Sometimes I’m such a woman, I confuse myself, like the other day when my husband and I had some other married people over. The wives had been talking about a special deal one of the department stores was offering on make-up, but by the time I was reminded of my womanliness, we were on to the romances of our various friends and relatives. My husband and the others were in another room playing football on the Play Station.
I was secretly amused when I realized that we had formed stereotypical groups—the woman talking and the men focusing on a task. I would have stayed amused, but then it happened. The other women began to complain—to make fun of their husbands’ video game habits. They vented their hope that they would never have to confront the possibility of having one of those vile machines in their homes. Their husbands would be overcome by childlike tendencies and never get anything else done! To my disappointment, I realized I was smiling and acting like I shared their views—like I agreed that our husbands were exhibiting classic male foolishness.
Really though, I’m not like that. Really. Many of my friends are and have been men—men who play video games and watch action movies—and I’ve liked these things right along with them. (Although, I’ve never been able to embrace video football, or any football for that matter.) In turn, they’ve spent time talking about love and other gush and watching sappy movies with me. Most of my women friends are the same way. We are co-ed junkies—most at home in mixed company.
Maybe that’s why I’ve never been able to stomach too much “girl talk” about men—“Men are single-minded sex addicts who hate asking for directions. They would never get anything done without our constant reminding.” Perhaps in some cases, statements like this one hold true, but most men I know require and deserve much broader descriptions. Of course, that is obvious, but then why do we even bother with this kind of talk? Maybe some women really are “women” and some men really are “men.” Maybe they’ve never been exposed to members of the opposite sex with whom they have a lot in common, so they think the stereotypes about each other are true. They fit inside the imaginary lines.
I don’t know, but I can’t imagine feeling more “at home” with one of my girlfriends than with my husband. And somehow, I feel like when I participate in this kind of talk, no matter how harmless I intend to be, I distance myself from my male friends, and especially from my husband. I’m a traitor—painting a big blue M (red would be too womanly, of course) on the person closest to me. I have more in common with this man than any other person and I’m acting like he’s just another statistic.
Perhaps this talk is a harmless habit, but I’m trying to go cold turkey anyway. I find it hard at times. When you’re around people you don’t know very well, sometimes all you have in common are the widely propagated social stereotypes. You don’t want to offend someone by saying, “No, actually men aren’t pigs.” The people I know who talk like this might think I’m a real downer.
I think my husband is trying too. He told me that one day he was in a group of men who were complaining about their wives watching baby shows on TV. He thought, “Oh yeah, Wendy does that too,” but didn’t say it. I hate being referred to as “girly” whenever I talk about clothes or coo at a baby, but I admit that “girly” things like worrying about my appearance and thinking about having kids (which only recently supplanted thinking about my wedding day) take up just as much of my time as my husband spends on the Play Station. Even so, I think my husband didn’t want to make fun of me—at least not just because I’m a woman. I’m much more to him than a “girly” girl. Then again, maybe he was just afraid I’d be mad if I found out he didn’t like the baby shows as much as I do.
Your comments are so refreshing! Many men believe that the subject of most girl talk features "Relationship talk" and the "All men are the same" theme. I had a beautiful, innocent friendship destroyed by such talk. The (much younger) young woman created great distance between us because the other women at work "worked her over." It's so sad. I'm glad there are women like you that at least think about the stereo-typing and don't automatically buy into it. You renew my faith in humanity. Thank-you.Posted by: Phil on April 13, 2003 08:36 AM