On Letting (Worthy) Men Lead

A couple of dancers in purple, her hand on his heart, looking playfulIt can be hard for a strong woman to let a man lead.

Many of us have been taught that we’re supposed to be independent and self-sufficient. The concept of a man taking care of us is framed as retrograde and sexist.

But the ability to lead, to initiate, is traditionally masculine. And it’s highly attractive when men know how to do this.

Here’s the problem. Guys—kind, smart, educated, right-thinking guys—are taught that women must be treated as their equals. Fair enough. Essential, in fact.

But guys extrapolate, incorrectly, that they shouldn’t treat a woman like a lady.

That, on a first or second date, they shouldn’t hold the door for her. Pick up the tab.  Lean in for a goodnight kiss.

They get scared to lead.

Problem is, those traditional courtship rituals exist for a reason.

They work.

A couple dancing side by side, looking joyfulI don’t think I’m alone in this. I like it when a guy pursues me. I like to be courted. In the dance of relationships, I like to be led.

In dancing, when both people try to lead at the same time, it creates problems.

This doesn’t mean that Ginger was a doormat for Fred to wipe his shiny shoes on. It means that she, as the saying goes, did everything he did, except backwards and in high heels.

And she let him lead. Which is why they’re so beautiful when they move together.

For a while I was going to contra dances, where many women dance with many different guys over the course of an evening. It was fascinating to watch the way men would approach their chance to be close to me, and to move with me.

Some would hold me away from them carefully, like a breakable object.

Others would try to get, let’s just say up close and personal. Which could be nice, or gross, depending on the guy.

A man and woman dancing, lipstick on his cheek, looking blissfulBut I remember this one man who said at the end of our dance, “I want to dip you. Lean back.”

I leaned back, but I didn’t put my full weight into it. That would have meant ceding control to him.

“Relax,” he said. “I’ve got you.”

So I decided to trust him, and swooned backwards, nearly to the floor. And he held me, and then pulled me back upright.

So gentlemen. Don’t be afraid to tell a woman you want to dip her in the dance.

Ladies. Lean into it. Let him hold your full weight, if he’s brave enough to offer.

And under no circumstances ever give your trust, your control, or your metaphorical steering wheel to an unworthy dude. Even temporarily. It will end in an ignominious crash and bruising.

The right man will make you feel weightless, whatever you weigh.

He’ll make you feel like a great dancer, even if you have two left feet.

The power is entirely yours, women. You get to choose to whom you give your trust.

Don’t let the wrong man dip you.

A man dips a woman in a dance


Photo credits:
2017-02-17–22-17-56–6275–X-T2 by Richard Seely
Barcelona Swing by Jared Goralnick
Midsummer Night Swing at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center by Diana Robinson
Barcelona Swing by Jared Goralnick

 

 

Need Help Concentrating? Try the Refrigerator Method.

An open refrigerator full of food and drink
When I was a kid, my mom got annoyed when she saw me standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open, deciding what to eat.

I was wasting energy, letting cool fridge air out. But also, I was wasting time.

She’d tell me to think about what I wanted to eat first, then open the refrigerator, get the item I wanted to eat, and take it out. Remove the phase where I gaped at all the food inside, cool air flooding out around me.

There are several ways this memory resonates with me now. For one thing, my mom’s German efficiency. For another, my family’s good fortune, that any time I opened up the fridge, I’d always be able to find something to snack on.

But it also makes me think about how I use social media, and the internet more generally.

*

My mom’s rule was the same for TV as for the fridge. If there was a specific show she wanted to watch, she’d turn on the TV to watch it, and turn it off when the show ended.

This is so different from how we use the internet now. We go on Facebook or other sites to see what’s going on, and the sites are designed to deliver the most addictive kind of intermittent reinforcement (where you get rewarded some of the time, unpredictably). So we just stay on. And time slides past us, like cool air from the fridge door.

Lately, to staunch this time flow, I’m applying the refrigerator method. I’ll go on a news site to read a story, and then get off. I’ll dive into the Class III rapids of Twitter for 20 minutes for Twitter, and close my laptop when that time is up.

I’ve found this helpful because it builds my self-control and my patience. It also helps my brain feel less frantically stimulated by everything I could be reading, watching, and thinking about at any given moment.

*

In Cal Newport’s wonderful book Deep Work, he examines methods for concentrating and producing high-quality results while surrounded by distraction and stimuli.

The book is full of practical advice, but it’s also philosophical. “Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on,” Newport writes.

Let’s get stingier with our focus. Let’s narrow our spotlights. Let’s turn them off regularly to let them recharge.

Photo by osseous, via Creative Commons license.

Read Cal Newport’s book Deep Work and his Study Hacks blog.

Listen to Ben Domenech’s interview with Cal Newport over at the Federalist Radio Hour.