I’ve made a living for more than twenty years making people laugh—about themselves, about each other, about family, and friends, and, most certainly, about love, sex, and relationships. My humor is always rooted in truth and full of wisdom—the kind that comes from living, watching, learning, and knowing. I’m told my jokes strike chords with people because they can relate to them, especially the ones that explore the dynamics of relationships between men and women. It never ceases to amaze me how much people talk about relationships, think about them, read about them, ask about them—
even get in them without a clue how to move them forward.
For sure, if there’s anything I’ve discovered during my journey here on God’s earth, it’s this: (a) too many women are clueless about men, (b) men get away with a whole lot of stuff in relationships because women have never understood how men think, and (c) I’ve got some valuable information to change all of that.
I discovered this when my career transitioned to radio with the Steve Harvey Morning Show. Back when my show was based in Los Angeles, I created a segment called “Ask Steve,” during which women could call in and ask anything they wanted to about relationships. Anything. At the very least, I thought “Ask Steve” would lead to some good comedy, and at first, that’s pretty much what it was all about for me—getting to the jokes.
But it didn’t take me long to realize that what my listeners, mostly women, were going through wasn’t really a laughing matter. They had dozens of categories of needs and concerns in their lives that they were trying to get a handle on—dating, commitment, security, family baggage, hopes for tomorrow, spirituality, in-law drama, body image, aging, friendships, children, work/home balance, education. You name the topic, somebody asked me about it. And heading up the list of topics women wanted to talk about was—you guessed it—men.
My female listeners really wanted answers—answers to how to get out of a relationship what they’re putting into it.
On those “Ask Steve” segments, and later, through the
“Strawberry Letters” segment I do on the current incarnation of the Steve Harvey Morning Show, women have made clear that they want an even exchange with men: they want their love to be reciprocated in the same way they give it; they want their romantic lives to be as rewarding as they make them for their potential mates; they want the emotions that they turn on full blast to be met with the same intensity; and they expect the premium that they put on commitment to be equally ad-hered to, valued, and respected. The problem for all too many women who call in to my radio show, though, is that they just can’t get that reciprocation from men, and women then end up feeling disappointed, disenfranchised, and disillusioned by their failed relationships.
When I step back from the jokes, and the microphone gets turned off and the lights in the studio go down, and I think about what women ask me every morning on my show, I get incredibly perplexed—perplexed because even though my callers have all presumably had some experience with men (whether they are friends, boyfriends, lovers, husband, fathers, brothers, or co-workers), these women still genuinely want to know how to get the love they want, need, and deserve. I’ve concluded that the truths they seek are never as obvious to them as they are to us men. Try as they might, women just don’t get us.
With this in mind, I stopped joking around and got very real with my audience. Through my answers, I started imparting wisdom about men—wisdom gathered from working more than half a century on one concept: how to be a man. I also spent countless hours talking to my friends, all of whom are men. They are athletes, movie and television stars, insurance brokers and bankers, guys who drive trucks, guys who coach basketball teams, ministers and deacons, Boy Scout leaders, store manager, ex-cons, inmates, and yes, even hustlers. And one simple thing is true about each of us: we are very simple people and all basically think in a similar way.
When I filter my answers through that lens of how men view relationships, the women in my audience start to understand why the complexities and nuances they drag into each of their relationships with the opposite sex really serve them no justice.
I teach them very quickly that expecting a man to respond to them the way a woman would is never going to work. They then realize that a clear-eyed, knowing approach to dealing with men on their terms, on their turf, in their way, can, in turn, get women exactly what they want.
Indeed, my advice for the folks who called in on the “Ask Steve” segment of the Steve Harvey Morning Show became so popular that fans—women and men—started asking me when I was going to write a relationship book—something to help the women who genuinely want to be in a solid, committed relationship figure out how to get one, and help the men ready for those relationships to be recognized for what they can and are willing to bring to the table. I have to admit: I didn’t really see the value of writing a relationship book at first.
What, after all, did I have to add to the conversation beyond the answers I give to an audience of millions every morning?
Even bigger than that, how could I be taken seriously? Hell, I’m not a writer.
But then I started thinking about the relationships that I’ve had in my lifetime, talked to some of my male friends and some of my female co-workers and associates, and put together a few informal focus groups. I considered the impact that relationships have on each of us, and especially the impact they’ve had on me. My father? He was married to my mother for sixty-four years. My mother was invaluable to him. And she was invaluable to me—the most influential person in my life. Equally valuable to me are my wife and my children. In fact, my girls and my concern for their future inspire me here as well. They will all grow up and reach for the same dream most women do: The husband. Some kids. A house. A happy life. True love. And I want desperately for my children to avoid being misguided and misled by the games men have created just to perpetrate the greed and selfishness we tend to show the world until we become the men God wants us to be. I know—because of my mother, my wife, my daughters, and the millions of women who listen to my show every morning—that women need a voice, someone to help get them through and decipher the muck, so they can get what they’re truly after. I figured I could be that guy to wave across the fence and say, “I’m going to tell you the secrets—the real deal about men, the things we wish you knew about us, but that we really don’t want you to know, lest we lose the game.”
In essence, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man is a playbook of sorts. You remember how a few years back, the New England Patriots got accused of one of the biggest cheating scan-dals in NFL history? NFL investigators found out that the team had been secretly videotaping practices and reading mouths to figure out the plays of their opposing teams—a practice that gave them a distinct advantage over their rivals. For sure, the Patriots’ dirty ways were almost as advantageous to the New England team as if they were reading the opposition’s playbook.
With the advantage, the Patriots were able to win games.
