Those four words — “You hurt my feelings” — are my least favorite words to hear from my wife. I’d rather hear, “I love you?” What’s most difficult about those four words is that you can’t deny them. Feelings are feelings and they’re not up for debate. For most men, the ease with which we can incur those four words is a mystery. This applies even in non-marital circumstances, as I will elaborate on later.
I love my wife. But, when she utters those four words, I cringe. I used to try and defend myself once I was able to decipher exactly what I’d done to elicit those four deadly words. Now, I just grin and bear it, quickly saying, “I’m sorry.” You might as well just dig the hole deeper the moment you try and defend yourself. Trust me on this: don’t.
In some cases, it’s my “wacky” sense of humor that will get me in trouble with my wife or, more recently, with a couple of social media “friends.” My wife would define my “wacky” sense of humor as my “Big mouth!” And she’s probably right, especially in the worlds of e-mail and even more so in the unique Twitterverse of 140 characters.
The first problem I had was with a Twitter person I follow, who also follows me, whom I’ve never spoke with or even exchanged first names, let alone something as personal as an e-mail. That’s the peculiar nature of Social Media relationships. One has the illusion one knows another person when, in fact, most of the time we don’t have a clue about the other person. The opposite is also true; you can develop closeness with a “virtual” friend that is indeed meaningful. I gladly have many of those close relationships in the world of Social Media, which have substantially enhanced my writing, speaking, and radio careers.
But, returning to this not-so-close virtual friend, she tweeted about something mundane in her day that had to do with being stressed about a small school matter involving one of her children. I cavalierly responded that if that was the only stress she was experiencing in her life, then she was pretty lucky.
Well, you’d have thought I’d called her a b, c, d, or f word as well as demeaned her maternity, along with her weight, looks, and intelligence! What I meant, of course, was that if that was the “only” stress in her life, rather than that of a sick child, horrible financial problems, a dying relative, or the like, that she was indeed “lucky.”
She took my less than 140 character characterization as a misogynistic judgment against women! Nothing could be further from the truth, especially for anyone, man or woman, dad or mom, who reads my columns, follows by “A Dad’s Point-of-View” Facebook page, knows me personally, or knows me from Twitter or Twitter Chats.
However, because this woman has a big following, a big “Klout” score (a measure of influence for a Twitter user), I didn’t want an enemy and therefore was eager to explain my innocent intentions. Especially, after she threatened to write a blog about what an insensitive slug I was. I enlisted some women friends to explain that I was “a good guy” and didn’t mean any harm. Others chimed in and a short, but raging debate followed, Twitter-style, in bursts of 140 characters or less. I apologized. She accepted, but then slammed me within the acceptance. I wisely let that go. I think the brouhaha was ultimately overtaken by the Weiner scandal and went away. Whew.
The other incident involved another Twitter “friend” who hosts a Twitter Chat and my sense of humor, unrelated asides and general “class clown” approach clearly didn’t meet with her rules and regulations. In that case, no threats were exchanged as we respect each other, but I chose to just remove myself from that chat – hers – and let it run without my unregulated “Big mouth” and otherwise sometimes loose fingers, on the keyboard.
All of which brings us men back to our women, and their feelings. Maybe our children will understand better how to handle each sex’s different senses of humor in the workplace and at home. I don’t know, but all these experiences rattle me. I will monitor more closely what I tweet or e-mail. Frankly, the inner watching-my-back angel-on-my-shoulder is already censoring my unabridged approaches to both.
With my wife, it’s really a matter of understanding her language, paying more attention, and listening more carefully. My marriage is more important to me than a Twitter acquaintance that I’ve never met or spoken with, but I still would rather be mindful of hurt feelings that I inadvertently cause anyone, close or not.
I know that if I shared these situations with my boys, they’d both react with “what’s the big deal?” as their generation lives in these worlds while mine straddles them and, at least speaking for myself, is often confused by them.