The juiciest bits of wisdom often appear when you're looking for something else. That's been the case over the past year as I've interviewed dozens of psychologists, friends, hairdressers and sundry for thoughts on relationships. Herewith, gems from the 2010 Other Half files, with bonus suggestions on how each might be a guide for your resolution to be a better man in 2011.
According to Kathryn Borel, Jr., author of Corked, women do not always view men as walking wallets. "My experience with men who have a lot of money is that, as a result of having a lot of money, they haven't done a whole lot of work on more interesting aspects of their character. I went out with a guy once who had scads of money and spent the entire evening talking about his vintage boat collection in the Muskokas. When he picked up the $400 tab, I felt like that was a payment for my time."
This year: Go ahead and quit your day job, for the ladies.
Pick up the tab… or the bartender
While researching a column about reasons to not ask your server out, I interviewed one pick-up artist who gave me tips on how he does it: "One-liners that try to capture everything are bad. I think it should be slow," he advises. "The upside with a bartender is she's coming back every few minutes. So you just talk. The whole job is just to appear like a nice, normal guy. That's all I aim for."
This year: Take acting lessons.
What the heck, remove this label
Scott Rayter, who studies sexuality at the University of Toronto, told me many of the students in his classes nowadays refuse to call themselves "straight," even if they have no intention of ever getting involved with someone of the same sex. "At one time, when somebody said, 'I don't believe in labels,' they were trapped in the closet. But now, I really do think it's that they don't think in quite those same terms any more." Speaking specifically about young men, Dr. Rayter says his students reject the term in order to reject norms of behaviour tied to it: "It's not just limited to what one does in bed, but also the kind of people one wants to associate with, the kind of clothes one wants to wear, having a lot of female friends in a nonsexual way, being into arts, not caring about sports, and whatever else."
This year: Think outside of one box from your closet.
Play well with others
Brigitte Berman, director of Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel, relayed an anecdote that didn't make it into the final cut of the film, told to her by Mary O'Connor, Hef's long-time personal assistant: "She talked about how when Roman Polanski came to the mansion, he would actually verbally abuse the women. And Hef heard that and kicked him out, because to him, that was wrong. You don't do that. I find it very interesting how protective he is and has been of all the Playmates. And they would say the exact same thing about him."
This year: Sacrifice some of your artistic genius to be a considerate person and unlike, um, last year strive to be more like Hef.
Put down one bottle, pick up another
While researching men's motivations to be dads, I spoke with author Christopher Shulgan, who said he hadn't really wanted to be one and viewed fatherhood as "a kind of death." Reading his memoir, Superdad: a Memoir of Rebellion, Drugs, and Fatherhood, it's clear the loss he feared was a primal manhood that he'd equated, in part, with drug use and partying. After the birth of his son, however, he read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which inspired a different perspective: "McCarthy's work is a portrait of the paternal spirit at its most ruthless," he writes, after reflecting on how the father in this post-apocalyptic story devotes his entire existence to his son's survival. "I ached to make some similar sacrifice for my boy." Mr. Shulgan says he came to realize that fatherhood didn't have to amount to emasculation, but could instead "feature a power all its own."
This year: Tap into your raw, unbridled masculinity… and warm some milk for a baby.
Micah Toub is the author of Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks.