Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Meat(loaf) of the Conversation

Men and women communicate differently. I should know. As the only woman in a house full of men, it is painfully obvious. Even the turtle won’t talk to me. Well, he is dead. But intuition tells me his dying was just a creative way to give me the silent treatment.

With regard to talking to men there is one principle I have learned, men like short conversations and interactions. By short, I mean one word and preferably one syllable responses.

Me: “Would you like chicken or pork chops for dinner?”
Him: “Either.”
Me: “I was thinking about getting a new hair-do.”
Him: “OK.”

My son says his teacher talks too much. I asked him what he meant by that. He said, “My teacher goes on and on about nothing. He talks constantly, like a girl.” So now, not only are throwing like a girl, crying like a girl, hitting like a girl and screaming like a girl all insults, but now talking like a girl is bad as well. This is a really unfortunate turn of events because talking is something that most females do really, really well. I even talk in my sleep! If there was a talking hall of fame I would be in it.

I did some super-scientific research (I asked all men I am related to leading questions and gave them $5 each) to try and understand why men have a problem with long conversations. Through my study I found that there are four basic reasons why men prefer to keep verbal communication to a minimum.

1.) They think you are trying to sell them something and/or separate them from their money.
2.) They feel that you are trying to get them to do something that they don’t want to do-- like eat meatloaf.
3.) They are afraid that the more words used is in direct proportion to the likelihood that crying will take place.
4.) They are afraid if you start talking you may never stop.
To summarize, men are paranoid.

Even though men keep their uttering’s brief there is a lot of meaning in those select expressions. For example, when you ask your husband “Would you rather have tacos or spaghetti for dinner and he says “either” what he really means is “I don’t care as long as it isn’t meatloaf again.”

When you say, “I love you.” And your husband says “I love you too.” What he really means is “Oh crap did I forget her birthday or something or did she make meatloaf again?”

When you ask your husband “What do you think of my hair?” and he says “It’s nice.” What he is really trying to say is “The hair is nice but that dress makes you look a little wide through the hips.”

When you ask “Do these earrings go with this necklace?” and he says “Yes.” What he really wants to communicate is: “Oh my word! She is going to make us late for our reservation and then we are going to have to sit at the bar for 30 minutes until a table opens up and then that one weird waiter is going to keep coming up to me and checking to see if we are ok and touching me on the shoulder and she knows I cannot be touched right before I am going to eat steak!"

When men are speaking their brains are going through a process to eliminate excess words from their speech. It is like a verbal diet. Because of this process men often try to speak in words but the only thing that comes out are grunts. Although primitive and controversial, these guttural noises are still in use today. Many scientists have spent years trying to decode these ancient ramblings. The secret lies in the subtle differences in tone and length of grunt. Here is a brief tutorial on some of these types of communication.

“Hrmpf” means “You are wrong.”
“Hrmmmmpf” means “Interesting, but I still think you are wrong.”
“Hrrmmmmmpf” means “Talking about it doesn’t make you less wrong.”
“Hrrmmmmmmmpf” means “Seven o’clock, a week from Tuesday.”

Part of the problem is that men don’t understand what women are talking about, or why. I asked my son to explain why he fades out mentally when talking to girls. He told me this story about having to talk to a girl in his class; they were partnered up for a science project. He asked her about the model they were making of the digestive system and her response was:

“Ok, like some friends of mine, well not friend-friends but people, you know, that I hang out with, were going to like go to the mall. But I don’t mean go-go, I mean like go. And we were like looking for stuff that we couldn’t find because it was like moved around or something, in like the store. And we had to ask a person who like was working there, but they didn’t work there and it was like so embarrassing. I almost died! Seriously died! And now I almost never go in there anymore because it was like so totally traumatizing.”

My son’s response was, “What does that have to do with the small intestine? Oh yeah, it is a waste by-product. I get it now.”

I have read a lot of books on how to get my husband to talk to me. The books outline different methods and give them cute names to help you remember how to use them. I have defined a few of them below.

The Sandwich Principle—If you have something important to share (the meat) surround it on both sides by compliments (the bread). For example: "Honey, I am so glad that I have such a wonderful husband like you that wants to take care of me and provide nice things for me, because I just maxed out the credit card buying shoes, and I am also so grateful that you don’t believe in the death penalty.

The Salt Principle—If you have something important to share first lure him in by laying out some salt so that he will be thirsty for more information and then be willing to engage in a discussion. For example:
Me: Phew, that was a close call today; I am so glad the ambulance arrived when they did.
Him: What ambulance?
Me: Oh, at the mini-mart. It was a little touch-and-go there for a while before the fire trucks got there, but they were able to put the blaze out in no time at all.
Him: Blaze? What Blaze?
Me: Oh, just a little unintentional fire. The important thing to remember at a time like this is that no one got hurt and just be thankful for our loved ones.
Him: What did you do?!

