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I did very well my first day in driver’s education. In fact, the instructor asked me, at age 15, whether I drove often. Actually I hadn’t driven much at all in my life up to that point. I learned to drive mostly by observing my father behind the wheel. He drove professionally and in fact drove for Greyhound for several years. By pure observation I learned to handle a car and the small nuances that accompany driving well enough that a driving instructor assumed I was experienced. In life more is “caught” than taught- the same applies to relationships.

A childhood friend told me that while growing up, her mother taught her how to treat a husband. Her mother taught her that her father’s plate should be prepared before everyone else’s. Her mother taught her to turn her dad’s favorite channel on before he got home. My friend observed her mother’s habit of monitoring the various events that came into town to see if there were things her father might enjoy. These and many others were lessons my friend regularly received. Collectively, they served to make her father a very happy man.

My friend naturally incorporates what she learned into her own dating life, thus making another man very happy. My friend had an advantage- there was a father in her home, giving her mother the opportunity to teach these lessons. In that 41% of American children (72% for blacks) are now born to unwed mothers, fewer and fewer women have the opportunity to learn such lessons. Unbeknownst to women, men notice.

I recall an incident in which my younger cousin (raised in a two-parent household) was told by her then boyfriend that he could discern a clear difference in her from other women he’d dated who were from a single parent household. The difference is that a girl raised by a single woman is trained for survival. A single mom, aware of her own experience, is most concerned that her daughter have the wherewithal and toughness to survive alone. Learning to love and cater to a man isn’t necessarily on the agenda and indeed there rarely exists occasion for such lessons in that there is no man in the home to love or cater to. This tendency toward survival, passed down from the single mother, manifests in various ways. It is this skill and instinct that takes over when a woman feels that she is in danger of being taken advantage of or losing the upper hand in any given situation- some might label the manifestation of this as simply “an attitude.”

Let me be clear: I’m speaking in broad terms and making assertions that, admittedly, have not been empirically verified. Further, I do not mean to suggest that it is universally true that women raised in single parent households will automatically be less desirable as mates. In all honesty, in my dating experience, the woman who treated me best did not grow up in a traditional two parent home. So we must leave room for personality differences and also individual choices. Even so, there is something to what I have been asserting here that I and other men have observed. Some women find themselves at an advantage because certain things were modeled. Others find themselves being taught different lessons as children and thus have a longer road to travel. In either case, a loving and patient man is required.

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