Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holidays: postprandial labor

This is the Alpha Game Holiday Survival Guide part II.

The holidays are a time of tremendous stress for women.  They feel a pressure to perform that is driven by the media, their own expectations, and their awareness that they will be judged on their performance by other women.  After all, how is a woman supposed to compete with the Martha Stewart clones who are baking special cinnamon cakes in the shape of each of their family member's faces using spice they personally flew to Sri Lanka to harvest by hand?

Throw in the decorating, the wrapping, the cookies, the meals, the entertaining, and the prospect of having to put on a smiling face for family members they don't particularly enjoy being around, and it should be no surprise that the holiday spirit can prove burdensome to women.  But there is one thing self-respecting men can do to ease that burden, if only a little, and make the holidays more happy for everyone, since there are few things that will spoil them more thoroughly than everyone having to tiptoe around a woman boiling over with holiday rage just waiting to explode.

Don't bother offering to help with anything.  You're not going to be able to do anything her way or to her standards.  Besides, she's going to be judged on her performance, so even if you are a competent cook or gift wrapper, any assistance on your part will not count and thereby is rendered invalid on its face.

But someone has to do the dishes and this is an opportunity at which you should leap.  First of all, your tackling clean-up lets a woman kick back and actually enjoy the meal she's prepared with everyone, without feeling the burden of clean-up looming over her shoulder.  Having gone to the effort to provide such a feast, shouldn't she be able to enjoy it in peace?  Second, it permits you to politely escape the postprandial conversation that, unlike most conversations of the holiday season, necessarily involves the "participation" of both sexes seated at the table, which in practice usually involves the women repeatedly interrupting each other while the men sit in silence wondering when they can escape the performance art and turn on the game.

(Do you think I'm exaggerating?  This Christmas, I challenge you to time the male silence if there are at least three women at the table.  The record thus far stands at 15 minutes of complete silence on the part of the men.)

This is a device I learned from that man among men, the Marine's Marine, my grandfather.  I used to marvel at his selfless generosity, and the way after every holiday meal, he would quietly excuse himself and disappear into the kitchen.  By the time everyone had left the table, the dishwasher would be running, the kitchen would be spotless, and everyone was happy and well-loaded with alcohol.  Including, of course, my grandfather.  When I asked him why he felt he needed to do the dishes, when at his age he deserved to take it easy, he laughed and pointed out that while he'd been happily cleaning up, watching the football game, and polishing off the rum, I'd been sitting there for 20 minutes, nursing my wine glass, staring into space, and listening to people ramble on about other people I couldn't identify if my life depended on it.

The man was a genius.  I've since added my own spin to it, which is first making sure that everyone's wine glass is full.  If you do it right, you'll have everything done before anyone even notices you've been missing from the audience.  Women seldom appreciate it, perhaps because they realize on some level that you're doing it for yourself, or perhaps because it makes you look too subservient to others and thereby lowering their own perceived value, but that's irrelevant.  Everyone is happy, everyone wins.  Be a little Christmas miracle.


Anonymous said...

I dont know about this. Why is the frame set in such a way that the women rule the conversation at the table? This could be used to have men do what your grandfather did so that the women kill 2 birds with one stone by keeping the dinner table conversation hostage.

VD said...

Why is the frame set in such a way that the women rule the conversation at the table?

It's always been that way. Why do you think the tradition of the men retiring to smoke cigars in the library or watch the football game started. Women are more verbal and they aren't at all interested in male conversation, so they'll usually try to steer conversation toward subjects in which they are interested.

Given how they always interrupt and aren't afraid to utilize non sequitors, mixed conversations are almost always bound to be female-dominated. Pay attention sometime; you'll find that women usually do at least 3/4 of the talking in any mixed setting.

VD said...

Note that the pattern inverts when the conversation isn't social, but goal-oriented.

"Men will dominate 75% of the conversation during conference meetings, study suggests"

VD said...

My operative theory is that the holiday environment is contextually a gender run of the sort described in this classroom study.

"Our discovery that women students are interrupted more frequently than their male counterparts differed from the results of other studies in one surprising respect: although other research has repeatedly shown that women's speech is most often cut off by men and/or "authority figures" (instructors, for example), our video tapes reveal that female students were interrupted almost exclusively by one another.

