How to Remodel a Man

Tips and Techniques on Accomplishing Something You Know Is Impossible but Want to Try Anyway

W. Bruce Cameron

St. Martin's Press

1

Men Just Figure It Would Be Easier If You Changed Instead

Women are willing to purchase a man off the rack, but then they want to take him home and make alterations. They'll witness some adorable trait-such as a man's inability to stand be-fore an open refrigerator and locate the jar of mayonnaise within it-and want to fix it.

Men don't want to be "fixed." Men want women to love them just the way they are. Men don't want to adopt such unnatural traits as sensitivity or thoughtfulness. And when I say men want women "to love them," I mean, of course, "to have sex with them."

Unfortunately, men don't really understand why women would want to have sex with them. We sure wouldn't want to! It must be, we conclude, because we are so manly. And what are manly traits? How about strength and resolve? To have strength and resolve means to be unyielding and uncompromising. So men will be un-yielding and uncompromising in their belief that they shouldn't have to go grocery shopping, and somehow conclude that this makes them more desirable to women!

Yet paradoxically I wouldn't be a Changed Man today if it weren't for the feeling that I needed to adopt a new strategy when it came to attracting members of the female sex. After my divorce, I went through a long period of time when I didn't feel like dating any-one, followed by an even longer period when it seemed no one re-ally felt like dating me. I'd ask a woman out, and it would go very well-we'd get to know each other over dinner, with me relating my likes and dislikes, telling her where I stood on critical issues of the day such as the Instant Replay Rule in football. I'd considerately steer the conversation back on track whenever my date brought up a topic I didn't think she'd find interesting, like her job or her friends-stuff she already knew about and was probably sick of dis-cussing. My dates all seemed fascinated with me-by the end of the evening, most of them were so spellbound by my narrative they quit talking and just nodded appreciatively. Yet when I called these same women for a second date, ochthey all demurred, using excuses like, "I can't on Saturday, I'm joining the Witness Protection Program" or "I've come to realize I am a man trapped in a woman's body."

When my ex-wife got remarried, I was happy for her, but it spot-lighted my own dismal situation. Though I had gotten used to living on my own, I missed the sort of connection one gets from a long-term relationship with a female of the opposite sex, not just the physical part, but all of it. I plunged into a depressive, self-loathing state-and immediately got on the phone so that friends and rela-tives could assure me that there was nothing wrong with me at all.

You can't get enough of this sort of objective feedback, so one of the people I called was my sister, who didn't seem to understand the moral support that was expected of her.

"The way you're headed, you'll be single for the rest of your life," she suggested cheerfully.

I should explain that I have two sisters: a doctor sister, who thinks she is smarter than I am, and a teacher sister, who thinks the same thing. Both are younger and both are wrong. In this case, I was talking to my doctor sister, but it could have been the teacher; they're interchangeable, in my view.

"But all and all, women find me very attractive," I prompted, let-ting her know what she was supposed to be saying.

"Your experience suggests otherwise."

"Well, what's wrong with these women, then, that they don't want to go out with me more than once?"

"The problem," my sister said in a fake I'm-a-doctor-so-let-me--diagnose-the-illness tone, "is that you have a lot of character flaws and you aren't willing to change."

"Flaws?" I sputtered. "'What are you talking about? What flaws?"

"You want me to name them all?" she asked incredulously.

"I sure hope you never talk to your patients like this," I told her.

We hung up and I thought about what she had said. She had known me my whole life. She'd seen me grow up in a house mostly filled with women and had watched me experience a marriage and daughters and a woman boss and even a female physician.

From my unchanged man point of view, was it any wonder I had flaws? All my life I'd been surrounded by women!

I felt much better and was willing to let the matter go, now that I understood it. This is a typically male approach to problem solv-ing: All we really care about is determining who is to blame. Then I thought about my social calendar, which was strikingly bereft of any female company. I called my sister back.

"Well, okay," I told her. "What if I admitted that I had some of these semi-flawlike characteristics, and might be willing to. . ." I swallowed hard. "To change them a little. Nothing major! But if I did, what would you say are these so-called failings?"

Now, I don't know what I had in mind when I came up with this, though I am pretty sure whatever it was fell into the category of "Not Much." But my sister, who you'd think would have enough to do already, decided to take it upon herself to compile a list for me. Without my permission, she began inviting other women from my life to join her in the project. Soon the ranks were swelling, in-cluding my other sister, my mother, my daughters, and even my junior high school counselor!

I shouldn't have been surprised that she was able to find so many females willing to subscribe to the absurd premise that I needed some sort of group effort dedicated to fixing me. I believe women are often very enthusiastic about forming committees, par-ticularly if they can have meetings and eat chocolate. Men, on the other hand, prefer to form teams: highly integrated, collaborative groups that get together and argue about who gets to be in charge.

"We've decided you don't just need to be changed, you need to be totally remodeled," she chirped. "Sort of like, This Old House, only in this case it's, 'This Old Man.' Get it?"

"Totally remodeled? I thought you were just going to give me a list of my supposed faults and send them to me so I could see which ones I disagreed with."

"Well ... why don't you make your list, and I'll make mine, and then we'll compare?"

