Perhaps you went to Catholic school. Maybe it was an Orthodox Jewish school. It was single-sex, all male, and now you're nervous. You're about to go off to a coed college. Or perhaps you're going to begin the shidduch circuit. Thing is, you don't know how to speak to those of the female sex. How should you act around girls? Can you act the same way as you do with your buddies? What do women like? What don't they like? I've decided to compile a list of helpful tools, ideas, thoughts and other information that will hopefully allow you to navigate the complicated world of treating women well when you're not used to being around them.
1. Not All Women Are the Same
This point cannot be overstated. Popular books are generally made by pointing to extremes. "Girls like pink and boys like blue." Girls are emotional, sweet, feminine, retiring and shy whereas boys are loud, extroverted, outgoing and so forth. No. Everybody is an individual. There are girls who are loud, excitable, outgoing and fun. There are girls that are shy. There are girls who love rock-climbing, girls who love Starbucks, and girls who like nothing better than wandering around town in moccasins. There are all sorts of girls. So don't fall into the trap of assuming that "men are like this and women are like this." It's not the case. Each person and each female is different; she will like different things. Maybe she loves sports, maybe she excels at paintball, and maybe she's a computer geek. Women aren't the same, nor are they interchangeable. Also, if she's Jewish, each woman will have a different relationship to their Judaism. Some will love their religion; some will be conflicted about it. Some will have had bad experiences with Judaism. There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to people.
2. Manners/ Courtesy
What are manners? They're falling out of fashion. Manners can mean all sorts of things; it's up to you as to how far you want to take them. Manners means: saying please and thank you, not throwing a tantrum because your date is late, not tapping the floor or table irritably, not being rude to anybody's parents, practicing forbearance and discretion. They may also mean: holding the door open for a girl, paying for her meal, asking her what she would like to eat or drink, being considerate and thinking about her comfort. If you are planning to take a girl somewhere (say, rock-climbing), you should warn her in advance so she doesn't wear high heels. There are some women who won't want you to hold doors or for them, pull out their chairs, etc, but it's always better to be safe as opposed to sorry. To be mannerly is to demonstrate consideration. Think about what is convenient for her, not only you. Think about what she likes to do, not only what your favorite hangout spots are. (And ask her! Let her have input as to where you go together.) Don't insult her and don't be too blunt with her. Even if you would tease your fellow male compatriots about how messy or roughed up they look, you don't want to tell a girl (unless you're good friends with her and this is her personality) that she "looks messy," "unkempt" or otherwise "not put together." Even if she herself tells this to you, she is usually looking to be contradicted. Many women are insecure about their looks; kindly refrain from making their self-esteem plummet further.
3. Ask Her About Herself
How do you get to know a person? Generally through knowing their stories. So talk to the girl. Ask her conventional questions (what's your name, where are you from, what are your hobbies, what do you do with your time, etc) and then branch out a bit. If you need ideas of what you could potentially ask, check out the book of "If." This will ensure that your conversation does not lag. But much more important than the questions you are asking is the fact that you are listening to the answers. Everybody wants someone to listen to them. So ask the girl questions to which you actually want to know the answers. Did you ever undergo a personal struggle that changed your life? What did it entail?/ What character traits do you value in a person?/ If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Obviously, the questions should be in line with your personality. You can be pragmatic, playful, etc, whatever is you. Don't ask contrived questions when you don't really want to know the answer. And you should be prepared to answer the questions that you are asking her (otherwise it is not really fair.)
4. You Can (And Should) Have Opinions
Guess what? Women don't need to be coddled. They don't need you to agree with everything they say. If your viewpoint differs from theirs, great! The only thing you need to do when explaining your opinion is to do so respectfully. Offer proof, keep your voice level (and preferably low- shouting is never good) and demonstrate your disagreement persuasively as opposed to authoritatively. Disagreement can be a subject of discussion; your female friend will be interested in hearing (and responding) to your points. Give your opinions but listen to what she has to say with regard to them/ to rebut them.
5. Don't Break Your Word
Your male friends expect you to be reliable, trustworthy and bankable. You're the sort of person who will be loyal. You'll support them. You'll see them through whatever happens. You should do the same when it comes to females. Don't promise anything unless you will keep your word. Don't say that you will be somewhere at a certain time and then show up 20 minutes late (and if you know you will be late and cannot fix the situation, call ahead to let her know.) If you're unsure as to whether you will follow through on something, tell the truth and say that. Absolutely the worst thing you can do is promise someone that you will do something, then renege on that promise. Your word represents your honor; why would you want to besmirch that? Once you do, it'll be extremely hard to trust you again, and any friendship or relationship relies upon the element of trust.
