Why Can't He Hear What You're Saying?
By Bryan Stipe
One man explains ... sort of:
It was a novice mistake, I admit — the kind of dumb thing you do two months
into a relationship, not four years. My wife and I were having dinner with
friends and I was telling a story about how her brother crashed his car. Yes,
maybe I hyperbolized a little bit, played it for laughs at his expense. So when
Kristen shot me her death-ray look across the table — the one that means: You
have committed some gaffe, said something offensive, revealed something
private, etc., and should cease and desist — I ceased and desisted. But
afterward, on the car ride home, she was still mad. "I mean, at this point
you shouldn't even apologize," she said. So I didn't apologize. I said I
understood. I held her hand a little in the car, and when we got home I made a
bowl of ice cream and watched Big Love. Later, Kristen came into the
den, all dressed for bed, and stood silently watching Bill Paxton and wife
number two in flagrante. "Well," she finally snapped, "you could
have at least apologized!" When I protested that she'd told me I
shouldn't apologize, she said, "It would have been a good place to
At that moment, I became a walking marriage cliché. You know the cliché I'm
talking about. It goes: My wife speaks a strange alien tongue that I, no matter
how hard I try, am too dumb to learn. It was one of those moments when you
identify with that line from Knocked Up: "Marriage is an unfunny
version of Everybody Loves Raymond."
But there's a reason the cliché exists: A lot of the time we guys do
need help in the "What the heck are you talking about?" department. The
Everybody Loves Raymond way of explaining this phenomenon is that we men
are too thick to read between the lines. And, okay, this is kind of true.
Kristen will try to tell me in every possible way about presents she'd like me
to get for her. She might say, "Hey, those earrings are nice!" And nine
times out of 10, I do not copy. I might think, Wow, she really likes to talk
about jewelry a lot, or Wow, does she not realize that I'm not a woman
and that I don't care about earrings? Maybe if I'm quiet for long enough she'll
change the subject.