[Humor warning: This article was written tongue-in-cheek. -- CM]

I realize I am taking my life in my own hands with this article. This may well be the most dangerous article I have written to date, since I may be successful in angering 100% of my readers. The women may issue a fatwa against me because I will explain how they fail to communicate correctly with men. And the men may hunt me down because I will reveal how women may talk to them and be clearly understood. We men may never have any peace if women master these secrets.

[Comments by TPK: Aw, how cute. My honey assumes that it is up to the women to change their ways. All right, ladies, how many of you have problems with vocal communication? Any difficulty making your thoughts and feelings known to others? Now, just out of curiosity -- how many taciturn men are in your life, who not only refuse to speak, but do not want to hear what anyone else has to say either? (Oh, let's not always see the same hands.)]

Let’s face it — men and women just don’t communicate well. Sure, we speak the same language, but the main problem comes from the different ways we understand the same words. It is possible to tape a conversation between women and play it back to a group of men. What may seem to the women to be a clear, understandable conversation will sound like code-words to the men. Since I have been married for several years, I have managed to decode some of these conversations. Newsflash for the guys — “feminine protection” does not mean a pink pistol with frilly lace.

Ladies, it is pretty easy to know what a man is thinking, but there is no real need to even try. At any one time, a man is thinking of one of three subjects: sex, food, or the game. [With occasional forays into money.] Since there are only these three subjects present in our brains, a simple process of elimination can be used to discern the subject currently rattling around in a man’s skull. When men are talking with women, we may seem to be following the conversation, but in reality our minds are on one or some combination of these three subjects, and our mouths are on automatic. If you hear us say things like “uh-huh,” “yes,” “no,” or “that’s nice, dear,” you may be reasonably sure that our minds are elsewhere and our mouths are in idle.

[So, essentially, as long as you want to talk about food, sex, the game, or ways to make more money, your man will pay attention to you. Otherwise, you're screwed. This really ought to encourage your efforts at communicating with him, right? Nothing about how well your child did in school today, or a thought-provoking movie you saw, or something lovely you read -- nope, you've got to stick to food, sex, game, money. The Captain decrees the male sex is fundamentally incapable of understanding anything else, and will not listen if you do not stick to subjects he understands. And this is supposed to foster communication between the sexes?]

As easy as it is for a woman to read a man’s mind, it is nearly impossible for a man to know what is going on in a woman’s mind. This inability stems partially from the limited subject matter men work with, and partially because women don’t normally spend their time thinking about sex, food, or the game, but mostly we’re unable to read women’s minds because they are heavily shielded. It is my theory that generous use of perfume is a key part of this shielding. Good perfume makes us think of sex, while bad perfume makes us think of escape. It’s devilishly ingenious.

I bring up the fact that men are almost always unable to read a woman’s mind because too many women act as if men could. OK, men, show of hands: how many of you have asked the woman of your life, “What’s wrong, dear?” only to receive a variation of “Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you”? Let’s see… one, two, yep, it’s not unanimous, but it’s a very large majority.

[Please note that the Captain himself is not raising his hand. I have never played this stupid little mind-game with him and I never will.]

Since the women reading this (those few who haven’t switched away because they can’t handle the truth [or the ones who feel compelled to edit this dreck]) are protesting that they don’t expect men to read their minds, allow me to give a few more examples. Too often a woman will stand in front of a closet bursting with clothes and complain to her husband, “I have nothing to wear.” The husband will take one look at the wall-to-wall clothes and come to the obvious conclusion that his wife has somehow gone blind or insane, and he will go back to reading the newspaper article about the game. A truly loving husband, noticing her vision problems, may point out a few dress options or gently suggest counseling. But as noble as his intentions may be, he does this at his own peril since he runs the real risk of being branded as insensitive to her needs.

The man is being insensitive because while his wife’s lips moved and sounds came out, and he correctly heard her, what she said was not what she really meant. She wanted her husband to read her mind and realize that when she said “I have nothing to wear,” what she really meant was “I want to go shopping for a new dress.” And every well-meaning attempt by the husband to point out one lovely dress after another in the closet only demonstrates to her that he is not successfully reading her mind.

