February 4, 2010 in Washington Voices

Totally lost in marital translation

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Many marital experts agree that a little mystery in a relationship adds spice. For Derek and me the ongoing challenge of translating woman-speak into man-speak continues to add intrigue, even after 23 years. Indeed, I’m afraid any more mystery might lead to heartburn. We must not be alone, considering a quick search of Amazon.com reveals 2,419 book titles under the topic “marital communication.”

Even though I’m a professional communicator, occasionally Derek finds my skills somewhat lacking. For example, Saturday morning, I awoke to the smell of French roast brewing. “Is the coffee ready?” I hollered to Derek who was in the living room.

“Yes,” he replied.

Then things got a bit spicier. “That was a hint,” I said.

“A hint?”

“Yes, that means I’d love it if you brought me a cup of coffee, so I could enjoy it in bed, while I read the newspaper.”

“Newspaper? You didn’t say anything about the paper!”

It was perfectly clear in my mind (don’t coffee and the paper go together?) But apparently, the hint confused my spouse. “Why don’t you just say, ‘Derek, could you bring some coffee and the newspaper?’ ” he asked.

Pondering possible answers to Derek’s perplexing query, led me to contemplate the marital minefield of miscommunication. Not an easy endeavor before my first cup of coffee. As a result, I’ve compiled a short list of common phrases women utter, accompanied by possible responses. I hope that readers find it useful. Keep in mind, I’m a columnist, not a therapist, and your results may vary.

She says, “I’m worried about … (fill in the blank – the kids, my job, the economy, hurricanes).”

Bad response: “Don’t worry.”

Worse: A detailed anecdote about an acquaintance who lost his job due to the economy and whose kid ended up in jail for looting following a freak hurricane in Ritzville.

Sleeping-on-the-couch reply: “That’s just silly.”

Correct response: “I can see you’re concerned; tell me more.”

Romantic response: Listen carefully, then hold her close and croon the Beach Boys, “Don’t Worry Baby.” Do not attempt the falsetto.

She says, “Notice anything different about me?”

Bad response: “No.”

Worse: “I hate this question! Just tell me already!”

Sleeping-on-the-couch: “Hmm… put on a few pounds over the holidays?”

Correct: “Wow! Your (pick one of the following: hair, nails, jeans, shoes, eyebrows) look/s great!”

Romantic: “Yes. You’re even more beautiful today than you were yesterday.”

She asks, “What would you like for dinner?” This query can be fraught with peril when it’s preceded by a 15-minute rundown about her horrible day.

Bad: “I dunno. Whatever you want.”

Worse: “I’m not hungry. I went out with the guys after work and had prime rib.”

Sleeping-on-the-couch: “A juicy medium-rare rib-eye sounds great. It’s not too cold to barbecue, but you might want to check the propane situation. Oh, and my mom always fixed homemade scalloped potatoes when she cooked steak.”

Correct: “How about we order pizza?”

Romantic: “Why don’t I cook tonight?”

She says, “Whatever!” or “I’m fine!”

These phrases do not mean I’m fine because whatever you say is so profound and so correct I can hardly believe my good fortune in being paired with someone of your immense stature.

Bad: “Cool. See ya later.”

Worse: Anything that remotely indicates you’ve taken this statement at face value.

Sleeping on the couch: Eye-rolling and audible groaning.

Correct: “I sense a deeper meaning behind your words.”

Romantic: “Please let me know how you really feel. Your well-being is the most important thing in the world to me.”

She asks, “Do these jeans make me look fat?”

Right. Like there is a correct reply to this. I recommend immediate re-direction, “Oh my gosh, the cat just hacked up a hairball!” etc. Whatever you do, don’t give the response my eldest son once gave me. “How can a pair of jeans make you look fat? Either you are or you aren’t.”

Thankfully, our third-born appears to be more astute. On Saturday, Derek, hoping for validation, asked 15-year-old Zachary, “Zack what does it mean when Mom says, ‘Is the coffee ready?’ ”

“It means would you please bring me a cup? And could you grab the newspaper while you’re at it.” he promptly replied.

My eyes filled with tears as I gazed upon my blond genius. “Promise me you’ll always use your powers for good and not for evil,” I said.

Derek’s eyes filled with something and his face grew flushed. “Mrph ur..damfph!” he said.

Which loosely translated means, “I’m so proud of you, my son.”

At least that’s what I heard.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists.

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