I’m on vacation in northern California with my three daughters, The Brit (who is my boyfriend), my father and his girlfriend of eight months. For one week we have moved into a wooden house built on stilts overlooking a quaint lake. Sitting on it’s expansive deck in a chocolate brown, Lazy Boy recliner that the Brit has moved to the deck from it’s place in the family room, the view of the lake is magnificent in the early morning light. Shards of color, steel grey, almost a silver-ish brown brighten the tree line, each piece of light hanging like tinsel from the pine trees surrounding the lake. The setting at Twain Harte Lake is the same it has been since I first vacationed here in 1998 with my two parents, husband, and three daughters, all of whom were toddlers at the time. And while the picturesque views have not changed, nor has Bingo night on Tuesdays at 5pm, nor has the face of the elderly woman who writes lake ticket receipts in her slow, perfect cursive handwriting each day after carefully placing my crumpled five dollar bill in the metal cash box, there are many things that are different during this trip to Twain Harte.
First, my father is in a new relationship with a woman he met on Jdate in November, 2008. He takes her on walks through the trees, holds her hand as he plays Monopoly with the grandchildren, and hugs her tightly when they think no-one is looking. The Brit is also here, rough-housing with my children in the lake, showing them how to row a boat, doing flips off the diving board, making the girl’s their favorite pancakes, brewing the perfect cup of coffee for me each morning, and whispering “love you’s” in my ear throughout each day.
Thus, I believe, I have been observing two men who are in love.
Which brings me to Steve Harvey’s New York Times best-seller, “Act Like A Lady. Think Like a Man, ” the book I have been reading while sitting on the sandy beach of Twain Harte Lake. In between swims to the huge rock on the other side of the lake, “rating” each other’s dives, and preparing meals for this clan each day, I have made time to relax. Read. And contemplate whether or not Steve Harvey’s point of view coincides with mine, and with the dating process I teach to women who attend the Dating With Dignity seminars and workshops I hold. And, most importantly, with what I have been observing this week, noticing if, in fact, Steve Harvey’s descriptions of men in love match the words and actions of the two men who sleep each night here in this cabin in the woods.
To begin, Steve Harvey writes there are three things men do when they are in love: Profess. Provide. And protect. Harvey claims that once a man has decided that he wants to claim a woman as “his,” he will be vocal about it, professing his feelings readily to anyone who will listen. For example, when a man brings a woman to a party does he introduce her as “my friend, Christine?” Or, conversely, does he walk in with his arms around Christine telling Bob and Elaine that this, guys, is “my girlfriend, Christine.” According to Harvey this man will then ensure Christine meets everyone at the party, bring her beverages and keep his hands near her throughout the evening to demonstrate to the crowd that Christine is his woman.
Next, Harvey says men in love have a biological need to provide for the woman with whom he is in a relationship. Even if this man doesn’t have the cash he hopes because he is on his way towards building his dream career, a man in love will do what he can to make sure his woman is provided for. Not only will he proudly buy her dinner, take her to the movies, make sure she has medicine if she’s sick, or ensure she has enough RAM if her MacBook freezes interminably, he will make sure her garbage disposal is working correctly when it goes on the fritz.
Last, according to Harvey, a man in love will walk 10,000 miles out of his way to protect his woman. Whatever it takes, a man in love will keep his woman safe. Warm. And dry. He won’t let her pump gas, (for fear she might spill on her hands), carry a suitcase, or run to get something she mistakenly left behind in the car. Instead, a man in love will insist he do these things for her. A man in love may not, according to Steve Harvey, engage in long talks about his love for you or patiently wait while you try on two dresses that turns into ten, but he will profess, provide and protect if he is committed to you and the relationship.
Which brings me to The Brit, and my dad; the two men whom I have been observing for the past six days. According to Harvey, these men are both “all in.” My dad, for example, generously provides for his girlfriend, having taken her on trips and purchased her small gifts in the past eight months they have been dating. He has also taken her with him on various trips, introducing her to his friends of fifty years, smiling enthusiastically, as he introduces her as is S.O. (significant other.) And here, in Twain Harte, he has made sure she doesn’t have to walk too far, cook too much, or stay in the heat too long. He protected her when we drove up the winding roads to Yosemite, constantly asking her if she was ok, if her stomach had stopped reacting to the twists and turns associated with mountain driving. He professes his feelings for her the talks we’ve had while taking exercise walks, sharing how much he loves her, how she makes him happy. Before he met his girlfriend he was married to my mother for 45 years. Before she died of cancer in 2008, my father professed, provided and protected my mother, especially when it came down to the final year of her life. Because of the era in which they both were raised, he was a man who never lifted more than a finger when it came to household chores. During the long months of her sickness, however, I saw him cook dinner, spoon feed her, help her swallow her medicine, rub her neck, and profess his love for her to anyone who would listen. Despite his age, clumsiness and occasional short temper, he loves unabashedly, deeply, and just as Steve Harvey describes in his book.
The Brit is more than 30 years junior to my father. And unlike my father, the Brit is physically strong and able. A modern man. Nevertheless, The Brit has spent much of his time this week protecting and providing for not only me, but my three daughters as well. He has purchased them floating rafts, sweet treats, and helped them secure the screen in the window each night in their room before bed. He has removed spiders. Swatted flies. He sat with them to play Boggle while I went for a run. He lay next to them on the dirtied carpeted floor as they shared their secrets to successfully defeating “Bowser” in the Mario Brother’s game they have been playing on their GameBoy DS. He has done the dishes and swept. Packed the car. Unloaded the car, and then taken the girls for a swim when his girlfriend just wanted to sit and read. He has carried my youngest daughter over rocks so she could cross a river with her sisters. He brought me ice when I was hot, my legs sticking to the sheets as I lay in bed one night. Like my dad, the Brit is a man man who is in love.
I imagine I would have known this without reading Steve Harvey’s book. After all, it feels dramatically different to be loved this way. When a man is in love, REALLY in love, it feels so…so… obvious. So clear. For years I carelessly traded the precious minutes of my life wondering how men felt about me. I wasted time and energy trying to guess. Play games. Strategize. Questioning their motives. Intentions. Steve Harvey has got it down.
If you are wondering if that man you are dating is heading towards commitment, if he is serious about creating his life with you as his partner, step into the laboratory and observe. Let me know. I’m waiting for your story.