Jewish World Review Feb. 15, 2002 / 4 Adar, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Say What? -- WOULDN'T it be nice if men and women spoke the same language?

Unfortunately, we don't.

Here's an illustration: My husband asks me if anything is wrong and I say, "No, everything is fine." We have been married 24 years, yet, I still have to remind him that when I say fine, it doesn't mean fine. When I say fine, it really means, "Shouldn't the fact that you had to ask if everything is fine tell you something is not fine?"

In the interest of stronger and sweeter relationships I am going to venture into dangerous waters. No, I'm not going to rip back the shower curtain in the kids' bathroom and identify the mold growing on the flip side of the liner. I am offering the Talk Test, a short quiz in which each sex attempts to decode the other. Ready? For the guys:

1. When you are working on a home repair project and she says, "Should we call a professional?" what she really means is:

a. Should we or shouldn't we? Golly gee, I can't decide either.

Actually, the blue arc of electricity shooting from the dryer clear across the kitchen to the stove and refrigerator was kind of pretty.

b. You are not the Ace Hardware Man; you will never be the Ace Hardware man. Call a professional this instant because, as we know from experience, our homeowners insurance does not cover your giddy trigger finger wrapped around lethal power tools

Answer: b. Yes, she posed it as a question, but it was really a demand.

2. When she casually asks, "So, do you want to do something Friday night?" she really means:

a. If you want to stay home and sit on the couch and fall asleep with the remote in your hand like you've done the past three Friday nights, that would be pretty exciting for me, too. I can be happy just watching you breathe.

b. Get up, get the newspaper, get the phone, get moving and make plans. Our social life has all the excitement of a dead horse en route to the rendering plant.

Answer: b. Yes, it may have sounded like a half-hearted suggestion, but it was really a demand. (See No. 1.)

Before you start complaining that women are impossible, let me remind you that men aren't easy to understand either. Ladies, it's your turn:

1. When you ask him to do something and he says, "Yes dear," what he really means is:

a. I'll do it before the sun sets.

b. He didn't hear a thing you said, but in the interest of world peace he knows that a timely "yes, dear" is the next best thing to a missile defense system.

Answer: b, which also explains why you sometimes threaten to make him sleep on the couch.

2. When you ask him to look at you when you are discussing "the relationship" and he fixes his eyes on yours and periodically grunts "uh-hu," he is thinking:

a. Wow, active listening really does improve communication! I wonder if Oprah has done a show on this?

b. I should check with Human Resources, but I think I have a personal leave day that I can use for the opening day of the Cincinnati Reds. As soon as this relationship stuff is over, I'm going to go oil my glove.

Answer: not Oprah.

See how crystal clear communication can become by decoding a few simple and often-used phrases? The real problem with male-female communication is that you may think you understood what the other party said, but what the other party said was not what the other party meant, because what the other party meant was, in fact, never even said.

Glad I could help clear that up.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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06/29/01: A Dog's Best Friend
06/22/01: Rethinking fatherhood
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06/01/01 Hearing voices
05/25/01 Cyborgs for Better or Worse
05/18/01 The death of Common Sense

© 2001, Lori Borgman