There's this thing that girls do. We expect our partners to read our minds and anticipate our every need and desire. At the risk of speaking in generalizations (and with the imaginary footnote that qualifies that of course not all male born or identifying beings behave in such a way) I think it's also fair to say that men do not do this. Or, in my case, the butch lesbian I married. With men, and with my wife, what they say is what they mean.
Like if she wants sex she won't fix her hair, put on make-up, unbutton her shirt, and start making thinly veiled innuendoes. Instead, she will say "hey, wanna have sex?" And that's it. I can say yes or no. If I say yes - great. If I say no she'll likely go back to whatever it was she was doing. She won't secretly stew and hold onto the rejection. She won't wonder if it means I have begun falling out of love with her. She'll just move on.
The rest of us women tend to do things differently. My mom sometimes tells the story of her first Mother's Day. I was just an infant and my father asked her what she would like as a gift. She told him that he shouldn't worry about it - after all, she wasn't his mother. So Mother's Day rolls around and: "he didn't get me a thing. Not even a card. I'm still mad about it 30 years later."
She was telling this story one day and I didn't think much of it. Of course she'd be angry with her partner for not recognizing the labour she had endured (both physical and emotional) over the previous ten months of motherhood. But once we were alone Tracy turned to me and said "but how was your
Dad supposed to know he needed to buy her something? She told him not to." And she seemed genuinely confused.
I made a commitment to myself in that moment to be clear in my desires. And for the most part it has worked. If I tell her that "it's fine" I almost always mean it. I mean I can't promise that one hundred percent of the time things will be fine because really where's the fun in that? But mostly it is. When I say "do what you want" it's not actually a dare meant to imply that if she does the thing she's thinking about doing she'll be in a massive amount of trouble.
But today I slipped into that old pattern. I woke up with big expectations for the day. I wanted quality family time. I envisioned Christmas movies and arts and crafts time. I pictured big mugs of hot tea getting cold on the counter out of tiny toddler reach as we piled on the floor laughing from the tickling and tickling from the laughing. Legs and arms intertwined like an epic game of twister without the coloured dots. I wanted a family dance party and maybe a family nap.
Except that when Tracy asked me what I wanted to do I shrugged and said "I dunno what do you want to do?" And she shrugged too. I put the ball in her court and expected her to anticipate my desire for family time.
"Well maybe I'll just get ready and take Mac out shopping for a while," she suggested. In truth this was her attempt at reading my mind. On Sundays I usually appreciate it when she takes Mac out so that I can write this blog. But that wasn't what I wanted to hear today. So I huffed and puffed and angrily stomped into the bedroom full of righteous indignation. She stormed after me. Angry at my anger. And her anger at my anger made me furious. And that's how it went. For a good thirty minutes. We tried to keep our voices low lest we yell in front of the kid. But we weren't super successful at that.
"I don't even know what your problem is," she eventually snarled at me exasperated. And I laughed. Which likely did not make me seem incredibly sane. But I laughed because I knew she genuinely didn't know what my problem was. How could she? I hadn't told her.
So I composed myself and sheepishly admitted what had caused my irrational anger. And a family day sounded entirely perfect to my wife. Before long we were watching Christmas movies, drinking tea, and watching Mac dance to his new favourite song. My heart was happy.
Next time I'll simply ask for what I want and save us all the trouble. Maybe.