Restraining My Mansplaining

Source: Getty Image via DailyMail.com

Who knew a trip to the local grocery could turn into an exercise in self awareness? My only goal had been to avoid the Hostess aisle and scheme a way to quietly re-enter our home to put away the store brand items without Gorgeous seeing them (for some reason, she just won’t accept the fact that “Nutty Nuggets” are just as good as Grape Nuts). My errand run, however, turned into a mini-seminar on gender behavior. Or to be more specific, male behavior.

I’m also revealing here exactly how much of a nosy eavesdropper I am. The six of you out there can draw your own conclusions about that on your own time, though.

It was quite clear that the couple in front of me in the grocery line were having an argument. No social distancing on my part was going to prevent me from hearing everything they said, no matter how distracted and anonymous I was trying to act. Staring at my phone as if engrossed, I admit to listening intently to every word of theirs. Other people’s marital spats are intriguing. For me, it’s usually a moment when I can hold myself up to better standards. No one wouldn’t ever catch me acting like that!

The husband I thought came across as earnest and reflective, the wife harsh and dismissive. The issue at hand was their adult son’s impending divorce, plus the ensuing ramifications this might have on their immediate family. The husband wanted to arrange for professional counseling. The wife seemed intent on getting the son to find an apartment and move out of there, stat.

The husband was also focusing on financial details, worried that the son’s credit rating might later become adversely affected. With the introduction of this new tangent, money, his wife had heard enough. In a voice loud enough to be heard back in the meat department, she rasped…

“Stop the mansplaining already!”

It was a strategic discussion end-point on her part, a verbal crescendo positioned at the precise moment when it became their turn to start placing grocery items on the conveyer belt for the cashier. As all couples do, they worked in tandem to empty the cart, pay for everything, and exit the store, presumably to continue the conversation in the car. She placed a divider behind their items and mine, and nodded in recognition of the thanks I offered. I suppressed the urge to tell her of the Equifax hit I experienced after my own divorce ten years prior.

On the drive home, though, I pondered the woman’s invective to her husband. It seemed so cutting when all I could see was a father trying to salvage a son’s marriage, perhaps even attempting to protect a nuclear family that included children. Then again, maybe the woman was at the end of her rope, married to a controlling obsessive who is constantly putting his nose where it has no business being. That’s the thing about eavesdropping on strangers; one only gets but a smidgen of the full story.

“Stop the mansplaining already!”

Source: Clipart-Library.com

I suddenly began to wonder: Do I mansplain? Have I ever mansplained?

Oh good, something new rather than covid to obsess about.

As soon as I got home I immediately asked Gorgeous for her opinion. I’ve consistently told her over the years that she’s getting the best version of me possible, the one who’s learned from earlier mistakes of what to say, not to say, when to offer suggestions, to keep quiet, etc. We have a marriage based on trust and truth. So clearly she’s the absolute best person to ask, right?

I had thoughts of an enlightening moment of faint praise for my male behavior traits, but I also held out for the possibility that their might be some constructive criticism too. Instead, it turned out to be a rather short conversation:

Do I mansplain?

Sometimes, mmhmm. Yeah.

A lot? How often? Am I obnoxious about it?

I have to go back to work now. If you turn on the TV, can you keep it to a low volume please?

Hmm. Lots to ponder there for another time perhaps.

Undeterred, I decided I needed a slightly larger sampling, so I made contact with three former female colleagues. One has known me since I was in my twenties and the other two from my forties. I asked all three women the same two questions: Did I mansplain during my career, and have I done so in emails or phone calls since retiring? I asked them to be frank and honest, and I also alerted that I would most likely use their comments in this post.

“T” responded with the following: “Your question is too cute and it is timely because there is a commercial on tv that uses the work mansplaining and I wasn’t sure what it meant, so just the other day I looked it up. This is too funny. You have NEVER mansplained anything to me. I can’t imagine you doing that to anyone.

“H” wrote back and said, Yes, ALL men, and I do mean ALL men mansplain. In some instances I don’t think it’s intended as a put down but they really feel they are helping. Some men truly believe a woman doesn’t have the ability to comprehend such world-shaping information, like how to properly peel an orange, and therefore they need to explain it to them. Women have various reactions. Some get angry, some feel degraded, and some just look at the jerk and think,“You’re the dumbsh*t here,” but keep that notion to themselves. So, yes, my dear, you have mansplained but you didn’t do it often and I didn’t take offense from you doing so.

Additionally, H generously offered up an anecdote of mansplaining from her previous marriage: “I recall watching my then-husband and father-in-law trying to figure out why the new dryer vent hose wouldn’t reach the wall vent they needed to attach it to, how much hose they still needed, why the company didn’t give them enough hose, who would go to Lowe’s to get a longer one, and how much it will ultimately cost. I stared at them both in disbelief, finally telling them to just switch the dryer and washer places which would alleviate the problem. However ….. their ears weren’t able to hear a woman’s knowledgeable voice in such matters.

