The Feminine Mystique

Stand-up comics do it.  Movies and books do it.  Daddy Doin’ Work did it on Tuesday.  Bill Cosby arguably did it best.  What did they do?  Attempt to decode the feminine mystique.  They try to translate the female brain for the benefit of the men who love them.  I read through most of the comments left after Daddy Doin’ Work posted The Mommy Translator, and it inspired this idea for a post.  I thought his post was funny, but it was still from a dude’s perspective, and I found I didn’t quite agree with all of them, most of them but not all.  I also believe there is a huge difference between “knowing” and “doing”.  Most husbands know these things, I mean the topic’s been done!  The communication vortex exists because we are wired so differently, and the evolution of time has changed very little among marriages and relationships with respect to how we understand each other.  My favorite bloggers are the ones who put everything out there, the good, the bad, the ugly and the even uglier.  My husband and I have vastly different communication styles, and I love to “find the funny” in our marriage and day-to-day life.  If we processed information and communicated in the exact same way, my life would be a great deal less interesting!  I’ve been feeling a little stagnant on post ideas, so a big shout out to Daddy Doin’ Work for inspiring me today.  Here are the five things most argued about in my house:

***NOTE:  I will be speaking in generalities.  Obviously, everyone is different.  I am just speaking from my point of view and experience.***


Me:  running around the house like a chicken with my head cut off, barking orders at kids, sweating, swearing, sighing and slamming things down.

Husband:  (finally notices me and looks up) “So, what’s the plan for this weekend?”

Me:  (seriously? Because I totally look like I have time to field questions right now) “Well, tonight, because all I can really focus on is tonight, man-child needs to finish his homework and reading, I’ve got to pick up daughter #3 from school because daughter #1 has a test and can’t do it.  Daughter #2 doesn’t get released from band practice until 6:30 tonight, and I still have to plan dinner and go to the store.”

Husband:  “Do you need help?”

Me:  (gives husband “the look”, you know the one where I wonder when he had the lobotomy that took away his reason and logic and left tumbleweeds in its place) “Seriously?”

Husband: “……”


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Husband:  “What did I do?”

As a mother, help is a hard thing to ask for because you want the world to believe that you can do it all!  Here is a little peak inside my head (it’s a scary place, bring snacks, water and good lighting and good luck!) during that conversation:

“Look at him, just sitting on that computer with his earbuds in probably listening to some stupid rap crap because he’s all white boy gangsta-like.  I’ve walked in this room 3 times and sighed, slammed things down, given him the stink eye and nothing! No response.  Grumble mumble….have to do everything myself….mumble grumble.  God forbid, I get any help around here.  I hate when he where’s that shirt, it’s all tight and ridiculous.  And that hole in his jeans….like I don’t dress him any better than that.  No appreciation for everything I do, just look at him all oblivious.  Oh, don’t worry, I’ll do EVERYTHING, just like always.  Oh sure, I could ASK for help, but he SHOULD know I need help.  I mean look at me!  Clearly frazzled over here.  Must be nice, to only have to worry about yourself.  OMG, he speaks.  That’s what he asks?  What’s the plan??????  Not, hey honey, do you need help!  Oh, now he finally asks if I need help.  Pffft…  Naturally because he was a day late and a dollar short on his crappy offer of help, I will refuse this fake offer and decide instead to suffer alone and almost silently…if you ignore the sighing and slamming things around.  OMG he seriously just turned back around and put his earbuds back in.  Did that really just happen?”

I shoot the bad finger at him behind his back, and that mollified me a little.  I tell my teenage girls all the time that men are not complicated.  What they say is generally what they mean.  Would it have been easier if I had just asked for help to begin with instead of building up all this resentment and angst?  Yes.  Would it be nice if after a zillion years of marriage, my husband recognizes my not subtle at all signals and jumps up to help without being prodded and poked?  YES!  My husband complains he can’t read my mind, well apparently he can’t read my body signals either.  Yes, there are times when I unfairly expect him to read my mind and I raise the banner of righteous indignation when he doesn’t.  I also know if I had asked for his help, he would gladly have given it.  It becomes a battle of wills, with each side claiming moral victory over the other, but really we’re both just worn out, angry and exhausted by the end of it.

Occasionally, my husband will pick up on my signals but he will purposefully ignore them because he doesn’t want to help.  Since I haven’t actually asked for his help, he can justify his lack of interference in his mind.  Either he is tired or he is busy or whatever, but he figures ignoring me is the best option.  He should stick with that option, because I’m already ticked off and he will only escalate my rage if I sense his offer to help is disingenuous on top of being untimely.  Once you’ve embarked on the “I’ll ignore her” path, don’t veer off and try to double back.  Just forge ahead.  Apologize later for being a thoughtless jerk and pray she forgives you.  You might have to suffer through a lecture, and maybe you’ll remember that next time you opt to ignore the silent scream emanating from your wife.

What will my husband and I learn from this little exercise?  Nothing.  I’ll still expect him to read my mind and when that fails my body signals, and he’ll still expect that if I need help, I will ask.  But we may laugh about it…eventually.

Do I look fat in this outfit?

image courtesy of

If I’m asking this question it’s because I already know the answer.  The answer is YES!  I’m a big fat cow with nothing to wear and I’ll feel like a whale tonight and I’m ugly and my hair looks bad and I’ve got a pimple!  A pimple!  At 40!

