Prologue

WILL LISTEN FOR LATTE

The words were neatly printed on the white cardboard sign on the third table from the door in Hometown Brew. Behind the sign sat a neatly dressed elderly gentleman, his hair (or lack of it) obscured by his grey newsboy cap, his light blue shirt offset by a maroon bowtie. His trimmed moustache was in the process of turning from gray to white; and his eyeglasses were square and black rimmed. A slender twenty-something woman dressed in blue jeans, a maroon scarf about her neck, approached. Her dark hair was pulled back, and she wore fashionable gray eyeglasses. “What is this exactly?” she asked him. “Exactly what it says,” said the man. “I’ll listen to you in exchange for a cup of latte.” “Are you a psychiatrist?” “Now, now. There’s no need to hurl insults.” “Oh!” The woman blushed slightly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t–” “Just yanking your chain,” he said, grinning. “Oh.” I still don’t get it,” she said. “Why are you doing this? Is this some perverted scheme to pick up women?” “Why, is it working? No, I always hear women complaining that men don’t really listen to them. They interrupt. They talk over them. They don’t take them seriously. I’m just hoping to redress the balance a little.” “That’s not like therapy?” “Maybe you’ll find it therapeutic,” he answered, “but I’m not trained for that. I don’t promise to solve your problems or repair your relationships,” he said. “I just promise to listen with- ” he pulled himself up straight in his chair – “my complete attention.” “How do I know you’re really listening and not thinking about a football game?” “That would be a serious breach of ethics.” “Whose ethics?” “Mine.” She looked him up and down for a minute, looking for chinks in the armor. “Okay,” she said. “How do you take your coffee?” “Latte. A small is fine.” “When you finish a small, does that mean my time is up? Maybe I should order a medium,” she said. “A small. If you have more to say, the second latte is on me.” Ten minutes later she was back with his latte and her own cappuccino. She sat across the table from him and stirred her drink.

Nicole: What Do Men Want?

 “So where do I start?” she said.

“How about with an introduction?” He extended his right hand across the table. “Ned Miller.”

She shook his hand tentatively. “Nicole. I’m embarrassed. I never even asked your name.”

“Have you ever done this before?”

“What? Spilled my guts to a perfect stranger? Never.”

“So there’s no need to be sorry,” he said. “You had no way of knowing what to do. Now Nicole, you wouldn’t consider doing this if there weren’t something on your mind that you need to talk about. I’m happy to listen.”

She took a deep breath. “Okay,” she said, “Let’s try this. I don’t understand what men want.”

“That’s a universal complaint. Can you be more specific?” he asked.

“So I’ve had three steady boyfriends in the past…oh, five years. Everything seems to be great at first, you know? We talk, we cuddle, we go out to clubs. Then they act more distant. Then they walk out. Is it them or is it me?”

“What was it that attracted you to these boyfriends?” he asked.

“Well, the last one had a really cute butt.”

“And this love-them-and-leave-them routine has happened with three boyfriends?”

“Yeah.”

“Once is a tragedy. Twice is bad luck. Three times is a pattern,” he said.

“A pattern? Are you saying this is all my fault?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Hold that thought while I try to tackle your first question. What do men want? They want a warm body in bed for …you know. That’s the main thing. After that, I’d say they just want convenience.”

“Fast food?”

“No, someone who will make their life easier.”

“By keeping beer in the fridge?”

“That’s a start,” he said. ”And cooking their meals. And keeping their clothes washed and neatly pressed. And picking up after them. Maybe even having kids and raising them.”

“Sounds like a maid service.”

“Maybe. Now here’s what they don’t want: somebody who bombards them with her problems and expects him to listen and be wise and sympathetic and compassionate.”

“A relationship?”

“That’s a fuzzy word. It may mean one thing to you and something else to most men. What does it mean to you?”

“What you were just saying. Someone who listens to my problems. Somebody who cares enough about me to be there when I need him.”

“Yes.”

“And that’s not what men think of as a relationship?”

“I can’t speak for all men. But for most of the ones I know, they define a relationship as a steady diet of sex.”

“Then why not just get a whore?”

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you, why would he pay for the cow when he can get the milk for free?”

“So you’ve met my mother?”

“I might have dated her in high school.”

“So men just want the sex, without the intimacy? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Intimacy. That’s another fuzzy word. If by intimacy, do you mean caring about another person’s emotional needs, knowing them so well you don’t even need words to communicate, that sort of thing?”

“Exactly.”

“That’s one definition. But do you know how men define it?”

“In terms of fucking.”

“You see?” he said. “You do understand.”

“Well goddammit!” She slammed her cappuccino cup onto the saucer – not hard enough to shatter it, but hard enough to cause everyone in the coffeehouse to stop conversations in mid-syllable and look over. “Oh. Now I’m embarrassed,” Nicole said.

“No need to be embarrassed,” he said. “I get that a lot when people talk to me.”

“But this is so depressing!”

“Not necessarily,” he said. “Remember my comment earlier about three being a pattern?”

“Yeah. So?”

“So – the men you’ve paired up with are all of a type, and so the results are very predictable.”

“How do you know? You don’t know them.”

“I don’t know, but I’m making an inference. The way you described it, the same thing happens every time. That leads me to believe all these men think pretty much the same way.”

“You said all men think that way.”

“Did I? I apologize. I meant to say, most men think that way.”

“So how do I find the ones that don’t?”

“Well, you could start by looking for them.”

“Yeah, but how?”

“If you want to catch a different type of fish, you may have to change bait.”

“I’ve never fished. What are you saying?”

“If you use sex appeal to attract a man, you’ll likely catch a man who’s interested in sex.”

“Yeah, but what other way is there? Are you saying I shouldn’t waste my time trying to look attractive?”

“You’re quite attractive, but that’s not my point. Just hear me out. If you’re looking for a man who’ll listen to you and share feelings with you and stay with you for the long term, maybe that should be a bigger priority than whether he has a cute butt.”

“But a cute butt would be nice.”

“I’m sure it would, but your experience seems to be that they end up being buttheads.”

“True.”

“You may even find that you’re already around men who are better bets for intimacy as you define it, but you never noticed them because that wasn’t what you were focused on.”

“Hmm. I wonder…”

“You’ve told me that what you’ve been doing isn’t getting you what you want. You’re tired of repeating the same play over and over. Something has to change if you want a different result. So perhaps the best way is to change what you look for first in potential partners.”

“Damn. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you, Ned, that really helped.”

“Worth the price of a latte?”

“Worth every penny. Can I give you a hug?”

“I would consider that a generous tip.”