Finally, I heard from “S” who responded with the following: “I’ve tried my damnedest to think of a time that you personally tried to mansplain something to me, and I can’t. The only reason I can think of why not is because with the exception of your knowledge of library science, barbecuing and how to make the perfect martini, you probably assumed I knew how to do or understood almost everything else, and if so, you are to be commended, sir. In the age of Google, mansplaining is even more of an insult unless the ‘splainer in question thinks you don’t know how to use the internet, which is highly unlikely unless you were born before 1920.”

S also gave an example from her previous marriage: “We were crossing the border by car from Canada into the U.S. with fresh salmon we’d bought while there. The last 10 miles was taken up with him explaining from every possible angle why we didn’t need to declare the fish, that he’s been dealing with customs officers all his life and I needed to trust that he knew what he was talking about. We got to the border, he filled out the paperwork, they asked to look in the trunk of the car, saw the fish and we were fined for not declaring it. I SO wanted to say to him after we drove away: “Who’s the dumb-ass now?” I didn’t. I figured there was a whole lot of open highway where my body could have been dumped before we got to our stop for the night.

So I get a 50% mansplaining score here with two respondents reporting back that your humble blogger has mansplaining tendencies. I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to judge just how bad a score that is. It also appears that ex-husbands might get the worst scores in such a study.

My conclusion here? I remain a work in progress. I also promise to watch for tendencies to over-explain when speaking to females. Oh, and keep your mouth shut if you’re in the same grocery line as me.

Until next time…

Source: Kroger

56 thoughts on “Restraining My Mansplaining

  1. I’m trying to decide whether to give you a witty reply, or to share this with my husband (who would then see it.) I’m going to think on it. You did have me laughing quite loudly, though, so he may be on his way in here right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue Bowers

    Oh god, what a wonderful visual I got with your description of eavesdropping! You may have gotten only 50% on the mansplaining front, but you’re 100% shameless with your highly focused eavesdropping.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve been in line at the grocery behind a couple just like the one you describe here. It’s hard to not accidentally overhear what is being said. In your case you hit blogging gold. I admire you for trying to determine if/when you’ve mansplained. That shows you can be taught! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Too funny, Marty, both re content and the marvelous way you have of describing things. And I definitely plan on sharing it with my husband. I’m not the kind of woman men try to explain things to in that “kindly” way, at least not more than once. Except on the golf course that is! 😏

    Like

  5. Good on you for taking the time to at least think about it. There are a lot of well-meaning mansplainers out there and then there are a whole lot of blow hards. I’ll tell you what, that one story about the washer/dryer had me going, YES SISTER! I had a very similar situation involving a gas fireplace that took a year to fix because no one thought the “little lady” knew what she was talking about when she suggested that the problem was the thermocouple. It was infuriating to not be heard, talked over, and then eventually to be right but not validated. I don’t think we’re always right, as women, but we certainly want to be heard and to feel helpful. I am sure that goes both ways….

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Great title, Marty. Oh, my gosh, did you ever get the goods on this couple. A great deal of personal info considering you were not eavesdropping. A complicated scenario with many challenges. Re: mansplaining, not always a negative thing depending on tone of voice. Sometimes, it is learning something new, a new perspective. Other times it can be condescending. In our relationship, I likely to mansplain more than my husband (albeit in a soft, controlled, quiet voice) Figure that one out.😜 Also, no bodies dumped in our relationship…….yet.

    By the way, Marty, you are one of the goods ones for even asking the question.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A female mansplainer; I hadn’t thought of that dynamic, Erika. But if that’s true, I can only believe that you’d be a kind and definitely soft-spoken one.

      Thanks for the compliment, though in these days of “covid writer’s block,” I’ll take blog fodder wherever I can find it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, anyone crass enough to discuss a painful and difficult personal issue of their ADULT child in a grocery queue deserves all the eavesdropping they get.

    I’ve had a couple of call-outs in relationship, though both predate urban dictionary terms. When I was living in Germany, my partner (a doctor, then enrolled in a Masters of Public Health) would cock her head at me and purr “Meine Psychologe”, the venom dripping from her incisors and making smoking holes in the linoleum.

