Sunday, May 15, 2005

At Least I Understand Rover

My wife and I don’t argue a whole lot. But when we do, she usually gets the last word. The way I figure it, that makes our relationship just about normal. Over the years, I’ve talked with some of my male friends and relatives and it’s the same with them, more or less. We all believe the same thing – women are some sort of alien life form from another dimension sent to drive us men loopy. And when they get their backs up, it’s best to just avoid eye contact and back away slowly. Either that, or play dead.

It is truly eerie how different men and women are. Sometimes it seems like they are two completely different species rather than merely different genders. Surely you’ve noticed. Most men seem to have more in common with their dogs than they do their wives. Hmm, that didn’t come out quite right. After all, there are lots of differences between men and dogs. Question: Why do dogs lick themselves? Answer: Because they can. That’s a big difference right there.

In any event, one thing’s for sure - dogs are lucky. They don’t have to try and understand women. They just mark their territory, sniff other dog’s butts and run around a lot. Hmmm, maybe they are kind of the same as men after all. Maybe the species gap between men and dogs really is smaller than the gender gap between men and women. At least a man can understand his dog. They are both simple creatures. They spend less of their time overthinking things and making vocal noises and more of their time taking action or at least wanting to take action. Women, on the other hand, seem to be the total opposite. (By the way, when I use the term “men” I am not talking about chatty metrosexual men. Or men with half a Y chromosome instead of a whole one. I’m talking about real men.)

As proof of my assertion, I draw your attention to two stage productions that have been making the rounds over the past few years. 'The Vagina Monologues' and 'Puppetry of the Penis'. 'The Vagina Monologues' are a series of, you guessed it, monologues, performed by women for women. They involve deep introspection and emotional analysis about females, their vaginas and the reason for their existence. 'Puppetry of the Penis', on the other hand, involves two guys on stage playing with themselves while saying little. If ever there was a truer demonstration of the gender gap, this has to be it. Women talking and thinking endlessly about their private parts and men playing with theirs'.

But, nowhere is the gender gap more apparent than in the way men and women argue. Men, being genetically programmed to seek quick, direct and final solutions to problems, usually cut to the chase and stay, more or less, on target. That’s why boys are more prone to engage in physical fights than girls. A fight is a quick, direct way to solve a problem. A few punches and it’s over. There’s a winner and a loser. The next day they are playing ball together. At least that’s the way it was when I was growing up. Girls, on the other hand, tend to avoid direct confrontations, choosing instead to launch verbal daggers at their adversary’s backs over long, drawn out periods of time. It seems to be as much genetic as it is social. Like the way we look at our fingernails (men: closed fist, nails up / women: open hand, palm down) or dry ourselves off. (men rub / women pat.)

Anyway, I believe that this predisposition that men have, to actually keep their eye on the ball so to speak, is a big part of the reason why more men become engineers than women. Most men just want to solve the damn problem. Many women, on the other hand, want to talk and think stuff to death. Not all women, maybe, but certainly a lot. To them, it’s the process that counts, not the results. The exchange of words, the expression of feelings, the sharing of emotion, the empathic interaction is what really matters. It’s really all about making a connection and building a relationship through discussion. Not necessarily about finding a solution.

Think about it. In my experience, when a woman argues with her man, she will seldom stick to the issue at hand until it is solved. Rather, she’ll bob and weave like a seagull in a hurricane, jumping from topic to topic, dredging up stuff that her man thought was buried long ago. (Hey guys, if you thought your lovely wife forgot that unfortunate exchange of unpleasantries that happened between you a few years ago, you better think again. It’s there, bubbling beneath the surface of her pretty face like Mount St. Helens. And you never know when it’s going to blow.)

Maybe it was several years ago and she hasn’t mentioned it since. Maybe you think the issue was dead and buried. Don’t kid yourself. It’s not dead, It’s merely hibernating - waiting to be summoned during some future argument to ravage you like a raging grizzly roused in the middle of winter. Because, when women argue, they don’t really argue about something that just happened. They only pretend to. The recent issue is just a trigger, really. A spark that sets them off. In reality, when they argue, they are really arguing about every single thing that ever went wrong between you throughout your entire life together. They store it like a squirrel stores nuts. And you can bet on it, if the argument’s long enough she will get around to mentioning all of it. Every last transgression. Every verbal misstep and emotional miscalculation.

That’s why I usually let my wife have the last word. I don’t have the stamina anymore to hear about every last thing I ever did wrong. Granted, sometimes it’s not just a last word. Sometimes it’s several dozen last words, strung together in a series of paragraphs that are separated by periods of breathless silence. But in the end, if I say nothing, the paragraphs eventually peter out. And she gets the last word. I’ve come to realize that there’ll be time later for the problem to be resolved when we are both in a more receptive mood. In the meantime, I just appreciate the silence and, maybe for few seconds, think about how much I love her. But just for a few seconds. After all, I never dwell on my emotional feelings. That kind of stuff is for girls.


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