William Mize’s girlfriend asked him how she looked, and here’s how he responded.
As you know, I was a bachelor for 49 years. In one fell swoop, I went from lonely bachelor to boyfriend, then from boyfriend to fiancé, and now I’m engaged to a beautiful woman with two great kids. To recap: bachelor: 49 years. All that other stuff: 4 years. It has been a trip, my friend.
Have you ever seen a picture of a kid on a roller coaster? You know that look? That white knuckled, eyes wide open look that they get when the thing picks up speed and really starts to move? That’s what I had for a while: Roller Coaster Face. The learning curve was steep, but so very, very worth it. We have a great life together, but there was one thing that I really needed to learn: The Secret Language of Women. Or at least that one word a woman never wants to hear from a man.
Dude, they really hate this word.
It’s All Fun And Games Until She Asks That Question
My first encounter with this word was at the very beginning of my relationship with Amy.
When we first started dating, Amy and I loved to go out. Out to dinner, out to a movie, out shopping, out for a drink, out for a walk, out for lunch, out just so we could hold hands and been seen together and do some people watching.
Who doesn’t love going out? No one!
Going out is one of the main reasons to get a girlfriend. You get to go out and show her off!
“Look!” you say, “Look what I got!”
She’s holding your hand in public and maybe even occasionally kissing you.
And she’s not related to you!
(No. Really. Dude. She cannot be related to you. Sorry.)
Now, when you go out, you gotta get dressed up a little bit.
With me, as with most men, this is a very straightforward action.
You put on a nice shirt, some nice slacks or jeans, some nice shoes, some cologne and remember to leave the baseball hat and t-shirts at home. Done!
When a woman is getting ready to go out, and be the object of attention and affection, this process is a minefield packed with worry, doubt, hesitation, wrong turns, u-turns and Chinese Fire Drills.
This is an Experience.
Amy was no different.
She would put on an outfit, then turn to me and say “How does this look?”
As Admiral Ackbar Would Say, “It’s A Trap!”
If this process is a minefield, then you’ve just stepped on one, my friend. If this were a war movie, this is the point where everyone around you stops and looks at your foot and starts to wonder if it’s just going to kill you or if it’s going to kill all of you.
This verbal mine is ticking, and she’s looking to you for an answer.
She’s looking for both validation and praise. She is not looking for complete honesty, no matter what she says.
She is lying!
Choose your words carefully, and you may get out of this alive.
You should always have a response ready.
Unfortunately, I was asleep at the wheel and blurted out the first word that came into my small little mind. and I chose the following response:
“You look fine!”
What The Hell Kind of Response Is “Fine”?
That was the wrong word. In my defense, I was probably trying to come up with some outfit of my own that would make me look like a handsome boyfriend rather than her creepy uncle. Caught up in my own little fashion dilemma, I unfortunately chose “fine”.
As I subsequently learned, “fine” is never the correct answer to any question. EVER.
Strike “fine” from your vocabulary immediately.
Well, as Amy described it, “fine” is the most boring, lazy, neutral, safe response ever. It is not a word that a woman wants to hear. She will generally accept anything else, but never, ever “fine”. Do you realize the pressure that a woman is under to look beautiful? To look ‘put together’?
Every time she walks out the door, she is being judged.
All eyes are on her, and she wants to know that she looks wonderful, whether she is beside you or not.
She does not want to hear fine.
Fine is white bread.
Fine is white zinfandel.
Fine is mom jeans.
Fine is Bud Light.
Fine is Two And A Half Men.
Fine is one of those words that pretty much means nothing. It’s a word devoid of any passion or excitement. It’s a placeholder until another, better word can be found.
I learned my lesson.
She’s my partner, and I don’t care whether she’s wearing sweaty yoga gear, or a thousand dollar little black dress — to me she always looks beautiful. But society has taught her that my opinion matters, but it doesn’t matter enough. Her own opinion doesn’t matter enough. What she has learned from marketers, advertisers and the mass media matters.
And that should make us all a bit sad inside.
But I try my best.
I tell her that she looks beautiful, because she is.
I tell her that she looks wonderful because she does.
These aren’t canned responses, but I could see how they could be construed as such.
I want you to take it a step further. I want you to see her. Really see her.
Take her in, from top to bottom, and allow your eyes to see the details that she has worked on.
Mention something specific, like her earrings, her belt, top, skirt, jeans, shoes or her makeup that really knocks the whole outfit out of the park.
This genuine praise, combined the admiration in your eyes, and the kindness and love in your heart, will mean more to her than all the catcalls or sideways longing glances that she may encounter during the date.
This is what a woman wants.
She does not want fine.
She wants to feel wonderful.
