LIVING WITH WOMEN
 

DUMB THINGS


DOING DUMB THINGS–WITHOUT JUDGMENT


Dumb Things = Things a woman does (or wants to) which don't make sense to a man; activities which defy male understanding. They may or may not be literally dumb or even "unreasonable" in the larger picture; but at the time they seem dumb from a male point of view.


Genetically different, and especially when our own femininity is un-embraced, we men predictably find that many things about women "just don't make sense" to us. We can't understand much that they do–or at least want to.

Specifics vary, of course, from one woman to the next, but typical differences may include such examples as:


Degrees of cleanliness. Many women are far more concerned with "keeping things clean" than most of us men are on our own. Men living alone are rarely as concerned with "a little dirt" or, for example, "a crumb or two on the floor," as are those we often try to live with. Easily we see–and judge, female diligence in trying to remove all signs of dirt and dust as "compulsive," that is, bordering on emotional illness, if not already there.


Concern with appearances. We males are typically concerned with functionality–what works and serves our various projects, including things being useful and comfortable in our own homes. "If it works well, and does what we want, never mind how it looks" might even be a male mantra.

But alas, female values are often in reverse. "Utility is nice," but "how it looks" commonly takes precedence over "how it works" in a woman's world. Men rarely seem to grasp, let alone make sense of the massive amount of attention women commonly devote to "keeping up appearances."


Re-arranging furniture. With men, once furniture is functionally and comfortably arranged, "that's it." We see no need to keep changing the way objects in our houses are placed. For example, we prefer that our comfortable chair be directly in front of the television, regardless of other furniture or possible placements in a room. Also, we typically see no need to hide the TV in some sort of decorative cabinet.

But is there a woman alive who does not feel a need to periodically re-arrange living spaces, including where we sit and do our in-house projects?

I suspect not.


Beautifying one's self. Unless females are around, we males typically could care less about how we dress and look to others. If our clothes are comfortable, we are generally ready for whatever events face us. We don't need hours of time, tons of expensive make-up, and a closet full of ever-changing clothes to select from before we can comfortably be seen by others. And how many pairs of shoes are "enough" for any woman?

But I need not note how different we are from any typical female in regards to personal appearances; everyone already knows this "full well."


Making up the bed. Men do want the beds we sleep in to be comfortable; but past "making for a good night's sleep," we have little interest in how a bed looks during the day. Left alone, we may pull up the covers when we get up (or we might not), but rarely would we diligently try to remove every wrinkle, nor have any great concern for what potential company might think if we didn't. On the same subject, just one comfortable pillow is enough for most men.


Worrying about company. Other than a few buddies for, say, an occasional poker party or an outdoor barbecue with a keg of beer, most husbands are fairly content to spend time at home with our wives alone. Never mind "having company" as a regular event. But even if occasional "visiting" is in order, as in, seeing friends and/or relatives, or entertaining business prospects, men rarely worry about "how the house looks," the table is set, or "what company may think about us."

All of which is rarely true for a woman "expecting company."


Modesty about body. "Being caught with our pants down," or, "closing the bathroom door," is relatively irrelevant for men in comparison with "being seen with your slip showing" or "spied on while dressing" is for women. "Being seen naked" is no big deal for most men, certainly not cause for alarm, especially within the confines of one's own home. A man may be seen unclothed; but a woman is more likely to feel caught if viewed by a man beyond any degree of self-chosen exposure.

The extent of typical female "modesty" about body is a mystery few males ever seem to solve.


Safety versus thrill. "Playing it safe" is as common to women as "taking chances" is to men. Female concern with safety, as in, keeping doors locked, driving carefully, avoiding "dangerous" equipment, staying away from strangers, etc., etc., is commonly paralleled in men by "forgetting to lock doors," speeding on the road, competing with other drivers, "not being careful" with equipment, and generally valuing excitement over avoiding risks.


Any given man will likely think of many other "problems" inherent in living with a woman with these or other habits which, try as we may, we cannot understand. The issue I confront here is this:


How shall we live with and relate to the many "dumb things" most women

do--as viewed, of course, from a male perspective?


