One lesson young women know, but can never quite learn, is how many young men misunderstand kindness from a woman as affection. The difference between kindness and affection are bright and clear. Kindness is what you should extend to every person. Affection is reserved for intimate reciprocal relationships where the affection expressed is given and not demanded. Young men are anxious to connect to young women.
They do not care what they have to say or do in order to pull reciprocal affection, not kindness, from a woman. Young women do not understand these men are not interested in “being friends” or being friendly or kind. The men want intimate affection. When a young woman gives her attention to a young man in conversation or via passing eye contact that behavior is often interpreted by the young man as an expression of affection and not simple human kindness. The young man then acts on a misunderstood communication and begins to hunt and gather more perceived affection from the young woman.
This cycle of a one-sided mating ritual places the young woman in some social and emotional jeopardy if she is not careful. Often the only way for the young woman to extricate herself from this misunderstanding is cruelty in completely severing the young man from her kind attention. That forced cruelty by circumstance goes against her natural instinct to be kind and it rivets his attention even more because his perceived affection from her has been shorn from his hopeful nights. Hurt feelings then simmer on both sides. Young women are concerned when they learn how some men misunderstand kindness for affection and they wonder how to stop that illegitimate connection from happening in the first place.
The first piece of advice I give them is to understand young men are not interested in “being friends” if they are attracted in any way and if they are not attracted they will never be around looking for affection. The clever men will go along with the “just friends” ploy but their intent behind that bonding is to penetrate deeper than the young woman expects. The second thing I tell the women to do is to accept no favors from a young man.
Do not allow him to buy you lunch or carry your books or walk you home from school — unless he is a young man you wish to know better — because those are all methods to gain control of the interaction. The young man can then say, “You owe me!” and the uninterested young woman is immediately put in a defensive position by entering a social contract for behavioral reciprocation she did not sign! Many young women, in order to placate and go along and be kind will give in to this premeditated “you owe me” ploy and that sinks her even farther into the larger tar pit of misunderstood affection.
Finally, I warn young women to be neutral and to “turn themselves off” when they are out in the world. Young women on the East Coast fast understand this concept because they usually walk everywhere they go or are stuck on public transportation and the effectiveness of “turning yourself off” is learned at an early age in order to protect yourself from strangers in close social contact. Midwesterners and Southerners have a harder time neutralizing themselves to stop any affection misunderstandings dead in their tracks. There are always young women who do not understand the concept of “turning off” and if there are young men within ear shot of this conversation they always have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to making yourself “neutral” because they are taught from an early age to always have their game on at all times.
One young woman was so talented at turning herself on and off I often used her as an example for other women — when she was “on” her face was bright and her eyes became friendly and her face was fresh and warm and you wanted to be her best friend and when she turned herself “off” her face and eyes became dead and her facial elasticity disappeared and she looked like a really ugly old man — and she could make that change as easy as flipping a light switch on and off.
Young women should not be afraid of young men — but they should be wary of not randomly giving away their kindness. Be careful. Temper the need to be liked and accepted by the opposite sex. Young women must claim and then understand the magic and power they wield over men of all ages with their kindness and that energy should be meted out with an affectionate hand that protects both the giver and the receiver.