One of the greatest perils of living a life surrounded by women is entering a room or rounding a cubicle and encountering women talking about things that men would rather not hear. My female co-workers joke about my notoriously lousy timing when it comes to such conversations. As I enter their presence my mind processes the words that I am hearing, alarms start to sound, the ladies immediately stop talking then laugh knowing that my curse continues. In Boy Scouts we learned to tap a stick while hiking to warn away snakes. In the Old Testament, lepers had to cover their mouths and yell “unclean!” when healthy people approached. I have considered such measures.
For men in such work situations there is only one response: back away, turn on your heels, and try to un-hear whatever you heard. Do not try to join the conversation using knowledge of your wife or other women in your life. Do not try to interject how men have similar issues and broaden the topic. This is not your concern. These are not the droids you are looking for. There is no graceful exit. There is only the need to exit.
Home is perhaps worse because, as a father of four daughters, there is information I need to know. My wife has tried to help me adjust. For example, we have a euphemism for feminine hygiene products to alert me that we need to go shopping. This way I don’t have to hear the “correct” product name and the household female’s needs are met. Unfortunately, I don’t always recognize her discretion.
Wife: “You need to be extra nice to ____. She’s not feeling well.”
Clueless: “What’s wrong? Does she have a stomach ache or headache or something? Did she pick up a bug at school?”
Wife: Blank stare
Enlightened: “Ohhhh. Sick. Got it.”
My wife never fails to fill in the details when it is a normal sickness so I don’t know why my mind throws out these follow-up questions.
I do appreciate my wife’s discretion. When other ladies have female procedures or surgeries she simply reports, they had surgery and it went well. If my mind slips out of gear and I ask “what kind of surgery?” she raises an eyebrow and says, “she just had surgery.” “Ahh. Got it. Went well then, yes? OK. I’m off to the garage.”
I do not think I’m an atypical male in wanting to be shielded from the biological realities of the female world. Call it immature or silly; I’m fine with that. But I believe most men are content to simply know “fine/not fine” on any women’s health issues without the colorful descriptive details (doubly so when you talk about our moms). You may say, “I tell my husband everything, not sparing any details.” I say, most likely, a little something in your husband has died of shock and trauma. It doesn’t seem to be part of our nature.
This is why God created sisters and girlfriends.