Close observation shows how this comes about. Like male students, female students often tend to cluster their talk in "runs." A run means that during a given period, the conversation is dominated by one gender or another. We found gender runs in about half of the Harvard classes that we observed. A gender run usually operates so that long periods of predominantly male talk are followed by short bursts of all-female talk, which is characterized by a relatively high proportion of overlapping comments."

Steve Canyon said...

That's kind of how the experience was in my house. On those rare occasions when we all traveled up to my grandparents house, and all 5 of their kids and all 40 something of their grandkids were in one place, the men usually wound up out in the living room watching football while the women stayed in the kitchen and emoted.

The last time I was up there, now some 20+ years ago when I was about 17, it was something of a right of passage when I finally was allowed in their circle instead of being told to go play with my cousins. I still remember my Uncle, a man who had served under Patton in WW2, turning to me and asking me if I wanted a beer. That was the first one I ever had.

I look at times like that fondly and recognize it for what it was, a familial initiation rite. And I wonder how many other 17 year old boys are missing out on it for whatever reasons.

beta_plus said...

That's awesome. Especially now with NFL mobile you can set up the game on a Tablet in case the kitchen doesn't have a TV.

LibertyPortraits said...

I find that deadpan humor helps redirect and transition female conversations about people toward male conversations about things; the timing has to be right, though, or the hijacking takes place when so and so reminds you of a story that conveniently transitions to some topic of your choice.

I don't know if extracting yourself from the situation is always possible, or desirable, especially if you're at some dinner party where you're stuck at the table and there are no dishes to clean. I instead make my game of redirecting and influencing conversation patterns away from boring inane topics to things I find interesting.

For example, the other day I was at a restaurant with my wife and her friends and one of the females was talking about one of her students getting bullied in their school and whatever, and so with a straight face I say, "you know what that kid needs? A gun." "A gun?" she replies, I say, "yeah, a gun, that would give him all of the confidence he needs to overcome his humiliation and bullying." The others laughed, some of the guys interjected with their own stuff about guns, etc, and pretty soon we were no longer talking about this woman's teaching experience and the plight of this kid, we were talking about violent movies, guns, and then transitioned into something else I can't recall, but the key point was cutting her off completely, making people laugh, and redirecting without ever going back to the conversation. The last thing I want to hear at breakfast is some sad story about a little kid getting bullied, and instead of pointing out the obvious, like homeschooling or why we need private schools that are better run and all that, I just make a ridiculous statement that people can feed off of.

stg58/Animal Mother said...

It is amazing the effect that saying "a gun" can have on almost any conversation.

Jacob Ian Stalk said...

"It is amazing the effect that saying "a gun" can have on almost any conversation."

Now now. Let's use our powers for good instead of evil.

mmaier2112 said...

It is fascinating to just watch females talk. When I think to do so, it's surprisingly easy to semi-direct a conversation of females, getting them talking in a way that makes you seem like a really good conversationalist. Which, I guess, makes me a really good conversationalist?

It is sad how "surface" their conversations are most of the time, though. They can talk forever without saying anything.

Cryan Ryan said...

Ha ha.

I LOVE the lesson yer grandpa taught you. Go watch the game in the kitchen and do the dishes. Have a couple of snorts.

Let the women chatter.

I've sat at the table and listened to my wife and her friends talk. Sometimes there is nothing tangible for several minutes at a time.

They aren't even saying anything.

They don't even pretend!

But, unless we want to become fags, we love em and put up with em anyway.

tz said...

15 minutes of male silence? You've lost your zen. Although most would retreat or abandon the venue, adopting a rictus grin and retreating into your inmost thoughts while working on a programming problem, e.g. a collision algorithm for a FPS, or something similarly internally challenging typically works. You will never be asked for your opinion or can simply mumble something ambiguous that will allow the women to continue unabated. Time flies when you are ignoring background noise and engaged in something really interesting. I'm not sure but I may have gone 2 hours (the limit is because I have a fondness for beer over wine and it is a diuretic - before I discovered "stadium pal"). Of course I could have exited and returned without notice. Worse, the 3% peak capacity of information content of the conversation can often be handled as a mental background task. It merely takes a bit of practice.

