Women are complicated. At least that’s what they tell me.

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means the internet will be filled with equal parts sappy romantic gestures and not-so-secretly bitter observations about said gestures. The singles portion of the population will be forced at some point in the day to ponder where they’ve gone astray in their quest to swap DNA: women will wonder where the good guys have gone whilst the men lament their inability to understand the gentler gender. For my part, I’ll be embracing the misery by watching some terrible movies. Maybe Twilight. For science.

In truth, I like to think I have a better grasp on what goes on inside women’s heads than most guys. Sure I can count my ex-girlfriends on one penis, but I’ve had enough platonic female friends (their choice) and older sisters (parents’ choice) to know how they think. Notice I say “how” and not “why”. There will never be an answer to the latter.

I’ve done my best to distill the information into this easily digestible post, but be aware that as the title suggests, these don’t apply to all girls. Just most of them.

Women Don’t Rank Things

Quick, name your top 5 U.S. Presidents.

If you’re a guy, odds are you spouted off some combination of Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, Wheelchair Roosevelt, and either JFK or Clinton for their allegendary lady prowess. If you’re a girl, you probably named Lincoln and Washington, mumbled one that’s still alive, then trailed off and changed the subject. It has nothing to do with interest in history or politics (okay maybe a little). Girls just don’t rank things and guys rank literally everything from their favorite pro athletes to their most satisfying dumps.

It all makes sense. According to an evolutionary study that I just made up, males have been programmed to compete with each other until they establish who’s the Alpha and who’s the Beta and who’s the Cera so on and so on… I don’t actually know the Greek alphabet. And we apply this hierarchy mentality to everything. Shirts I never wear are at the bottom of the drawer, food I eat most of is at the front of the fridge, and kitchenware I use often is still on the stove. Because why would I bother washing it and putting it up when I’m just going to use it tomorrow?

For females, it’s much simpler: there are girls they like and girls they don’t. If Mean Girls taught me anything, it’s that the Queen Bee isn’t necessarily the dominant girl as much as she is the group’s social compass for what to love and what to hate. That carries over to their stuff too. Ever wonder why girls go berserk for a walk-in closet? It’s because they like all their clothes and like being able to see all the things they like at once. Also it means being able to store and care for items according to their individual needs.

So how does this information supposed to help you? Odds are there’s a girl you’re into and she has or had other boyfriends. Your instinct is to measure yourself against those guys, emphasizing ways you’re better and downplaying where you fall short. In some cases that means discovering you’re inferior in every way. Once that gets into your head, it will erode your confidence until your relationship crumbles or you think yourself out of making a move in the first place.

That’s why you have to realize that she isn’t going to rank you. At some point the things she didn’t like about her exes outweighed the things she did, and that’s why they’re exes. So sack up and find out whether she likes you or not, because when you’re in you’re in. And be glad you aren’t her having to put up with our ranking bullshit.

Women Live in a Bubble

I know this sounds really derogatory, but hear me out.

Remember the thing I said about girls and walk-in closets? Well it applies to everything about their lives. They want to be surrounded and engulfed by all their favorite things at all times like a giant bubble of pure joy and utter happiness, so much so that the actual words “Joy” and “Happiness” will manifest themselves on their walls via weekend crafts. It’s not just about decorations either; it’s their friends, their family, their job, their social life, the city they live in — it’s all part of her life’s collage.

And just like a bubble, it’s easy to pop.

A woman chooses what her bubble’s made of, for many it’s mostly their family and for a number that’s on the rise it’s their career, but it’s all connected. When something goes wrong in one area, it messes with the others, and the size of the area disturbed determines the severity of the effects. For instance, a girl who’s unhappy with her job might minimize how much space it gets, so when she quits, other parts of her life can quickly fill the void. A mom with a part-time job who gets laid off unexpectedly might have a harder time coping but her kids can help avert disaster. For a career woman, being fired would be devastating.

I know it all sounds really obvious, but it’s different for men. As long as we have something to focus on or tinker with, it’ll distract us from the other problems until we get around to fixing it or it fixes itself. Like a rowboat, as long as one paddle’s going, we’ll keep chugging along. A guy’s best friend moving across the country doesn’t really rock the boat, but for a girl it’s a huge chunk of bubble to lose. It’s why long-distance relationships are notoriously difficult: it limits how much of the bubble you can be, which is usually less than she wants. Not being able to be physically present is a big deal.

On the flipside, something simply being in her vicinity can be invasive. If you’re at a party and the creepy guy from work shows up, you’re going to hear about it. If she doesn’t get along with your homeboy’s girlfriend, a double date is out of the question. And the flirty waitress? Straight to hell. She’s completely capable of ignoring all these things, but why would she when they’re completely avoidable?

I could spout off a thousand more examples for this metaphor, but you get the idea. Respect her bubble and maybe she’ll make you a part of it. And don’t be surprised when you can’t keep her together on your own.

Women Fantasize About Themselves

Let’s talk about Twilight.

I’ve seen the first two movies and I could bash it to pieces, but that would be beating a dead vampire that’s not dead at all and would rip my face off as a result. What I really want to discuss is Bella. She’s the main character. I specify that because all the hormonal hurricane that followed the franchise may have lead you to believe the story is about this dude Edward. It’s not. It’s about a teenage girl who is so profoundly bland and uninteresting that comparing her to cardboard would be generous. I didn’t get the appeal. How can you be a fan of a series with such an awful lead? I mulled it over for a few weeks before I realized it wasn’t Bella they went crazy for, it was her story.

