The sweet sound of silence

February 25, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

Men and women think about silence in very different ways.

Men love the sweet sound of silence. To us, it is a rich, comforting fabric that we can wrap around ourselves as we bask in the peace and quiet.

Women don’t like silence. It irritates them.

To women, silence is empty. They think of it as a dirty, great void that must be filled with sound; any sound.

This basic philosophical difference can lead to disharmony in the home.

Don’t get me wrong, we understand that women do what they do only because they care about us.

If a woman sees a man sitting quietly and staring vacantly into space, she assumes it is because he does not have enough to do, so she immediately springs into action and starts giving him things to do.

What the ladies don’t understand is that we are perfectly happy to sit and think about nothing.

We need a little downtime each day to recharge and prepare for the next crisis.

Ladies, please don’t ever ask a man what he is thinking.

If a woman asks a guy what he is thinking, and he replies “nothing,” he is probably telling the truth, but it can still result in a misunderstanding. The woman will not believe him. She will assume that he can’t possibly have been thinking about nothing, and will try to pry the truth out of him with all the gusto of a Gestapo officer with a toothache.

A man cornered in this way is faced with two options; he can tell the truth, in which case the woman will assume he is lying and he will end up spending the night on the couch, or he can lie, and have a totally absurd conversation about something he wasn’t thinking about in the first place.

Men’s brains are very different from women’s brains. We were issued the basic model, while women have the deluxe version.

Men’s brains are equipped to respond to direct stimuli and handle simple tasks.

Give us a problem, and we will solve it. Show us a threat, and we will repel it. If we are thirsty, we drink. If we are cold, we put on a coat.

Men think in a straight line, while women’s thought patterns take all sorts of unexpected loops, twists and turns.

Women’s brains never sleep. They are constantly busy processing all sorts of information.

At any given time, a woman may be simultaneously thinking about whether or not her britches make her thighs look fat, how she is going to act the next time she sees her friend, who may or may not have snubbed her the last time they met, wondering if her kid is getting sick, if she should paint the bathroom a different color, and lamenting the fact that she didn’t buy those shoes she saw at the mall.

At the same time, her man is probably thinking about pizza, or maybe girls in bikinis. We men tend to focus on very simple images.

Men compartmentalize their thoughts, while women look for connections between completely unrelated things or events.

Another reason men and women may have conflicts about silence is that we have very different ideas about appropriate timing.

If a woman sees a man working on something intently, or staring fixedly at the television, she assumes that this means that he is in an attentive mood, and this would be a good time to bring up whatever is on her mind.

This is a mistake.

It is true, we may be focused, but this does not mean that we are prepared to shift that focus to listening to a story about why you are mad at your mother again, or hearing about the idiots you work with.

This may not be the ladies’ fault. There is apparently something in a woman’s brain that is triggered by outside stimuli beyond her control.

If a woman hears phrases such as “two-minute warning,” or “final laps,” she is overcome by a sense of urgency, and feels compelled to unburden herself of everything that is on her mind, and she will unload this baggage on the nearest male, and she has to do it before the game or race is over.

A woman may have just sat in complete silence for four hours watching a tearful movie on the estrogen channel, but as soon as a guy switches over to ESPN, or a movie that he wants to see, a woman turns into a live-action version of a Chatty Cathy doll.

Women also have amazing memory capacity. If a guy has something to say, he says it. It is never that simple for a woman. Women are verbal camels. A woman may store up things she wants to say for weeks, saving them for what she thinks is just the right time, usually during a playoff game.

Ladies, we appreciate the fact that you want to share every stray thought and idea with us, but try not to be too upset if we aren’t always in a receptive mood.

We really don’t analyze things the same way you do, and we may not care about the details. Sometimes, the thing we would most like to share with you is a few minutes of companionable silence.