Commonly, "making sense" is as important to us males as "feeling right" is to females we live with. Consequently, when we "can't make sense" of female behaviors, when they seem to us to be "doing dumb things," what are we to do? Other than trying to ignore them, complaining, raising a fuss, arguing about cost, trying to be reasonable, or dumber still, trying to change a woman we love, what are we to sensibly do with acts and patterns of behavior which don't make sense to us and are therefore "dumb things"–as we dimly perceive them?


GENERAL RULE


In general, whenever possible without loss of personal integrity, when you have time and energy, when you can afford possible costs, go ahead and do dumb things (as they seem to you, not her)–without judgement.

In practice, the last phrase, without judgment, may turn out to be the hardest; but I begin with explaining the first parts of this "rule."


...without loss of personal integrity. Since individual integrity–that is, a comfortably accepted sense of oneself as an individual apart from others, is crucial to any successful encounter or relationship, a man will sensibly avoid any move which threatens or costs his self-identity.

If, for example, a man has difficulty in "being told what to do" or in "taking orders" without losing awareness of himself as a person-with-the-right-to-be-here ("getting bent all out of shape"), then of course doing dumb things to please a woman is certainly ill advised. Better to ignore or rebel than to "give in" when the price is loss of self-esteem. Or, as Shakespeare wrote: "This above all else; to thine own self be true...." Only do dumb things for or with a woman when you can at the same time remain "true to yourself."


– ...when you have time and energy. Although women are likely to have more projects or things they consider "needing to be done" around the house, men too commonly have personal agendas at home as well as at work–for examples, doing our own accepted chores; projects in the shop or yard, often in preparation for other outside ventures, such as, hunting or fishing trips; resting, reading, or "just watching TV." 

Even so, most men "have time" in relationships with women when we are not "too tired," and putting aside personal interests is easily possible apart from "doing our own things." When so, doing dumb things which please females is both sensible and practical.


...when you can afford to. Many of the dumb things (again, to us males) which women strongly desire can be done without cost or excessive energy, such as, participating in their degrees of cleanliness and household order–for examples, picking up after oneself, putting dishes in the dishwasher ("the way she likes"), making up the bed ("without wrinkles"), and periodically re-arranging furniture.

However, as is well known, many women are indeed "high maintenance"–that is, expensive to maintain in pleasing moods. Many of the dumb things they want, such as, diamonds and "enough" clothes and shoes, not to mention costly make-up and house decorations, may, as we say, "put a strain on a man's pocketbook."

Even so, within the limits of actual afford-ability, many of a woman's desires can be safely "indulged (male perspective) in without breaking the bank." When so, smarter men quietly spend money on women they care for, without begrudging them for wanting dumb things.


With these "ifs and whens" in the background, I can now go ahead clarifying the "rule."

In summary: Try to discern a woman's desires, especially when they are unstated, and attempt to

fulfill them quietly (without being asked), quickly, and without fanfare. "Just go ahead and do dumb things" without making a big deal of it. Act as if they make perfect sense to you, as if you want to do them.

Carefully avoid such secret agendas as, looking for compliments, rewards, pay back, or other forms of personal affirmation; that is, do dumb things because you chose to on your own, for reasons of your own, and not as a cloaked con job. After you participate in a dumb-to-you deed, move quickly on, as if you simply did what you wanted to and it had nothing to do with her.

If she appears to ignore what you have done, for instance, does not acknowledge or show appreciation, then move along as though it were nothing. Don't call attention to your "good deed," as though you were a little boy looking for mother's approval. If you do, you invite her to see you as such, rather than as a man who cares for her.

If, on the other hand, she makes a big deal over your act, as with compliments and thanksgiving, accept graciously, but carefully avoid "falling for them," that is, being "set up" by a female's ego-boosting wile, even if it is unconsciously wielded.

Or, as may sometimes be the case, if she belittles what you have done, as in criticizing the way you did it, finding faults in your efforts, or blaming you for not doing so more often, be especially attentive to remaining on your own Green Spot ("in your own skin," with personal integrity). Hear her, that is, "without falling for it," as in, "taking it personally" and being "put down" by her words.