This suggestion contained an element I found very distasteful: personal effort. But I saw her point-who knew my minor imper-fections better than I? I worked on it for a while, and here's what I came up with:

W. BRUCE CAMERON'S LIST OF SUPPOSED FAULTS

1. Often times I'll sit down to make a list of things I need to get done, but I never seem to do anything on the list. Obviously, I need to learn how to delegate.
2. 1 really need a sports car of some kind.
3. Usually when a woman is telling me her problems, I will interrupt her and give her advice on how to fix them. I think what women really want is not for me to jump in with solutions, but for me to wait until they are finished talking before I tell them what to do.
4. 1 can't afford to run out and buy every shiny new gadget that comes on the market. I need to make more money so that I can.

"I made your list," I told my sister. "It's a little long."

"We came up with a hundred and seventy-eight," she replied, "but we haven't heard from Mom yet. Also Mrs. Bunting said she has some."

Mrs. Bunting lived across the street from us when I was in the fourth grade.

"What? A hundred and seventy-eight? You're supposed to be counting my faults, not my, my. . . "

"Remaining hair follicles?" my sister suggested innocently.

"I think it's a little excessive to run up the score like this."

"I forgot that one: 'Always uses sports analogies."'

"Would you cut it out? You are turning this into way too big a deal."

Feeling that she had lost all perspective and was behaving in a fashion so irrational she might wind up losing her license to prac-tice medicine, I decided to turn to an impartial third person-my friend and coworker Sarah-who I knew would be on my side.

Sarah works in the lifestyle department at the newspaper where I am a columnist. She's a couple of years younger than 1, and I would probably consider her attractive if it were not for the squat, ugly wedge of a boyfriend she lives with, an unpleasant, thick-skulled guy named Doug. I've pledged to Sarah I'll keep an open mind about him, but he's a real jerk.

I apparently failed to explain the situation adequately, because Sarah immediately became excited about the whole process. "Tell your sister I'm in!" she enthused.

"What? There's nothing to be 'in.' What's happening is that my sister has gone overboard and you agree with that."

"What would be so bad about changing your behavior a little? Maybe if you addressed your failings, it would be easier to find someone to love you."

I pondered this. "When you say, 'to love,' do you mean what I think you mean?"

"I think I've told you before, it wouldn't hurt for you to be a lit-tle more communicative," she reminded me.

"Ah." I waved my hand.

"And what does that mean?" she asked impatiently.

"Just, you know, I'm already communicative."

"Or more sensitive," Sarah plunged on. "Remember when you told Maria she had an 'old baby'?"

"What? It's just that Mallory had a newborn, a fresh baby. So Maria's baby wasn't the number one new baby anymore. I can't help that," I protested. "But hey, didn't I go to a movie with you that was French?"

"You complained the whole time! People kept telling you to shush! "

"Which just goes to show how idiotic it was," I argued smugly. "Why did they need me to be quiet? It was in French. What, I was interrupting the subtitles?"

"And that's your idea of being sensitive," she stated flatly. "To tell Maria her baby is somehow past its expiration date, and to sit there in a French movie and speculate on how long it has been since the lead actress has had a bath."

I thought about this. "Well, maybe you've got a point."

"Breakthrough!" she exulted. "So are you saying you want to be more sensitive? You want to be more in touch with your feelings?" Her voice softened. "Hey Bruce, are you really saying you want to be a Changed Man? Because if you are, I'm your friend, I can help."

This made me pause. Sarah was touching on something deep and personal here, inviting me to open up about my feelings of loneliness and frustration, offering me an intimate confidence that men rarely experience. I cleared my throat. "How do you think the Broncos are going to do this year?"

0"What? Why would you ask something like that?"

"Well, because of the quarterback situation, duh," I responded logically.

"I thought we were talking about making profound changes in the way you do things, to be less self-centered and more consider-ate," she countered.

"Wouldn't it be easier just to give me a list of women who would like 'to love' me?"

"You know why you won't change? Because you don't have to. A man can behave any way he wants, and women are expected to ac-commodate it."

"Sounds like one of those if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it situations," I agreed.

"It all started when women decided to let men be the hunters," she fumed. "Men went out to look for something to throw a spear at, and when they couldn't find anything, they started throwing spears at each other. Then it was about who had the biggest spear, then later, the biggest gun, the biggest missiles ... of course, we both know what we're really talking about, here."

"In high school I was called Bruce 'The Cannon' Cameron. Just saying," I interjected.

"If you really remodeled yourself, and wrote about it, women everywhere would thank you."

"I'll pass, thanks anyway."

"Most women feel like they have to use psychological tricks to get a man to change," my friend continued. "But that wouldn't work with you. You're incapable of change."

"Not incapable, just not motivated," I corrected, feeling a little insulted.

"No, it would be too difficult. Impossible," she insisted.

"Actually, no, that's not the issue. I could do it if I wanted."

"No, you can't."

"Yes I can!"

"You're afraid," she sniffed.

"What? That's ridiculous." Now I was mad.

"Then prove it."

"Fine!"


af0 Feeling under siege from everyone-my sister, Sarah, even Mrs. Bunting-I decided to give this Changed Man thing a try, if only to prove that I wasn't afraid, which I think we can all agree is a really ridiculous idea. Your man, however, may not be as open-minded as I am. To break down his resistance to change, you may have to em-ploy the sneaky psychological tricks to which Sarah was referring.

Obviously, I'm not perfect. I started with (a lot fewer than 178) faults. But I have changed, and I honestly feel that I am a better man for it. What you'll learn from my story is that often changing a man is a matter of using certain techniques to make him feel that it is all his idea. Ask him point-blank to alter his behavior, and he'll turn you down. Apply a more subtle strategy, and you, too, can re-model your man.

Let's get started!


Copyright 2004 by W. Bruce Cameron