This is what I wish for the women who read Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. I want every woman who truly wants a solid relationship but just can’t figure out how to get one, and those who are already in a relationship and trying to figure out how to make it better, to forget everything she’s ever been taught about men—erase the myths, the heresy, everything your mother told you, everything your girlfriends told you, all the advice you’ve read in magazines and seen on television—and find out here, in these pages, who men really are. What men count on is that you’ll continue to get your advice from other women who do not know our tactics or our mind-set. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man is going to change this for you. If you’re dating, and you want to find out how to take it to another level, this book is for you. If you’re in a committed relationship, and you want to get the ring, this book is for you. If you’re married and you want to regain control and strengthen your bond, or if you’re tired of being played with, then I want you to use this book as a tool—to take each of the principles, rules, and tips in this no-nonsense guide and use them to anticipate a man’s game plan, and to counter with an offense and defense that’s unstoppable. Because trust me: the playbook you all have been using is outdated, and the plays don’t work. In fact, the biggest play you have in your arsenal—the one where you walk into a relationship thinking you’re going to “change” your man, is the worst and most doomed play of them all. Why? Because no matter what other women are shouting from the covers of magazines, on the television talk shows, during your girlfriend getaway bonding trips, and on blogs from here to Timbuktu, there are basic things in men that are never going to change.
No matter how good you are to a man, no matter how good you are for him, until you understand what his makeup is, what drives him, what motivates him, and how he loves, you will be vulnerable to his deception and the games he plays.
But with this book, you can get into a man’s mind-set and understand him better, so that you can put into play your plans, your dreams, and your desires, and best of all, you can figure out if he’s planning to be with you or just playing with you.
So act like a lady, and think like a man.
of a Man
W h a t D r i v e s M e n
There is no truer statement: men are simple. Get this into your head first, and everything you learn about us in this book will begin to fall into place. Once you get that down, you’ll have to understand a few essential truths: men are driven by who they are, what they do, and how much they make. No matter if a man is a CEO, a CON, or both, everything he does is filtered through his title (who he is), how he gets that title (what he does), and the reward he gets for the effort (how much he makes). These three things make up the basic DNA of manhood—the three accomplishments every man must achieve before he feels like he’s truly fulfilled his destiny as a man. And until he’s achieved his goal in those three areas, the man you’re dating, committed to, or married to will be too busy to focus on you.
Think about it: from the moment a boy is born, the first thing everyone around him starts doing is telling him what he must do to be a real man. He is taught to be tough—to wrestle, climb, get up without crying, not let anyone push him around.
He is taught to work hard—to do chores around the house, get the groceries out of the car, take out the trash, shovel the snow, cut the grass, and, as soon as he’s old enough, get a job. He is taught to protect—to watch out for his mother and his younger siblings, to watch over the house and the family’s property. And he is especially encouraged to uphold his family name—make something of himself so that when he walks in a room, everybody is clear about who he is, what he does, and how much he makes. Each of these things is taught in preparation for one thing: manhood.
The pursuit of manhood doesn’t change once a boy is grown. In fact, it’s only magnified. His focus has always been on, and will remain on, who he is, what he does, and how much he makes until he feels like he’s achieved his mission.
And until a man does these things, women only fit into the cracks of his life. He’s not thinking about settling down, having children, or building a home with anyone until he’s got all three of those things in sync. I’m not saying that he has had to have made it, but at least he has to be on track to making it.
This is certainly how it worked for me. I’ll never forget how disappointed, frustrated, and unhappy I was when, in my early twenties, I was laid off from the Ford Motor Company. I was already a college dropout, and now, without a job, I hardly had enough money to take care of myself, much less a family. This left me unsure of my future—what I was going to do, how much I was going to make, and what my title would be. The titles “college graduate” and “Ford inspector” were gone; having no job pretty much meant that my chances of bringing home a good paycheck were zero; and I hadn’t a clue how I was going to make money. It took me a while to find my footing.
I dabbled in various jobs: I owned a carpet cleaning business; I sold carpet; I sold Amway products, the Dick Gregory Baha-mian Diet, and ALW Insurance and Commonwealth Insurance.
It was madness what I was doing to try to get my life together.
Finding someone serious to settle down with was the absolute last thing on my mind.
Then, one night a woman for whom I used to write jokes encouraged me to go to a local comedy club and sign up for amateur night. See, I knew I was funny, and I made a few dollars—very few dollars—writing material for up-and-coming local comedians who were trying to find their way into the industry. But I hadn’t a clue, really, how to go about getting into the business for myself. Still, this woman saw something in me and told me to take the stage.
So I did. And I killed. I won $50—which today may not seem like a lot of money, but when I was broke at that time, it felt like $5,000—for telling jokes. I also was guaranteed another fifty dollars if, as the winner, I opened the following week’s amateur night competition. The next day, I went to a printer and spent fifteen dollars of my winnings on business cards that, along with my phone number, read: Steve Harvey.
Comedian. They were flat and flimsy and didn’t have any raised lettering, but those business cards announced that I was Steve Harvey (who I am), and that I had a special talent in comedy (what I do). How much I was going to make remained to be seen, but at least I had the “who I am” and the “what I do”
If men aren’t pursuing their dreams—if we’re not chasing the “who we are,” the “what we do,” and the “how much we make,” we’re doomed. Dead. But the moment that we figure out the puzzle and feel like our dreams are taking shape, new life breathes into us—it makes us vibrant, enthuses, and ani-mates us. From the moment I became a comedian, I stepped onto that stage ready to be the very best.
Even today, no matter how tired I am, no matter what is going on in my life, I am never late for work, and I’ve never once missed a gig. Why? Because when I wake up, my dream is in check; I’m living it out live and in color every day, whether it’s on the radio during the Steve Harvey Morning Show, or on television with my various projects, or onstage, during my Steve Harvey Live shows. Who I am is certain—I’m Steve Harvey.
What I do is certain: comedy. And how much I make is right in line with what I’ve always wanted for my family and me.
And now, I can pay attention to my family. All the faux paint in my house, the metal ceilings, the leather chairs, the dogs outside, the cars in the yard, college tuition for my kids—
everything is paid for, everyone is set. I can provide for them the way I’ve always wanted to, I can protect them the way that I was raised to, and in my family’s eyes, I am, unquestionably, a man. Which means I have a clear mind when I go to sleep at night.
