I have been doing my best to defend Black men. Iíve been trying to make Black women aware that many decent brothers are out here, ready to be found and ready to find them. Those things are true, but there are some other things we need to talk about.

Brothers, we have to step up and be men more often, because the women in our lives are paying attention. Letís talk.

I know how hard it is to find a real lady who actually appreciates it when you hold the door open for her, but do it anyway. If she doesnít appreciate it, then sheís not a lady and sheís not for you. Just be a man about it and keep it moving, but letís still be gentlemen.

Donít ever complain about Golddiggers if you have been fertile digging ground. When you see the signs (and we ALL know the signs), keep moving. Just be a man about it and tell her that you are not the bank and no matter how cute she is, you wonít be doling out the loot for her company or for sex. Thatís what prostitutes are for, but real men donít get down like that.

Donít ever get mad when a woman talks about unfaithful men if you have cheated and werenít even suave enough to avoid being caught. Women cheat, too, so donít say itís a man thing or that all men need more than one woman. If you really believe that you deserve and can handle more than one woman, be a man about it and let her know. Itís not cheating if you tell the truth, and if you do it that way, you are really the man.

You see, the whole ďking needs more than one womanĒ piece only works if you keep home taken care of and never, ever get caught slipping. Otherwise, it works to just kick it with one woman. A player plays, but if you donít know the game, just be a man about it and play one on one.

Donít ever place yourself in a position where a woman can say that you forced her to have sex with you. If have ANY doubt, or if she appears to be uncomfortable, just be a man about it. Stop and leave. There is never a sexual encounter worth your freedom.

Be responsible and embrace safe sex. We already know that the lie is being spread that Black women are only getting HIV from Black men, but you can avoid that lie, other diseases and unwanted pregnancy by embracing safe sex or celibacy. Yes, I said itócelibacy. If you are with a woman who is too eager to have unprotected sex, think before you act. You really arenít that special, this is probably how she is with every man. Those few moments of pleasure could garner you a lifetime of misery, child support and custody battles.

And brothers, if a woman does get pregnant, just be a man about it. If you think sheís shady, take the DNA test. If you are not excluded, then make your plans to be in that childís life, even if you hate the woman you had sex with. Realize that she probably hates you, too, but before it goes there, refer to the paragraph above.

Donít ever get caught up in fighting a woman. We already know that Black men are perceived as abusive, so we donít need to add to the stereotype by placing ourselves in bad situations. Yes, we all know women who act like they like to fight--we call them ďbeat freaks.Ē But even if a woman postures like a man, it is never cool to get in this kind of situation, because it can easily go south and you can find yourself in handcuffs. You canít change this kind of woman or keep the peace. She may be acting aggressively, but if you hit her, you will be called a thug and go to jail. When the situation begins to escalate, just be a man about it and LEAVE.

And speaking of that thug garbage, real men donít keep it thuggish. Boys do. Men are men and thugs are thugs. Any questions? Any woman who says she wants a man with a little thug in him is not looking for a real man, sheís looking for someone to beat her and abuse her. Thatís what thugs do. Just be a man about it and step away from her, so that she can find a thug to beat her and rob her.

Women have no business defining men as thugs and men have no business allowing women to define them as anything. No matter what those magazines say about us, we have to define ourselves and be men about rising to that definition. We have to begin talking to each other about what we should be and move forward with that program.

For all the talk about angry, bitter women, there are also men who become angry and bitter after having a series of painful experiences that are unresolved. I will say the same thing to men that I say to women: Let it go.

And, this one is perhaps the most important of all: Donít ever say anything to a woman who thinks poorly of Black men unless you already know that you have done your best to be a man.

Are you a father to your children? Are you a good example to the females in your family? Are you available to your brothers and friends when they need you? Have you mentored a young Black man? How dare you say anything about the state of Black men unless you are being an upstanding Black man yourself?

Donít talk about how bad ďthose folks in the hoodĒ are unless you show up and let them see how much of a man you are. If you are afraid, admit it, and go with some brothers who arenít. You donít have to be hardcore to care. You just have to show up. If you spent more time studying than fighting, you are a soldier and we need you.

And if the things I wrote here make you mad, just be a man about it and deal with it. Take inventory of yourself and if you find things that are not manly, delete, delete, delete. Thatís what men do.

Darryl James is a syndicated columnist and the author of ďBridging The Black Gender Gap,Ē which is also the basis of a national seminar series. James was awarded the 2004 Non-fiction Award for his book on the Los Angeles Riots at the Seventh Annual Black History Month Book Fair and Conference in Chicago. He can be reached at djames@TheBlackGenderGap.com.