Living Hell Extra!

Studies in Gender Communication Styles

Based on actual conversation

Identities concealed to protect Yours Truly

The Set-Up

MALE and FEMALE one weekend evening, watching movie "The French
Connection. Toward end of film, MALE loses interest in "active
watching" and begins playing on laptop. FEMALE continues to watch.
MALE has seen movie before, but remembers relatively little. FE-
MALE knows MALE has seen movie, but doesn't know how much he re-
members (or doesn't remember). FEMALE and MALE are accustomed to
watching movies together, with FEMALE typically trying to interact
with MALE (with comments or questions) and MALE typically trying
to keep FEMALE's attention focused on movie, while focusing own
attention on either movie or FEMALE's *watching* of movie. Hilar-
ity, or more often annoyance, ensues...

The Conversation

FEMALE asks "What happened?" at end of movie, in context of per-
   plexing final scene.

MALE doesn't answer, or grunts "I dunno" with face buried in


FEMALE says "That's such a strange way to end a movie, don't you
   think so?"

MALE doesn't answer, or maybe nods.


FEMALE says "I wonder if ______ happened? Or if ______ hap-

MALE doesn't answer, or maybe shrugs.


FEMALE asks equivalent of "What do you think happened?"

MALE replies "I don't know."


FEMALE asks "Is there a reason you don't want to answer my ques-

MALE answers "I haven't been paying attention."


FEMALE asks "But you've already seen the movie, so you must know
   what happened?"

MALE replies "I've forgotten. It's been years since I watched
   that movie."


FEMALE answers "Why didn't you say *that*, instead of using the
   excuse of 'not paying attention' as a way of not answering my

MALE adds "Plus, maybe the ending's *supposed* to be vague. It
   doesn't seem perplexing to me."


FEMALE answers "Of course it doesn't seem perplexing to someone
   whose seen *thousands* of movies. But I need a more concrete
   explanation. Why won't you give that to me?"

MALE sighs and adds "For the same reason that I don't answer
   you, when, early into a movie, you ask me 'who is that?' or
   'what do they do?' The *movie* will tell you everything you
   need to know."


FEMALE responds "Well, I don't have nearly as much experience
   'responding' to movies like you do. Can't you just take a min-
   ute and tell me?"

MALE sighs again and adds "I don't know what the ending means,
   Sweetie. Maybe that fleeting shot of X implies Y. Maybe
   there's a presumed Z or implied A and B..."


FEMALE interjects "I thought you weren't paying attention!"

MALE responds "Well, I haven't been paying *full* attention..."


FEMALE responds "You are trying to be difficult."

MALE answers "Wait a minute, haven't I been working on this lap-
   top for the last thirty minutes? Hasn't that been a pretty ob-
   vious indicator of split or lacking attention to the movie?"


FEMALE responds "How am I supposed to know that you're not
   watching the movie, just because you have your laptop open?"

MALE sighs.


FEMALE continues "And what's so hard about answering a simple
   question about the ending of a movie? This is what people do
   when they watch movies, they converse and react and ask ques-
   tions afterward. And I would think you'd be *thrilled* to re-
   spond, having watched and reviewed so many movies in your
   time. This is your chance to show off!"

MALE defends "When I set aside all movie-reviewing this year, I
   put aside that 'knowledge base' as well. I don't have those
   opinions or factoids at the ready. I don't even have the
   *desire* to have them at the ready, for use in conversation or
   question-answering. Plus, as with most movies, the film is go-
   ing to tell you everything you need to know. Why do I have to
   explain for you?"


FEMALE continues "You don't have to sound like I'm a little kid
   asking a stupid question. I just want to know what happened at
   the end of the movie! This is *always* how it is, when trying
   to talk to you. Either you outright ignore me, or you are dif-
   ficult, acting like you don't have a clue about what I'm say-
   ing, even though I know you really do."

MALE answers "I'm so glad that you can read my mind, to know
   when I'm *pretending* to 'not know,' versus simply being dif-


FEMALE responds "So you admit that you're trying to be diffi-

MALE answers "It's a joke, it's a joke."


FEMALE answers "You didn't answer my question-- are you trying
   to be difficult?"

MALE answers "Yes, of course, I'm trying to be intentionally,
   fabulously, hideously difficult."


FEMALE responds "This is all about control, isn't it? Who has
   control of the conversation?"

MALE sighs.


FEMALE adds "When *you* ask a question, I always step up to the
   plate and answer; but when the question's on *my* terms, you
   won't answer me."

MALE adds "Well, you don't *have* to answer me, when I ask a


FEMALE responds "That's a not a relationship, if two people
   don't answer or acknowledge each other when they talk. Plus,
   you *demand* answers when you ask questions.

MALE questions "I *demand*...?"


FEMALE answers "Yes, because if I don't answer the question
   right away, you'll keep asking again and again..."

MALE suggests "So, don't give in and answer."


FEMALE replies "And if *I* try the same technique with you,
   you'll just keep ignoring me."

MALE responds "So ask the question later, when I'm in a more
   talkative mood."


FEMALE answers "But what if I forget what I was going to ask
   you? Then it's gone and I'll never get the chance to ask it?"

MALE responds "If the question is important enough, you'll remem-
   ber it later."


FEMALE adds "Plus, I can never tell when you're in a mood to
   *answer* questions."

MALE quips "So just *ask* me..."

Discussion Questions

1. Who's the crazy one here?

   a. MALE
   b. FEMALE
   c. both, for even *attempting* inter-gender interaction

2. Your gender, please?

   a. MALE
   b. FEMALE
   c. other

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros


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