This is the drive that every man has, whether he’s the best player in the NBA, or the best peewee football coach in rural Minnesota; whether he’s the head of a Fortune 500 company, or the supervisor on the line at the local bakery; whether he’s the kingpin of a major cartel, or the chief corner boy on the block. Encoded in the DNA of the male species is that we are to be the provider and the protector of the family, and everything we do is geared toward ensuring we can make this happen. If a man can afford a place to stay, then he can protect his family from the elements; if he can afford a pair of sneakers for his child, he can feel confident enough to send him or her to school feeling secure and upbeat; if he can afford meat at the grocery store, then he can feel assured that he can feed his family. This is all any man wants; anything less, and he doesn’t feel like a man.
Even more, we want to feel like we’re number one. We want to be The Best somewhere. In charge. We know we’re not going to be head man in every situation, but somewhere in our lives, we’re going to be the one everyone answers to because it’s that important to us. We want the bragging rights—the right to say, “I’m number one.” Women don’t seem to care about this so much. But for us men? It’s everything. After we’ve attained that, it’s critical that we can show off what we get for being number one. We have to be able to flaunt it, and women have to be able to see it—otherwise, what’s the use of being number one?
You need to know this because you have to understand a man’s motivation—why he’s not home, why he spends so much time working, why he’s watching his money the way he does.
Because in his world, he’s being judged by other men, based on who he is, what he does, and how much he makes. That affects his mood. If you know he’s not where he wants to be or not on track for being where he wants to be, then his mood swings at the house will make more sense to you. Your inability to get him to sit and just talk now makes sense. His “on the grind”
mentality becomes more clear to you. Really, it’s all tied to the three things that drive him.
So if this is on his mind, and he hasn’t lined up the who he is, the what he does, and the how much he makes in the way that he sees fit, he can’t possibly be to you what he wants to be. Which means that you can’t really have the man you want.
He can’t sit around talking with you, or dream about marriage and family, if his mind is on how to make money, how to get a better position, how to be the kind of man he needs to be for you.
In my experience, these facts don’t always sit well with most women. Many of you figure that if a man truly loves you, the two of you should be able to pursue your dreams together. Sta-bility is important to you, but you’d rather build the foundation of your relationship together, no matter the man’s station in life.
This is honorable, but really, it’s not the way men work. His eye will be on the prize, and that prize may not necessarily be you if he isn’t up where he wants to be in life. It’s impossible for us to focus on the two—we’re just not that gifted, sorry.
Mind you, a man doesn’t have to make a lot of money right now; as long as he sees his dreams being realized—the title is clear to him, his position is leading him in the direction of the place where he wants to be, and he knows the money will come—then he can rest a little easier, recognizing that he’s on the verge of becoming the man he wants to be. The way you can help him get there is to help him focus on his dream, see the vision, and implement his plan. If you can see yourself in that plan (you can get a clearer sense of this in my chapter “The Five Questions Every Woman Should Ask Before She Gets in Too Deep”), then latch on to it. Because when he reaches the level of success he’s hoping to reach, he’ll be a better, happier man for it—and you will be happy, too.
O u r L o v e I s n ’ t L i k e Y o u r L o v e
Nothing on this planet can compare with a woman’s love—it is kind and compassionate, patient and nurturing, generous and sweet and unconditional. Pure.
If you are her man, she will walk on water and through a mountain for you, too, no matter how you’ve acted out, no matter what crazy thing you’ve done, no matter the time or demand. If you are her man, she will talk to you until there just aren’t any more words left to say, encourage you when you’re at rock bottom and think there just isn’t any way out, hold you in her arms when you’re sick, and laugh with you when you’re up. And if you’re her man and that woman loves you—I mean really loves you?—she will shine you up when you’re dusty, encourage you when you’re down, defend you even when she’s not so sure you were right, and hang on your every word, even when you’re not saying anything worth listening to. And no matter what you do, no matter how many times her friends say you’re no good, no matter how many times you slam the door on the relationship, she will give you her very best and then some, and keep right on trying to win over your heart, even when you act like everything she’s done to convince you she’s The One just isn’t good enough.
That’s a woman’s love—it stands the test of time, logic, and all circumstance.
And this is exactly how you all expect us men to love you in return. Ask any woman what kind of love she wants from a man, and it will sound something like this: I want him to be humble and smart, fun and romantic, sensitive and gentle, and, above all, supportive. I want him to look in my eyes and tell me I’m beautiful and that I complete him. I want a man who is vulnerable enough to cry when he’s hurting, who will introduce me to his mother with a smile on his face, who loves children and animals, and who is willing to change diapers and wash dishes and do it all without me having to ask. And if he has a nice body and a lot of money and expensive shoes without scuffs, that would be great, too. Amen.
Well, I’m here to tell you that expecting that kind of love—
that perfection—from a man is unrealistic. That’s right, I said it—it’s not gonna happen, no way, no how. Because a man’s love isn’t like a woman’s love.
Don’t get it confused, now—I’m not saying that we’re not capable of loving. I’m just saying that a man’s love is different—
much more simple, direct, and probably a little harder to come by. I’ll tell you this much: a man who is in love with you is probably not going to call you every half hour and give you an update on how much more he loves you at 5:30 P.M. than he did at 5:00 P.M.; he’s not going to sit around stroking your hair and wiping your brow with cold compresses while you sip hot tea and nurse yourself back to health.
His love is still love, though.
It’s just different from the love that women give and, in a lot of cases, want.
I argue that if you simply recognize how, exactly, a man loves, you might find that the man standing in front of you is, indeed, giving you his all and then some. How do you know when a man loves you? Simple: he will do each of the following three things.