The Heimlich—Hit him with several quick jabs to the chest and refuse to stop until he talks to you.
Him: I can’t breathe!
Me: Talk to me!
Him: I can’t breathe! *Gasp*
Me: Talk to me or else!
Him: *Wheeze*
Me: Fine, don't respond! But if you think falling into unconsciousness is going to get you out of this conversation, you are mistaken!

One of the books said that I should read the news so that I have something interesting to talk to him about at the end of the day.
Me: “On the news today they were talking about personality types. Do you think I have a type A personality?”
Him: “I think one of your personalities is.”

One of the books said that I should be sure to talk to my husband about spiritual matters because it will forge a deep emotional connection.
Me: “It was a terrible situation, but then I just knew what to do, it was like God spoke to me.”
Him: “Oh yeah, is he really, really old like everyone says?”

One of the books said that I should be fascinated with his interests and I should leave it open for him to discuss what is important to him.
Me: “So is there anything that you would like to discuss?”
Him: “What?”
Me: “Is there anything that you would like to talk about?”
Him: “Tonight?”
Me: “Well, tonight or whenever?”
Him: “With you?”
Me: “Yes.”
Him: “No.”

After years of careful study of the male species and trying to figure out the best way to communicate, I finally asked my husband what he thought the difference is between the way men and women converse. He said, “Men stick to the facts and women talk about how everything makes them feel. If I was in an accident I would describe it with the facts. Like, I ran off the road here and hit this tree and it caused this type of damage. You would say something like, (insert falsetto voice here) ‘I was so scared, I thought we were all going to die, I saw my life flash before my eyes and all I could think about were my children being motherless.’”
“No I wouldn’t.”
“You wouldn’t? Really?”
“No, I would stick to the facts as I saw them. I would say, my husband is a terrible driver that tried to kill me by running into a tree. I think it is because of the insurance money. Thank God you are here to save me officer. I hope you have an ambulance for me and handcuffs for him. He is a maniac.”
“Those are the facts?!”
“As I see them, yes. It is all a matter of perspective my dear.”

And that my friends is the secret, it is all in how you look at it. And how I see it, is if he doesn’t talk to me tonight, I am going to feed him meatloaf . . . just like I did the turtle.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Toss Your Cookies

So one of my 2010 resolutions is to lose 10 20 30 pounds. This is basically the same resolution I have made since 1987. It is interesting to think about the motivations for losing weight. Maybe it is a new year’s resolution or an upcoming wedding or reunion, or like me, maybe just a chance to see your feet one more time before you die.

So I did what any woman would do to lose weight, I cried and then I bought new shoes. It didn’t help me lose any weight but it did make me feel better. However, since I still needed to lose weight, I went on a diet. It took me a few months, but I finally hit my stride. I was sort of on a roll because the holidays were over and I had completely run out of peanut butter cups. I had even gotten used to a life without bacon when the unthinkable happened. I was sitting on the couch reading about low-fat, high-fiber and generally tasteless food, when I heard this sound . . . ding-dong. I peaked out the window . . . but couldn’t see anything. Ding-dong . . . ding-dong. So, I went to the door and there it was—the cutest little Girl Scout you have ever seen and what did she have? You know what she had, she had the goods, she had cookies. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

So now I have to hide from the Girl Scouts and they are everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE! They set up little kiosks all over the place with giant signs that say one word “COOKIES!” I was almost in a 3-car pile up yesterday when the guy in front of me saw one of their signs and took a hard right without signaling. I would have been mad, but I was under-going sugar detox myself and sympathized with his craving. The sad thing about these Girl Scouts is they don’t even put a price up. No one cares what they have to pay to get these cookies. Last year I paid a scalper $600 for an opened and half-empty box of Thin-Mints and felt like I got a deal. There are only 6 Somoas per box, and with the prices those girls charge, it works out to roughly one-thousand dollars per cookie. But do I complain? No. No, I do not. I say, “Can I have 4 boxes of Do-Si-Dos, 3 boxes of Tagalongs, 6 boxes of Trefoils, 10 boxes of Samoas and give me a case of Thin Mints.”

If I had one (more) complaint about the girl scouts, it is that the ones in my neighborhood are lazy. They only come to one house on their door-to-door trips: Mine. If I don’t meet their cookie purchasing demands they threaten to start dealing, I mean selling, to my neighbors. At first I stonewall, but cookie withdrawal always gets the better of me and I just sign the form the delivery guy gives me and tell him to use the fork-lift to deliver my pallets of cookies—no use in us both straining our backs.