She can get that from you, with just a few words.
Why Yes, I have seen the Movie “hitch”
Just as women can hate a certain word, there are certain words that men can hate as well.
If you’re a 49′ers fan (like me) that word would be Cowboys.
But enough about that.
In an effort to grow my business and, more importantly understand just what men want and need out there in the world, I talk to a lot of guys. I talk to them at work. At the mall. At the grocery store. At bars. At Panera Bread. At Starbucks. Anywhere and everywhere, I will start up a conversation. Guys are easy to talk to, but they really hate telling their story to a stranger.
It’s hard to get them to open up and get honest. Until they hear what I do for a living.
When they hear that I’m a coach for men, that’s when things get interesting.
They are always curious. Always. And they want to hear stories about other men, but they always hesitate when it comes to sharing their own story.
Their own fears. Their own needs and wants and weaknesses.
Men aren’t supposed to need help!
Men are supposed to do everything on their own.
Men are supposed to keep their feelings to themselves.
Men don’t talk to other men about all this stuff.
Of course, I think these rules are bullshit.
No matter how the conversation goes, I always have to ask one final question:
“How are you doing?”
They almost always answer some variation of “I’m doing okay,” and that sucks.
So You’re Doing Okay? I’m Sorry To Hear That.
I’m doing okay.
You look fine.
Can you see how these two words are mirror images of each other, how they are two sides of the same mediocre coin?
A woman does not want to hear fine.
A man is forced to say okay.
Yes. As men we are taught by society that we’re always okay. We could be up to our ass in alligators while draining the swamp, and we’d have to still say “I got this” or “I’m okay.”
As a coach, and more importantly, as a man, I hate this.
To become a better man, you have got to move beyond okay.
I’m sure that you are doing okay, but damn, brother – don’t you want to do even better?
Don’t you want more?
Okay is poison to your life.
Okay means that you have settled for what you currently have and aren’t even thinking about moving up, moving toward that better life.
Even George and Weezie Jefferson wanted to move on up!
When it comes to the Foundation Pillars, okay is sad and pathetic. You should always want something better. You don’t have to go from the ghetto to a deluxe apartment in the sky. You can take baby steps toward that apartment in a million different ways. You can take steps toward a healthy weight in a million different ways. You can take steps toward the partner of your dreams (all together now!) in a million different ways.
And I can help you.
I can help you move from okay to better.
It’s what I live for.
Okay is coming home to an empty room with some take out Chinese.
Better is coming home to a warm, welcoming home and taking the time to cook something healthy.
Okay is coming home to a wife who barely notices that you’re home and says “Hey” as you walk toward your man cave to settle in for the evening.
Better is being greeted by a wife who has a sparkle in her eye and a spring in her step as she walks toward the front door and greets you with a heartfelt hug and a kiss and being truly glad you are home.
Okay is a black t-shirt with a pithy saying on it and a pair of baggy jeans.
Better is a fitted dress shirt, tucked into tailored jeans and topped off with a nice pair of loafers.
Okay is driving to a job you hate each and every morning and wishing for something better to come along. Like a large truck.
Better is waking up and even though you have the same job, you’re working each and every day toward a better job and better pay.
Okay is spending another Saturday night playing Call of Duty against strangers a hundred miles away and getting called every foul name in the book by 12 year olds.
Better is spending Saturday night playing a board game with people you genuinely care about and getting called a great friend.
Okay is looking across the room at that treadmill you bought, and seeing at least 4 shirts and a beach towel hanging from it.
Better is getting on the treadmill and knocking out 4 miles before your morning coffee and feeling great for the rest of the day.
F*ck okay, Let’s Do Better!
That, my brothers, is the difference between okay and better.
When a fellow man tells me that he’s doing okay, I feel sorry for him, because I know that he’s following the training. He’s been taught the lesson that he must do it on his own. He can’t ask for help.
He knows that there’s something better out there but he’s afraid to ask for it.
I hope that you’ll read this message and know that help is yours for the asking.
From me, from your friends, from your family, from loved ones, from forum strangers on the internet.
We are all connected and we all grow by helping others.
You don’t have to be stuck in the prison of okay.
Okay is poison.
It will kill your spirit.
Okay is a slow death.
You can say it until the day you die.
Better is getting my free eBook.
Better is sitting down, reading the damn thing and doing the exercises.
Better is coming up with a plan based on that work.
Better is waking up each morning and knowing that you’re on your way to a life you love.
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” The Shawshank Redemption
Don’t be that man.
Don’t settle for just waiting to die.
Be the man who truly lives.
This article originally appeared on William Mize’s Blog.
Photo credit: Janice Magracia/flickr