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Last week I had lunch (lunch being a burger and a beer) with a woman I've known since the 1970s. She's a civil attorney now, seven years divorced, and is thinking about rejoining the hunt for a man. She paid for the beer and the burger and wanted advice. I told her I'd write it in a column since I write better than I talk.

So, Ellen, there are matchmaking services, singles clubs, personal ads, Internet sites, hustling prospects from local churches and clubs, and so on. Other than the intensity of personal humiliation, I don't think one way is better than another. And none of them alter the basic rule of the hunt, You have to do it yourself. The trick is, just be about your business, but be aware you're on a hunt. Say to yourself, "Bellies will go empty if I do not return home with dinner."

It is wise to communicate in standard English. Instead of, "struggling with growth issues," try, "I don't know what I'm doing." Instead of, "confronting the patriarchal tyranny," try, "I've got a lousy boss." Men our age are sick of feminist/therapy jargon.

Jargon and political fashion are for the young because they don't know who they are yet. Black and whites are to be expected in youth, but with age we see the grays, the textures, the subtext, the bonus of being a woman, the debits of being a man, and anyway, when you fall in love, little of that matters, everyone cuts his own, private, hand-tailored deal, which is based on the you behind the you and has little to do with gender. Hard, fast, and frequent rules, particularly those conceived by money-grubbing self-help authors, make negotiations that much harder.

It's better if you don't actually hate the opposite sex. There's no sense hunting for a man with an attitude of, "I loathe men." Or, as a feminist acquaintance observed when commenting on the growing men's movement, "Why should I feel happy to see my oppressors organize?" No man with a pinch of pride is going to apologize for being a man. Find a man who will parrot feminist slogans and you have found somebody who will expect to be taken care of.

This may be hard to swallow, but the truth is that men your age are not that interested in women. Men are interested in a woman, namely, their woman. Men are interested in their consorts, their daughters, and their mothers. They are interested in looking at tits and ass, but they are not particularly interested in women. Men, this age, don't talk about women amongst themselves, don't wonder what women think about, don't read their magazines, and don't have a secret desire to tag along when women get together and go out.

On first glance, this may feel insulting. On the other hand, I find it exceedingly pleasant to leave a bit of mystery in this world of relentless exposure, to have exotic tidbits brought to my table, to have dresses explained to me, or the workings of beauty salons, or the names of flowers. Yes, yes, women make damn good fighter pilots, combat engineers, and heavy-equipment operators. And that's mighty fine with me. But, it is enjoyable to live with someone who has a separate area of competence. It's agreeable to hear reports from the other side.

There are benefits to mating at this age. Most men aren't rounded until 40, until his hormones decay and he can see the world outside himself. Until then he wants sex. We all know this. Still, that is a more straightforward approach than what many young women have to contend with: a men's movement male with a practiced catch in his voice, tear in his eye, and an eagerness to share his special feelings. He still wants sex, but is now willing to spout, like a convict at a parole-board hearing, anything, anything at all, in order to get it.

There are drawbacks. I am part of a generation of males who will never learn to cook a decent meal, will never be able to walk into a department store and shop. That's just the way it is, accept it, go to restaurants, make sure he buys a microwave oven. We will do the dishes, help with the groceries, fix stuff around the house, and lift heavy objects on demand. We will not let strangers hurt you without hurting us first.

The best thing about this age is that we're finally old enough to realize that what matters is love, the rest is nitpicking, day-to-day crap that can be worked around, can be negotiated, and the only thing that really counts is hitting that front door on the way home, feeling tension dissolve, coming upon clear, sincere eyes, a genuine smile, and listening to a familiar, loving voice say, "Hi, baby, how was your day?"

That's what's real.

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