Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Last time, we gave men a pretty hard time. But not really. We were just reporting on some things that give women a hard time with men. If you’re a smart man, you want to, need to, know this.
But, as I said, women give men trouble too. I am a woman. I give my man trouble! Now of course some of it is because of the man he is and the woman I am. But a lot of it is boring generic stuff.
And that stuff mostly has to do with power.
Which brings us to the first thing that we do that gives men trouble. We get too upset, too excited. We go to pieces too often, too easily. Which is why most men are afraid of their wives. For men, women are nitroglycerin with breasts.
Now why in the world would we be like that when we know damned well that you attract more flies with honey than with hammers, that men want sweetness and light, not dark clouds and lightning bolts? The answer is simple. Men have trained us to be this way!
A guy’s greatest power is inertia. Saying yes but doing nothing. Doing wrong but pretending nothing’s wrong. In other words, men don’t heed women. Here’s a quote I just picked up from Elizabeth Hardwick, and, hey, it rings true for me:
Wives are to be paid in a peculiar coin—consideration for their feelings. And it usually turns out that this is an enormous, unthinkable inflation few men will remit, or it they will, only with a sense of being overcharged.
So if you’re a woman and you want to even begin to get your needs met, you have to raise a ruckus. And men go along with that premise. I’ll prove it: they won’t do anything until and unless you DO raise a ruckus. Then they’ll do it. Then they’ll talk about how all scary and emotional you are. “Women! Can’t live with ’em...”
Let’s put it this way. No woman would ever take a nutty on her guy if he really listened to her the first time she whispered some need of hers. But I just can’t prove that. Because it’s an experiment that’s never been tried.
In the meantime—the dynamics of dis-empowerment being what they are—us bitches be crazy and are likely to seem that way for a long time.
There’s the second area where men complain a lot. It’s about how we’re complicated. Men are simple, the story goes, but women? Oy. They want you to talk to them except whenever you do it’s never the right time. They want you to be sensitive, but whenever you do you seem pathetic. They want you to earn a good living but to somehow always be around. They don’t want you to interrupt, but when you listen to them talking to their friends all they do is interrupt each other. They want you to apologize, but when you do they’re all like, “Sorry? Sorry isn’t good enough.”
All this is true. More or less. But let’s unpack it a bit.
Most of the time what seems like “complicated” is really “You didn’t read the instructions, did you?” Ask the people at Betty Crocker. Now is Betty some crazy, complicated, chain-smoking chick out of a ‘60s French movie? Well, if you listen to the calls folks make to Betty’s 1-800 number, they’re always complaining that their cakes didn’t come out right because the instructions on the cake mix boxes “were too complicated.” Folks, these back-of-box instructions were written for people with a 4th grade education. The people screwed up the cake because they didn’t read the recipe.
If you listen to the woman in your life, you may find that she’s way less complicated than she seemed when you just weren’t paying attention.
Beyond that, I don’t know. But suppose I am complicated. Like many other women out there. If so, then we ourselves are also living with the burden of that complication. It’s likely no more fun for us than it is for you. But you know what? We can talk, you and I. I can share some of my complexities with you, and maybe you have some complexities of your own to share, because men for sure are complicated too. Being simple is just a role men play. By talking about our complications and contradictions, we can get closer to one another.
And that's what it's all about.
Here, though, is a hint for all of us if we want to be heard and understood, regardless of how complicated or uncomplicated we are. When you talk, finish up with what you want your partner to take away. None of us, in the heat of the moment, make well structured presentations, to say the least! There's a woman I know--I can't mention her name (okay, she's me!) who way too often starts talking to her husband with her main point, then says a whole bunch of stuff about how she feels, often spiraling away from the main point, and that husband ends up confused. So if you want someone to understand you, you need to end up by saying what you want that person to take away from what you said. You can actually say, "Look, I know I said a lot, but the one thing I want you to take away from this is..."
And when things get hard, and needs aren’t getting met, and frustration is rising, go back to Why Couples Fight. All the tools are there for getting you out of trouble.
The art works in this piece are Matisse, Woman with a Hat, 1905; Picasso, Woman Weeping, 1937; and Picasso, Woman with Mustard Pot, 1910. The cover image is Matisse, Woman Before a Goldfish Bowl, 1922.