Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Another Use for NFP

My friend Fishie says that he knows when the women of his set want him to leave the room because they start talking about natural family planning.

I laughed very much when I heard that because that strikes me as very Canadian. Nice Canadian Catholic girls don't usually say, "Hey, you. Man. Scram, we want to talk about girl stuff." No. That would be too rude. So usually we hunch over and just start talking about icky, scary female stuff and that generally does the trick: the Canadian boy flees from the room.

This also seems to work in Scotland on Scottish men. But it does not work on all men. Some men do not seem to know that when ladies talk about anything that has to do with the cervix, for example, ("What cancer does your friend have?" "Well, I'm afraid it is cervical cancer." "Dear, dear.") they must scram.

And that leads me to think about one irony of female life, which is that although most of us want to be thought well of by men, and to marry one of them and get along with his menfolk and men friends, we do not want them around all the time.

We do not want them around all the time because sometimes we need to talk to women about stuff we are not comfortable with men overhearing. And sometimes we discover we need to talk about this stuff at parties, because at parties alcohol flows and frees us up to talk about it at all. So the only thing to do is create a sort of female conversational cave in which to have the personal conversation, and woe betide the man who ambles in like a sleepy bear.

We also do not want men around all the time because sometimes we would like to be by ourselves. And protecting this privacy can be difficult because women are used to giving subtle clues to other women about what they want, and women are usually skillful at reading them. Thus, when approached by strange men, women automatically throw out polite, subtle "leave me alone" cues, which men are not as good at reading.

Thus, we have to plan ahead and think about everything and even train ourselves to say "Scram" in a way that is blunt enough to permeate male understanding but not so "masculine" that the man gets angry, defensive and scary. This can be very stressful indeed, and it is so easy to make mistakes.

For example, I arranged to meet B.A.'s friend in a pub the other night, completely forgetting that to be a woman alone in an urban Scottish pub is like wearing a sign saying "Come over, lonely stranger, and bore me to tears. Ask me if I'm Polish, and then tell me the story about those Swedish girls you met."

I was so nervous, as I stood at the bar (another mistake), that I actually started to perspire. And the friend--male--did not go into the pub to see if I were there, but waited outside, on the corner, as if standing on corners outside pubs after dark is something a solitary woman might like to do. But how can he be blamed for that? Most men have no idea what it is like to be a woman.

Men have to be told. And it is amazing what stupid things they can do, unless they are told, like (fact, this happened to me) run up to you on a dark street at night to give their old pal you a scare.

And that brings me to my question. How DO we tell them? WHAT is the exact middle ground between being TOO subtle and being threatening? HOW do we say "go away" or "never do that" without being misunderstood?


Timothy said...

Sometimes just being a woman makes us want to flee the room:

At least our minds flee.

On a more serious note, I usually take it as a cue to go away when I'm the only male in the group. Men can usually sense when the female presence is too strong.

RMVB said...

My male friends have told me that ignoring men is the way to make them go away/stop trying to talk to you. This is in the phoning/emailing/texting/facebooking arena, however, and I haven't tried it outrightly in a face to face scenario. I thought perhaps giving VERY short answers and finding something else/someone else with whom to be preoccupied would do the trick....but it never does.

Lynn said...

I will admit to very occasionally just making firm eye contact and saying "Would you excuse us please?" With a good friend, though, it's as simple as, "You'd better put your fingers in your ears if you plan to stick around much longer!"

healthily sanguine said...

Best blog post title ever! :) But I don't quite understand the question. If you want not to be around a guy, just move away from him. If you want to talk to your girl friends about something girly at a mixed company party, do it. If you don't want to be overheard by men, don't do it--save it for an all-girls party. I have never had trouble with my "leave me alone" or "I am done talking to you now" cues being misunderstood, probably because they included my saying something like, "Well, now I am going to go over here and do x [implied: WITHOUT you]." Go to the ladies room as a last resort. Come to think of it, I might not be the best person to ask about these things, because the avoidance tactics I have managed to develop are maybe among the best in the business. They might even be outright rude at times . . . but better that than get myself in a situation that I don't want to be in, I figure!

MaryJane said...

Ooh, this is a REALLY difficult one. Men can be so challenging. If you are forthright, many of them will be grateful for the obvious and happily leave you. But other ones will be slightly offended. (I used to think the slightly offended ones were all pansies. Turns out some of them are just genuinely nice guys.) I think the playful threat (not flirtatious! just playful) can be helpful. The serious request to leave is softened by the jovial packaging. And if he can't take the hint, you can just say, "no really, actually I've been dying to talk to Susie about cervical mucous all night, but it's kind of a girl thing."

I think the trick is to make him think that it is his idea to leave you alone, rather than think that you are pushing him away. Somehow, in his mind, it has to be the manly thing to leave rather than the manly thing to stay. Men always want to do the manly thing.

Incidentally, I have noticed that older and/or married men are MUCH better at taking hints. They are also usually dying for a little man time themselves. It is the young/singles that tend to be a little more obtuse.

Charming Disarray said...

I guess my friends and I have always done the retreating ourselves--either to the kitchen or a back bedroom. Men will sometimes venture into the kitchen but are usually too scared to enter a flowery looking bedroom full of girls talking in low voices who go silent as soon as he appears in the doorway.

Charming Disarray said...

As for the last few paragraphs, I'm trying to figure out a way to say, "Please call when you say you're going to call and not an hour later" without sounding like an overscheduled maniac. But I think it's so rude when a guy keeps a girl waiting. But really, why do we have to be so careful of guys' feelings when it involves something they're doing that actually bothers US? Why are we so afraid of making them angry? Something is wrong there if we're acting like they're the fragile ones.

Seraphic said...

A man left a comment (I can't find it now) asking if chit-chat was always so threatening. The answer to that is no--sometimes it is just incredibly boring. And an imposition.