I’ve heard of the book Men are from Mars, Women are from
Venus and although living with two guys I sometimes feel like I am living
among aliens, I am skeptical about plunking the sexes in different categories.
I have never been interested in reading that book. I will tell you that I am convinced that men and women
speak different languages. It has taken me years to figure it out, but now that
I armed with this new information I am compelled to share the secret with every
woman I meet. Let me explain how I think this all came about.
From the very beginning, boys are taught to communicate
differently from girls. The baby girl is handled delicately, is immersed in a
world of lace, lavender and pink, and is spoken to with complete, although
babyish, sentences. In a couple of years she is chatting away to her
girlfriends and dollies. Boys, on the other hand, are roughhoused from the
beginning and are taught to communicate with grunts, squeals, noises made by
various body parts. Their play consists of wrestling, pushing cars, and going
very fast; activities accompanied by sounds of engines, whistles, crashes, and
explosions and those activities require very little use of actual words.
The problem is worsened by the current school system.
Those boys I sat next to in school, the very ones who had the same English
classes and the same English teachers from grade school all the way through
high school, were taught something completely different from what I learned. I
know this for a fact. It might have appeared that the teacher was feeding us
the same information, but we were duped. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that throughout their formal education the boys were given a
different dictionary than the girls were given; and the result is that while a
man and a woman might believe they are having the same conversation, in reality
they are not.
“You will arrive WHEN? Just in time for the wedding? We were
counting on you. You were supposed to be here an hour ago. The wedding is in
four hours and now you have a four and a half hour drive ahead of you.”
“I said I would be there for the wedding and I will.”
“No, you asked me when we need you here.”
“I asked you when the wedding starts. Five o’clock, right?
So I am leaving now.”
My “separate but not equal dictionaries” theory also
explains why men and women just do not and cannot understand each other. As a result, as we
learn more about the people we talk to on a daily basis we start to dance
around each other, size up our partner, and calculate how to make the next
statement in a way that is not offensive or demeaning because to do so could
cause a fight or, worse, could result in the silent treatment.
“Honey, I need the bank card from your wallet. Where is your
Knowing she has to be precise in her description or she will
have to get up and get it herself she says, “In the kitchen on the shelf under
the light switch.” From her perch on the living room couch she silently watches
him standing in the middle of the kitchen. He is studying the contents of the
cluttered kitchen table. She realizes she gave him too many clues in one
sentence. His shoulders droop in frustration.
“I don’t see it.”
“Find the light switch.” He turns toward the wall. “Now look
at the shelf just under the light switch.”
Eventually, through an unfathomable process that takes place
deep in the mysterious recesses of the male brain, men become masters of a
complicated pattern of speech: the awkward segue. Let me give you an example of
how this all translates to a couple who are 50ish and have been married for
more than 25 years (um, yeah, that’s my DH and me). The conversation begins
with a discussion about the upcoming dental appointment of one of the
children. She is aware that as a child he suffered miserably because of the
silver crowns the dentist put on his teeth after a bicycling accident and his
misery translated into an obsession about their children’s teeth. Although this
particular child is grown and is supporting herself, he wants to pay the
portion of the bill that is not covered by insurance even though doing so will require a financial sacrifice by the family.
She says, “I understand you are concerned about how the kids
feel about themselves if their teeth are …”
He interrupts, “That’s why I married you, you know.”
She blinks. “Because I have ugly teeth?”
“Because of your smile.”
“You felt sorry for me because the way my ugly teeth
affected my smile?”
“I married you because of your smile.”
“Huh?” His real
meaning is beginning to take shape in her mind.
“Never mind!” He was thinking he shouldn’t have said
anything at all.
“Are you saying I have a nice smile?”
Long pause. “Yeah, that’s what I was said.”
“Aw, honey, that is such a nice thing for you to say!” But she was thinking, “Why doesn’t
he say what he means instead of me having to try to figure it out?” Avoiding
the looming argument, she said in as sweet a tone as she could muster, “Thank you!”
Like I said before, I do not like to pigeonhole people. I have had numerous conversations with men – even with the man I am
married to – and not all of those conversations go badly; in fact those conversations
can be mentally stimulating and satisfying. In my experience, conversation has
become a metaphor for the human experience: sometimes we are willing to put in more
effort for acquaintances than for who are most important to us. A little more effort would go a long way. But then again,
maybe we really do speak different languages.
I sat up with a start when I realized my twelve year old son was standing
next to me. It was late and he had been sent to bed hours ago. I was, as usual,
checking my favorite online sites.
“I TOLD you to feed me!” He was obviously agitated. I
studied his face and looked into eyes which stared vacantly. Sleepwalking
again? He muttered some unintelligible words but I caught the gist of what he
was saying with, “I’m hungry! How am I supposed to help my parachuters without
food? I have to help them, now get me some food NOW!”
I giggled. Just a tiny one. I couldn’t help it. “I
don’t parachute, just like I don’t bungee jump. So what is it you need?”
“You never feed me. There’s never enough food around here!
Get me some food. I am responsible for my parachuter guys and I need food
now!” I was really grinning now. Maybe I really should limit his time spent with video games.
“Why are you laughing at me?” Uh, oh. He was coming around.
“I’m not laughing at you. I am trying to understand what you
“You make me so mad! You are too laughing at me! Nevermind,
I am going to bed.”