10. DO TALK
The thing you need to know is this: when she was learning to read aloud, she was befuddled by the word “together.” She was used to sounding things out, so she chirped “to get her?” then her teacher laughed. There is a residual scar, so when she makes creative mistakes, encourage her. Indulge her when she sees the world off-kilter. If you do laugh, make sure to say that you are laughing because she is adorable and smart. You also probably need to work on your wordplay. She really likes spoonerisms and zeugmas. “A girl falls in love between her ears,” says the famous matchmaker. That means to get her you’ll need to talk to her. A lot. About almost everything—the prospect of peace in the Middle East, your deepest fears, and your favorite omelet fillings. She will keep up with you and zigzag into topics that may surprise you. Evolutionary psychology—is there really such a thing? What are the ethics of surrogate motherhood? Have you ever tried Reiki or reflexology? You’ll need to memorize a lists of words that contain Q but not U. Maybe you should just get the tee shirt. You’ll need to brush up on your Scrabble lexicon and let go of your competitive urges when her Z lands on a triple word score. She’ll keep you to your word. If you say together you’ll make beautiful music, she’ll hand you a tambourine. To get her, you’ll need to jangle it against your hip.
9. DO LISTEN
She has been called “wordy,” “verbose,” “chatterbox,” “blabbermouth,” “motormouth”—and these are just the names people will say to her face. It’s possible she listened too closely when the teacher said, “Always use your words,” not closely enough when the librarian arched her brows, stretched a finger over her lips, hissed some kind of synonym for quiet. But to get her, you are going to have to listen. Sometimes, you will not be able to get a word in edgewise. Sometimes, she will grow breathless telling you what happened, nouns tripping over each other like athletes racing to the finish line of Who? What? Where? She doesn’t expect you to have all the answers, but you should expect she comes with questions, so many questions she rivals the Bingo wheel spinning, the popcorn maker popping, the piñata spilling its ceaseless interrogatives. Words, you see, are her only real currency. She isn’t going to paint you a landscape, knit you a scarf, work clay with her hands like Demi Moore in Ghost. If she cooks you a meal, it won’t be the best shrimp and grits you’ve ever had. But she will tell you the truth, hers, which is the most you can really ask of anyone, isn’t it? That question is not rhetorical. Hers never are. She will write you valentines. She will sing you lullabies. She will use her words, all her words. You will see them falling from her lips, red as maple leaves, white as early snow.
8. DO MAKE SURE THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT
She will reveal herself to you quickly. When she read an interview with Michelle Pfeiffer who said “Mystery is overrated,” she ripped the page from Vogue and stuffed it in her backpack. She will be the first to tell you fashion magazines set up unrealistic expectations for women, yet she can’t help pawing through them in a doctor’s office. You should know that, though she has (for the most part) made peace with her body, she still has unrealistic expectations about life. That is how she’s gotten this far. You should ask yourself: do you really want to get a woman like this? Do you really want to get/win her? Do you really want to get/understand her? If you are the type of person who likes the status quo, she will soon frustrate you. If you like dainty and domestic, you’d best look elsewhere. Hers is a wild spirit—any attempts to help/control/change her will end in a mess. If you are a fan of Pygmalion, do not mistake her for Eliza Doolittle. Yes, she is a duchess of sorts, but a duchess who is proud of her Cockney accent, though she doesn’t honestly believe in accents as they privilege a dominant way of speaking. She doesn’t honestly believe in hierarchy, even when she is stepping up a ladder. She doesn’t honestly believe in monogamy, even though she wants to. She knows what she wants. You should know she will love you honestly, so honestly it may make you blush.
