Lisa with Johannes, Jonathan and Julia Claire
Photo: Michael Edwards
I've done a lot of things for men. I have worked for men and worked out for men. I have cooked for men, cleaned for men, dressed for men and undressed for men. I have been waxed, pedicured, and—God help me—platinum blonde for men. I have tried meditation, medication, tennis, chess, golf, poker, laser tag and escargot for men. I have relocated, reproduced and reinvented myself on more than one occasion for men. I have seen the films of Jackie Chan, read the poetry of Charles Bukowski and learned the finer points of the Indianapolis 500 for men. I have changed my plans for men, stuck to my guns for men, stood up for men and gone down for men. I have lived for men and I have lived in spite of them.

But somewhere between the snails and the childbirth, I got a little tired of trying to figure out exactly what it is that men want from women. The real question is, What do women want from men? It just so happens that I, Lisa Kogan, am an actual living, breathing, water-retaining member of the female species and have been for years. So allow me to throw out a few ideas...

  • We want—and it's nothing short of remarkable that I'm saying this in the year 2006—to make the same money men make when we do the same job. And while I'm taking care of business, we want people to either quit telling us how essential it is that we breastfeed or start providing places where we can pump milk without fear of bumping into that guy who's making 30 percent more than we are for doing the same job.

  • We want high heels that do not leave us praying for the sweet release of death.

  • We want foreplay.

  • We want a lot of foreplay.

  • We want safe, healthy, fun, warmhearted day care for kids. But here's the thing: We don't want to have to sell off a kidney to pay for it.

  • We want peace, love, and understanding, but we also want red wine, compassionate lighting, and the occasional cheap thrill.

  • We want all rock stars over 60 years of age—I'm talking to you, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney—to date women over 60. Gentlemen, the day will come when you'll be needing a hip replacement. And—mark me—the moment your little friend can't be there for you because she's got Gymboree, my aunt Selma will seem like a slice of heaven.

  • We want to stop being forced to watch The Godfather every single time it airs. The movie is a masterpiece. "Leave the gun, take the cannoli, blah, blah, blah." It's brilliant. We get it. Move on.

  • Did I mention that whole foreplay thing?

  • Every now and again, we want somebody else to pick the restaurant, arrange the playdate, plan the seating, buy the tickets, do the laundry, schedule the appointment, pack the bags, balance the books, send the gift, walk the dog, fill out the forms, break the silence, lift the ban, make the payment, count the calories, hold the phone, explain the joke, beat the odds, hit the ground running, win the race, and save the day while we sleep past noon in high-thread-count sheets and a cashmere blanket. In other words, we want time off for good behavior.
I'm getting time off right this minute. Johannes, a.k.a. the Boyfriend, and Jonathan, my 12-year-old stepson (It's been decided that I can call him stepson because though Johannes and I are not married in the eyes of the law, we have privately vowed to irritate each other for as long as we both shall live.), are out seeing the kind of movie where cars crash and buildings explode. You couldn't convince me to watch a film like that if it were playing inside my contact lenses, but it makes Jonathan happy, which makes Johannes happy and gives me a chance to hang out with our daughter. At this point, you know all about Julia Claire—29 pounds of solid quirkiness—so it's time you meet the guys.

Jonathan is a citizen of the world. His well-traveled mother has taken him everywhere from Sri Lanka to Mexico. He is an authority on The Simpsons, Sudoku and soccer. He likes his pizza plain, his ice cream chocolate, his vegetables limited. He is a sworn enemy of anything that smacks of phoniness. He has never suffered fools gladly, met a tree he didn't want to climb, a pool he didn't want to dive right into. He listens to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne. He reads Lemony Snicket and watches the Pink Panther. He burns with pride and shyness as he shows me his report card.

He adores Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Monty Python, but nobody makes him laugh harder than his father. Ringo, was, is, and will probably always be his favorite Beatle because fellow drummers must stick together. After his grandfather's funeral, he asked me for a piece of gum, said a little prayer, knelt down and placed it on the grave. I loved him so much at that moment my knees nearly buckled. He is a wild child, frustrated and fragile, complaining and consoling, sweet-natured and fierce-tempered. He is a loyal friend, an old soul, a competitive player, a pure pleasure. And pretty soon he'll be taller than me.

Johannes knows every sad song Tom Waits ever recorded, every case Columbo ever solved, every homeless guy on the street. He knows how to repair a broken VCR, a torn coloring book, a bruised ego. He reads Rilke, he roasts chicken, he collects absurdities, he finds my mouth in the dark. He doesn't play devil's advocate, doesn't raise his voice, doesn't miss a trick. He loves smart design, worn-in boots, and me...not necessarily in that order.

He has the easy good manners that come from being raised with them. He opens doors, walks curbside, brings home lilacs in January. He'll change subways for a good cappuccino. He doesn't cultivate his idiosyncrasies—he doesn't have to. He follows the Mideast crisis, speaks three languages, raises beautiful children, trusts his instincts, worships David Sedaris, Alberto Giacometti, Terrence Malick. He's still recovering from Down by Law. He plays his Gibson guitar like an angel, rides the roller coaster of my moods, stays when it'd be easier to go. If we ever split up, it will be due to irreconcilable similarities. He has my favorite face.

So it's true—I've done more than my fair share for men. The laser tag alone should have qualified me for some sort of rehab, but at the end of the day, I know a couple of guys who do quite a lot for me.

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