The only thing I say “no” to are those new cookies, the healthy ones. They have like, fiber and berries in them. Gag. Some of them have no sugar. Let me tell you something, a cookie without sugar is called a cracker. If I want berries, I will put them on my cheesecake. If I want to stop eating sugar I will stop pouring it on my cereal and putting it on my French toast. And, if I want to eat fiber I will take a pill, like every other American, not get it in my food like some uncivilized weirdo.

Yes, Girl Scouts strike fear in the heart of every man, but I really feel for those poor little Boy Scouts. The girls have cookies; you know what they make the boys sell? Popcorn. That just isn’t even fair. Now, they do offer popcorn that is covered in powdered, partially hydrogenated cheese flavored by-product and they also offer one with chocolate drizzle, but it just isn’t the same. Those boys would do a better business if they sold black-market meat out of the back of a dirty camper trailer on the street corner. My husband, like me, cannot resist the tug of the Girl Scouts marketing strategy, but he cannot slam the door on the faces of those little Boy Scouts fast enough. He said, “They are boys, they need to learn rejection now. See that one on the porch crying, I am helping him become a man.”

Selling popcorn is just setting them up to fail. What they should do is sell something masculine and outdoorsy. I think they should sell chili door to door--now that is manly. They could come up with names like Atomic Burst, Blazing Intestine, Rectum Wrecker, Maximum Velocity Blow Torch, Esophageal Explosion, Gut Grenade, and Bleeding Ulcer. They can have it made with mystery meats that the boys bludgeon to death with tent-poles and Swiss army knives out on their camping trips. I would buy it, not necessarily to eat, but it would make a great gift. They could also come out with their own line of jerky called “Almost no hair on it.” I think it could be a goldmine.

Something else that would help is if they let those boys use more high pressure sales tactics. For example, how about showing customers new knots they have learned. They tie folks up with them and only un-tie them if they promise to purchase 10 pounds of jerky. Or they show customers how to start a campfire using pinewood derby cars . . . in their living room.

Now, before you send me a bunch of hate mail, I love the Boy Scouts. There is a boy under my very roof who used to be a scout, and I feel quite affectionate toward him. I don’t love the Girl Scouts more than the Boy Scouts, I just love cookies more than popcorn. If I wasn’t on a diet I would buy both, but since I am on a diet I will purchase neither.

Once you tell people you are on a diet, if they are your friends, they will usually try to sabotage your dieting efforts. They will start by saying mean things like, “I was going to have you over for dinner but I knew you were on a diet.” Or they will say, “I made this wonderful chocolate torte and I was going to bring some over for you to try but I know you are on a diet.” If those things don’t work, they will move on to step 2. They will say things like: “So, have you lost any weight?” If someone has to ask you if you have lost weight, the diet is not going well.

When I tell people I am on a diet they always want to know “which one?” So I say, “The one that makes you wear smaller clothes.” Then they want to know, “Is it Weight Watchers, Atkins, Jenny Craig, South Beach, etc.?” It is none of those. It is the Sonia original. It consists of eating 1 cup of coffee for breakfast, 1 rice cake and a grape for lunch, 1 cup of undressed lettuce for dinner, and for dessert--an entire New York Cheesecake.

I don’t understand why people go on these crazy diets. Low-carb, low-fat, only juice, only fruit, vegan, raw food--it is maddening. What’s next, you’re only allowed to eat Himalayan yak juice and Goji berries? I need a diet I can live with. Face it, no matter how much I weigh I am going to lie on my driver’s license. That is why I have developed my own dieting tips.

Dieting Tips for Non-Dieters:

Make sure your friends are fatter than you so you look thinner by comparison.

Remember, horizontal stripes are not the enemy; the sales girl at Nordstrom’s is the enemy.

Diet sodas do not counter-act the calories in a cheeseburger. However, a bottle of wine with the meal will make it so that you don’t care.

Frozen yogurt is a good substitute for ice cream. Mostly because it tastes like garbage and after two bites you will stop eating it.

The fattest professions are Truckers, Lawyers, Plumbers and IT workers, so don’t get one of these jobs. The thinnest professions are Models, Actors and Sports Stars—so go for those jobs.

A carnival mirror is a useful dieting tool. Purchase one that makes your body look skinny and your head odd-shaped and bulbous. Then you will think the problem is in your brain, which it is.

Eat less food. If you usually have 2 Snickers bars, cut down to one.

And no matter what, stay away from the Girl Scouts, especially ones that are hawking cookies!