Men, if you get asked this question, understand that you have lost.  You will hesitate because you sense the trap.  She will pounce on your hesitation as proof of her fatness and ugliness.  You will get angry because you know you are on the losing side of this coin and you haven’t been equipped with the ability to fix it.  She will get angry because she is drowning in her insecurity and she will take it out on you because you are there and convenient and you never seem to struggle with body image issues.  She will hate you.  It’s temporary.  Here is a frequent conversation that can be heard in my house:

Me:  “I look fat and awful and I hate my closet and my life.”

Husband: “Why don’t you take some time tomorrow and go shopping for yourself?”

Me:  “Oh, because you agree that I look like a whale and need a whole new whale wardrobe?”

Husband:  “No, I just thought you never buy anything for yourself, and maybe a new outfit would make you feel better.”

Me:  “I don’t need to feel better, I need to be thinner.  NOW!”

Husband:  “I really hate it when you talk yourself down like this.”

Me:  “Yet, you haven’t disagreed with me!”

Husband:  “You know I think you’re beautiful.”

Me:  “yeah, and fat, because YOU’RE NOT BLIND!  I don’t even want to go tonight.”  Slams bathroom door and cries pitifully.

What husband should do at this point is walk into the bathroom and just hold me.  That’s it.  What he will do is continue trying to convince me I’m beautiful and he loves me, he might make the mistake of offering me more time for the gym (he will quickly recant after seeing the murderous gleam in my eye), and when all else fails he will tell me I can get drunk and make fun of him all night.  Blessed man.

Sometimes talking is overrated.  Don’t try to fix me.  Just love me.

Did you like it?  Dinner, I mean?

Unlike the previous question, this is not a trap.  I’m asking because I genuinely want/need to know.  Don’t lie to me because then I will continue to make it FOREVER and swear on your deathbed it was your all-time favorite meal.  If the meal is a keeper, praise me and praise me tons.  If it sucks, tell me it sucks.  Chances are that I’ve already realized it sucks, and I’m just wondering if maybe I’m being too hard on myself or it is really as bad as I think it is.  Feel free to thank me for the effort, but whatever you do “DON’T LIE TO ME ABOUT LIKING THE DINNER I PREPARED IF IT’S A 10 ON THE SUCK-O-METER!”  Understand?  Awesome!

I’ll see your…. and raise you….

Me:  “I’m tired today.”

Husband:  “Yeah, I haven’t slept good all week.” 

Me:  “Really?  Huh…pretty sure you seemed asleep as I laid there and watched you in envy all night long.  My head hurts.”

Husband:  “Well, it’s not a restful sleep, and I had to lay on the heating pad today for my headache.  By the way, can you feel my neck, I think my lymph nodes are swollen.”

Me:  (CAN’T I JUST BE TIRED!!!!!!)  “Omg…whatever.  You’re fine.  Eat marshmallows.  They are natures cure for sore throats. I read it in Pinterest so it must be true.”

I don’t care if your leg is hanging off by an artery and you are bleeding out, don’t one-up the mom/wife on the feeling bad scale.  Okay.  NEVER is this okay.  Save your bellyaching for when I’m in a good mood.  Trust me.

Silence (and patience) are golden…

In this particular scenario, my husband started off wrong, but ended right.  He should be congratulated!

Me:  (sitting on the couch, reading a book, finally relaxing after 3 full days of hell.)

Husband:  (comes downstairs and stands there looking at me until I grudgingly look up from my book) “So, ummm today, I have to…”

Me: (interrupts) “…tell me how you are about to ruin my day of relaxation by telling me your laundry list of to-do’s which will in some way, shape or form impact my to-do list of doing nothing for the first time in 3 days?”

Husband:  “No, I mean, I have to…”

Me:  (interrupts) “…Oh yes, please tell me what you have to do.  I can’t wait to hear what you have to do today.  Did I mention this is the first time I’ve had to sit down in 3 days?  Did I also mention that I swore to kill the next person who either gave me instructions or asked for them?  Ringing any bells, dear?”

Husband:  “never mind.”

Me:  (nods appropriately and goes back to my book)

Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him trudge back up the stairs and he looked so dejected and reminded me of man-child in that moment so much that my heart filled up with love for this man.  I felt bad because let’s face it, I was a b*tch.  He could have started a fight right there, clearly I was spoiling for one.  But he didn’t.  He kept his mouth shut and left the room.  I followed him upstairs, hugged him and told him I loved him, and expressed my heartfelt apologies and told him how much I appreciate him and everything he does for me.

Because sometimes (not always…probably rarely), we are wrong and our husbands deserve to hear it.


17 thoughts on “The Feminine Mystique

  1. I love your disclaimer at the top. The asking for help one always makes me crazy. I mean, isn’t it obvious help is needed? Then you have to give point by point instructions on the help while you are running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off? My husband always asks if I need help about 10 seconds before I am done doing something. If I am carrying a laundry basket bigger than I am up the stairs he will wait until I reach the last step to ask me if he can help. The last step. every. single. time. Then there is the moment where the dog is barking because someone is at the door, the child is pulling poop out of her diaper, you are in the middle of cooking and washing the dishes, the phone is ringing and your husband asks you to tell him what to do first and in what order. Yeah, I have a lot of experience with this one…haha! Oh, and the last one, if that’s not already obvious!

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