6. Be Sweet
What does it mean to be sweet? It means to do little things for people you care about. People like to know that you care about them and haven't forgotten them. Maybe that means you take the time to call your friend up and chat with her every so often. Maybe you write her a nice email or send her a card in the mail. Maybe you buy her her favorite flowers and surprise her with them. Do something unexpected, something that shows you care. It can be small (a little box of Godiva chocolates, a pass to an ice-skating rink, a poem that you wrote, an excursion somewhere novel.) The idea is that you thought about her. When you take the time to think about someone, they appreciate it.
7. Be Clear/ Tell the Truth
Be clear and direct but not aggressive. Don't use loaded and accusatory language- "You are such a ____", "You can never _____." Express your feelings. Don't project feelings onto others. Say "I don't really feel this is working out" as opposed to "You're such a brat; I never want to go out with you again." You can be clear without being insulting, aggressive or otherwise offensive. Being clear means there is no room to finagle or lead anybody on. Yes or no. Good or bad. Clear offers closure (whether it's clarity in an argument, a friendship, a relationship, etc.) And no matter what you may think, you are not doing someone a kindness by extending the time that you date them/ go out with them if you know that it is not going to work out. Don't lead people on or string them along; it hurts them. Being clear might hurt for a little while; leading people on hurts much worse. Also, if you don't have a lot of money to spend on taking the girl out and want to arrange some activities that allow you to do things for free (going to Central Park, the museum on certain days, etc) and she's suggesting more expensive options, be clear about what is within your budget (although without shaming her. It's possible she wasn't thinking along those lines). There is no reason for someone to be ashamed to tell the truth.
8. Respect Her, Even When She's Not Around
All true friendships and relationships arise through mutual respect. What this means is that you cannot tell funny or embarrasing stories about this person behind her back. To you it may be a funny story; to her it can be hurtful. Don't backtalk her, swear in front of her (unless she doesn't mind or gives you permission- but it's nice to ask first) or make her feel inferior to others. If you're telling her that she doesn't dress modestly enough, isn't pretty enough or is stupid, it's you that comes off as the jerk. Every human being is entitled to dignity and respect. How would you treat your wife? Would you tell about your intimate interactions with her to your male compatriots? I would hope not. Even if this girl is just your friend or your date, respect her as you would your wife. And even if she doesn't seem to particularly care as to whether you do or not, it's better for you to be the kind of person who respects others. Learning to be careful of others' feelings, not to tell others' secrets, not to shame others or humiliate them, not to make fun of them, etc is good training for you if no one else. And equally as important, respect her intelligence. Women have minds. They know quite a lot. Quite possibly they know more than you. If you're walking out of your single-sex school with the mentality that you are smarter than women just because you are male, have you got another thing coming your way... If you view women as nothing but sex objects or members of the secondary sex (who exist to make your life better and more comfortable, but not in and of themselves), then you're automatically disrespecting them.
9. It's Not All About Sex
Coming from an all-guys school, you're probably sexually repressed. All right, that's normal. But that doesn't mean that the first thing you should think when you see a woman is whether or not she's attractive and whether or not you can turn her into your conquest. She may not want to be your conquest, aside from which women are not objects or booty. They are not your possessions. They are people, living, breathing, thinking people with complex emotions, thoughts and reasons for being who they are. It's your job to get to know them as a person and perhaps as a friend. You can have platonic friendships; it's invaluable to have members of the opposite sex as your friend. They can afford you a view of life, the world and the bigger picture that you won't necessarily have on your own (due to their different experiences and different gender within the context of the world and/or religion.) Sex is one aspect to cross-gender relationships, but it is not the aspect and it should not be the only thing on your mind when you see a member of the opposite gender.
10. Be Yourself
You don't have to put on a show. You don't have to fake it. As long as you are a considerate, decent person, she'll be interested in hearing what you have to say and what you are about. Trying to fit whatever her expectations are is stupid and pointless because a) you have no idea what her expectations are, really, since you can't get inside her head and b) you wouldn't want to end up married to someone who thinks you are something you are not. If you are not actually a nice person, aren't considerate and are rude by nature, you might want to consider changing yourself (but actively working to change and improve yourself, not disguise these tendencies). People will want to get to know you, meaning you with all your flaws, weaknesses and good traits. She wants to know what you're about, no matter how open-minded or close-minded you may be. Hopefully both she and you will not be judgemental of one another (and if you're dating, will consider one another in light of how compatible this person will or will not be for you as opposed to whether or not they are a good or worthy individual). But if one or the other person is judgmental, well and good! All the more reason to be happy you didn't end up with someone who dismissed you just because you didn't wear a black hat. Don't fake being a different person in her presence. Be yourself, be who you are, and hopefully you can begin a long and happy friendship/ relationship.