The Language Barrier

Phantom Hater put up an excellent post that I wanted to comment on, but couldn’t think of anything short and sweet that wouldn’t look like a massive VB comment. So I’m posting my thoughts here.

There is a language barrier between men and women. Men speak the language of Reason, and women speak the language of Emotion. What the hell does that mean? Let me explain.

When a woman talks, it really doesn’t matter what she says. What’s important is that she is channeling some emotion that other Emotion-speakers are supposed to pick up on, and respond accordingly.

When a man speaks, he is being literal. His words will be fact, and will mean exactly what they say. Other Reason-speakers will understand immediately, and respond accordingly.

The problem occurs when Reason tries to communicate with Emotion, or vice versa.

Emotion might be complaining about how the oven got too hot and burned the bread she was baking, but what she’s really saying is she is upset because of a hundred other things that are completely unrelated to the damned bread. Reason, however, hears the bread-story, and responds that Emotion can just bake another bread.

Reason might complain that his coffee got cold too fast. Emotion hears the words, and immediately analyzes every possible emotion that could reflect, and will typically draw the worst possible conclusion about the state of their relationship.

It reminds me of a joke I love…

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

Let’s say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward … I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: … so that means it was … let’s see. February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the shop last, which means … lemme check the odometer … Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed — even before I sensed it — that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent bastards $600!

And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90- day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say, those scumballs.

And Elaine is thinking: maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a goddamn warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their…

“Roger,” Elaine says aloud.

“What?” says Roger, startled.

“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have … Oh God, I feel so ..”

(She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Roger.

“I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Roger.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine says.

“No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that … It’s that I … I need some time,” Elaine says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

“Yes,” he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

“Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Roger.

“That way about time,” says Elaine.

“Oh,” says Roger. “Yes.”

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

“Thank you, Roger,” she says.

“You’re welcome” says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in reruns. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he’s pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand it, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This is also Roger’s policy regarding world hunger.)

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say:

“Norm, did Elaine ever have a horse?”

9 thoughts on “The Language Barrier”

  1. lenfercestlesautres

    I mean, I laugh about it because I would have said “What are you thinking about?” and he would have said “Oh, I’m thinking about how the transmission is screwed up.” and it would all have been good.

  2. Phantom Hater

    What’s with you and horses?

    This was a funny blog entry. Len has a good point. It seems like early on in relationships people over-analyze and don’t really speak their mind. It would probably speed things along if that wasn’t the case, but the first 6 months is usually an extended honey-moon phase.

  3. CapricornCringe

    Len is logical. I am logical. This proves that not all women are emotional basketcases … and it also proves that not all women who are not emotional basketcases are lesbians – only 50% are 🙂

  4. That’s a pretty good joke 🙂 Although I do agree that men and women seem to have problems communicating I beg to differ that we’re all talking with and about emotions…

  5. lenfercestlesautres

    I just tried to remember how it has been in the early stages of my relationship (since this one is the only one that lasted 6 months +, or even 2 months +…).

    That was a long time ago, but I think that The Boyfriend, not having had too much experience with girls, was not already corrupted by some squeaky girl who would be upset if he thought about the transmission. So if I remember well, he spoke his mind from the beginning. Good guy.

    CC, that’s an awesome piece of statistics we have here 😉

  6. Ok, phew… I am still a woman… because, that woman in the story is totally me. I can’t even stand silence when I’m alone… I will slowly (or quickly) drive myself insane in my thoughts. Are guys really that simple? I mean… seriously???

  7. Phantom Hater

    “Are guys really that simple? I mean… seriously???”

    Speaking for myself, no, not at all. I would say your typical guy analyzes things less (because he arrives at a conclusion faster and sticks with it) but it depends on the guy. I tend to overthink things myself, which is why I try to keep myself busy. I do probably have ADHD, though, so I might start thinking about an oil change during a moment like this.
    Oh look, something shiny!

    You could interpret the story in a dark way, even though it was meant to be funny. The guy in the story is a d-bag. He is not thinking about the other person at all, because the girl is the one emotionally invested in the relationship, and she is not comfortable enough to do what len suggested, which is to ask what he is thinking.

    Also, to len’s point, it’s sad, but the more experience you get with women, the more you guard what you’re thinking to protect yourself.

    Emotional basketcases are hot.

  8. Virginia Belle

    oh man. yeah, that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

    that’s all i’m saying in this comment. don’t want it to be too LONG.

    hmph.

    ok, dammit. who are we kidding. i’m too loquacious.

    i really liked what PH said about men reaching conclusions faster and sticking to them. that seems to be true,in my experience.

    and never in a million years would i have thought the guy was a d-bag. but really, he kinda is. i mean, she’s obviously upset. how does it NEVER occur to him to ask her what’s bothering her? what an asshole.

    i think MJ and i are both basketcases, because i would have had virtually the SAME thought process as the girl in the joke.

    and yes, stuckey, what IS it with you and horses?

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