If your man loves you, he’s willing to tell anybody and everybody, “Look, man, this is my woman” or “this is my girl,”
“my baby’s mama,” or “my lady.” In other words, you will have a title—an official one that far extends beyond “this is my friend,” or “this is__________ (insert your name here).” That’s because a man who has placed you in the most special part of his heart—the man who truly has feelings for you—will give you a title. That title is his way of letting everyone within the sound of his voice know that he’s proud of being with you, and that he has plans for you. He sees himself in a long-term, committed relationship with you, and he’s professing it for all to hear because he’s serious about this thing—it may be the beginning of something special.
A man who professes you as his own is also saying in not so many words that he’s claiming you—that you are his. Now he’s put everyone on notice. Any man who hears another man say,
“this is my lady,” knows that whatever games/tricks/plans/
schemes he may have had in mind for the pretty, sexy lady standing in front of him need to be shelved until the next single woman comes in the room, because another man has professed out loud that “this one is mine and she’s not available for anything you were plotting and planning.” It’s a special signal we men all recognize and respect as the universal code for “off-limits.”
If he introduces you as his “friend,” or by your name, have no doubt that’s all you are. He doesn’t think any more of you than that. In your heart of hearts, ladies, you all know this.
Indeed, when I explained this to a friend of mine, she just laughed and laughed because she could identify with it—saw it up close at an annual Christmas dinner she’s been attending with her family and some close friends for going on twelve years. One guy, she said, would show up every year with a new chick—each one prettier than the last—and a new story about his job or his vacation or his new business venture or whatever.
While the stories and the women kept changing, the one thing that remained constant was this: none of those women ever got introduced as his girlfriend or lady. They were always, without hesitation, presented by their name. Period. And then he would spend the rest of the night cuddling a hard drink and catching up with old friends and colleagues, leaving her to sit at the table by herself, looking out of place and ridiculous in her fancy dress, trying her best to fit in. Everyone at the table pretty much knew that the moment the couple hit the door and went on their way, none of the regular party attendees would ever see her with him again.
Then one recent Christmas party, he showed up with a new woman—his fingers all intertwined with hers, both of them smiling like Cheshire cats. He introduced her as his “lady,” and instantly, everyone knew what was up. But it wasn’t just because of the title he’d assigned; it was because of the actions behind it. He was holding her hand, looking directly at her when he talked to her, introducing her around to everyone—
from the business folks to his really good friends—running to the bar to get drinks for her, and dancing with her like he didn’t want the night to end. And when everyone left that evening, they all knew they’d be seeing that woman again, fingers intertwined with the hitherto eternal playboy bachelor, one who changed women as often as Diana Ross changes costumes at a concert.
And wouldn’t you know it? When they came back to that same function the next year, she had a new title: fiancée. For sure, she was in this man’s plans.
So, if you’ve been dating a guy for at least ninety days and you’ve never met his mother, you don’t go to church together, you haven’t been around his family or his friends, and he took you to a networking/job/social function and introduced you by your name, then you’re not in his plans—he doesn’t see you in his future.
But the minute he assigns a title—the moment he lays claim to you in front of people who mean something to him in his life, whether it’s his boy, his sister, or his boss—that’s the minute you know your man is making a statement. He is professing his intentions for you—and professing them to the people who need to know that information. A profession is key—you will know if a man is serious about you once he claims you.
Once we’ve claimed you, and you’ve returned the honor, we’re going to start bringing home the bacon. Simply put, a man who loves you will bring that money home to make sure that you and the kids have what you all need. That is our role—our purpose.
Society has told us men for millennium that our primary function is to make sure our families are set—whether we’re alive or dead, the people we love need want for nothing. This is the very core of manhood—to be the provider. That’s what it’s all about. (Okay, there are a few other things; for example, how well you’re en-dowed—and I’m not talking financially—and how well can you provide—now, I am talking financially.) If a man is in a position of being questioned about whether he’s able to provide, financially and otherwise, for the ones he loves, you might as well drop-kick his ego into an early grave. The more he can provide for his woman and his kids, the bigger and more alive he feels. Sounds simplistic, but that is the reality.
As a provider, a man pays the bills that have to be paid—the rent, the heat and light bill, the car note; he buys groceries; he pays school tuition; and he takes care of other household ex-penditures. He will not spend his money on trifling things and come to you with what’s left, and he will not selfishly give you a little cut and take the rest for himself. And a man who truly loves you would never make you ask for money for necessities—
he would make sure that you need and mostly want for nothing, because every pat on the back he gets for bringing more money into the house, every kiss he gets for handing over cash for school clothes and supplies and toys, every bit of appreciation he gets for keeping the lights and cable on, boosts his prow-ess as a man. That’s why, if he’s a real man, he will always put buying something for himself far below his responsibility to provide for his family. His need for another set of golf clubs or expensive shoes or a fancy car or anything else men like to spend their money on will pale in comparison to providing for loved ones, because those golf clubs can’t make him square his shoulders the way true appreciation from a woman can. Conse-quently, everything he does is going to be about trying to make sure the woman he loves has what she needs.
Now I know that expecting a man to care for you financially, no questions asked, in an age in which women have been raised to be financially independent of men gives you pause; if you’ve been taught all your life to go dutch on your dates and pull out your own checkbook when it comes to paying your bills, and you’ve been repeatedly told that you can’t depend on a man to do anything for you, then it’s understandable why you can’t wrap your mind around this simple concept.
But remember what drives a man; real men do what they have to do to make sure their people are taken care of, clothed, housed, and reasonably satisfied, and if they’re doing anything less than that, they’re not men—or shall we say, he’s not your man, because he will eventually do this for someone’s daughter, maybe not you.
For sure, all too many men shirk this responsibility, whether out of selfishness, stupidity, or sheer inability or a combination of all three. But some men simply do not have the education, resources, and wherewithal to make an adequate amount of hard cash. And if a man can’t provide, then he doesn’t feel like a man, so he flees to escape the horrible feelings of inadequacy, or he’s going to bury those feelings in drugs and alcohol. Indeed, you can probably trace a whole host of the pathologies exhibited by the most trifling of men back to their inability to provide. Some try to use crime to make up for it (clearly, our prisons tell us that’s not working); some use drugs (our street corners tell us that’s not working, either); some just run (the numbers of women raising kids alone, and falling into poverty because of it, tell us that’s definitely not working). But ask any one of those men who aren’t doing right by themselves or the ones they love what they regret most, and I’ll bet you a majority of them will say the same thing: they wish they had the ability to provide.
