The ever-widening gap
(from a web log entry)

While men don’t usually see the difference between being neat and being clean, women clearly do. So there he is, sitting all proud that he’s kept things so tidy (stuffed out-of-sight under the bed), whilst she walks in, declaring his habitat “an uninhabitable dump.” She didn’t even have to peer under the bed; she’s referring to the substantial layer of dust atop the TV, something which our guy is entirely blind to. The trouble here is not from one such specific unpleasant incident, but stems from a basic difference in stance on just what clean and liveable means.

This shaky communication pathway between men and women is frequently plagued by many other such instances, when they’re probably using the same words, or superficially referencing the same concepts, but implying entirely different underlying notions. A much-celebrated illustration of this is the implication of the phrase “I have nothing to wear.” When guy says this, what he really means is “I have nothing clean (enough) to wear,” while the same words coming from woman probably mean more along the lines of “I have nothing that I’m in the mood for wearing,” or “nothing that I have the right accessories for,” or something like that.

I could’ve stopped there with this example, but again, this is just symptomatic of something bigger. While women pay careful attention to detail, men often seem to be stuck in a wishy-washy state, where only vague aspects of the grand, sweeping goals are apparent (e.g. “Bragging about this will so maximise my chances of getting into her pants, so I must keep talking.”). So, while the woman has painstakingly set something up, be it subtleties in the plans for the evening or fabulously-intricate patterns on her accessory selection, men aren’t going to magically sensitise, make thoughtful observations, and come up with fitting compliments.

They’re just not equipped for this sort of thing.

Hell, we don’t even see more than a few basic colours. Biscuit, cognac, brun? No, they’re all “brown.” Try beating the subtleties over and over into our heads, and they’ll still be “brown.” Noticing that you’ve spent an entire afternoon mixing and matching these in some way, with some hidden special veiled message and deciphering it is not something you ought to expect from us. At best, after much prodding, you might get a “those brown earrings go well with that top, and you” (We fail to notice details; we just need to keep our vague goals in sight. Like, “Maybe a compliment will increase my chances with her. I must compliment her.”).

And during the course of your prodding, you’ve probably hit against another fundamental wall—men don’t want to talk. Men like to do things, like leer. Not talk. Men don’t even like to talk about things they’re obsessed with, like coition. I’ve noticed so many interesting gender-based patterns of responses that I’ve gotten (or not) on different topics via comments and e-mails over these past few years, but I will reserve those observations for another day.

What is “waaaay too much” talk for a man, barely scratches the surface in terms of what a woman decrees as a “healthy norm.” No seriously, what does she want? Does she want me to keep calling her until her cell phone minutes are exhausted (and she gets to pay those wonderful overages?) as a symbol of how lovely our relationship is? I don’t really know. This is something I don’t ever see ending well. From one end, it always feels like it’s too much and therefore something’s wrong, while at the other end, it always seems not nearly enough and therefore something’s seriously wrong! Basically, there’s no hope, and this is just another avenue for much confusion.

I could go on, but most of these things I’ve mentioned are rather deep seated, and aren’t trivial to fix. Before I begin to bring you down however, I’ve realised that the trick is to convince yourself into thinking, “fundamental incompatibilities aren’t bad, they’re just opportunities for much excitement and surprise!”

Yeah, right, if being yelled at excites you.