7. DON’T ASSUME SHE IS EASY
Yes, it’s true, she smiles a lot. Her eyes have the creases to prove it. She tends to nod her head while contemplating an idea, which doesn’t necessarily mean she agrees. In her back pocket, she always carries a parachute, expert as she is at extrication. If a situation grows tense, or she senses a confrontation, expect her to bail. She has been known to make of a well-placed compliment a ripcord, and then she is off, soaring through the solitary air. She’d rather be alone than unhappily paired. Though she likes people capaciously, she is particular about who she loves. You should not assume you have won her over with idle praise or empty gestures of affection. You should not assume that just standing by is enough. Accompany her to ordinary places. Assist her with mundane chores. Sing along to a Pink song on the radio. Pack a picnic lunch. She doesn’t want you to go to Jared. She is no fan of yellow gold or white diamonds, nothing gaudy or overpriced. You can’t buy her interest or attention with anything they sell at the store. This is, after all, a woman who has been using 2-in-1 conditioning shampoo for most of her life, who doesn’t own a scale or a compact mirror, who spends fewer than fifteen minutes on a shower and change of clothes. Never pinch her if she doesn’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, but if she trusts you, a kiss under mistletoe is A-O-K.
6. DON’T BE A JERK
Yes, it’s true, she gives you your space as she needs her own. But never mistake this as permission to roam. If you flirt with the waitress, she will groan, if not aloud, definitely inside. If you find yourself enthralled with the bartender and forget to order her a drink, she will remember it. If you kiss another, she will know, if not today then tomorrow or the next day. At that point she will be gone, and nothing you can say or do will bring her back. If you are wondering, how can she be that cold?, then she is not the woman for you. If you possess jerk-like tendencies—whistling at women walking down the street, for example—it is quite possible that she ignored you in the first place. If you make her a promise, she expects you to keep it. She doesn’t like to nag and actually eschews the word with its gendered connotations. She doesn’t want to be told what to wear or what to eat. Never say, “And she’ll have the soft-shell crab…” because at that point she’ll leave her body and float over the white tablecloth. Her shell (not unlike the shell of the crustacean on her plate) may or may not eat. You will never dine with her again. If you say you want a woman who isn’t superficial but spend all your time eyeballing miniskirts, you probably do want a superficial woman. And that is fine, but please leave her alone.
5. DO PLAY GAMES
But confine them to word, board, and card, in that order. She has many editions of Trivial Pursuit, the new and old versions of Boggle. Hugger Mugger. Apples to Apples. Outburst. Taboo. Jigsaw puzzles are welcome, too; likewise, tetherball and Twister. She remembers foursquare fondly and would love a reunion tour. Though she is likely to lose in Win, Lose, or Draw, she will play with you and your friends if you ask her to. Ditto for Dominoes and charades. Please note that on weeknights she enjoys watching Jeopardy! Alex Trebek is a windbag, she’ll be the first to tell you. She cringes when he calls the high-powered lawyer “young lady” and asks the schlubby tech guy how he proposed to his wife. But those clever categories, the puns embedded in every clue! “Who is George Gordon, Lord Byron?” she shouts from the kitchen. Poetry is her favorite kind of answer to question. You could join her, pull up a chair, make your best guess about Bucharest or banoffee pie. You will impress her more with your efforts and your earnestness than with your final score. Love is not the game, of course. She is not the prize. Alex Trebek is saying something condescending now, and you both are rolling your eyes. “People think he’s so smart, but he has a crib sheet and a team of fact-checkers standing by.” She couldn’t agree more. “Let’s make it a true daily double, Alex.” If she loves you, she will risk everything.
4. NEVER LEAVE HER WANTING MORE
You have probably read somewhere that you shouldn’t answer her text right away, that if she asks you for a date you should say, “We’ll see.” You probably have a friend who told you to play it cool, to end a phone call as soon as there is an awkward pause. But for this woman, you must change your strategy. In fact, you should not use a strategy at all. You have to assume she’s seen it all before, even if it’s just been in a book or a film. She has an honorary PhD in the human heart. But she is a researcher in her area, not a professor, so don’t expect her to tutor you. To get her, you have to approach her as your authentic self. “Easy,” you are thinking. “I can do that.” But have you ever arrived at a Come As You Are party truly as you are? This is a question only you can answer. Only you know how far you are willing to go in terms of vulnerability. Only you know if you would prefer theoretical insights to tears and laughter and skin. Only you know what you consider fun. While she enjoys artifice every once in a while—false eyelashes or splashes of cologne—don’t think you can fool her with either. One of her favorite sayings is the only thing better than having it all is having more. But she doesn’t mean cars or diamond rings or shoes. She means you.
