Thursday, March 1, 2007

Not Too Hot, Not Too Cool

I think most men think they’re pretty cool, at least compared to women. Women are emotional, impulsive and proud of it. Men are stoic and analytical. Men like to fix things. Women like to express their dismay when something is broken until someone fixes it.

Today, I received a phone call at work from my wife, who was distraught by the fact that we had no hot water. Over and over, she repeated the phrase, “I have to get ready for work, but I need a shower!”

There were lots of anxiety driven phrases, such as “This sucks!” and “I am really pissed off!” I said things like, “Uh-huh,” and “Bummer.” That was my attempt at being supportive and understanding. What I was thinking was, “What the hell do you expect me to do about it?”

The analytical side of me had already calculated that even if we were to figure out what was causing the problem, hot water wouldn’t be available for at least a half-hour, and that would be too late. Women calculate things differently. My wife takes about 15 minutes to complete a shower. Because there was no hot water, she determined that she had 15 minutes to complain about it.

I instructed her to inspect the hot water heater to see if it was leaking. It wasn’t. I instructed her to inspect the breaker box to see if the breaker switch was off. It wasn’t. I said, “There’s nothing else I can tell you now. It will have to wait until I get home.”

This set off another round of bitter invective and complaints. I realize that these remarks weren’t directed at me personally, but any man will tell you that in this situation, it feels like you’re being blamed. Not because you had anything to do with it, but because it’s broken, and you’re a man, and men fix things, and you’re not there.

Now, most men in this situation would simply suck it up, take a cold shower, and deal with the problem later. Complaining about the water heater doesn’t make the water any hotter. But no sooner did this thought occur to me then I realized that I’m complaining right now. And complaining about my wife doesn’t make me any cooler.

By the way, when I got home, I reset the breaker and the water heater started up and is now making hot water. So tonight I’ll be the hero, which counts for nothing, because my wife will be denied the opportunity to further express her displeasure at being inconvenienced, and this will frustrate her. Despite having fixed the problem, I'll be blamed for her frustration. It’s one of the many paradoxes of married life.

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