Tuesday, February 28, 2006


In a recent comment, Dawnelle recommended the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I wish to heartily recommend this book as well.

The basic premise is that the way we show love/affection tends to fall into one of five basic categories, here presented in no particular order:
1) physical touch
2) words of affirmation
3) quality time
4) acts of service
5) giving/receiving gifts

People typically have one or two primary "love languages" -- things that mean love and affection to them. Let's say that the primary ways I give & receive affection are through physical touch and words of affirmation, and let's say that the way Hannah gives & receives affection is through acts of service and gifts. We both might spend years giving each other what what we thought was expressions of love, but miscommunicating badly. I might be starved for touch and kind words, and sick to death of getting wallets and shirts and having the house painted and dusted and my closet reorganized. Hannah might be tired of me pawing at her all the time and always wanting to talk about things and getting my feelings hurt by her silence or unkind words, while starving for a little present once in a while and for me to show I cared by putting together a thoughtful date/surprise or keeping the lawn mowed and her appliances working. Both of us might feel like we're trying really hard to love someone who doesn't love us back. I'm just saying, this could happen.

Another book, for guys: If Only He Knew, by Gary Smalley. Strong Christian bent, but useful to anyone, I think. Not a feminist-pleaser, since it presumes vast gender differences and traditional family roles; it's the polar opposite of the "treat everyone the same" approach. I think the value of the book is in educating men about how many women think and feel about some things, and ways they can make their wives feel loved and cared-for rather than put down, neglected, or unloved.

And one more, for women: Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Laura Schlesinger.
I have problems with Dr. Laura -- I find her inconsistent, judgmental, unhappy, and borderline misogynist -- but I like her standards on personal responsibility, and in this book I think she's more often right than wrong in describing what husbands want and how they feel.
This book has been savaged (often by people who haven't read it, including Hannah & her girlfriends). The typical accusation is that it portrays men as simple-minded and sex-crazed -- that all we need to be happy is a hot meal, less nagging, and more hanky-panky. But that's not actually what it says. The book *is* like Dr Laura -- unsubtle and overstated -- but a few of its fundamental premises are correct: specifically, that men's needs are typically simpler than women's, and that high on the list are a peaceful home (ie, less nagging/ragging), more appreciation, and more sex.
Like any book, you should read with some amt of skepticism -- measure it against your own world-view, and take what you think is useful from it. There's no rule that says you have to follow any of the book's recommendations, or buy 100% of its portrayal of men, but if you seriously want to understand more about men, this book is worth including on your list.

Fighting words. Or drawings. Or whatever.

This comment, about Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons, was made in another forum today: ...emoting vehemently and passionately, even about trivial matters, is ingrained in the culture.

Anybody care to disagree?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dumb things I have believed.

When I was at university (1980’s) I read a lot. About everything. I was also for most of that time socially inept and inexperienced. The result was that I was seduced by a particular branch of feminist thought that apparently grew out of the “it’s all socialization” theory of male/female relations. You know, Nature vs Nurture, we’re all the same on the inside, etc.

The idea was that women deserved (and desired) to be treated as equals in every way. (Well, of course, I hear you say. Just wait a minute…) The idea was that traditional modes of male-female interaction were inherently gender-biased and oppressive. That women wanted exactly the same things out of life, relationships, and conversations that men did. That in order to show a woman true esteem and respect, a man should have the same expectations of her as he would of another man. That a man should address her in the same way as he addressed his male friends. That to woo, to court, to seduce – ie, to interact romantically in a traditional way – was manipulative and patronizing. That to acknowledge gender-based differences in tastes or moods or outlook was false and offensive.

It’s a neat theory, and the only problem with it is that the women who wrote this tripe forgot get buy-in from the rest of woman-kind about what they were now supposed to want.

There are all sorts of women, just as there are all sorts of men. Preferences and backgrounds vary wildly. I imagine there might be thousands of women who *would* like to be treated exactly like men are treated, in every way. The problem with adopting this standard is the millions more women to whom such an interactive style is singularly uninspiring.

What this meant to me was that in order to convey respect to women (and later to my wife), I made an effort to address them with the same language and with the same expectations as I would have with a man. I spoke directly. I did not hint, or use innuendo. When Hannah said "whisper sweet nothings to me" I had absolutely no idea what to say -- everything I thought of felt incredibly patronizing and false to me. I held Hannah to the same standard of emotional continence that I held my male friends to, and interpreted her moods/words as I would have interpreted those of a man. It sounds incredibly stupid to me now, but there you have it.

Lots of women *say* they want to be treated the same as men. They are wrong – that statement may apply to the workplace, but as for the rest of the time, usually they don’t even know how men treat each other when women aren’t around. I am reminded of Mel Gibson in the movie Lethal Weapon, peering into the face of the man threatening to jump from a tall building – with a crazy leer, he says “Do you REALLY want to jump?” I wish I’d had the brains and the opportunity to ask the authors I read, “Do you REALLY want us to treat you like we treat each other?” Do you want us to fart in your office, to embarrass you in social gatherings by revealing embarrassing intimate secrets? Do you want everything to be a competition? Do you want us to tell you that your parentage is unknown, that your genitalia is microscopic and non-functioning, that you’re ugly, that we had your mother last night and she liked it? I will answer for you: you do not.

