Men need attention too.

It is the fear of middle-age in the young, of old-age in the middle-aged, which is the prime cause of infidelity, that infallible rejuvenator. – Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave (1945)

A friend of mine recently had an affair. He told me this while lining up a tricky put on a less-than-forgiving green, crouched over with one eye closed, sighting along an imaginary line from his ball to the hole some fifteen feet away. He made this startling announcement much the same way a fisherman would comment on the weather while concentrating on slipping an almost invisible filament through a miniscule fish hook eyelet, or a whittler humming and wielding a Schrade carving knife, intent on making a Mallard’s eye lifelike.

My friend made the putt. “Yes!” he said and stepped back so I could try, looking at the cup, waiting to watch my ball follow his. A few seconds went by, and not seeing my ball anywhere near the hole, he looked up to see me looking at him. “What?” he asked, as if he hadn’t just dropped a huge news-bomb.

“What’ya mean, what? You had an affair? You can’t just say you had an affair and expect me to putt like you just commented on the weather.”

“Hey, it’s not like you didn’t see this coming…maybe even before I did. You knew Cindy and I weren’t exactly getting along. Right?”

My friend was indeed right. Several times during golf he’d mentioned he and the person to whom I’d introduced to him over five years before were having “problems.” Over a beer, after a round, he’d tell me he wasn’t in a hurry to get home, because Cindy was “pissed” again at him for coming in late. I guess I wasn’t enough of a friend to have sufficiently pursued it.

We finished the round and, as is our custom, went to the bar for a beer. Once served and comfortable, we started talking and, this time, I asked him about it. He told me he was feeling old. I told him that was ridiculous, as he’s in his early-50s.

“Maybe I’m putting it wrong,” he said watching the beer’s foam subside. “I mean, it’s not exactly that I’m feeling old, like an old man. It’s more like, I’m feeling that I’ve done this for too long. Been married, I mean.” There it was…the reason for his affair. My friend had been married long enough that some of the newness was wearing off and he was suffering from emotional dissatisfaction. He’d mentioned once or twice that Cindy didn’t seem to “pay much attention” to him. “Oh sure, she’s always home and is nice enough, but she doesn’t seem to appreciate me,” he’d say.

I nodded to the bartender to bring us another round and said, “So. Tell me about it.”

I read recently 48% of men rate emotional dissatisfaction as the primary reason they cheat. I know you’re wondering so…8%. That’s the percentage of men that rate sexual dissatisfaction as the reason they slept with someone else.

Men. The same sex that occasionally (or not so occasionally) cusses, scratches his ass, will crawl under the house seemingly not afraid of what might be staring at him from the corner, or will go downstairs in the middle of the night to check on “that noise.” That guy needs attention too. He needs to feel loved, adored, or, at the very least, admired. Men don’t get to walk out of the house in the morning knowing that every other woman he passes is going to watch his butt, or catch a good-looking babe at the end of the bar glancing his way because he’s so damn hot. Even women not particularly beautiful or naturally striking can buy things that make them attractive or interesting to look at&#151or, at the very least, make them feel better about themselves. Women can buy and wear high heels, dangly earrings, new make-up, false eyelashes, new dresses…the list goes on. They can do so many things, wear so many things, that can make others take notice (not just men, either). Hell, they can feel better about themselves just by indulging in things: shopping for a new outfit, browsing through the latest fashions at an upscale clothing store, having their nails and hair done, cashing that spa certificate we gave them, getting a facial, spending an afternoon reading a romance novel with a class of wine…

What can men do? Bumping fists with some golfer too high on testosterone, or sitting on a barstool gaping at the hot blonde that just walked in the door, does nothing for a man’s emotional state. It’s just what guys do, that’s all. Men need to feel wanted. They need to have women do what women think only guys are meant to do. They need to have their (insert wife, partner, girlfriend) surprise them once in a while…a wine tasting, a new restaurant, a night at that new bed-and-breakfast, an already planned day together playing hooky. Things that require some effort, rather than the usual, “Honey where do you want to go for dinner?”

We talked (actually he talked) and I listened. We finally finished our beers and left the bar for our cars. An awkward moment passed and he finally said, “Thanks for listening to me. It was cool.”

And it kinda was. I think I helped.

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