Monday, November 7, 2011

Of Screwdrivers and Salmonella

Yesterday I got away for a brief girls outing with my sister Sarah and two friends.  Lunch conversation inevitably turned to men, in particular one friend's recent "date" with her current boyfriend, who apparently considered lighting a single candle foreplay.  She wanted to talk since they hadn't seen each other in a while; he had other things on his agenda.

Since I was the only married one in the group, my friend asked for my opinion of the situation.  Unfortunately, I have very little to offer in the way of experience, since John was my first real boyfriend (and things have clearly worked out for us).  But having been with the same man for over ten years, I have learned a few things along the way, and as far as I can tell, most relationship problems stem from a single fundamental difference between men and women: men are single-minded; women multitask.

Here's what I mean: Man sees one problem, resolves it, and moves on to the next problem.  Woman sees 15 problems and 40 possible ways to resolve them, and then spends half an hour deliberating over the best course of action.  20,000 years ago, this probably meant that the man got away from the saber-toothed tiger and the poor woman got eaten.  But it also meant that the woman had managed to collect food for dinner, kept the cave nice and tidy, and watched Pebbles and Bam-Bam while Fred was out hunting down a single saber-toothed rabbit.  Evolutionarily speaking, this all made sense.  Man did what woman couldn't, and vice versa.  "You complete me," Fred grunted, and it was true.

But in today's world, where so many of our responsibilities blur and our roles are not so neatly defined, it often causes more problems than it solves.  It means that while a girl is thinking about how lovely it would be to have a romantic dinner while catching up with her suitor, said suitor has only one thing on his mind.  It means that in the time it takes John to come to the conclusion that he wants, needs, and shall have an $1800 bike, I have come up with thirteen pros and cons regarding a single $25 sweater at Target (which I inevitably put back).

It also means that when it comes to parenting, what John considers a good idea doesn't necessarily mesh with my own.

When I got home from my outing John and Jack were waiting for me on the front porch.  "How did it go?" I asked.
"It was good," John said.
"Mm-hm, and what did he have for a snack?"
"Brownie batter, animal crackers, and dried fruit."

That's probably how the whole thing played out in John's head.  Here's what really happened:
"How did it go?" I asked, watching from the corner of my eye as John casually handed Jack a screwdriver he'd been using.  I grabbed the screwdriver out of Jack's hand before John even realized he'd given it to him.
"Mm-hm, and what did he have for a snack?"
"Salmonella, sugar, and stool softener."

This is the thing with men and women.  Men live for the here and now.  They see a problem -- child needs snack! -- and they solve it.  They have fun with their kids, not worrying about the consequences of their dietary choices or whether or not it's actually a good idea to play in traffic.

And women, well, we keep people alive.  We see the consequences for today's actions three years from now.  We may not be quite as much fun as good old dad, but we take pride in knowing that our family members have lived to see another day, thanks in part to our hard work and vigilance.

I'm not sure what will happen with my friend and her boyfriend; maybe she'll be able to teach him that he has to eat his dinner if he wants his dessert.  Maybe she'll somehow be able to explain what I still can't seem to get across to John after all these years: that while he's thinking about one very specific thing, I'm thinking about laundry, about groceries, about dishes, about that sweater from Target and whether or not I should return it, and about what five pieces of dried fruit are going to look like on the wrong end of Jack's digestive tract.

With all of that to contend with, boys, you're probably going to want to arm yourself with something a little more substantial than a candle.


Jenny S. Morris said...

LOL. I love it. I always have to remind myself. He just doesn't think like I do. Then, I try to figure out what he's thinking. Most of the time I give up and move on.

Maybe a candle and a chocolate cake next time. Fully cooked, btw. ;0)

Mara Rae said...

Haha Jenny, definitely fully cooked please! Sheesh - didn't John get the memo about raw batter? Unfortunately John already bakes. ALL. THE. TIME. It's super annoying because he's an ultra runner and can afford the calories, and I'm, well, not an ultra runner, and definitely DON'T need the calories. I prefer household chores as foreplay. Unload the dishwasher and fold the laundry and I'm yours!

Sarah said...

Good post, Mar!