Don’t understand dudes? You’re not alone, and Hollywood hasn’t done much to help you out. The pickings are slim for good theater that provides a rich male perspective on the dating game. Hitch comes to mind, and well...that’s about it. So when a TV show does come along from the perspective of a relatively normal, well-meaning dude trying to find his way in the modern dating world, it’s noteworthy.
Enter Aziz Ansari’s Master of None. If you have followed Ansari’s work at all, you know that he has both a knack for understanding his millennial peers as well as the ability to be really funny when extrapolating on it. I’m talking about his stand-up comedy and his bestselling book, Modern Romance, of course, and his latest foray into Netflix-only TV is no exception.
As a man writing for the Gentlemen Speak column, it’s my job to try to help explain what might be going on inside of dudes’ heads so that women might understand the men in their own lives. Ansari has provided a rare opportunity for me to say, “See that: Yep, that’s real.” So with that in mind, what follows are two truths to be learned about men that Ansari nailed.
01. His confidence may be in recovery mode.
Recently I’ve been privileged to (accidentally) find myself as the lone dude hanging out with a bunch of mostly single ladies. These women have no qualms about sharing their thoughts and feelings about men and dating. As a man writing for a women’s magazine, this is a goldmine.
One recent conversation we had was about how many dudes just seem freaked out by women. They lack confidence. You often hear women comfort their friends who have been disappointed in love saying, “He’s just scared.” But is this really the best explanation for rejection or disinterest?
Ansari lays out this scenario in the opening scene of Master of None. His character, Dev, awkwardly bids adieu to his romantic interest Rachel after a night marked by an unfortunate sexual misadventure. Because his first night with her went so poorly, he doesn’t bother to contact her again. We find out in later episodes that he really likes Rachel but just didn't know how to act around her after the incident.
“Guys are a lot more sensitive than I would have ever imagined,” one female friend explained to me. She didn’t mean sensitive like he cries after a sad movie. She meant that guys have a hard time moving on from a relationship failure and this makes them hesitant to take further emotional risks. And she’s exactly right. While this is not always the reason a man doesn't pursue, it is a definite possibility. I know a lot of men struggle to have confidence when it comes to women; it can even paralyze them at times.
Take Keven for instance. Keven was blindsided by an abrupt end to what he considered a happy, healthy relationship headed toward marriage. The unexpected jolt seriously hindered his ability to find love again. “I was afraid that I would fall short, that the next girl would see the same shortcomings and come to the same conclusion,” he told me. “It's taken me almost three years to fully get over the effects of that breakup—the self-doubt that made me want to run from any sort of serious commitment, or any commitment at all, for that matter.”
So what does this mean for you ladies? Can’t say I’d blame you if you’d rather just walk away if he doesn’t man up. But if you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help, I’d say offer some positive reinforcement. Make it a point to notice the things he does that you appreciate, even the little things, and verbalize them! Even if it’s just a spontaneous text or a seemingly random compliment in the middle of a date, those things go a long way to boost a man’s confidence.
When Keven did give love another shot, his new girlfriend did just this. She complimented him in the very areas he thought had caused the first breakup. It was more than simply wanting to be bolstered by the nice things she said to him; the compliments meant much more to him: “This new relationship opened my eyes to one simple fact: I am lovable,” he said.
02. Dudes are afraid of commitment.
It’s a widely held belief that women worry much more about what the future holds when dating. Women are known to consider the marriagability of a man on the first date and enjoy picking out a few baby names if things are starting to look serious (just in case). Meanwhile, men have the reputation of being more of the take-it-as-it-comes variety. At least externally.
I’ve found that, contrary to popular belief, men also care about the future and often have deep-seated anxieties that their laissez-faire demeanor effectively camouflages—whether consciously or subconsciously.
Dev experiences this anxiety in the first episode when he’s forced to consider the possibility of having children and again in the season finale when he attends a wedding. When it comes to having kids, Dev is scared of losing his ability to go out with his friends and have fun. But, perhaps more importantly, he’s also haunted by his buddy’s divorce. His friend admits that having kids so early in their relationship was “just too much” and ultimately led to the demise of their marriage. Later, in the wedding scene of the finale, Dev hears the gag-worthy idealistic vows that his friends pronounce to each other on the altar and begins to question if he will ever love a woman enough.
Men struggle with the idea of commitment. That’s not exactly news. But what I think Ansari effectively portrays is why men struggle with long-term plans. It's not so much commitment itself we fear, it's a perceived inability to fulfill our responsibilities. We’re deathly afraid of sometime in the future when we aren’t able to live up to those promises. It’s more of a fear of failure than anything else.
I know for me, the experiences of seeing my parents split up after 24 years of marriage as well as my own relationship challenges have been a real struggle for my relationship confidence. I know a lot of men who don’t have good examples of healthy relationships in their lives, much less those which include kids, and that makes marriage and babies scary.
So yeah, many men are afraid of the future and commitment. But it’s not necessarily because the idea of permanent bachelorhood is attractive to them. If your man is a little slow on the uptick when it comes to commitment, it might just take time. For me, the longer I’m with someone, the more confidence I have in the future, especially if I don’t feel like there’s some sort of artificial timetable on our progress. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any signs of commitment, however. Look for smaller steps along the way to see if you’re moving in the right direction such as his willingness to spend meaningful time with your family and friends and whether he incorporates you into his life.
As a guy, I found myself very much able to relate to the characters in Master of None and the challenges they face. Dating is so very awkward and messy at times because the people involved are real people with real insecurities. So instead of trying to find perfect people to date, we’re probably better off trying to understand the flawed people we come across, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.
Photo Credit: Screenshot from Netflix