I think google glass with morse code keyboard with something no one else notices as the input will be the next killer paradigm. Fully disengaged from the verbiage while accomplishing something wonderful.

Sarah said...

"They can talk forever without saying anything."


Because they are very uncomfortable with silence. It's just as much a social as a biological phenomenon - it's partly hard-wired, partly a vaguely cliquish competition as to who can portray themselves or someone else as the worst victims. If you listen, a lot of the conversation is whinging and moaning and talking about other people's personal problems, while portraying themselves as someone with the best judgment and good sense. They get off on it. Y'all say that they aren't really saying anything - and to you, because you are a man, that is what you are seeing. To a female, *talking* almost feels like *doing*. The very act of speaking is "saying something", and anyways, if you have nothing to talk about, what else is there to do? You *must* talk, if only to save yourself from being a "bore". At least, that is the female mindset. Your mileage will vary - as the more introverted she is, the less she'll manifest that discomfort, but in a social setting, there's *always* going to be someone who feels that way.

I'll never get people who think all there is to do in life is to talk. There's some sort of get-together, and everyone thinks the adult thing to do is to drink wine and talk. If that's all you are doing, then that's all you'll find yourself talking about. A man will often find other things to do with his time so has more to say, but a woman...even her work life is oriented around what her coworkers said or did to her or somebody. Everything is seen through a prism of social interaction, no matter how minor. If she went for a hike in the forest with some girlfriends and they saw the leaves change and maybe a fantastic view, they are first of all unlikely to see anything more interesting because they are too busy chattering to notice (not to mention scaring the wildlife), and second, their conversations about the trip *later* will be more about how X offended Y when she said this, and about Z's personal family problems. It's tiresome. Why bother even going on a hike if that's all you are getting from it? And they know that, so instead they don't. They favour mall trips and discussions over coffee, and standing in the bathroom for eons while trying to one-up each other on how beautiful they look with X-make-up.

SarahsDaughter said...

Sarah, I know what you're saying, and agree with it to an extent. However, that which you've mentioned may be hard wired...IS hardwired, especially in the extroverted female.

There is nothing more uncomfortable for me than to be in another woman's home who doesn't know how to keep conversation flowing. I literally see it as part of a hostess's duty. When I have guests over, there is never a lull in the conversation, no matter how simple that conversation may be. Now, I prefer to have in depth, philosophical discussions, however, that is not always possible with some guests. When conversation lulls at a get together I am hosting, I go through a litany of topics; their family, their job, their hobbies, etc. If our guests are extreme conversational bores, it is rare that I'll invite them a second time. Family is different and with family there is always opportunity to at least reminisce if new topics of conversation are not flowing.

I'll turn down invitations to homes where the woman of the house fails to oblige this social courtesy. It is extremely important to the extroverted guest. If she fails to introduce guests to each other and bridge the conversational gap, I will not return to that home.

This may be insignificant to the introvert. It isn't, however, something that should be ignored, especially when those one is entertaining matter to one's husband's career or lifeblood of their business.

Kickass said...

Get all the women liquoured up and then the second someone does the " you know, I only thought you were a bitch when you did..." Quickly start the car and get everyone out. Most likely they will cry, have wild sex and then sleep it off and you can go watch netflix in peace...heavenly peaceeeeeeeeeeecceee.

PGC said...

Seeing the world through a social prism isn't all that bad if you live in an extended family and your duty is the day-to-day care of a passel of children. I suspect that everything men find weird and annoying about women comes back to children. Before the modern era, women spent most of their life either birthing, nursing, and caring for their children, as well as helping other women with these duties. Little girls helped their mothers and old women helped daughters and daughters-in-law. It made a social circle that was different from the men's and centered around people who communicate with emoting and constant chatter themselves--children. If women communicated like men, they'd go insane cooped up all the time with kids.

Anyway, this theory might not make female conversation any less annoying to men, but at least it's easier to understand what's going on.

Anonymous said...

Top it all off by giving her a good HARD pounding after all the family leaves.

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