My husband and I got into a really interesting and intense conversation last weekend.
We were discussing the difference in how men process things versus women. Women can literally morph an off-hand comment into such an epic shit storm while men can make everything including our period flow about them.
I’ll explain. My husband can be a Neanderthal. I love him, but he can be. He will critique women in what he perceives to be a comical way, but it always seems to revolve around age, looks and weight.
In turn, I can be a diva with an attitude.
I am more than comfortable in my own skin, until…..I’m not. And finally one night, I just wasn’t. I was angry. I drew the line in the sand. I’d had it. Primarily because I had been referred to as a man hater. Why? Because I refused to put up with being pigeon holed into what he thought I was supposed to be. We duked it out. He lashed out and I responded in kind. We were mean and stupid. We come from different fighting styles and resolution skill sets. He avoids fights while I turn into Boudicca at a certain point. His family brushes stuff under the rug while mine demands that our words and feelings are acknowledged. My mother used to turn into Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer during family rows…
We did. With eye rolls.
Magilla and I are still working out our respective techniques. He tried to hug me and I leaned against him limply explaining that I was not ready to make nice yet. I was angry and we were going to talk and listen for a change and this was going to get resolved. Twice he told me he was listening while the television was on, or his laptop. Finally I asked simply if I had the floor yet. I’d listened to every word he’d said and wondered aloud if it was my turn. When he sweetly agreed, I told him that I expected his undivided attention and since my two other inquiries as to his attention scale were greeted with him typing in his laptop…
He heard the cold neutrality of my voice and looked up apprehensively, bracing himself for the charge. We turned everything off and put our cell phones in the kitchen and then I explained the unexplainable to him. He was horrified.
“You say that such and such actress should retire because she’s old, when in reality she’s 5 years older than me but her co-star is 15 years older than her and his shelf life is perfectly intact. You say that such and such is fat. Or a famous aging newscaster is ugly. This politican is stupid not because they are in fact stupid but because they’re a woman. In all the years we’ve been together I’ve never heard you give merit to a woman’s intelligence or work ethic or integrity or ability. I’ve never heard you say ‘Wow, she’s smart as hell and I’d love to pick her brain on biosciences’. I have to hear on a regular basis your sum analysis of women’s worth and if I ever turned around and did such a thing I’d be marked for life as a man hating she beast.” (For the record – he doesn’t do this daily and totally loves women including his mother, sister, and me and various and assorted other strong ass women – but I was pissed and wanted to make a point). He sat in our living room and looked at me as if I was leading him into a trap. His instincts were right. “Magilla, I’m past my prime and I have put on a significant amount of weight and I don’t really wear make up anymore and I’m probably pretty tired and haggard some days and I’m sure it shows and all of this makes me wonder….do I have value anymore?”
He was horrified. Aghast. Angry. Hurt. And then he was amazed that a female mind could go there – that we have the capacity for a self-doubt the depth and breadth of which rivals the Mariana Trench. Yes, it’s true.
But you, dear men, have the ability to relate your paper cut to labor pains so you are equally deranged and self-absorbed.
In that conversation I think my husband saw me in a light he’d never seen before. Not his wife, not a mother and a grandmother. Not a daughter struggling to help her father and mother through the unnavigable channels of dementia. But as a woman with flaws and faults and frailties and fears who sat there across from him and basically after all we’d been through asked as if her life depended on it, “Am I still pretty?” For the first time, the veil of confidence that I usually have firmly fixed in place was utterly stripped away and left me vulnerable to his judgement. Both of our shoulders came down as the battle ended and the truth began to pour out, soothing the sting of our previous night’s mud slinging. My husband is an honest, good, decent, kind, empathetic man; as much as I bust on him he’s the best man I know. I explained how women don’t get to just check out the way men can. We don’t just get to go golfing or fishing. We have to make sure all the provisions are in place before we can do that and that’s just in our own heads. One contrary word from our partner and we’re riddled with guilt because we put ourselves above our family one time in a million. We have so many different hats that we wear that at a certain point you just can’t switch gears as quickly as you once could. There’s the office hat, the house cleaner hat, the dinner cooker hat, the bill payer hat, the clean the bathroom hat, the be sexy now hat, the stop being sexy because the kids are around or your mom called to say your father wandered out of his adult day care building hat, the food shopping hat, the supportive friend hat, the JesusallIwantisashowerinpeace hat. We, as women, normally don’t allow men to see that often times this constant identity juggle is harder than it looks. It’s a struggle and we are doing them and ourselves a great disservice by pretending it’s not. So yes Magilla, as much as I’d love spontaneous moments too, I worry about my parents, your parents, the neighbors parents and whether all the dishes are done and if I have time to do laundry tomorrow and the project at work that has been looming over my head for three weeks. The moment I started word vomiting all of this out, he started nodding in agreement and then gently reminded me that he usually does the dishes and to get over myself and he was right.
It got me to thinking though about the societal demands that we are still saddled with (and to be perfectly clear and perfectly fair I think men have some pretty unfair expectations of conformity put on them as well). And also, it made me think about the term man-hater. I am outspoken, but it doesn’t mean I hate men. It simply means that I am not willing to conform to something unless it’s my choice. To flip this, some men I know have resorted to this warped notion that they can “relate” to the daily demands that women have.
So here are some things I’ve heard recently from men trying to relate to women.
I can multi task too. It’s not that hard.
Cool! So can we compare notes on what it’s like to wake up at 6:30, get the kids ready and pray that we have enough time in the shower to actually remember to shave your armpits and apply deoderant this morning. Forget your lunch and then feel guilty for spending the money to get lunch. And then worry about how you will be serving chicken for the third time this week and for the love of hell how can you prepare differently so your family doesn’t revolt. You don’t have time to take your truck for an oil change so you wonder if you can squeeze another week out of it even though you’re 2,000 miles over. You call your mom every morning to check in and make sure that nothing happened that you have to turn your vehicle around and drive in the opposite direction to help them out. And by the time you get home tonight you’re so exhausted that when your husband looks at you with the hubba hubba look you know so well you actually bark out a laugh in response. Relate now?
I do the dishes at home.
So cool. Do you scrub toilets?
I’m a career Dad.
Please see above rant.
So just hire a nanny.
Where to start with this one?
What did women do in the old days?
Put up with bullshit comments like this. Or died in childbirth. Take your pick.
I want to be included in girl talk.
You can’t even handle the word tampon let alone the full discussion of it. How about we talk about divvying up household chores? Maybe our chore list can be 80% of your chore list? No? Huh, funny. Seems to work in pay scale.
My personal favorite involves a man trying to assuage the minds of others by insisting that his rage and outburst were “totally menstrual”.
DOES YOUR INNER GIRL HAVE A VAGINA?
This doesn’t make me a man hater. I can damn sure promise you that my inner tomboy doesn’t have a penis.
All’s fair in the battle of the sexes but keep the fighting fair.