[We'd probably do better in this regard if we took the bull by the horns and weeded out our closets more often. Many of us, myself included, keep clothing long after it's gone out of fashion or when it no longer fits -- sometimes because it has sentimental value, as with my wedding dress, and sometimes out of sheer inertia. If men could see our closets the way we see them, they would not be all that surprised how little there is to wear.

By the way, how long do men keep their underwear? Doesn't the average guy have at least one ratty, holey, greyish pair that reveals more than it conceals -- and that he absolutely refuses to get rid of for some crazy reason -- because they're "lucky," because he got them in college, because he is convinced that if he wears them regularly, his waist size will not change? Whatever.]

The next example is very similar, but it has a twist. The wife may be standing before the pantry or fridge and exclaim, “There’s nothing in here.” The normal husband will hear what she said and assume that’s what she really meant. Sadly for him, his standard reply “So go and do the grocery shopping, already,” will not be the solution he assumed it would be. The sensitive husband may volunteer to go shopping with her, or offer to go shopping himself if he is really henpecked sensitive. While both of these suggestions would fix the problem as stated, the real conflict comes from the disconnect between what his wife said and what she really meant. The mind-reading husband would know that what she really meant was, “I don’t want to cook tonight. Take me out to dinner.” Since she is thinking of food, and food is one of the three subjects at which men excel, there is a greater chance that the husband will be successful in reading her mind and knowing the true intention behind her words.

Men are direct in their conversations. If a man compliments another with, “Wow! What a great car!” he is usually thinking, “Wow! What a great car!” If a woman says that, what she is really thinking is, “Take me out for a ride.” If a man asks another man, “So how is the game?” he just wants to know how the game is going. When a woman asks the same thing, his response about the score will discourage her because she might really be saying, “Hey, if the game is boring, how about some nookie in the back room?” She will convince herself that her husband doesn’t know how to make her happy because he is incapable of reading her mind. (You might think that her thoughts of sex would make it easier for him to read her mind successfully. While that is normally true, the interference of the game will make this most unlikely.)

So what can be done? Unless women spend more of their time thinking about sex, food, or the game, men will continue to fail to read their minds. Therefore, the responsibility for clear communication falls squarely on the women. After all, it is the female of the human species that is guilty of saying one thing while thinking of another.

[Awright, punk. Here's the deal. Women have this apparently benighted concept that human beings ought not to just blurt out their innermost thoughts and feelings without a jot of grace or preamble. We believe in the gentle art of conversation. Frankly, you're much likelier to get what you want if you go about it gently and gradually, building up to your point in order to persuade your audience. You've done this if you've ever asked for a raise -- you don't just barge into your boss's office and declare, "You need to give me more money!" How well would that work? No, you gather your most persuasive arguments, craft a careful speech or memo or e-mail, take a deep breath, and give it your best shot.

Most women perform this process almost subconsciously as we talk; we enjoy conversation, and we usually try to build to a point. If you're willing to wait a bit, we will get to that point. You don't have to solve the problem right away, unless we specifically ask for solutions. All we really want you to do is listen. And listening to us seems to be a skill with which you are wholly unfamiliar.]

Women need to understand that men are not like onions: we have no layers, and we say what we mean. So women need to be both direct and clear in their communication with us. Don’t be afraid to be blunt. “Take me out to dinner” is good, but if you have something specific in mind, then be specific — “Take me out to the Ruby River Steakhouse.” A direct comment of “You! Me! Sex! Now!” will almost always be welcome, but it is a bit wordy. Just saying “Sex!” while peeling off your clothes is good enough to get your point across. [Of course, after reading this, you may not be particularly eager to engage in sex...]

So men and women can successfully communicate if we remember that mind-reading is best done in magic shows, and if women are both direct and clear in how they speak with men. [And, of course, if women give up talking to men about anything that happens to be worthwhile or interesting to the women. Remember, food, sex, game, money. Sheeze.] There is no need to change how women communicate with women. Any confusion in that communication will come from men overhearing the conversation and thinking that they are talking about frilly revolvers with high-velocity ammo.

Now comes the really tricky part — how to get my honey to do her editorial polish on this without sprinkling her caustic comments all through it?

[Dream on.]

[I was sure she'd say something about polishing a turd. -- CM]

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