In reference to compliments and criticism, follow Kipling's advice in his poem If, "treat these two imposters just the same," that is, see them as expressions of others which do not move you in either direction, up or down, spiritually speaking. As he concluded, if you do, "you'll be a man someday," really!


In previous sentences I used the verb act and the metaphors as if (as though) in pointing toward effective use of this "rule." This, of course, raises the larger issue of honesty in relationships. Obviously acting seems to be in contrast with "being honest," which is commonly viewed as a virtue in good relationships.

I, for instance, grew up hearing a love song with these words: "Be honest with me, dear, whatever you do; remember you're mine, and always be true. Wherever you wander, o'er land or o'er sea, whatever you do, dear, be honest with me." And as late as last night I read a marriage counselor's article entitled, "Even Little Lies Can Hurt a Marriage," in a popular self-help publication, including this advice about "....sharing everything. It is the premise of a good partnership." (Italics mine)

But, I observe, this long time popular ideal may often be more disastrous than practical and/or loving in any extended relationship, especially between males and females.


HONESTY IN MARRIAGE


Before amplifying my point, I give credit where credit seems due. When honesty is understood on the existential level, as in, literally being honest–as contrasted with irresponsible verbal honesty or "telling all" regardless of consequences, then the popular ideal appears valid to me. But being honest is an existential condition which includes far more than what one says or does not say, such as, what one silently knows about possible consequences of any verbal declaration. To ignore potential results of what one says is to be less than honest (at least in an existential sense).

Certainly words may be a part of being honest; but often they are a small part. Silence, sometimes, is more honest–in this deeper sense of the term, than "sharing everything," "telling all you know," or, "saying how you feel," without regard to consequences, such as, how words (your truth) may be received by another. A responsible lie, for instance, may sometimes be more loving than a verbal truth (an honest statement) which ignores possible effects of words.


My point: although verbal honesty is traditionally touted in songs, religions, legal courts, parental advice, and social ideals, when separated from existential honesty it may be more destructive, even disastrous, than a positive force in an extended relationship. Better, I conclude, to be wisely deceptive, always taking all one knows into present account, than blindly honest in verbal declarations.

When "complete honesty," "sharing everything," "keeping no secrets," "having everything out in the open," "telling all," etc., is taken as an ideal and worked for in practice, such a relationship is, I conclude, on dangerous ground at best, and headed for breakup at worst.


This ideal only holds true and workable to the extent that each partner is self-repressed, "living on top of things," has no "ghosts in their closet," no cloaked self-images, no need to project un-embraced feelings, desires, or hopes.

The more repressed one is, the more possible, and even feasible, "total honesty" or full disclosure may be; but conversely, the less repressed either partner is, the more destructive "sharing everything" may become.

The more honest you are with yourself (less repressed), the less verbally honest you may reasonably be with others. The more clearly you know yourself, the more deceptive (as in, appearing to believe what you don't) you may pragmatically become. Or, conversely, the less honest one is with himself, the more honest he can safely and functionally be with another.

But the point here is the opposite, namely, as self honesty escalates, other-deception (acting as though) becomes increasingly pragmatic in healthy relationships. Blind, automatic, irresponsible "telling all" (like confessing to a priest or revealing onself in therapy), is replaced by discretionary verbal honesty which takes context into account along with stated words–that is, how what one says is apt to be heard and with what effects it may have, as my previously described being honest implied.

Or, from Creative Process perspectives: Those who live at early phases of the natural process, namely, Perception, Emoting, and Imaging Stages, and are yet to de-code their images into Concepts or absorb them into themselves, may successfully "share everything," especially with others who share their same images (as in religions); but the more either partner moves in the Creative Process (or unless both progress at equal speed) the less feasible un-thinking verbal honesty becomes; that is, the more functional acting and relating as though (e.g., "dumb things make sense") becomes.

Bottom line: Unless both partners in any male/female relationship are equally repressed (or to the degree that this is so) "total honesty" is apt to be more destructive than virtuous. When otherwise, which is more often, artful acting, e.g., living as though certain things are truly believed in or agreed with, "respectful pretending" is often the wiser course of action, the more loving way.

