Do Women Really Need to Be Told How to Emote?

Come on, is your boyfriend reading articles on how to emotionally act toward you?

Earlier this week, an e-mail from Women’s Health magazine found its way into my inbox (and not because I’m a subscriber or even a regular reader). Normally, I may have written it off, but the topic—and the text of one of the mag’s May 2011 features pasted into the message body—caught my eye.

It was titled: “The #1 Time to Have His Back.” Hm.

Full disclosure: I’m not one of those wacky self-torturers who takes articles like this to heart, clamoring to the newsstand to buy that latest issue of this magazine, Cosmopolitan or anything similar each month in search of tips for overanalyzing how I treat my boyfriend/hot date/one-night stand/cute coworker. However, like many women, I do, from time to time, find myself scanning their pages. If only for a laugh or a hairstyle tip.

So, the No. 1 time to have his back, you ask? Any guesses?

The obvious answer here is “when times are tough,” like when he loses his job or doesn’t get that promotion he wanted, duh. But come on, give it a chance. That’s too predictable.

Have his back, the article advises, in the happy moments. And really overdo it and work really, really hard to make him realize how happy you are for him.

Those of you in strong, committed relationships are probably rolling your eyes. Is this advice serious? “Oh, you just got a big raise, honey? Ugh, now we might have to start thinking of moving into a nicer place, groan.” Any girlfriend who doesn’t know how to share happy moments with her guy ought to not be with him. Or anyone, for that matter. Have we really mussed up our love lives so badly that we need this kind of advice?

Anyway, I was a good sport and continued reading. Turns out … gaspWomen’s Health thinks women have forgotten how to show emotions.

Step 1: “Show enthusiasm.”
Okay, if something good happens for your significant other and you’re not showing enthusiasm, then either he shouldn’t be with you or you need some kind of help. Since when did we need a magazine to tell us what emotions to show and how to show them? I’m of the belief that emotions are innate. That enthusiasm should be coming naturally. Okay then, moving on …

Step 2: “Be curious.”
See Step 1.

Step 3: “Acknowledge what it means to him.”
So if you’re showing enthusiasm and you’re being curious, you aren’t already doing this? This would be a lot like acknowledging those coffee-cup messages: “Caution: Beverage is extremely hot.” “Right-o, Dunkin Donuts cashier, I’ll be sure to handle with care!” They’d look at you like you were crazy, which you would be.

And, last but certainly not least—Step 4: “Pay attention.”
Your boyfriend may misread if you glance out the window or pick at your nail polish and think you’re plotting to abandon him in the middle of the night because you’re not happy about his great news or the happy times you have. Oh wait, no … that was you who threw a fit about that last week. Right. Point is, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy who reads body language that closely. They’re out there, I’m sure, but just hard to find. In any event, I’m a nail biter, so I guess I’d better beware.

The thing is, it’s not that articles like this aren’t fun, bitsy reads. I once had an English teacher who said Nicholas Sparks novels are like candy: great while you have them, but you forget the second you’re done. For me, these articles fall into that category. If we’re supposed to be the more emotional and intuitive sex, which most of these mags also preach incessantly, then why do we need to be reminded how to corral our emotions?

Maybe it’s subjective. Did anyone out there find this to be full of useful information that you’ll actually remember and apply? If so, by all means, please let me know how wrong I am.