How to man up (for whatever)

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How to man up (for whatever)

I have a friend around my age who is looking for a boyfriend. In the currently popular euphemism, she has “recently rejoined the dating world.” What that means in blunt English is this: She is newly divorced, has sorted out the various legal and emotional entanglements of that process, and is ready to see what’s out there, long-term companionwise.

She’s around my age. Let’s just call it somewhere between the moment you start buying age-specific multivitamins and the year you start getting into museums for free. And that makes things complicated.

In the first place, the term “boyfriend” is a little silly to describe what she’s looking for. “Boyfriend” suggests someone in a baseball cap and a Patagonia vest who drinks microbrews with his friends on Saturday afternoons. My friend is looking for a man with some life under his belt. She is looking for someone with multiple prescriptions and quite possibly a cardiologist.

“I just want a guy who isn’t more than 10 years older than me,” she told me over lunch, “who has a job and some money in the bank, has no adult children still living with him, and who is capable of expressing a definitive opinion on where we should have dinner.” This must be a very tall order, because she has yet to find any suitable candidates. She has worked her way through the various apps and services but has yet to find a man who checks the boxes.

“And I’m not looking for 100% compliance either,” she told me. “I’d be happy with, like, 75%. But I’ve met men with jobs but who have three adult children still living at home because they are ‘in reset mode’ — big red flag, by the way — and I’ve met men with no grown children living at home and lots of money in the bank but no job to go to during the day — again, red flag — and then there are men who have jobs and no grown-up kids on the family dole, but when you ask them where they want to have dinner will say, with a shrug, ‘I’m up for whatever.’”

“What’s so bad about being up for whatever?” I asked her. “It sounds like a guy who is agreeable and willing to compromise.”

“Yuck,” she said. “Who wants that? I want to be with someone with a point of view. I don’t want to be having a lot of polite ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘No, what do you want to do?’ conversations. My ex-husband and I spent 20 years being agreeable and polite to each other and then three years being furious and honest. I’d rather start out being honest this time around. Saves a lot of time.”

I really didn’t have much useful advice for her except to suggest that a lot of men I know are genuinely baffled by the expectations of the current culture. If they kick their adult children out of the house, they’re not nurturing enough. If they’re too into their careers, they don’t have a good work-life balance. If they loudly announce that they’re feeling like Italian tonight, they can be accused of mansplaining dinnertime.

“I don’t care if they mansplain,” she said. “I don’t care if a guy talks a lot or wants to explain stuff to me.”

“You don’t?” I asked. For the record, my friend is a very accomplished author and an authority in her field. “No,” she said. “I like a guy with opinions and something to say. As long as when he’s done talking, he shuts up and listens while I set him straight.”

My friend and I have known each other since high school and I love her, but I was starting to get a clearer understanding of why her previous marriage may have failed.

I didn’t say that, of course. I kept quiet and agreed with everything she was saying, as I have learned to do in situations like this, often the hard way. For instance, in 1986, I once raised my hand to offer an opinion in a college class called “Women’s Voices and Visions: The Broken Silence of Female Narratives in the 19th Century English Novel.” It was a mistake I have never repeated since. Shrugging amiably and saying, “I’m up for whatever,” has been my policy, and so far, it’s been working fine.

Rob Long is a television writer and producer and the co-founder of

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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