Romance amid Reality
This column first appeared February 14, 2003.
This Valentineís Day many of us were plagued with questions in the romance department. Will he send flowers? Will she say yes? My question was a bit different: why canít he ever bang up his car?
I would feel significantly better about myself if just every now and then he would back into a tree, or rear end the car in front of him, or hit a fire hydrant. You see, Iíve done those things (Iíve actually hit a fire hydrant twice), and I donít see why I should be the only one.
The latest accident happened a few weeks ago when the roads were really icy. I was only going about 20 km/h when the truck ahead of me stopped. I had plenty of room, but I hit an icy patch and just couldnít get the brakes to respond. My bumper hit his trailer hitch. Guess who won?
There werenít any other scratches on either vehicle, and the other driver suggested I use duct tape to repair the baseball sized hole I was now sporting. In retrospect, I canít see anything I could have done differently. It was just one of those things. But hereís my dilemma. If it truly wasnít my fault, then why arenít all our accidents divided equally between the two of us? Why is it only ever me?
Of course, Keith did the proper husband thing and said, "all that matters is that no one was hurt." And he treated me perfectly well all day long. Which of course made me suspect that he was harbouring some horrid thought like "why canít she just learn to drive?". And for the next few days, no matter what he said to me, I snapped. He must be thinking Iím incompetent. And I must punish him for it.
The biggest barrier to romance, in my opinion, isnít necessarily the failure to remember flowers on Valentineís Day (though chocolate couldnít have hurt). Itís this tendency to build walls of suspicion between us because basically weíre all insecure. We know what we hate about ourselves, and one of our worst fears is that those we love will notice these flaws, too.
Men and women experience this differently. John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, posits that men read guilt trips into everything. "Come to the table! Dinnerís ready!", for instance, means "why couldnít you get off that couch earlier and help me make it?". Women, on the other hand, nurse this suspicion that deep inside our men may know weíre less than perfect.
Since I can speak to the female side of that equation better, hereís a primer for men. If she asks you if you think sheís gaining weight, the answer is always "no". If she asks if you think sheís becoming boring because the kids have taken over her life, the answer isnít just no. Itís no plus a reassuring hug, and an effort to change the next dirty diaper. And if she ever asks you if you would find her more exciting if she looked more like Claudia Schieffer, the correct answer is "Claudia who?". These things go to the heart of her self-esteem, and itís very important to get them right.
We women need to remember the other side of the coin. When he says, "Wow, thatís quite a hole in the bumper," take him at his word. He may not mean "Itís a wonder they ever gave you a license in the first place." That may simply be the voice in your head working overtime. Likewise, if he says, "Wow, this place is a mess," put down that frying pan. He may not be blaming you. He may just be commenting on the need to teach all residents of this house who are over the age of six to stop living like pigs.
Sometimes men need to read between the lines a little bit more to hear what sheís really saying. And sometimes women need to stop reading between the lines and just read his lips. Kissing them is probably a good idea, too. And, of course, so are chocolate truffles. Thatís what made my Valentineís Day, and I hope you all had a fun day, too.