Friday, June 01, 2007

Train Wreck: What Women Don't Want

Carpooling to work, with my good friend B. B just moved into a house
quite close to us in Raleigh, and is starting as a Research Prof at Duke soon.

Anyway, the house is beautiful on the outside, fantastic deck, overlooking a small lake. House sits on a hill, on a point that pokes gently out into the lake, so you have water views of about 140 degrees from the deck.

Inside, the house needs work. B's wife S has very impressive artistic sensibilities, and things (colors, textures, contrasts) that I wouldn't notice make her physically uncomfortable. So, they are working on the inside of the house, and there will be a lot of work to do. But S is really being a good sport about it, even though it will be months before the house is even close to right from her perspective.

Anyway, driving to work, B's cell phone rings. It's S, calling from KC, at a conference. They talk for a minute, then I clearly hear her say, "So, are you thinking about the living room?"

And I can suddenly see the future. There is going to be a trainwreck. B has been married more than 120 years, but he is going to blow this. There are many correct answers: "It's hard to picture without the furniture. But I was measuring the wall without windows, and thinking what art work to put up there." or "I am having trouble imagining how big the room will look, if we paint the walls with some nice colors. What do YOU think?" or any of a dozen other answers.

Married women, when they ask if their husband is thinking about {blank}, are saying (a) "I care about {blank}. Is it important to you, too?" and (b) "After you have acknowledged and validated my concern, then I can tell you what I wanted to do in the first place." Women just have conversations differently, and any man who has been married for more than a MONTH knows this.

And, to be fair, S is clearly going to do most of the work, most of the design, most of the worrying. She just wants a sounding board, a way of talking this out, of making it feel manageable. It's a big job, she's willing to do it, she just wants to feel like she is not doing it alone.

What does B say? He gives the Yogi Berra answer. Mickey Mantle asked Yogi, "What time is it?" Yogi said, "You mean right now?"

S asked, "Are you thinking about the living room?" An important room, the center of the house, the common area, where families gather. B says, "You mean right now?"

B finds this answer much funnier than S does. And I watch the train go off the tracks, the cars pile on top of each other, the dust rising.

The problem is we actually know how to talk to women. But we are seduced by our comedic talents. And we pay the price.

1 comment:

The Unknown Professor said...

My all purpose response to things like this is along the lines of "A bit, but I haven't really got a handle on it yet. What're YOU thinking?"

Then just SHUT UP. Like the groom at a wedding, you're primarily there for window dressing (no pun intended). Just know your part and play your part.