Consequently, learning to artfully pretend, to act as though, for instance, certain "dumb things" a partner either does or believes in, truly make sense may become an essential part of "living well with women (or anyone else)."


Which leads me to the last, and often more difficult part of the "rule," namely, without judgment.


DISCERNMENT WITHOUT JUDGMENT


"Making sense," approaching life through the door of reason rather than feeling, seems to come naturally for most males; but doing so without crossing the line into judgment can be a grand challenge. Easier to fall into self righteousness about "being reasonable," with resulting judgments of "nonsense" about "feelings," than to remain sensible, yet non-judgmental.

The principle is: Always discern sharply, but never judge what you discern. Make as much sense as you can, but never put down on non-sense. Be as reasonable as possible, without idolizing logic or looking down on emotions.

See irrationality without judging it negatively, while honoring reasonableness without making a god of sense (e.g., "thinking it's better than feelings"). Consider all available data, weigh all information on the scales of reason; but finally stand openly at the door of mystery, the existential fact that we have no certain answers, no final truths, no unquestionably right or wrong knowledge.

For example, we men typically value reasons over feelings, and give less credence to emotions than to sense, often in sharp contrast with our female counterparts. But if we are to avoid judgment, we must also acknowledge that this typical gender difference is only a difference, that is, that "being reasonable" is not necessarily "right" or even "best," and "being emotional" is inherently "wrong" or "bad." We must, that is, if we follow this part of the rule, acknowledge such typical gender differences without assuming, e.g., "men are smarter," or judging that "women are dumb."

We must muster the nerve to stand at the open door of mystery, not-knowing-for-sure, while yet discerning diligently but avoiding judgment of what we see as irrational, not making sense to us. Obviously, "being reasonable" seems to be more practical and productive, at least to us males, than "just being emotional," as females often appear to us; even so, the latter way is not, in larger reality, "wrong" or "bad," only different from our male-preferred mode of coping with life.

This difficult principle requires recognizing and remaining aware of dark mystery always surrounding our most lighted truths, our best answers so far, our most logical conclusions–that is, the limitations of all human knowledge, ours included. And doing so without resorting to the opposite way, namely, of putting down on reason, devaluing sensible thinking (weighing all available data on the scales of logic), and ceasing to discern carefully–that is, escaping the challenges of sense-making by falling into accepted ignorance.

Bottom line: If we men are to live well with women, one challenge involves "doing dumb things" without judgment, that is, without putting down on women for "being unreasonable," elevating ourselves for "being sensible," or blindly concluding that our way is "right" and their ways are "wrong."

Arenas for practicing this "rule" will obviously vary from one male/female relationship to another. But typical examples may include:


– Seeing and accepting apparently irrational desires for cleanliness and going along with their applications without judging them, for example, to "be stupid." This may involve such seemingly mundane (to us males) practices as: washing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher; changing clothes before they get dirty; picking up crumbs from the floor; bathing "too often,


– Confronting needs for excessive (to us) order in such areas as: silverware in drawers, clothes in the closet, dishes in the dishwater, furniture in the room, pictures on the wall, making up the bed without any wrinkles.


– Having new and/or stylish clothing when currently owned clothes are more than adequate for comfort, for example, an unlimited number of shoes and/or blouses of every color.


– Buying expensive and name brand products when ordinary goods are equally functional–for example, shopping at Ann Taylor rather than Walmart.


– Seemingly unlimited desires for expensive jewelry and other adornments.


– Unreasonable beliefs and self-images nor supported by available data, such as: "Sex is dirty," "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," "I'm too fat (or ugly, dumb, frivolous, etc.)," "You don't love me anymore," "You don't do anything to help around the house," "Men are only interested in sex," "You can't go to bed with dishes in the sink (or make love with lights on)," etc.


Applying this principle may be easier to see when a woman's ways ("dumb things") phase into what may be called "emotional disturbances," such as: obsessive/compulsive behavior (e.g., rechecking for locked doors, repeated washing), or irrational beliefs, such as, "Ivory soap causes cancer," or "People are out to get you").

