Brevity is the soul of relationship talks. The shortest distance between two hearts is a straight line. Don’t be a blabbercheeks. I don’t think I’m being clear: When you are discussing important issues with your significant other, keep the conversation short and sweet and to the point. One of the great male stereotypes is that men loathe having to talk about anything serious. That dudes would prefer a forced eel colonic to sitting down and hashing out our feelings. Part of this stereotype is the notion that men are scared of their emotions. This is actually partially true. We are scared of our emotions, and that’s why we respect them. Emotions can make a man feel like a soaring kite one moment and a gym sock full of warm parfait the next.
As a man (and I can prove I am: my testicles have testicles), I would like to dispel the idea that men are hairy robots or giant amoebas grasping cans of beer with our numerous pseudopodia. Men feel emotion, thank you very much. Sometimes, we feel said emotion quite intensely. Our fear is born of respect. I have a friend in California who is a surfer, and while he’s never been able to get me on a board because of my checkered history with balance, he loves to deluge me with hippie mermen aphorisms.
“Respect the waves, man,” he’ll tell me. Don’t fight them, don’t ignore them, and don’t turn your back on them. Respect the waves, and the theory goes, you’ll, I don’t know, catch a radical tube or some s**t like that? Fail to pay Neptune his due, and it could be ten years until you get home.
When your man cringes at the suggestion of “a talk,” what he’s cringing at isn’t the prospect of clarifying your relationship status or future plans. What he’s dreading is the long stroll through a potential briar patch that will follow the summons to converse. I hate to break it to you, but “talks” are bo-o-o-ring. There’s the small issue of how many of these “talks” are just insecurity masquerading as meaningful discourse. There’s an old Polish saying that warns against “borrowing trouble.” A large percentage of the “talks” I’ve had with girlfriends have been about nebulous events and crises in the distant future.
I remember a fight I once had with a girlfriend after watching the excellent, gritty zombie virus apocalypse flick 28 Days Later. There’s a scene where Cillian Murphy, who has woken from a coma into a world full of formerly human monsters, returns to his parents’ house, only to find them dead. I muttered something like, “I wouldn’t return home; I’d keep moving.” Which sent my lady companion into an angry panic, since she took that to mean I wouldn’t try to find her if I too were to have found myself waking up from a coma weeks into a sudden zombie pandemic. I tried to reason with her, and didn’t even bring up how she hadn’t come to find me, her boyfriend in a coma, at the hospital. I explained, rationally, that I would immediately assume that if she were alive, that she would most likely be with a group of fellow survivors. So the first order of business would be to gather supplies, weapons and transportation. Then, it would be to move forwards, not backwards. Start actively searching out ideal locations from which to defend against hordes of bile-puking undead. If she were dead, then I would avenge. Avenge like a ninja angel. But besides these kind of hypothetical debates, most relationship talks just slow down time to an ooze.
Men are totally functional. We are results oriented. If you need to chat about his behavior at the bar last weekend or about whether or not he’s going to your dad’s birthday party by the lake, or whether the two of you should move in or not, frontload the conversation with the point. Cut to the chase. Appeal to that part of his brain where he processes Ikea furniture instructions. When a man is confronted with a problem, his instinct is to fix it. Now, I understand that women don’t operate that way. But if you’re initiating a conversation about something important or intimate, it behooves you to talk in a way that suits the person you are engaging.
The reverse is true for men who need to sit their girlfriends or wives down for an exchange of information. I learned many things in art school, and one thing I learned was never mix hallucinogenic drugs and Tori Amos. I also learned that poetry gets you laid in art school and art school only. But what I really learned was that there are people who value the process and those who value the product. Some people think how you make a piece of art is as, if not more, important than the art itself. There are those who think the only thing that matters is the art itself. There’s a third group of people, I suppose. Like the performance artist with the shaved head I was madly in love with for a hot, wet nanosecond. She respected neither the process nor the product, preferring anarchy. I think she writes a food blog about casseroles from her home in the suburbs now.
There is no right answer to the question, “Which is more important, process or product?” A little of both? Some products can’t be created without the right process. Some products just … happen. They just suddenly bloom after a long winter. Personally, I am a product person. How I get somewhere doesn’t matter. What I do now that I’m there is everything. I am at my best talking to my girlfriend when we get to the point quickly, sans preamble. I know that she values and needs a little more process. I respect that, the way I respect my big, manly emotions.
Originally published on The Frisky