Home and Deranged
Let's talk: When it comes to complaining, men and women live in two differentworlds
There is a perpetual breakdown in communication between the sexes when it comes to complaining. It's not that one of us does it more — it's all about the response.
Men, when met with someone else's problem, try immediately to solve it. Women, on the other hand, listen, contribute and sympathize, but rarely offer a solution unless one is asked for explicitly.
It's not that we don't have any advice, or an idea of what we would do, we have — but we know the complainer does, too. Guys, when you offer us a solution to our problems, it's not only the wrong response, it's downright offensive. It suggests implicitly that we're too daft to have thought of it ourselves, or that in sharing our predicament we're begging for help.
This disjunct has only become more obvious since moving in with The Boyfriend nearly three months ago. A firm subscriber to our more loosely defined "a happy wife makes a happy life" philosophy, his first instinct, when presented with any of my conflicts or conundrums, is to fix it. Often this only frustrates me further, and bewilders him entirely.
Case in point: My MacBook, purchased nearly five years ago, went within a week from just running slowly to throwing up that infernal pinwheel with every. single. click. I was on deadline, and my every attempt at productivity was swiftly thwarted by that goddamn beachball of death.
The Boyfriend, sensing my obvious frustration, suggested that I "should probably get that looked at."
Oh, get it looked at! Brilliant! I had planned on using my first free moment to just yell about it some more and weep out of pure, unbridled frustration. Yours is a much better idea.
And it's not just me. It's an interaction common enough that it's prompted pop-culture elucidation:
Phil Dunphy learns a valuable lesson between his paraffin wax and eyebrow threading: Unless you intend to follow through on that utterly obvious suggestion yourself, keep it to yourself. More often than not, you can safely navigate your partner's hysterics with a good dose of sympathy. Make an audible observation about how much we do, how hard we work or, better, how the universe is obviously in conspiracy to break us, yet, somehow, we always triumph with a certain grace. (Okay, the last part might be laying it on a little thick, but you get the idea.)
We do value actual assistance — don't get the wrong idea — but it's a dish best served unsolicited.
A few weeks ago (after the MacBook battle of 2011), The Boyfriend appeared at home after work with a brown paper bag. He'd stopped by our hardware store and picked up some magnetic closure hook thingies (technical term) for our kitchen cabinets, whose refusal to close properly has always irked me. Without explanation or prodding, he installed the miraculous magnets, and in an instant one of my problems, if only one of the eensiest, was solved. A disproportionate weight had been lifted.
Without exaggeration, it was hands-down THE most romantic gesture I've ever been on the receiving end of.
Flowers? Pssht. Surprising me at the hardware store? Talk flirty to me.