Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Speech (trademark)


I’m talking with two happily married friends the other day, and one of them casually mentions that he told his wife “I don’t care” in response to a question about what color drapes they should buy for the living room.

I said “that was the wrong answer.” My friends disagreed. I never got to give the Speech™, as we were busy eating lunch and something funnier came up. But you young men who are trying to have a happy and long lasting relationship with a woman need this speech. And you old men who are still trying to have a happy and long lasting relationship with a woman, but haven’t figured out how to do that. Even the merely curious who cannot imagine having a long term and happy relationship with a woman can benefit from this speech. I’m doing this for you.

You’re together. You are very happy. Then you begin noticing that your wife to be is spending a lot of time thinking, planning and doing things that you don’t understand. Clarification: you don’t understand why this is taking as much time as it is. Each item in her list of things to do is done with energy, conviction, and an attention to detail you find unnerving (even frightening). This is mostly a subconscious thing, and you are certainly much too smitten with her to remark on all this.

Problem: the day comes when she asks you what you think – it doesn’t matter about what. Let’s say it is the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses. And that is the day you make a fatal mistake, unless you listen to me. Because when she asks you what color you think would be best for the bridesmaids dresses, your natural impulse is going to be to blurt out “I don’t care.” While this is true, that you don’t care (except at a very gross level, like how about not puke green?), really you are just trying to tell your buddy (your lady) “your call, I’ll back you up, whatever you decide.” But in this you are sadly mistaken, my friend.

What you just told the love of your life, in her language, is that you don’t want to be bugged by her trivia (thus, you don’t care about her), because you are busy watching World Federation Wrestling. If you are lucky enough to understand this – and you are not, because you would not be reading this if you were – you might instead have said “, I like blue.”

Problem is, that’s wrong, too. Because there are thousands of colors in her palette, unlike your man palette, which has three colors: reddish, blueish and yellow-like (more on this later). And the chance that your color choice will match hers is equal to finding life on Pluto.

Never say never, but the odds are not with you.

The correct thing to say is not “I don’t care.”

The correct thing to say is not “blue, I like blue.”

Both of these statements are true, and also horrifically wrong.

The correct thing to say is (read closely, here) “I’m not sure, honey, what were you thinking?

Because, in fact, the reason you are being consulted has nothing to do with you. It’s actually an opportunity to give the woman of your dreams the chance to talk about what she thinks are important.

Key Point: The fact that you don’t think it is important is a very good thing to keep quiet about. If you play your cards right, at this moment she thinks you are wonderful, and if you have any sense you will try to keep it that way.

Furthermore, you will swiftly find that the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses is actually VERY important to you, if you say “I don’t care.” At that moment you will have passed over the very deep but narrow chasm that divides a prince (your former self) from a swine (your current self). This will be difficult to rectify.

If you say “blue, I like blue,” you will not have crossed the chasm to swinehood immediately, but you are in mid-flight. Blue is clearly wrong, and it is impossible to understand how you could be so wrong. She will need to talk twice as hard now, in order to convince you blue is wrong and her color is correct, and to convince herself that you are still her soul mate. If you had just asked what she thought (like I told you), she would have been able to start on her color (need I emphasize, the correct color) right away, without dwelling on all the reasons blue is wrong and you are not her soul mate.

Once you learn to say “I’m not sure, honey, what were you thinking?” you will hear what she is thinking on the subject, which will stun you. You will not understand how it is possible to think as much as she has thought about the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses. You will begin to think that it is not possible that this creature and you are the same species, because if you lived to be 1,000 and took special brain pills you still could not find that much to think about regarding the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Trust me on this: how much she is thinking about the bridesmaids’ dresses is in some measure how important you are to her. Let me say this another way. The reason she cares so much about the bridesmaids’ dresses is because she cares so much about you, which means everything has to be the best she can make it. In her world, this is how you express love and appreciation. When you say “I don’t care,” what she hears is that you don’t care about her.

And that, pardner, is plain stupid, because if she thinks you care about her, your life is going to be approximately 3,000% better than you had any right to expect.

[Let me stop here for a moment. I have assumed that you really do care for her, in your own simple-hearted way, so stay with me. If you really don’t care for her, get off my blog.]

She is looking for you to affirm the choices SHE is making, after giving them mature consideration. This is easy for you, since you have no idea what to think. Let her talk, and give her responses like “are you sure that aqua is really going to pick up the shade of tamarind [I am making up words here, because I still don’t have a good color vocabulary] in the floral arrangement?”

You will find that if instead of saying “I don’t care” you simply reflect back encouraging verbal signals asking her what she thinks, within about 20 minutes she will think you are the most handsome, intensely desirable man she has ever seen. This will result in a successful conversation and, I should add, a successful marriage.

P.S. Do not be surprised if in the coming days she talks to you about the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses again. This time, she will have come to the conclusion that blue is the color. Resist the impulse to say “blue is fine, I like blue.” Instead say something like “really? I thought you were sold on the qios-mochanacht.” [Qios-mochanacht is not a real color, but a lot of colors she mentions will sound like Aztec].

This response will allow her to explain why her thinking has evolved from qios-mochanacht to blue. After an appropriate period of time, giving her reflective questions about her thinking process, you will eventually agree with her that blue is a great choice, even better than qios-mochanacht, which you previously thought was a great choice.

At that point you have become even more intensely handsome and desirable than she thought before, and she will yearn to communicate to you how wonderful you are.

And there you have another good conversation, which, if kept up for decades, makes a good marriage.


  1. should be printed out and given to every male upon his 18th birthday. :)

  2. Have you tried WWJD? Anyway how long did it take you to learn all this?

  3. This is brilliant.

    I sent it to my son who is about to get married, my future son-in-law (yes, we are having two weddings very soon -- we are not "diverse" in the way that juxtaposition might suggest), and my husband.

    May they internalize it!