Of course, some men simply refuse to share the money in their pockets with their women. As some rap songs and hip-hop magazines tell you, these men feel they’re being “played”
if they provide anything of monetary value to the opposite sex.
Some men even label any and every woman who expects her intended to provide for her the very handy, decisively ugly phrase gold digger. Oh, when it comes to women, that phrase gets tossed around these days like dough in a New York City pizza parlor. In fact, men have set it up so well that we’ve got women thinking that if they remotely expect a man to pay for their dinner, or buy them a drink at the bar, or set any financial requirements for their man, then they’re gold diggers.
I’m here to tell you, though, ladies, that the term “gold digger” is one of the traps we men set to keep you off our money trail; we created that term for you so that we can have all of our money and still get everything we want from you without you asking for or expecting this very basic, instinctual responsibility that men all over the world are obligated to assume and embrace. It’s a “get-over” term, ladies—one that has a very legitimate premise (there are, of course, women who date and marry men solely for the cold, hard cash), but one that has been wrongly and almost universally applied to any woman who has made clear that she expects her man to fulfill his duty as a man. Know this: It is your right to expect that a man will pay for your dinner, your movie ticket, your club entry fee, or whatever else he has to pay for in exchange for your time. You all have to stop this foolishness with the “I pay for my dinner so he knows I don’t need him” approach. As I point out in the next chapter, “The Three Things Every Man Needs: Support, Loyalty, and the Cookie,” a man—a real one, anyway—wants to feel needed.
And the easiest way to help him get that high is to let him provide for you. This is only fair.
And if he loves you? Oh, he’s going to bring every cent home to you. He’s not going to come back from gambling all his money away, saying, “Here’s $100—that’s all I got this week.” He’s going to come straight home with that check, and if there’s anything left over after he takes care of each and every one of your needs, well, then he’ll play. This is man business, baby. It’s how we do.
Now, there are different ways to provide besides monetarily.
Your man could be broke, but he’s going to do everything within his power to make up for this by supplying your needs in other tangible ways. If you’re running low on groceries, he may not be able to give you money to go to the store, but he might have a little extra something in his refrigerator and pantry to hold you over until he can give you a couple of dollars. In other words, he’s not going to let you go hungry. If your car is broken down, he may not be able to pay for a mechanic, but he can call his buddies over to help him move your ride to the side of the road and give you rides to work until he figures out how to pay for your car to get fixed. If you need some pictures hung, and the sink unclogged, and a new garage door installed, a man who loves you will climb up a twenty-foot ladder to get that picture up on the wall, put a bucket down to catch the over-flowing water from the sink while he goes to find the right part he needs to fix the pipes, and pore through the instruction manual for hours to figure out how to get that garage door in.
Providing for the ones he loves and cares about, whether it’s monetarily or with sweat equity, is a part of a man’s DNA, and if he loves and cares for you, this man will provide for you all these things with no limits.
When a man truly loves you, anybody who says, does, suggests, or even thinks about doing something offensive to you stands the risk of being obliterated. Your man will destroy anything and everything in his path to make sure that whoever disrespected you pays for it. This is his nature. You pick most any male species on the planet, and the same is true: no one is going to disrespect their family without paying a cost—or at least putting up a serious fight. This is innate—recognized and respected from the first relationship that a boy has, that relationship being with his mother. He may not know what unconditional love is yet, but a boy child will never (a)admit that his mother is capable of making mistakes, or (b) let someone say or do something to his mother. This is taught to males practically from the womb—cover your mother, protect her, don’t let anybody say anything about her or do anything to her, and if they do, let them know it’s time to take it outside. This is most certainly the way it was taught in my house, too. I remember distinctly when I was a little boy, probably around age eight or so, standing there waiting for my mother to pull on her coat for our bus ride downtown. My father came in the room and said, very simply,
“You and your mother are going downtown—watch out for your mother.” That was rule number one in my father’s house: Do not come back in this house without your mother and your sisters. You might as well kill yourself or get on a bus and go somewhere else, but don’t come back without your mother and the girls. Now, I knew good and hell well that if anybody so much as raised a finger to my mother, I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it—that she was really taking care of me on that bus. But, buddy, I’d be on the bus and in the store with my little chest stuck out, swearing I was doing something to protect my family.
Because that was what I was supposed to do.
Indeed, that is what every man is supposed to—and is willing to do—for the people for whom he professes and provides.
Once he says he cares about you, you are a prized possession to him, he will do anything to protect that prized possession. If he’s hearing you argue with a bill collector, he’s going to say,
“Who are you talking to? Let me talk to him right quick.” If your ex is calling and bringing drama in your life, your man is going to talk to him about it. If he sees your kids are cutting up and getting out of hand, he’s going to talk to them, too. In other words, he’s going to be providing protection and leader-ship for his family because he knows a real man is a protector.
There is not a real man living who will not protect what is his.
It’s about respect.
I’d argue that this is most certainly one of the key things any woman wants in her man, because it is what girls have been raised to expect—that they can count on the most important men in their lives to go to battle for them, and keep them safe from all harm, no matter the cost. I think you all know this so well that you take great care in letting a man who loves you know when someone’s been a threat or danger to you, because you know that your man—whether he be your father, brother, uncle, husband, or lover—is going to do everything in his power and then some to defend your honor. Maybe even hurt somebody, despite the consequences. For instance, you probably don’t really want to hype what’s going on down at your job because he might head down to the job and have a few words with your boss if necessary. And we all know that would not be a good situation.
