Monday

THE IRONMAN DOESN'T WHINE

It's human nature to kvetsch (that's Yiddish for complain, schmuck). 'My boss is an asshole, my landlord's a dick, my roomate's an idiot', etc., etc. We even complain about people and things we like. 'My friend's a nut, my mother's so anal, by sister's a real bitch, my car's driving me crazy.'

It just seems to come out. Start talking and before you even realize it you're putting things down. You almost can't help yourself. Must be biological, in the DNA. (You hear me saying that a lot.)

I liken it to a flock of grackles on your lawn. 'Caw,' complains one grackle. 'Caw caw,' bitches back a couple. 'CAW CAW CAW,' responds the whole tribe. Maybe complaining is just that, the start of communication, warming up, breaking the ice.

I've noticed that in the East complaining has been elevated to high art. New Yorkers distinguish themselves with the care and the creativity they put into their non-stop criticisms. 'See how special I am. I look down on everything. Nothing's good enough for me.'

In the Midwest, guys don't feel good or masculine about complaining, but they've got to do it anyway. So they sneak up on it. 'I really like Ellen, but she should do something about her weight.' Or, 'Don't get me wrong, I think Steve's doing a great job. I'd just do it with a little more enthusiasm blah blah blah blah.'

On the Coast (West, that is), men don't seem to complain much at all. In fact, they don't seem to say much of anything that I can actually remember ~ maybe the weather's too nice. Why talk when you can be out bicycling or surfing?

No matter, whether whining is big where you come from or non- existent, Ironmen don't whine. It's unattractive. It's predictable. It's boring. And it's wimpy. It says something bad about you.

After all, if your boss is such an asshole, why'd you take the job in the first place? Why aren't you changing jobs? Why don't you have his job?

If the way you try to build yourself up is by putting others down, people will soon begin to see it as a pattern of yours. It is transparent, making you look weak, impotent, self-pitying. If the woman you're with doesn't come to this conclusion consciously, she will unconsciously. She'll sense it in you. 'This man doesn't have the get up and go to change his job, his apartment, or his friends,' she will think. 'I guess he's not confident he has what it takes to improve his life.' She'll see you as someone who prefers to sit around and wallow in his misery rather than take the chance to improve your life. Not very attractive, pal.

On the other hand, the Ironman's approach is refreshingly different. He doesn't whine a bit. Not a word of it. For the most part, he asks questions and listens. With not a bad word to say about anybody. If things aren't going his way — the waiter's been forty-five minutes getting your drinks — instead of mumbling what a lousy restaurant this is, he simply calls over the manager and declares that he expects your order to be filled immediately.

Imagine how different, and, frankly, better you'll seem than the next guy. A woman will think, 'here's a guy I can trust. He doesn't say anything bad about anybody, so chances are he won't say anything bad about me. He's not constantly complaining about his fate in life so he must be reasonably satisfied with the way things are going.' This is a signal to her that you're not a loser. That you feel you're in control, that you believe in yourself.

Instead of bemoaning your fate, obviously you have the confidence, the wherewithal, and the energy to get up off your butt to correct the situation.

Let me tell you how I made the transition from whiner to beginning Ironman (I'm still not sure I've achieved anywhere near true Ironmaness). One night I returned from a date that hadn't gone well. I was feeling somewhat disgusted with myself. Sometime during the evening the woman I was with had casually mentioned that she thought my friend Harry was a great-looking guy. Filled with jealousy, I informed her that Harry had once admitted to me during a long evening of drinking that sometimes he worried he was gay.
This from a guy who had bedded dozens of spectacular-looking women!

Hah! I thought to myself, that ought to queer (no pun intended) any interest my date has in old Harry. But in truth the revelation didn't seem to bother her one bit.

"Oh, well," she responded, "all guys worry about that at one time or another. Doesn't mean a thing." And instead of turning her off Harry, my remark seemed to turn her off me. The rest of the evening was filled with uncomfortable silences, with me rushing in to fill the voids with gushes of words and my date looking impatient to be home — alone.

Christ, I thought when I got home ~ alone and much earlier than I'd hoped — I've got to change my life. My running off at the mouth had repulsed me, left me feeling unattractive, undesirable, and vaguely creepy. Badmouthing a good friend — no wonder this woman hadn't been able to wait to get out of my presence.

How else could I have handled her comment? I ruminated. Why not, 'Oh, yeah, Harry's a great-looking guy. Ever since we've been teenagers, girls have been throwing themselves at him.'

It certainly would have been loyaler and truer. And it would have said, implicitly, a whole host of good things about me:

I support my friends.
I can enjoy someone else's good fortune.
I'm a cool enough guy to have good-looking friends.
I must think pretty well of myself since I don't seem at all jealous. And so on and so on.

Anyway, to make a long story a little shorter, I decided from that moment on to stop putting people down on dates, to stop running off at the mouth, to quit gossiping and rumor-mongering and backbiting.

Of course, it wasn't always easy. The temptations to badmouth can be overwhelming. And in truth it took me about six months to fully rein myself in.

But the results were wonderful. I developed a whole new system, characterized by the following disciplines, for conducting my relationships with dates...actually, for conducting my relationships with everyone -- male and female alike.

1) I asked by dates questions their lives and their hopes.

2) I complimented them.

3) I told appropriate jokes and anecdotes.

4) I volunteered occasional facts about myself without bragging or complaining, but only in response to a question from my date.

That was, and in many ways still is, my formula: questions, compliments, anecdotes, responses to questions. Nothing more than that.

It may seem a bit spartan, but I can tell you this: within six months my dating life had improved immeasurably. Women seemed to respond to me with much more warmth, openness, trust, affection, and respect; and I felt tremendously better about myself. And when you like yourself better, so do others. It's as simple and as basic as that.

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