Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Second Rule of Fight Club

I recently told the 14-year old daughter of a close friend: "There are only two emotions that men are allowed to admit to: Amusement and Anger. If a guy talks to you about feelings other than these, he's probably in love with you."

Of course I delivered this in a sort of semi conspiratorial "don't tell anyone I told you this deep dark secret" - kind of way. I'm sure she didn't believe a word of it, which is good, because I'm not sure if it's true or not. Either way, it's sad.

Why do men hate "the talk"? Why, when Wife says "Sweetie, I want to talk" (italics hers), do I role my eyes and suppress a pained groan? Surely we could all benefit from getting in touch with our feelings and having a good cathartic buchke over lattes and facials?


One of the many reasons primitive man-monkeys like me don't tend to talk about our feelings could be that we're not a hundred percent convinced it's going to solve anything. For me, talking is all about communication. Specifically, communication of a problem. Step 1, communicate the problem. Step 2, identify and communicate the solution to the problem, or if there is no apparent solution, solicit additional information. Step 3, high fives all around, followed by beer. Note the conspicuous absence of any discussion of my mood.

This is not what women mean when they ask you to talk about your feelings. In fact, this is the opposite of what they mean.

As a "for instance", when I come home at night, one thing my survival instinct has taught me is to ask Wife "how was your day?". During the course of the ensuing epic monologue, many conflicts will be introduced, heroes and villains will rise and fall, and the emerging topical thread will contribute itself to Wife's Bildungsroman in subtle and meaningful ways.

Here is a list of things I must not say during this conversation:

  • "Hey, I had that exact same thing happen to me once, let me tell you all about it."
  • "I know exactly how to solve your problem. Here is the answer..."
Here is a list of things I probably should say instead:
  • "Wow Honey, that's awful! No wonder you're so upset."
  • "That bitch! I hope you told her to go to hell!"
  • ...and any other topical expressions of sympathy in that key.
This shows Wife that not only am I tuned into the conversation and actually listening to what she's saying (the male communication), but I'm also tuned into her feelings about the whole thing (the female communication).

And voila, we've just talked about our feelings. More specifically, she's talked about her feelings, and I've listened. You would think that this is only about 50% of what women want out of a conversation, but actually it's closer to about 90% (not to put it all in cold, logical, male numbers or anything, but there you go).

But before you walk away from the conversation feeling like you got away with something, be aware that the eventual "talk" gets longer and more traumatic every time you avoid it. Really, it's best to get it out in small, preferably daily, doses.

It's in our nature as men to think of this as a painful but necessary task in the maintenance of a meaningful relationship. Like replacing the brakes on your car. Costly but rare. We should instead maybe think of it as a frequent, automatic, almost instinctual thing, like applying the brakes on your car. We've just about evolved to the point where we can handle that.

And maybe someday, there won't even need to be a wife or girlfriend in the room to force us to talk about our feelings...

5 uninformed opinions:

Leila said...

hmmm, now I don't think "women" necessarily want "men" (like those quotation marks? do you really want to be a man without quotation marks? i know i don't want to be a woman without them) to talk *about* emotions.

I think, rather, they/people want them/other people to talk *with* them. That is, to be sincere. To be real. To be in the moment. To be empathetic. To listen, to see, to put aside the ego and the struggle and the striving and the competition, and to really just listen. For once. For a second.

That's what it's all about bro. Don't tase me.

Cool Ranch Luke said...

What the hell are you talking about? Make sense!

Cool Ranch Luke said...

Yeah, in case it wasn't clear, that was a joke.

Leila said...

*oh*. i mean "oh".

Cool Ranch Luke said...

Yes. Angry Humor. Get it? I'm so glad someone "gets" me :-)