Memo For File CXXXX

Don’t ask me how, but while we were on the road for the holiday doing our bit to emit carbon and shove the price of gas upward, we were given occasion to talk about “The Mode.” You know, the women-mode…the one where you have to do something all over again, because she’s just let you know in no uncertain terms that you botched it good. But you don’t exactly feel like jumping right into it because with the mode she’s in, the verdict will come down that you botched it again, and how you did it & re-did it, you have the feeling it isn’t going to factor in to things too much. The Mode will decide everything, and at the moment it is not working in your favor.

I think men of all ages, co-existing with all sorts of grades and flavors of women, have encountered The Mode. It seems to me there is a communication glitch occurring between the sexes here. The female, by handing down one item of criticism after another after another, is communicating a simple message of “you need to be paying closer attention.” The fellas, on the other hand, think like men; how unreasonable, huh? And so they are picking up a message of “your energy here is entirely wasted.”

Now, a word or two is necessary on the subject of my unique story. I’m a peculiarity among most men. The typical male will start out in his adulthood convinced he knows everything about women, and then he’ll demonstrate this is not so, the first time he encounters The Mode. He’ll take the message literally that he needs to be paying closer attention, and busy himself with managing an ever-expanding list of things that need to be fixed or improved upon. This is precisely the wrong approach, not at all unlike trying to push a grocery cart down a steep hill. It gets away from you pretty quickly, and your efforts to keep up only result in actions that are at odds with the female’s expectations…which, in turn, causes the list of things to be fixed-or-improved, to explode even faster. The male pays a very steep price for this. My price was steeper than most, and so I had burned within me at a tender age that most central and all-defining of libertarian tenets:

Expect to see more of that which is encouraged, and expect to see less of that which is discouraged.

I took that to extremes. As a result, I should have more tales of woe to share, since extremes seldom lead to anything good. But in this case, it’s worked out alright. Perhaps what I discovered is the bedrock principle upon which all working human civilizations must function. If you want to see less of something, you shouldn’t encourage it. Seems like something we should remember more easily, and more often, than we do.

So my technique has been — honesty first. The most honest response to The Mode is, if you’re trying to get me to pay closer attention, this is not the way to go about it. Here on Planet Man, if something somewhere is so loaded with problems that the faults in its behavior must be pointed out several times a minute, it is necessary first of all to catalogue the faults, so it can be determined whether they all share a common cause. And you can’t catalogue something if you don’t know the quantity of it…therefore…the very first task to be achieved, if we take The Mode seriously, is to count them.

“Yes, sweetheart, that’s the third thing I’ve botched today.”

“You’re right, cupcake, that’s the fourth thing I’ve biffed today.”

“Absolutely, puddin’-butt, that’s the fifth thing I’ve f*cked up today.”

I’ve never made it past eight.

My message here for the gals is simple: The “strafing run” is not helping you. After three, you’re done. We are NOT paying more attention to you — why would we? — and we’re not going to. It isn’t that we don’t care; we just don’t manage lists the same way you do. If we’re seasoned and smart, we stopped taking the details seriously a long time ago, and come to the realization that you’re in The Mode and we can’t do anything right. If we’re young and stupid, we’ll take it more seriously, but just end up overwhelmed and frustrated.

For gentlemen: You really need to re-examine how they’re doing things, anytime the lady gets that look in her eye, where she wishes you would take a hike for a time, and in your place would materialize a nice White Zinfandel, a box of chocolates, and a video device playing some New Moon movie, or Sex in the City, or Dr. Zhivago.

But that last one works for the gals as well. It works for beer, pizza and James Bond. (James Bond never does anything wrong!) It isn’t a good effort, or a noble effort, or an effort likely to meet with success, when you try to command more intense levels of attention by dispensing endless lists. Somewhere after item number five or so, the list becomes just so much static. And if the one or two issues that are really most pressing, are not present in those five, then the only message you’ve managed to send is: You suck a*s at prioritizing.

If you seek to inspire a more deferential attitude from your beau, you shouldn’t signal to us that you suck a*s at prioritizing. We’re fixers. It’s what we do. If we’re picking up that you’re in the middle of handling a list of something and it’s beyond your abilities to properly handle it, we’re going to jump in and do some of it for you. This, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict, is not even in the same ballpark as the kind of behavior you’d like to see from us.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Washington Rebel.

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