I remember one time when my mother was at home and the insurance man came by looking for some money my mother didn’t have. My father was at work, so he didn’t actually witness this man come to our front door and say to my mother, “The next time I come here, you better have this money or else.” My dad got wind of the situation from one of my siblings, and when he asked my mother what, exactly, this man said to her, she hesitated and hemmed and hawed for a long time before she finally broke down and told my father about the exchange. She didn’t really want to tell him what went down because she knew my father would snap. When he finally had the information he needed, my father came to me and asked what time the insurance man usually shows up, and I told him. And the next time that man came by the house, my father was there waiting for him. I’ll never forget the image; that man never made it past the back of his car. When we looked out the window, my father had that man bent over the car with both his hands on that man’s neck. “If you ever say anything disrespectful to my wife again, I will kill you,” he said. Now, that may seem a little extreme, but this is what real men do to protect the ones they love.
Protection isn’t just about using brute, physical force against someone, though. A man who truly cares about or loves you can and will protect you in other ways, whether it be with advice, or stepping up to perform a task that he thinks is too dangerous for you to do. For instance, if it’s dark outside, he may not want you to put the car in the driveway or walk the dog by yourself because he fears for your safety; in this instance, he’ll move the cars and walk the dog himself, even if he’s just off a double shift, so that you can be inside where it’s safe. If you’re walking by someone who looks like he might be a threat, a man who loves you is going to protect you by putting himself between you and that guy as you walk by so if he tries anything, he’ll have to get through your man before he so much as lays a finger on you.
My wife, Marjorie, still cracks up when she thinks about how I “protected” her on a recent joint fishing and diving trip we took in Maui. See, my wife is a certified scuba diver. I am not. When we got out on those choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean, I couldn’t help but feel like something was going to happen to my wife down there, and I wouldn’t have any way of protecting her. Nonetheless, she put on all the equipment and began to descend into the water. I got antsy and immediately started lighting up cigars and walking around the boat explain-ing to the dive masters that “this one has to come back.” By the time she was actually under the water, I’d told my security guy, who can’t scuba dive, to put on his snorkel and get in and keep an eye on her. I’d also told everyone onboard—from my manager to the captain—that “if my wife is not back up here in thirty-five minutes, everybody’s putting on some suits and we’re going to go get her.” The guy leading the expedition said as nicely as he could, “Sir, everybody can’t go down to save one person,” but his words meant nothing to me. “I’m telling you,”
I said, getting a little more jumpy with each word, “Either everybody goes down there to save her, or I’m killing everybody on the boat. This boat goes nowhere without her, and if it pulls off and she’s not on it, that’s it for everybody.”
My wife must have sensed something was up because suddenly, she was back above water. She knew that I was acting up.
And rather than dive, she returned to the boat, because she knew how nervous I was about the whole idea of her submerged under water where I couldn’t act on my natural instincts to protect her; she figured it was better to sit that dive out. She understands that primal need I have to make sure nothing bad happens to her. Marjorie is a pretty adventurous girl, but she’s cut out a lot of that stuff—the diving and parasailing and such—
for that very reason. I finally get the woman of my dreams and while she’s out having fun the parachute wire jams and next thing I know she’s flying into walls, or she’s diving and the scuba tank doesn’t work? Her life is in jeopardy and I can’t do anything about it? No sir. Nope. No more of that. My philosophy for having a good time is that you have to have a good time and return home in one piece so you can tell everybody about your good time. My wife doesn’t trip about this; she just says,
“Thanks for caring, honey.”
And I do care about her, so my DNA screams out to me to protect her and provide for her and profess about her in any way that I can. This, by the way, is how our fathers did it, and their fathers, and their fathers, too—to the best of their natural ability and with the help of God, even in the most adverse times when protecting and providing and even professing were neither easy nor, in the case of black men, allowed. We’ve lost sight of this—stopped demanding it from our men. Maybe it’s because there are so many women left to raise their children alone, or maybe it’s because there just haven’t been enough men teaching our boys how to be true men. But I firmly believe that a real woman can bring out the best in a man; sometimes we need only meet a real woman other than our own mother to bring out our best qualities. That, however, requires something of the woman; she’s got to demand that every man stand and deliver.
On the radio show and in my everyday interactions with my colleagues and friends, I constantly hear women say that there aren’t any good men and complain about all the things men won’t do.
But I contend they don’t do the things that real men are expected to do because no one—especially, women— requires it of them (see my chapter “Men Respect Standards—Get Some”).
In sum, ladies, you have to stop heaping your own defini-tion of love on men and recognize that men love differently.
A man’s love fits only into three categories. As I’ve explained, I call them “The Three Ps of Love—Profess, Provide, and Protect.” A man may not go shopping with you to buy the new dress for your office party, but a real man will escort you to that party, hold your hand, and proudly introduce you all around the party as his lady (profess); he may not cuddle you and sit by the bed holding your hand while you’re sick, but a real man who loves you will make sure the prescription is filled, heat up a can of soup, and make sure everybody is in position until you are better (provide); and he may not willingly change diapers, wash the dishes, and rub your feet after a hot bath, but a real man who loves you sure will walk through a mountain and on water before he’d let someone bring any hurt or harm to you (protect). This much you can believe.
If you’ve got a man who does these things for you, trust me, he’s all in.
T h e T h r e e T h i n g s
E v e r y M a n N e e d s
Women are complicated creatures. You need stuff.
Lots of it. And you expect your man to provide it, even if you haven’t explained what it is you need and want, or even if what you needed and wanted five minutes ago is wholly different from what you need and want now. In fact, I’ve said over and over again jokingly that the only way a woman can truly be completely satisfied is to get herself four different men—an old one, an ugly one, a Mandingo, and a gay guy. Now the four of them combined? They got you covered.