Furthermore, women do want extra consideration from us for their moods and their words. You want the right to get a little over-emotional at times and say things you don't necessarily mean a hundred percent. You want us to discount some of the things you say when you're PMS-ing and just shrug off your fit of pique. Which is fine, but just remember it's NOT how men do it, and we're not in equality-land any more.

Ditto wanting the same things out of relationships – most women don’t even know what men want out of relationships because
a) we’ve spent the last 30 yrs educating society about how women think, but not about how men think; and
b) men learn early that their innermost thoughts do not win admiration and approval from women, so we don’t share them. Instead, we lie. We pretend we don’t notice other women; we pretend monogamy is our natural state; we pretend we’d rather have a romantic dinner than watch hockey; we pretend we *enjoy* thinking about the relationship; we pretend talkety talkety talky talk talk is how we *like* spending our time; we pretend we aren’t naturally aggressive, competitive, and selfish; we pretend like we’re happy to have 16 pillows and a dust ruffle on our bed.

Some truths are below; you may disagree, but you’d be wrong:

  1. Many traditional modes of interaction *were* inherently gender-biased and patronizing.
  2. Many other traditional modes of interaction developed out of men’s and women’s natural and healthy instincts – ie, they were NOT pathological social constructs designed to keep women subservient to white male hegemony, they were how men and women wanted to interact.
  3. It was a good thing for women and society in general when women’s accomplishments, value, and potential began to be recognized.
  4. It was a good thing when sexual harassment began to be recognized and censured; a hostile work environment or sexual pressure should not be tolerated.
  5. It was a bad thing when the definition of sexual harassment was expanded to include many normal human behaviours; when we invented the rule of thumb “If you think you may have been harassed, you have.”
  6. In general, opportunity should be based on ability, not gender.
  7. If ability/aptitude or natural preference happen shake out along gender lines (ie, if more men want the death jobs (carpenter, garbage man, soldier, cop, firefighter, etc) and more women want the nurturing jobs (teacher, nurse, counselor, homemaker), this is not a bad thing.
  8. Women in general want to be equal in the workplace, but they’re all for gender differences in their romantic lives.
  9. [Ed Note: when I say “they” or “women”, I mean Most Straight Women, okay? Not you specifically, Woman Who Wants/Is Something Different.]
  10. Women are moodier, more excitable, more emotional than men. Men have fewer emotions, understand & analyze their feelings less, and are more able to distance themselves from their emotions in favor of rational thought. To anyone who may wish to deny this fact, I submit the following: I have had a mother, sister, wife, daughter, girlfriends, and female friends, gay and straight. I have had a father, brother, son, and male roommates and friends. I have enough data, and you are full of crap. To anyone who says, “Well, duh…” I must remind you that I sat in philosophy and social science classes where people (women) insisted that we all have biorhythms, the men have moods just like women, and that the entire PMS/moods/emotion issue was a lie perpetrated by Male Supremacists.
  11. Just because men find it easier to be rational as opposed to emotional doesn’t necessarily mean that men make better decisions, or even that being purely rational would reveal the best course of action in a given situation.
  12. Women do want sweet nothings, cards, flowers. They’re mad for hyperbolic romantic gestures.
  13. They want passion and adventure; they want to feel butterflies; they want a little danger (but not too much, just enough to raise their heart rate a little).
  14. Women want just the right amount of feeling cared for – eg, protecting is good, smothering is bad.
  15. Women want to feel that their man is strong, confident, and complete. And if/when she rags on him, she wants to hear an unspoken message something like "Ordinarily I wouldn't take this kind of nonsense from anyone -- if a man addressed me this way, I'd have knocked him on his can by now -- but somehow I have a soft spot for you." IOW, most women want a man who doesn't take a lot of crap -- even theirs. They want a man who weathers their emotions, calls them on it if they're talking nonsense, then smiles indulgently, and says "But you are so special. You have such spark. I adore you and I'm lucky to have a woman like you."
  16. Women want to be appreciated, adored, thought of as special, unique, and interesting. Outside the workplace, this is far more important to them than being treated the same as a man is treated. In fact, when it comes to romance, not only do they not give a rat’s hiney about being treated “the same”, they positively loathe it.
  17. People are individuals; it really doesn’t matter what Women In General, or Men In General want – what’s important is what *your* partner wants. Figure it out, and give it to them.

Things that make you go Hmm...

My niece Sequoiah (okay, actually she's Hannah's niece -- does that make her my ex-niece?) has a stuffed turtle that she uses as a teething toy. The turtle has flippers, a mask, and a snorkel. Sequoiah chews on the snorkel.
Here are a couple of pictures of the turtle and his snorkel.

My question to you, dear readers, is this: could you could make a snorkel that looks more like genitalia? Is it even possible? I mean, if the pope commissioned Michelangelo to draw the male reproductive organs and then fasten them onto the head of a stuffed turtle, would you get anything more penis-like? No? I didn't think so, either.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

sub rosa

The doc thot a dog would be good for David, so we found Rosa. They told us they thought she was German Shepherd/Chow mix, but from her coloring I'm thinking Shepherd/Pit Bull.

Anyway, she's a very affectionate and well-behaved dog. We're very pleased, and she seems to be, too.

Teenager conversation # 3,612

It's dark, we're leaving the store. Samantha steps off the curb to cross the parking lot.

Me: Watch out! ...You should have waited for that car.

Sam: He was WAY down there.

Me: Well, clearly he wasn't "way down there" enough, since he had to come to a stop for you.

Sam [scornfully]: Well, of COURSE he stopped. What was he going to do, run over me?