Two tips to avoid being used by men

Dear Hannah,

So far as I can remember, there are really two kinds of advice: how you should do something you want to do, and whether or not you should do it.  The unfortunate thing about the latter kind is that it's almost completely useless.   I can't even remember the last time I listened to good advice about whether I should do something, and so it makes me a little bit uncomfortable expecting you to do the same -- especially when the advice concerns men.  I even have a difficult time following my own advice: my essay On Happiness was a very good idea with lots of practical suggestions.  That is, I thought it was practical until these last few months, when I've found myself wanting something outside what it suggested.  It turns out that happiness can be doing the right thing; but it is equally getting the right thing -- the thing that we want.  For those of us who are barred from getting what we want, it's misery.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about the Book of Proverbs was that a good chunk of it was advice given to a man about women -- a man who was known almost specifically for forgetting to wear his own pants in the presence of princesses.  The advice said stay away from women and keep to your wife; Solomon sidestepped the whole issue by keeping to a thousand wives.  It almost makes you want to throw a few of its pages out, like Jefferson did with the miracle passages of the Gospels.  It might have given the reader a little more hope, knowing that someone may have read the Proverbs thousands of years ago and was able to actually take them seriously.  But the Jews saw fit to give us Solomon instead. At the very least we can't fault them for their honesty.

To make this whole advice issue even worse, then we have the fact that Seneca, one of the wisest and most thoughtful sages in all of history, was the tutor to Nero, the man who covered Christians in tar and set them on fire.  Maybe if this was all Nero did, he might be somewhat forgivable, like the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who killed Christians and only generations later was being read by them.  But no -- Nero had to (literally) run around the streets robbing innocents at knifepoint for kicks, backed up by his guards so that if the fight went wrong, he couldn't possibly lose.  All after having the best teacher Rome could possibly afford.  This is what advice can get you: nothing.  That is, if you want something else more than the advice.

So you might imagine that the chief occupation of a smart parent, in terms of getting you to avoid anything horrible, is to paint a picture of something else that you want more.  In other words, there isn't anything in the world that can keep you out of the arms of a loser, except your being convinced that somewhere out there you'll be able to fall into the arms of a winner.  I will have a difficult time convincing you of this, especially if you've inherited an ounce of my own personal libido.  And even supposing I do convince you of it, there might not be any real antidote to a momentary passion that makes you forget current and potential lovers -- especially if the man in front of you is a real charmer.  Timeless advice is almost useless against the passions of the second.

Nevertheless, to leave you without any practical advice would be an equally bad blunder, because there are things you can do to keep yourself out of tough situations.  This being said, there are really two things for a single woman to avoid if she never wants to ruin herself with men, and I note these two out of my own personal experience of ruining women after my own horrible break-up.  The first is dating people online without meeting their families, and the second is drinking around single men.

I'd never been good with getting women until either of these were introduced.  Some men are naturally "gifted" in chasing girls.  I, on the other hand, am better at jokes and academics; but when I'm around a woman I'm attracted to, I come across as kind of a dunce.  Unless a beautiful woman knows me by my writing, she's likely to think I'm an idiot.  They take my brevity for a lack of interest -- it isn't my fault if I can't squeeze out more than a word or two.  I just take women too seriously to entertain them effectively.  I'm also not a forward man, because I was raised to be a gentleman.  Give me booze or a computer, and all that is over. 

When a man is online, he has no beautiful woman in front of him, and he's under no pressure to speak immediately.  He can be calculated, and the breadth of his intelligence is more readily visible -- even if he isn't really that smart.  He can be funnier and more passionate without looking a fool.  He can manage his personality: if you don't know him, and you don't know people who know him, anyone can pretend to be prince charming.  Some men can pull this off in real life, which is why you have to know their families before letting them take you out on a date.  Watch how they treat their mothers, and when you're out on a date, watch how they treat their waiters.  A mother will show you how he treats women who are close to him; a waiter will show you how he treats people who are far from him. If you get a lot of comments about how so-and-so is so different now that he's around you, ask different how? -- and then watch their facial expressions very closely. 

When you're up against a man's online personality, you're up against the totality of his inventiveness; when you're up against a man's drunken personality, you're up against the totality of his instincts.  Men who drink aren't well managed -- not most of them, anyway -- but they are more forceful.  A man might be dumber around you if he really likes you, but his body will do the talking.  Men will isolate you and make moves much more quickly, and if you're drinking, you probably won't mind, because the purpose of drinking is to encourage us to forget things.  Between this and chasing women online, I was able to score very easily: meeting women online made me smooth, drinking around women made me aggressive.  If you have any interest in finding the right man, leave drinking out of it.

Aside from men being more aggressive with women they like, you must also know that men who are drinking will be more aggressive with women they don't like, which means you will likely be a "mistake" -- which is painful for both of you, but far more generally for the mistake.  Be very careful around men who drink.  Your friends will not keep you from being stupid.  I've stolen women from right next to their friends and family members.  I've tried to steal them from next to their husbands' friends and nearly succeeded (which has a tendency in my experience to ruin parties).  A woman's best defense is first, to never get drunk, and second, to only drink around women.  Whatever you do when you're drunk is your own fault.  I'm raising you to be rational, to the best of my ability.  If you choose to throw your rationality away (which is what drunkenness is), you must embrace the consequences.  The women who argue that drinking relieves them of personal responsibility would in a perfect world be legally barred from drinking. 

The ideal goal is for me to help you find someone who really loves you, who has a record of treating women well, and who is responsible and good enough to stick by you.  I can smell a player, because I was one -- although my motivations were primarily to forget someone, not to find a lot of new people.  I want you to fall in love with someone and get married to him and have a great marriage.  Good men are few, but I can find them.  I never want anyone to leave you for another woman.  I never want anyone to think of you as a "mistake" -- because you're not a mistake.  You are my angel.  Keep the above ideas in mind -- know when men are their most managed, and when they aren't; watch their families.  And remember that if a man has found you online, he has very likely been finding others. 

Above all, remember that a man can only have two intentions in his dealings with his dates.  He's either looking for someone to love the rest of his life, or he's looking for someone to play with until he gets bored.  If a man isn't betting you'll make a good wife, he's betting you'll be good to throw away.  If a man won't say he's looking for a wife, he's betting on dumping a girlfriend.  Never trust a man who dates without the highest and most real romantic intentions.  In romance, longevity and nobility of purpose are everything.

Your father,