The old man—he’ll sit around the house with you, spend his pension check on you, hug you, hold you, give you comfort, and won’t expect any sex from you because, well, he can’t get it up no way. From him, you get financial security. The ugly one? He’ll go above and beyond the call of duty to help you out: he’ll take the kids to their lessons after school, run you down to the grocery store, wash the car on the weekends, babysit the cat—whatever you need, he’ll provide it because he’s just happy someone as beautiful as you is paying him any kind of attention. From him, you get “me time.” He frees you up to do all the things you need time to do. And then there’s the Mandingo man. You need a big ol’ Mandingo man. You know what you gonna get from him. He’s big, he’s not that smart, can’t hold a good conversation, got muscles popping out from his eyebrows to his pinkie toe and when you see him, you know he’s going to put your back out. That’s all you want from him, and he makes sure he gives it to you real good. Mind-blowing sex—that’s what you get from Mandingo. And then you need a gay guy—someone you can go shopping with, who doesn’t want anything from you but gossip and details about what the old man bought you, which errands you sent the ugly guy to take care of, and exactly how Mandingo had you doing monkey flips for a week. See, the gay guy gives you all the conversation you need (smile).
Four guys, supplying each of your needs should bring you happiness. I say should because for women, happiness isn’t guar-
anteed, even once their needs have been met. We fully recognize that you maintain the right to change at any time the perimeters, conditions, and specifics of what, exactly, will make you happy, and we try to adjust accordingly, and usually can’t.
Now men, by contrast, are very simple creatures. It really doesn’t take much to make us happy. In fact, there are only three things that pretty much every man needs—support, love, and “The Cookie.” Three things—that’s it. And I’m here to tell you that yes, it’s that simple. What we need never weakens or wavers—hardly ever gets more demanding or harder to achieve. In fact, I’d argue that it’s easy for a woman to give her man support, love, and sex because it’s in her makeup—support and love are things that women dole out innately and freely. You just call it something else: nurturing. And if you love a man enough to nurture him, then I’d argue you love him enough to be intimate with him. So those three things come natural to you. And this is all your man wants from you.
Let me break it down.
W have to feel like somebody’s got our back—like we’re the king, even if we’re not. You have to understand that when we walk out the door, the entire world is standing at the ready to beat us down. Black, white, yellow, striped, every man leaves the house ready to battle. He might have a job where three people can walk by his desk and give him a pink slip at any given moment—change his life in the flash of an eye. The guy in the position beneath your man’s may be just searching for a way to undermine him, so he can get the bigger pay—and he doesn’t give a damn about whether what he says and does can put your man’s job in jeopardy. Your man could be driving down the street minding his own business and get pulled over and something could happen that he has no control over, or someone may try to come and take what he’s got. In other words, a man is constantly on the lookout, sizing up the next man, standing at the ready to defend his and all of his gains (that would include you).
So when we walk back in our house, we want to be able to let our guard down. All we want, really, is to hear you say,
“Baby, how was your day? Thank you for making it happen for us. This family needs you and wants you and is happy to have you.” We’ve got to feel like we’re king, even if we don’t act kingly. Trust me, the more you make us feel like we’re special, the more we’ll give in return. We’ll just try harder. Plain and simple. Take a page from my mother: every Sunday morning, my daddy cut my hair for church, and when I got out of that chair, and lotioned up and put on my suit and my shoes and walked into the living room where my mother was waiting for me, she would take one look at me and say, “Look at that boy’s haircut—boy, you clean!” or “Look at you, boy—you sharp when you go to church!” I internalized the message—if I got a fresh haircut and I put on a nice suit, my mother would compliment me, and I would walk out of the house with my shoulders squared and head held high because my mother said I looked good and she was encouraging me to be presentable. And my father’s chest was out as far as mine because every Sunday, she reminded him that he made it all possible; she kissed and thanked him every Sunday.
A man needs that from his woman—he needs her to say,
“Baby, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you do for me and the kids.” Those simple words give us the strength to keep on doing right by you and the family. From working harder on the job, to bringing home that paycheck, to something as simple as throwing some meat on the grill on Saturday evenings or folding up a load of the laundry, we’ll do it more often if there is reward in it. That reward doesn’t cost you one red penny. It simply comes from the heart: Thank you, baby. I appreciate you.
You don’t know how important that is for your man; that little bit of encouragement makes him want to do more. You think because we’re hard and we don’t want to cuddle that we don’t need that encouragement, but we do. And the woman who comes along and says, “You so big and strong and you’re everything I need,” well, we’re going to go get some more of that!
rstand that our love is wholly different from a woman’s love. A woman’s love is emotional, nurturing, heartfelt—sweet and kind and all encompassing. You can slice a knife through it, it’s so thick. And when she’s in love with you, she is loyal to you—she can’t see herself with someone else, because for her, no one else will do. That’s a woman’s love.
But for men, love is loyalty. We want you to show your love to us by being loyal. That means that no matter what, you’re going to stand beside us. We get laid off, we know you’re going to stay, even if we’re not drawing a paycheck. You get around your girlfriends, you’re going to say with great enthusiasm,
“That’s my man. I’m loyal to him.” Idris Elba, Denzel, Usher, or the like walks into the room, money dripping from their suit jacket, floating on air and glistening and all that? You’re going to hold on to our hand a little tighter and say from the bottom of your heart, “I don’t want any of those shiny, rich, fine men because my man is the only one for me!” (We can only hope that’s what you’ll say—smile.)
That’s loyalty—our kind of love. To men, they are one and the same. The kind of love you require is beautiful, but our love isn’t like your love. It’s different, though it’s still love. And a man’s love is a very powerful thing. It’s amazing love. If your loyalty is real and unimpeachable, that man will kill concrete for you. He ain’t going no damn where.
n. Need. Sex. We love it. Ain’t nothin’ on this planet like it, nothing else we want that bad on a continu-ous basis, nothing else we simply cannot live without. Take our house, take our job, the ’69 Impala, our last pair of gators, but please—puh-leeze—don’t hold out on the cookie. We don’t care about anything else; we need the cookie. We need to be physically engaged with the woman we love, the woman who is loyal to us and supports us, and the way that we do that is by making love. The emotional stuff—the talking, the cuddling, the holding hands, and bonding, that’s y’all’s thing. We’ll do those things because we know it’s important to you. But please understand: the way we men connect is by having sex. Period.
