My housemate Adam pulled a stunt last night that left me perplexed, amused, and vaguely annoyed. The result was that I remembered reading the lengthily-titled Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and shaking my head over just how correct the author of that book was.
For context, first I'll explain the specific nature of the "stupid guy stunt". I recently ordered parts to upgrade my computer (a motherboard, CPU, RAM, and video cards), and they arrived yesterday right before I had to leave for work, so all I really had time to do was un-box them and put them on the table. Adam gets home shortly after I leave, and I was pretty much expecting to rely on his superior computer expertise to put the machine together and get it working in its new configuration. However, what I was not expecting was that he would decide to put it together last night before I'd, you know, backed up my data or otherwise prepared for the transition. (When I ordered the parts, he said that he intended it to be a "weekend project"--I don't think the weekend usually starts on Wednesday. But I digress.) So, I was a little bit startled when I came home to a.) vanished computer parts and b.) a non-functioning computer that Adam had helpfully labeled "not done yet".
My initial reaction, which thankfully I controlled, was to get pissed off. Most women (and men) are probably familiar with this phenomenon. From what I've heard, it usually ends with the woman turning into a shrieking blame-spewing harpy and the man withdrawing, turtle-like, into a resentful silent shell. This is where reading MAFM, WAFV helped me, because this book actually explains what is going through a man's head when situations like these crop up.
Unlike me, Adam (and from what I understand, most guys) doesn't really consider it necessary to do a lot of prep work before tackling a problem, because he's more confident in his ability to deal with issues as they come up. It may not even occur to him that maybe some prep work was called-for until an actual problem occurs. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it's just a difference of approach. Have I ever seen Adam fail to handle a problem? No. I have confidence in his abilities and I should demonstrate it. So that's reason one not to get mad.
Reason two is that I'm willing to bet that Adam was trying to surprise me with a cool new upgraded computer. I've been given to understand by MAFM, WAFV that men really like doing things for women--or, maybe a better way to put it is that men like doing things AND being appreciated for them. In the minds of men, women are supposed to be the source of most of this appreciation. So, Adam was trying to be a Good Guy, and he's probably already annoyed and upset at himself because he didn't get finished before I found out about it. If you interrupt any plan halfway through, it has a tendency to look more like a disaster than a plan and there's plenty to criticize. If I jumped on Adam and criticized him, there was a good chance that it would just make him want to give up on the project entirely--and if he didn't, it would transform the project from something he was doing on his own initiative to something he had to do in order to get out of trouble. My anger would destroy any satisfaction he would normally derive from completing the project. That's bad.
Reason three is that Adam, being my friend, is objectively more important to me than the computer even if he somehow managed to blast the computer into tiny bits. If I yelled at him, I'd be conveying the message that the computer was more important than he is, whether that's the message I want to convey or not.
Lastly, Adam is a computer guy. He loves messing around with computers, it's what he does for a living, after all! I like that about him, it means that I have someone around who not only can but is willing to fix my computer. It'd be totally ridiculous to expect him NOT to mess around with the Cool New Computer Parts at the first opportunity.
However, it's also important that I remember that he *did* act a bit rashly and bring it to his attention in a polite manner. That prevents the relationship from becoming All About Him, a situation that can only lead to resentment from me--which later will turn me into a screaming harpy because I can only successfully bottle that sort of thing up for so long.
So, making use of my hard-earned enlightenment, I'd like to say to all men, everywhere: You are AWESOME!! Us ladies are thrilled that you've undertaken to fix our computers or drive across the country or whatever it is that you're doing at the moment. We're sorry that when things start to go wrong we get a little nervous. It's not that we doubt your abilities, it's just that we're nervous and you could accomplish a lot by demonstrating that you do, in fact, know what you're doing. And we're really NOT ANGRY that you didn't give us a chance to back up our data BEFORE you dove headfirst into the project.
Well, not much.
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