Probably not, though. Anyway, he’s back with the answer to a question I asked him last week.
Now, before any of my female readers get all huffy about this, let me remind you that I am a very emotional person. This does not mean that every woman is an emotional box of crazy… I just know that I’m not alone in this, so I asked Paul (not my Paul, remember) how he’s dealt with the emotional women in his life. This is his response:
One very important thing that I’ve learned throughout life is that men and women are very different. I know…I was surprised, too! Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Little girls are made of sugar, little boys are made of snails. The list of differences between Guys and Dolls is as long as the San Andreas Fault, and 10 times as confusing, but nowhere is this dichotomy more clear than in the world of emotion.
Men and women feel emotions about different things, and to different degrees. While Sheila could freak out about a chipped nail, Steve might put a fist through a wall over a football game. Each reaction seems perfectly reasonable to the individual in question, and completely insane to their counterpart. Jerry Seinfeld said that “Men and women will never understand each other, so we might as well stop thinking about it. I’m not wasting any more time with this!”
The real difference, though, comes in the way the different genders react to their emotions. With the exception of sports, guys tend to keep their emotions close to the vest. I, for one, put a great deal of effort into suppressing, hiding, or ignoring whatever feelings come my way. Women, on the other hand, wear their emotions on their frilly little sleeves. Now, of course I’m making generalizations here, but to quote the inimitable Dave Barry, “If God didn’t want us to make gender-based generalizations, She would not have given us genders.”
The differences themselves are not a problem. The problem arises when men and women are forced to interact at times of high emotional distress. I have been lucky that over the years the most important women in my life have been reasonably not-crazy in the emotion department. Every once in a while, though, one of my sisters or my ex-fiance will take a quick dive off the deep end and I’m left fruitlessly trying to empathize with or cheer up the sobbing mess in front of me.
For a while, my approach was as follows: Put an arm around a shoulder, speak as calmly and rationally as possible, and attempt to calm her down with reason and logic. After a number of times when that served only to make the situation worse, I was forced to change my strategy. I decided it would be more effective to make jokes, and offset the tears with laughter and with my undeniable cuteness. That method was hit-or-miss, sometimes saving the day, sometimes setting off fits of hysteria.
Ultimately, I have found that the best method consists of two essential tools: a big bear hug or hand squeeze, and complete silence. There are no words that my male brain can produce that will make a woman calm down. My best bet is to close my mouth, batten down the hatches and weather the storm. Eventually she’ll calm down and real life can resume.
The one thing that I absolutely can NOT do, is try to understand whatever disaster has caused this emotional outburst in the first place. Sometimes it’s obvious (like when my ex’s dog died, or the end of “Toy Story 3”) but more often than not, the catalyst for a break-down is a completely mystery to any but the shrewdest observer of the feminine mind. Even if I can somehow discern the cause of a crying spell, that doesn’t get me any closer to understanding why it is such a tragedy, which brings me back to my “Smile and Nod” strategy. True empathy is rarely an option, so I’m left with: Hug, Hush, and This Too Shall Pass.
Now that I have stumbled upon a tried-and-true method for averting tear-soaked disaster (sixty percent of the time, it works every time!), the real challenge becomes anticipating and preventing the melt-downs. Of course, if I can ever discover the trick to that, I’ll become a millionaire relationship guru and I’ll be able to hire a counselor to calm down my significant other while I watch football. Until then, I stand armed with a comforting shoulder, a box of kleenex, and zipped lips.