3. ALWAYS LEAVE A LIGHT ON FOR HER
So she can find her house keys. So she doesn’t stub her toe groping for the doorknob in the dark. So she can make her way back to where you are sleeping beside the imprint of her body, the pillow that bears her scent. Be there, in that bed, if not dreaming of her, then dreaming of something funny to tell her tomorrow. The light isn’t just literal, of course. You might light candles for the dinner table or while she is taking a bath, but to get her is not the same as to keep her. If you want her eyes to dilate with curious affection, light up when you see her. Show her you only have eyes for her. If you’re camping, then by all means, build a bonfire, but kindle her with s’mores and secrets you don’t readily divulge. Maybe you play the xylophone. Maybe you like Top Chef and talk radio. Maybe you’ve always wanted to skydive or zipline in the Great Smoky Mountains. You have a light, and you’re gonna let it shine. She may think the xylophone is silly. She may favor 80s sitcoms and easy listening. So what if she isn’t the daredevil you are? She’s in it for the incandescence of an honest conversation. She’s in it for the passion, which she can always support but not always supply. She’s in it for the fireworks, sure, but also the flare, which she knows she can send up whenever she really needs you.
2. PUCKER UP
You need to know that she is a fanatic when it comes to kissing, a renewable way to get her again and again. You can wake her by kissing her eyelids. A serious lip lock before breakfast can make the rest of her day. She’ll appreciate a kiss on the hand as she sorts the laundry, a kiss on the neck as she checks her email, or a bite on her earlobe as she heads to the recycle bin, bottles clanking. If you are feeling silly, try the Spiderman kiss, one of you right side up and the other upside down. A kiss on the forehead when she has a cold, a kiss on her shoulder when you are feeling bold. The Lady & The Tramp Kiss whenever there is a plate of noodles. A whipped cream kiss for dessert. A pass-the-mint kiss. You can give her a vacuum kiss instead of actually vacuuming. When the two of you are loading the dishwasher, a peck might be in order. Take a break from doing the taxes and give her a lizard kiss. On vacation try an underwater kiss. Or a hickey someplace discreet so she can go back to work without a scarf. During the Netflix credits, a French kiss is called for before you select your next movie. At the end of a long day, when you are too tired to even roll all the way to her pillow, make a muaah sound so she knows you are there.
1. SAVE THE LAST DANCE
Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Men want to be a woman’s first love—women like to be a man’s last romance.” Of course Wilde knew how love can flourish in the absence of women, how romance can triumph in the absence of men. This lady may not be looking for a gentleman caller at all. But chances are, she’s looking for a person who’s looking for her, someone who thinks she’s worth waiting for. Literally. To get her, you’ll head to the airport at some heinous hour, send a smiley face in response to her “just landed” text. You may have to drive around the terminal or idle on the shoulder until a cop tells you to move—which you’ll do, grudgingly—but you’ll always come back until you have her beside you in the passenger seat, eating a PowerBar and raving about her trip. To get her, you’ll come early, you’ll stay late; you’ll remember the claim check for the cloakroom and run back to fetch your jackets. If it’s raining, you’ll bring the car around. You’ll hold the door, the elevator—whatever’s in danger of closing—until she gets there, steps through safely. It may be scuba-diving or paddle-boarding or simply laying out in the sun, but you’ll do it with her. And if you’ve wandered down the beach aways, you’ll wander back. You’ll be there before the lifeguard ever blows his whistle. If she holds out her hand, you’ll take it. If she shimmies her hips, you’ll dance.
Denise Duhamel & Julie Marie Wade have published collaborative essays in Arts & Letters, Bellingham Review, Cincinnati Review, Green Mountains Review, Nimrod, No Tokens, Passages North, poemmemoirstory, Quarter After Eight, The St. Ann’s Review, and StoryQuarterly. They teach in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami.