I’m big enough and old enough to realise that I don’t need to have arguments with my girlfriend. When I was younger and – well, basically, more stupid – I would resort to arguments to force my viewpoints across and it was no surprise that my relationships with girls didn’t last. Then one day I read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” and it was like a fog lifting from inside my head. If you read a book like that and realise that you’re not perfect and some of what it talks about might actually refer to you (rather than many who will only see what they want to see then completely miss the point) then you can come out the other end a better person for it. I spent a good while replaying events from my past in my head realising a lot of the mistakes I made and how they were for a large part my fault.
So the bottom line is that I don’t tend to have arguments with my girlfriend (which is where I came in). Arguments occur when communication breaks down and very often the best way to communicate is to just shut up and listen. When guys moan about something they are really looking for solutions to their problems from those they speak to whereas girls tend to just want to let off some steam. Trouble is, if you don’t know this and a girl is bitching about work, you keep cutting her off and telling her she should quit her job or beat up her boss when all she wants to do is share her troubles with you then she’ll feel better. Anyway, it’s a great book and I’d recommend it to anyone (just like I’m doing now). But I’m not perfect. While I can pretty much diffuse any potential conflict, I can’t diffuse them all.
Take shopping for clothes. My girlfriend and I are going to some friend’s wedding at the weekend and she had already bought a very nice dress that she looks fantastic in. The only thing to spoil her outfit would be me standing next to her looking like a scruffy programmer who doesn’t really care how he looks because he isn’t vain and, to be honest, seldom looks at his own reflection in the mirror and wears a shirt even less. So in a typical boorish male fashion (pun intended) I suggested that she pick out exactly what I should wear from top to bottom. What a guy – the perfect boyfriend! Of course it just doesn’t work that way…
Let me take you to Sunday night. We’re sitting on the sofa and we’ve just watched 24 (or, as I like to call it, The Jack Bauer Show ). She picks up the Next and Debenhams catalogues with the mission to find me some clothes to wear. After a time she shows me about 3 pairs of trousers, 5 shirts and a page of shoes. So I say “okay, pick the ones you want me to buy” and she says “I just have”. And this was where our worlds diverged.
Her attitude is to just buy everything, try it on at home, then take back what I didn’t want. I, on the other hand, have a right-first-time policy that means I’ll go into a shop, pick up a top or pair of trousers, try them on in the changing rooms, confirm that they fit perfectly, buy them and wear them to death from that day onwards. It appears that these two approaches just don’t mix well. I’d press her to make a decision and she’d argue that she never sees me in a shirt so can’t picture me in the ones in the catalogue. I’d offer to go and put a shirt on but that would only seem to raise her blood pressure. I’d try a different tack by saying “look at that model in that shirt, now pretend I’m standing in front of you with that shirt on and tell me what you think”. She’d say that she can’t picture me in a shirt and the whole thing would go round and round.
After a couple of cyclical arguments she snapped and suggested I just choose my own damned clothes. Naturally I responded by pointing out that it was me doing her the favour by letting her dress me which, it turns out, was precisely the wrong thing to say (unless you’re really looking for a proper argument). After a few terse words were fired my way in a tone that didn’t exactly say “I love you” I decided to stop being a pig-headed tosser and compromise. We decided on 3 shirts, one pair of trousers one pair of shoes and a tie. We also decided that she hates clothes shopping and that Sunday nights can be better spent than leafing through catalogues.
I’m sure I’ll look fine, albeit not as good as those hunky models in the catalogues, but it just goes to show that men really are from Mars and women really are from Venus. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Makes life much more interesting.