WHEN a woman is truly interested in a guy, she does whatever is necessary to make him see her in the best possible light - even if it means hiring an actual lighting crew to follow her everywhere she goes.

Most guys don't understand what women go through in order to win our hearts. We like to think we're the ones who make it all happen. We want to believe that our game is so strong, and our charm so irresistible, that no woman could possibly turn us down. In reality, that's a defense mechanism we use to deal with rejection. That way when the hammer drops, we can tell ourselves that it's not us. It's you.

In truth, we generally don't have as much game as we think. Females, on the other hand, know from the word "go" what can and cannot happen. With that knowledge in mind, they calculate every twist and turn in a relationship, carefully preparing a step-by-step plan to win their desired result.

I've seen women fry their hair to a crisp in order to achieve a fierce 'do for the first date. I've seen women spend hours in shoes that have their feet howling at the moon. I've even heard tell of women squeezing into elasticized girdles that cut off their circulation. When their faces turn blue and we ask what's wrong, those suffocating women simply smile and say, "That's just my new makeup. It turns colors when I'm having a great time."

Dummies that we are, we fall for it, hook, line and sinker, never suspecting that the whole thing has been planned, often with the help of her board of female advisers.

Until recently, I thought only human females engaged in that type of chicanery. But I'm learning that female behavior is universal, and my lessons are coming from an unusual source - our cat, Styx.

When she was worming her way into our home, she was just like any other female. She put her best paw forward at all times. She rubbed herself against our legs in startling displays of affection. She arched her back in the sunlight so her fur shone like black diamonds. She stared at us like Puss in Boots from the "Shrek" movies, inviting us into a world that was endlessly adorable.

She presented herself as a harmless, furry kitten, alone in the world and in need of a helping hand. As small as she was, the whole thing was believable. She couldn't have been more than a few months old. By the time my family convinced me to let go of my healthy skepticism - I was always a little skeptical about her, after all - Styx had them thoroughly indoctrinated.

Then we let her in, and things changed.

The lustrous black fur that shone like jewels in the midday sun was alley-cat dusty. The eyes that she'd used to hypnotize my wife and children weren't emerald green. They were goblin green. But the worst thing of all, the thing that let me know she was just like every other female, was that she lied about her age.

When we took Styx to the veterinarian, he told us that she was probably about a year old. This was no helpless kitten. This chick had been around the block a time or two, but she allowed us to believe that she was vulnerable. She let us think she was young. She implied that she'd been abandoned by her mother. In reality, her mother was right across the street, probably coaching her the whole time.

Now that she's made her way into our home and seen the lay of the land, Styx is doing what some women do in that situation. She's letting herself go.

Her graceful gait has become a fitful sway, due to the extra weight she's carrying in her expanding gut. Her breath once smelled of mother's milk. Now she's in perpetual need of a Tic Tac. That wonderful little foundling who once put her best paw forward now uses those paws to scratch us. And when we try to engage in a little petting, she's never in the mood.

Yep, Styx has shown me a thing or two about females, but I haven't lost hope yet. Like most men in my situation, I'm still waiting for things to turn around, because the way I see it, I don't really have a choice. Styx trapped me. She trapped all of us. We're just hoping that the Styx we knew will come back.

Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books,including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appearsTuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.