    My current partner (of 20+ years) was a highly experienced ICU nurse when we met, and training to become a counsellor. That was tricky as I was a veteran psychologist by that time. Still, in matters other than things psychological, she tended to snap “Thank you Captain Obvious”. This had a high degree of re-training effectiveness, though with one downside. Sometimes I’ll send it right back at her. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree on their inability to keep these things within the confines of their own private time and places, Bruce. It reminded me of Paul Mazursky film called “Scenes from a Mall,” in which a married couple in the film, Bette Midler and the now tragically out of fashion Woody Allen, discuss their most intimate relationship issues around tons of strangers. Mazurski said at the time that malls fascinated him like that, though there’s probably a huge difference between “privacy” sitting in front of a fountain vs. in a grocery line. 🙂

      Yikes, your German partner could infuse you with a cold invective, eh? Sounds like found the right woman in the end. As put-downs go, “Captain Obvious” could actually be a great album title. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My problem is that I don’t even hear mansplaining anymore. My ears automatically tune it out. So I would never know how to score most men on this.
    But like Sue, I give you 100% on shameless eavesdropping. I also give you 100% on sense of humour. Once again, you had me laughing from the title onwards!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Barbara -

    Hilarious!! Now I know at least one thing I’m missing by not actually going into grocery stores. I’m a road tripper with an exceptional sense of directions who has listened to her late husband manslaughter his not being lost and knowing where he was going g into some of the most interesting dead end roads you could imagine bless his heart. Mother obviously doesn’t think partner is good enough for her baby boy and wants him to leave…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smart woman staying out of those stores, Barbara! What I should have mentioned was how miraculous it was I actually could make out at least what the husband said with that mask of his on. Funny how we’re all adapting to that now. The woman DEFINITELY had some, shall we say, opinions?, about the son’s partner. I’m the navigator in my marriage also, though to her credit Gorgeous wants no part of that responsibility! 😁

      Like

  10. And, this is why I go to the grocery store by myself. 🙂 I had to look up the definition of mansplaining so I learned something, thank you. When we talk about a project like a dryer vent, the conversation is complex. It truly is like Mars and Venus trying to communicate. I am visual, he is not. It takes a while to get there and when we do the volume of the conversation has increased exponentially. Thanks for a smile and a chuckle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha. In our home we’re both all thumbs with fixing anything except a software problem or a DVR. Those come under my responsibility; anything else involves an electrician, plumber, appliance repair company, etc. We have a fridge that’s making all kinds of noises, and I just hope it can make it to mid-summer or fall. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We ‘had’ to have an electrician a couple of weeks back. I got a couple of estimates and almost had a heart attack. I decided to be brave and go on Home Advisor and got lucky with a really nice guy who owns his own business and does all the small jobs himself. He was half the price, wore a mask, and was in and out in 20 minutes. You can be assured I won’t be losing his name and number.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Haha, very funny and also very true. In my experience, ALL men do this without being aware of it — some to a greater degree than others. We just get used to it and don’t make a fuss unless it’s truly obnoxious.

    A+ on eavesdropping! Alisa

    Liked by 1 person

  12. debscarey

    My ex could be guilty, as were many a past colleague. Fortunately Himself doesn’t do this. He does teach me a lot of stuff that I don’t know (on militaria), but also says that I’m scary, so perhaps that’s keeps me safe 😉

    Nice going on taking a straw poll though Marty – very impressed with your work on self-awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, always good to have intimidation working for you, Deb! I’m pretty sure you were two of my bosses back in the day. 😉

      Yes, the straw poll was to allow for female voices to come through instead of just some old white guy pontificating about male behavior. Offline, one of those women poked fun at me for not broadening the circle to include my ex-wife. Now THAT would have been an interesting voice to add here too. Me thinks she would have had plenty to say. 😉

      Like

  13. debscarey

    I’m looking forward to returning to grocery shopping, as I’m missing out on such bon mots! Only sole grocery shopping permitted over here, so with Himself being chief cook, he does it all. I provide washing up services.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, believe me I really understand. We live in the land of Florida, where if one listens to the governor here, there is absolutely nothing to worry about — all business are wide open and all are welcome! That being said, we walk in each time figuratively wearing 20 masks, two shields, a suit of armor, etc. My glasses are always so fogged up that it’s a wonder I’m buying anything appropriate (i.e. “… That’s cottage cheese? I could have sworn it was sour cream!

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  14. I think there is a big difference between “mansplaining” and giving one’s opinion or sharing facts that the other may not know. If it’s done in a condescending, overconfident, oversimplified manner (often with the wrong “facts”) I would call it mansplaining. I have a hard time believing that you would do that… but you definitely deserve kudos for your eavesdropping abilities. Oh, and I love your wife’s non-response to your question. You married a very wise women.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, well there is that isn’t there? I’m seemingly always walking the other way (quickly!) from people who are talking loud or even yelling — with masks on even. In this case, the man was soft-spoken. The woman was quite loud, though. You’re right, though: speaking softly helps tap down droplets. Many thanks for reading!

      Like

      1. Oh ok, so you are like me! I’m avoiding people as well as I can. Today on checkout queue at grocery store I naturally couldn’t avoid a construction worker behind me. He was talking to phone a while quite loudly! I insantly turned around when he answered to phone. A lot of infections have been found in construction workers atleast here in Finland so I was really afraid!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. You cracked me up with this one, Marty. I just asked Esther if I am ever mansplainer. She said, only when you tell me about real estate (she was a realtor). Speaking of Nutty Nuggets, have you ever tried explaining to Gorgeous how cereal is actually a soup?

    Liked by 1 person

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