They don’t want to be her or any other woman, but they’ll put themselves in her shoes in a cold, sparkling heartbeat. The character’s plainness facilitates the process. 50 Shades of Gray? Originally written as Twilight word porn before names were changed so it could be published, and women still gobbled it up because they could copy+paste themselves into the sexcapades. And look at the women’s Halloween costumes: sexy nurse, sexy cop, sexy pumpkin, sexy dinosaur. They’re trying to be admired for their own merits in a variety of different roles, not attempting to be someone else.

Men, on the other hand, are all about being another person. Superheroes, supervillains, pop culture figures, childhood toys — it’s more than a costume, it’s a chance to be someone else they wish they were like. And just look at transgender and transsexual folks. The females will sometimes take measures to appear more masculine, but males completely transform their entire appearance to inhabit a new person. There’s some sort of Freudian statement to be made here, but I’ll save that subject for another day.

For comparison, let’s examine the popularity of the Hunger Games series. Strong female lead with a distinct personality. I’m not talking about Katniss, I mean Jennifer Lawrence. If everything else I know about women is completely wrong, I know for a fact that they love J-Law. She’s smart and witty and beautiful and comfortable with her own body and the world adores her for it. But they don’t want to be her, they want to be as smart and witty and beautiful and comfortable with their own bodies and be adored by the world as themselves.

That’s where you come in. She’s not stupid — she knows there are other women with better skin, bigger boobs, tinier waists, etc. etc. than her, and she knows you notice them when they’re splayed across a magazine cover or strutting down the sidewalk. Your job isn’t to lie about it, it’s to reassure her that she means more to you than her skin, boobs, waist, etc. etc. And if that isn’t true, it’s time to reconsider your situation.

Women Like to Feel Feelings

Women are emotional. It’s no secret. We’re quick to blame it on the eh, eh-eh-eh, eh-estrogen since it’s an easy out, but there’s more to it than that. Sometimes it just feels good to get your cry on.

I could criticize society for the way men are conditioned to cram their feelings into a tiny black box deep within their souls, but it’s just human nature. It’s difficult to project an Alpha male image to your competition if you’re constantly flying off the handle so we’ve constructed “manly” outlets to siphon off the inner turmoil. Sports, for example, allow dudes to let their excitement, anger, and sadness run wild without compromising their perceived masculinity. Sometimes that sport is their son’s T-ball game and that anger is less about missing the ball for the eighth time and more about regrets over personal baseball aspirations, but hey, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I don’t know if that actually applies here.

I’m not saying men are the only ones guilty of misplaced anger, but because it’s more acceptable for women to express their feelings at any given moment, they’re less prone to converting everything into rage. What we interpret as overreacting to something small is just her venting because that’s how she feels and it feels good to say so. The more you try to convince her those feelings aren’t valid, the more likely it is to come back and haunt you when she blows up on you about everything from the past month. You’re all, “Where is this coming from?” Now you know.

But don’t misinterpret me here: there are no “bad” emotions. When we think happiness, laughter, smiles, we think “good” and anger, crying, tears we think “bad”, but it’s not that simple. People laugh until they cry and get so frustrated they can’t help but laugh because they’re all part of the same family of feelings. The most common misconception is that love and hate are opposites when they’re closely related and their true antithesis is apathy. More marriages putter out and die from lack of passion than searing hatred, and counseling only works when both sides can be convinced that the others’ feelings are worthwhile.

So the next time a girl comes to you mad or crying or both, fight the instinct to root out the issue and tell her how to fix it. That’s not the point. She’s perfectly capable of fixing her own problems, she just wants some affirmation that she isn’t crazy and someone to understand where her head is at. By the same token, don’t be all, “Cool story bro” if she’s deliriously excited. All it takes is two words: that’s awesome.

Women are All Different

Forget everything you just read. All of it.

No I’m not second guessing myself. That’s quality information explained in a manner that makes sense to the typically left-brained male. Sadly I know exactly how you want to use it. You’re going to go out into the world and picture every girl floating around in a bubble judging everything in sight while sobbing and wishing a sexy vampire and werewolf were fighting over her love. And that’s just stupid.

There’s this whole hilarious multi-million dollar industry built on the perception that women are these walking flesh puzzles that need to be tricked into having sex with you. I’m sure their techniques work on a minute percentage of the female population, but I assure you the rest of them are privy to your seedy ways. If I had a dollar for every Axe deodorized chode not getting laid, I’d be an executive at Axe. There is no all-encompassing answer to women and if there were it wouldn’t be bottled.

A lot of these points will apply to a lot of them, but never the same way because every woman is different and unique because every human is different and unique. Read a guide on men and half of it will be lost on me — I don’t have a favorite pro sports team, rarely play video games, and can’t tell you anything about how a car works. Any girl expecting me to be a traditionally masculine guy is bound for disappointment and so are you if you think there’s a be-all, end-all strategy to women.

The act of reducing that entire half of the population to a stereotype goes against everything we strive for. No one wants to be “just another” anything. We all want to be appreciated for our individuality. So any time you read an article about women, this one included, take it with a grain of salt.

Because women are, in fact, complicated.

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