The other day, my wife and I were in the car on our way to the movie theater to watch some flash-in-the-pan flick for our date-night. I was closing up some business on my phone as we drove down the road and reached over to start up some tunes on my iPod.
Not too long afterward, I noticed Natalie’s face looked a little sour as she spoke up and asked, “can’t we just talk?”
Not unlike an Indiana Jones moment, I turned off the music and said, “ok, sure… what do you want to talk about?”
After a long pause, she said in a disappointed voice, “I can’t think of anything.”
Fortunately, I had enough wit about me to know better than to turn the music back on, as we rode in silence to the theater… but it brought to mind the difference in how I spend time with my male friends vs how I spend time with my wife and how I observe that she spends time with her friends.
This is not the first time my wife has asked me to turn off the [electrical device] and spend some time talking with her, only to find that she has nothing to say; simply that she wanted to plug in and spend some quality time together.
Now, take a step back and let’s look at how men and women spend time together differently:
I’m going to my friend’s house for a visit. It’s embarrassing to say, “going over to play,” but in reality, that’s really what it is. I’ve got my Xbox in a bag or maybe my laptop with me… if we’re really planning to have some fun, I’m packin’ both. I get there, we greet one another, maybe grab a quick drink and within minutes, we’re hooked up and shooting at each other on his TV, giggling and yelling at the screen. That goes on for maybe four hours or more. When I leave, we feel connected and excited to see one another again.
Now, observe the women: she goes to a friend’s house for a visit. Now, unless I come with, you can be pretty sure there will be little or no “playing” involved. It’s going to be the kind of visit that I, as a kid, used to run to my room to hide from. People, sitting in the living room, drinking coffee and talking.
Ever see a cross-over? Good times. Put a man in the middle of women talking. I’ve been there. I can adapt, but it feels slow… there’s nothing to fix, nothing to analyze and sarcastic humor is most likely unwelcome.
Put a woman in the middle of men playing a game. She can most likely adapt as well, but for her, it feels… male. Yelling, loud laughter, jumping around, animated gestures and probably swearing. Put her in the middle of men talking and she’ll probably be bored to tears by all of the details. We’re fixing and analyzing problems in a flurry of solutions and suggestions.
Of course there are exceptions to all of these. My sister is one of them. Frequently, you’ll find her with the men, telling them how to refill their headlamp fluid and elbow grease… and every so often, you’ll find me running away from sports-talk with the men, in the kitchen with the women talking about color palettes or discussing theology. It’s rare, but it happens… especially if the men start talking sports.
All that to say this: I’ve observed that our culture continually moves away from community and revolves around self. Men tend to be the ones who are quick to embrace this shift in culture. Think about what’s popular: cell phones, iPods, video games, movies, SUV’s, laptops… it seems that the smaller the gadget and the more it requires you to disconnect from community, the more popular it is. SUV’s are the exception. They’re BIG… and getting bigger. I usually see them on the road with one person in them, if I can even see the person at all through the tinted windows. Even my little VW has tinted windows. So I guess, what we’re saying is, “if I have to be out, I want to be alone and I don’t want to be seen.”
Taking a step back to just observe, it doesn’t seem like that’s what God had in mind when He made people. We’re made for relationship; with Him and with one another. That’s our purpose. Of course, I say all of this with a bluetooth headset plugged directly into my skull so I can quickly disconnect from whomever I’m with as quickly and conveniently as possible, making myself available to anyone else except the person who is with me and wants my attention the most, namely my wife and my family… hang on one sec… it’s ringing… I have to take this.
I’ve gotta go. I have a 12:30. Maybe we can pick this up later.