing down of mother earth.
Anyone who loves a man will soon learn the foolishness of the leash. To understand permission, listen to "How do you solve a problem like Maria" from The Sound of Music in which Julie Andrews convincingly plays a man right down to the haircut. (Austrian nuns know what men want.)
Seriously. With men, the trick is to dismantle the permission system in which he always has to get away with things and in which he dreams of relief from constraints. You accomplish this by playing with him long and hard. If you are not going to play with him, you should have gotten a goldfish instead of a man. What does a man want? A playground. That's you. You are the playgound, the chew toy and the master. Ultimately, who's the man? You're the man. What do you want?
PS: And if you haven't yet figured it out, a man is rather like a woman in all the above ramblings.