It’s how we plug in, recharge, and reconnect. I don’t know of a man who doesn’t need this. Ask any guy if sex is important in a relationship and the one who says no is lying. I just haven’t met that guy yet. When you meet him, let’s get him in to the Smith-sonian—he’s that special and rare. But the rest of us men? We need sex like we need air.
You got about a good month at best without it. And then he’s going to get it from somewhere else (unless you’re carrying his child). I’m telling you: gangs are built on support and loyalty; dudes go out and form gangs built on those two things right there. The only thing missing is sex, and that’s where the girl gang members come in. It’s the same thing with motorcycle clubs, the country club, the Elks, the Masons, frats—the whole of a man’s world is built on these three principles. There’s not one day of the week that we are not waking up in the pursuit of it. Let’s say you’re not a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, or you’re an almighty member of Omega Psi Phi, and someone who hasn’t pledged their undying support and love to frat on a line for at least six weeks—be that person putting on their colors and let them find out you haven’t pledged, that you didn’t cross over. Do you know what the hell would happen if those boys found out you’re not frat? Messing with their loyalty—their colors? Man, not nary a day. Be a Crip and go to a Blood’s house and see what happens. Try going into that country club and you’re not a member. Loyalty. Support. That’s what men are made of.
And can’t one of them survive without sex. Oh, he’ll work with you if you have an off week—if he loves you, that is. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t bother to try to get your cookie—he’d just go on and get it from somewhere else. But if he’s into you, and you’re cutting back, rationing it out, you’re not doing what you did when you all first started dating, he’s going to line up someone who will. Please believe me when I tell you this: he will tell everybody, “This is my girl right here,” but mean-while, he will have another woman lined up and waiting to give him what he needs and wants—the cookie.
Don’t get it wrong—we’re not animals. We know things change, the baby comes and the doctor says we have to wait six weeks, or your monthly is on the way, your hormones are acting up and you’re not in the mood. But the excuses can’t go on forever. You can play your man short if you want to. No matter how much a man loves his wife, his family, his house, his role as the man of the house, the one who’s bringing in all the money into family account, maybe even putting a little extra into yours, if you mess around and start shelling out the cookie in crumbs, it’s going to be a problem.
Speaking of my own experience, I recently turned fifty and I’m telling you right now, don’t play me short in this area. At my age, I’ll work with you for a little longer, because I’m busy, I got a company to run, I got a schedule to keep, I’m on the road, on the stage, on the radio, writing books, acting, support-ing my own charity and working with others. I’m on the run.
And at my age, I can’t afford to mess up—mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Hell is no longer an option for me. I’m doing what I can to get to the Gate, and it could be any day now. If I start messing around, I might have a stroke and miss out on my homegoing. But the truth is, if I can’t go home and relieve my stress, there is a problem. If I’ve talked to the Lord and tried to get you motivated to give me some of the cookie and you’re still coming up with reasons why you just can’t be intimate with me, something is going to change.
And I’m ready to bet things aren’t so different in your household. You might have been up all night for a week with a sick child, gotten up early to get the other onto the school bus before you hit the road for that rush-hour commute to work, gone to battle with your co-workers and boss for eight hours with nothing but a fifteen-minute break to swallow an inadequate, unsatisfying lunch, and then hit the rush-hour traffic back home to start your second job—the feeding and care of your kids. There’s dinner to be cooked, and homework to be checked, and laundry to be done, and the list goes on. By the time your man checks in with you, the last thing on your mind is giving a positive response to what a friend of mine called “the shoulder tap.”
“You know what I’m talking about,” she said. “It’s when you finally drop into the bed exhausted, and you’re halfway through your favorite show you watch when you just want to zone out, and here he comes, tapping you on your shoulder, asking for sex. It’s just annoying.”
What that same friend of mine didn’t know, though, was that her husband was tired of the “shoulder tap,” too. In his mind, he’d also worked all day—just as hard as her. And though he may not have done all the exact things she’d done during the course of the evening at home, he, too, put in work around the house, and, like her, needed to wind down from his day. She liked watching television. He liked to have sex. She was always too tired to have sex. He was tired of not having sex. So while she unwound to her favorite shows, he unwound out of the house—with another woman.
Now, I’m not saying what he did was right. But as a man, I can understand the logic behind what he eventually ended up doing. And if I were in their bedroom before all of the ugliness from his cheating ways went down, I would have given them what I’ve found to be some very sage advice: acknowledge the ones you love. That means that if a man sees his woman had a hard day and she could stand some more help around the house to make the evenings go more smoothly, her man needs to step up his game. If she cooks, he does the dishes. If she gets the kids’ clothes ready for tomorrow, he gets their homework ready for tomorrow. If she gets the kids off to bed, he gets his wife off in bed by setting the mood—straightening up, running her a bath, letting her settle in with a glass of wine, whatever it takes to make it clear to her that having sex with the woman he loves is not only a release, but an act of love. And she, perhaps, will be more willing to reciprocate—not with annoyance, but with the sheer giddiness in knowing how it feels to feel wanted.
But understand that no man is going to wine and dine his wife every night in order to have sex with her. That’s unreasonable. Sometimes, he’s just going to want to have you, no frills—
without being forced to feel like he’s added another “chore” to your list of things to do. Every man needs that from his woman.
Every last one of us.
To sum up, we’ve got to have these three things—support, loyalty, and sex—from you or we’re going to go. You can shop for us, cook dinner every night, and make sure our favorite peanut butter is in the cabinet to show us that you’re paying attention and you care. But what we really need from you when our day goes bad is those three things. You give me that when I come home, and I’ll go back out there and fight this war for you. The moment a woman isn’t doing those three things for her man, I can promise you he’ll get somebody who will. We cannot survive without these things—not for ninety days, we can’t.
You may not like what I’m saying, but ask any man about these words and whether they’re true, and that man will tell you this one simple th