I was recently reminded of a very important lesson: no matter how funny a comment may be to me or may sound in my head, it may not be funny to my girlfriend; and when I say “may not be funny,” I mean like 98.141592% chance it won’t be funny to her. It was an extensive study. Yes, I recently experienced the time honoured tradition of the man saying something intended to bring merriment and good tidings, but instead it brought the ‘I want to bruise you’ eyes. Every guy in a committed relationship is well acquainted with this look. It’s the same look parents give when their four year old puts their baby brother in the microwave or garbage can more than once (true story).
This ‘how could you say that’ moment is a terrible experience for a guy. I know this is hard on the girl because she’s been insulted, but the guy is thrust into this moment of confusion: “I wanted to show you I care by saying something funny. You’re supposed to laugh and tease me back… or rip off your clothes. Either is great. Actually the latter would be preferred… unless we’re at your parent’s house sitting at a table drinking coffee; then it’d be better if you just laughed,” (and as a youth pastor I’ll say best to save this until marriage). This is such a horrible time for a guy because when we joke we’re showing love. That’s how we’ve always shown our friends that we care about them: “Hey gimp boy,” “Hey horse head,” nicknames we give our friends. These are terms of endearment. The only time a guy is allowed to say anything sentimental is if he’s trying to get a girl to make out, he’s acting in a play (which he’s only doing in the hopes of making out), or he’s intoxicated and telling everyone: “I love you man.” Notice, even when he’s not in his right mind he needs to finish the statement “I love you,” with “man”. The ‘man’ is critical for him to avoid being openly mocked later: “I love you man.” I believe the reason why a guy is supposed to add “man” is because it’s only two letters different than “mom” and in a desperate situation he can say: “Sorry, I thought you were my mom. You might want to start working out… or wearing a bra.” This of course brings the balance back to teasing to show you care, so all becomes right again.
Dating women is confusing for a guy because we now have to start doing really weird stuff like… sharing our feelings. Ladies, the truth is up until he dated you your guy may not have even known he had feelings: “Is this what this is? I’m feeling? I thought I was just sweating from my eyes.” There are, however, guys out there like me who are on the more sensitive side. For instance, I loved the movie Dolphin Tail, but if someone asked me what’s your favourite movie I’m going with The Warrior, which was equally fantastic, but it’s about the UFC so it’s manly. I hate the UFC, but I won’t add that to the conversation because it doesn’t help my cause of trying to sound manly. Nor will I say: “I loved The Warrior; I cried like three times.” I’m sensitive, but I’m not stupid: (me) “Yeah, it was a great movie.” (other guy) “Why?” (me) “Great fight scenes… let’s pee on stuff.” I’m not going to say: “I really appreciated the struggle to discover forgiveness of a brother by whom you felt betrayed and to overcome the childhood resentment of wanting your father’s approval, but never finding it.” I can’t say that to a guy. I can with my girlfriend. But even then I have to be careful not to be too sensitive because I need to maintain a sense of being strong in order to give her the reassurance that I can be her protector and not her child.
Unfortunately for women, even if she is able to train a guy to be more in touch and willing to share his feelings, we like to resort to our original state of teasing because it’s fun and safe… and, ultimately, it’s just easier. It’s hard to be openly sensitive because it’s not our natural state. The only exception to this is if I’m being sensitive as a way to give means to teasing me. In fact, in the book Why Men Don’t Have a Clue and Women Always Need Shoes it maintains that men’s brains are wired to be less emotional and their tear ducts less active. This is one of the reasons why we like to express our feelings through humor. Thus, when I want to show my girlfriend that I care I don’t say: “I really care about you,” which makes me vulnerable. I say something like: “How’s it feel to be 26 and on the down slope?” Apparently, this isn’t a question a woman wants to hear. Who’d have guessed? Right, anyone besides me at the time I said it: “You’re on the down slope; isn’t that hilarious? Yeah, you’re old.” That’s not what I meant to say, but that’s how it can be heard. In my defence, I figured this was a safe joke since I’m six years older and I didn’t add: “I’m going to have to go shopping for a newer model soon.”
Fortunately, my girlfriend has learned to accept my stupidity as a sign that I care and that I joke with her because she makes me feel safe. Her ‘how could you say that?’ face was only a flash and then she was able to respond by patting my stomach and saying: “Well, I have a ways to go because you’ve had such a big head start.” I guess you could say that I’ve trained her to know how to deal with me… or that I’m turning her into a man.
Ultimately, part of the joys of a relationship is that we have innate differences between our genders. The trick is to know how to handle these differences and use them as strengths rather than hinderances.