Children who believe in ghosts, invisible monsters, or, e.g., "tigers under the bed," are another arena for practicing this "rule."

In either case, application of the principle involves seeing emotional disturbance and irrational beliefs, even obviously imaginary "realities (e.g., mirages in the desert or ghosts in the closet)," without judgment–that is, staying present with women or children who are "talking and/or acting crazy," while carefully concealing contrary discernments (e.g., that Ivory soap is harmless; everyone is not out to get you; you are not really "too fat" or "dumb"; and the closet is free from spooks), and appearing to accept such "crazy" or "dumb things" as presented.

In practice this involves my previously amplified phrase, acting as if. In order to stay present with unreasonable behavior, beliefs, and/or actions ("dumb things") without judgment, one may often have to act as if he does in fact accept, believe in, and/or approve of what is, to him, actually irrational, unrealistic, and unnecessary–that is, "dumb" or even "crazy."

When so, such acting will require deception and pretense, that is, keeping personal opinions to oneself, controlling non-verbal expressions which may reveal disagreement, and often "going along with" or participating in "dumb things," such as: not buying Ivory soap, making up the bed "right," removing all stains from kitchen counters, putting dishes in the dishwasher "like she wants them," washing clothes "whether dirty or not," "turning lights off before having sex," and even, especially with fearful children, pretending to look for ghosts in a closet.

Obviously there will be practical limits to such acting and/or temporary pretending to believe what in fact one does not, when, for example, consequences are destructive (or, as previously noted, when a man does not have time and energy and cannot afford "going along with" without loss of personal integrity). But much of the time in ordinary daily living, a female's unreasonable-to-males desires, beliefs, and habits, can be easily and safely accepted, indulged, and participated in without unacceptable results.

Whenever these qualifications are met, a man may wisely do many "dumb things" in quest of living well with women.


HEARING DUMB THINGS WITHOUT JUDGMENT


From a man's perspective, women often say, as well as do, "dumb things," that is, they make statements which don't make sense to a man, aren't reasonable, don't add up, aren't logical, are inaccurate, or just plain wrong.

What then is a man to do when he hears such? How might he wisely respond?

Typical male reactions include: attempts to correct, explain otherwise, require "being logical," supply contrary information; get angry and/or frustrated "that women won't be reasonable"; quit listening; remain quiet; or otherwise leave the conversation.


"Dumb things" spoken may include:


– Illogical statements, such as, something being both right and wrong, in and out, up and down, true and false, etc., at the same time.


–Shallow reasoning.


– Unexamined ideas, such as, "read in a magazine," heard on Oprah, somebody said, heard on TV (e.g., that burnt toast causes cancer).


– Hyperbole talk; "worst food I've ever had", "best...."


– Inaccurate facts.


Typical "dumb" subjects and modes of female talk which are often problematic to males:


– Talking about feelings rather than facts; "what I feel" or speculate about emotions of others.


– Basing ideas on feelings; "emotional talk," e.g., "I feel like...you think I'm fat (don't like what I said, did, want, etc.)".


– When an idea is presented as a feeling rather than a fact.


– Sentences as questions, e.g., "Why is so and so," = "I'm wondering" versus an actual request for information. Or, "What do you think about....?" = "I'm unsure of what I think" versus "Tell me."


– Pointless, non-focused circular talk; saying whatever comes to mind, with no obvious purpose.


– Changing any subject at anytime, even in the midst of a sentence.


– Pretending to listen to what is being said, acting attentive while ignoring what is being said (as mothers may do with small children).


– Finishing a man's sentences before he can.


– Probing male motives; asking or telling a man what he feels; "You're mad at me, aren't you," or, "You don't like what I said, do you?"


–Interrupting in the middle of a man's sentence.


– Constant complaining ("bitching") versus trying to improve or change; a female mode of voicing discomfort, typically unacceptable in male talk.


Wiser responses:


– Suspend judgment; forget "being reasonable"; listen carefully without speaking; give non-verbal signs of accepting the speaker (nods, smiles, etc.) even if what is said seems dumb to you; reserve contradictory opinions, information, or explanations for truly relevant and consequential ideas, not any casual subject.


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