He Says, She Says

It all started with an innocent comment.

We were on our way home from Mass one Sunday morning when my dear husband turned to me and said, “You should get your hair done.”

Now Dan is a man. Like most men, his usual mode of communication is a kind of foreign language I call man-talk. I had no idea at the time, but apparently, in man-talk, “You should get your hair done” means something akin to, “I love you and I know looking nice is important to you. You work so hard and you never think about yourself. You deserve to take a little break to go out and have your hair done. I'll gladly watch the kids. Why don't you make an appointment this week sometime?”

I should have realized that. But then, I am a woman. I do not understand man-talk. In fact, I specialize in an entirely different dialect — woman-talk. Unfortunately for my husband, in woman-talk, “You should get your hair done” loosely translates into “You look so old and frumpy, I am embarrassed to be seen in public with you. Fix yourself up, would ya?”

Hence my hasty and regrettable response: “Well, if I ever had a minute to myself, maybe I could give some thought to my hair!” Then I folded my arms defensively and started to sulk.

Of course anyone fluent in woman-talk would have known that, by my snippy retort, I simply meant: “Your opinion matters a great deal to me and it hurts to think that you might not like my hairstyle. I would love to make an appointment at the hair salon, but I don't want to impose on your free time by leaving you alone with the children.”

But Dan could not guess at the true meaning behind my words. He stared at me in silence, wondering at my resentful response to what he thought was a loving suggestion. Things only spiraled downward from there.

Before I was married, I knew that it was because the sexes are so different that men and women are capable of working so well together. God created us to be marvelously complementary. What I did not know, however, is that it is because of those very differences that men and women are capable of driving one another completely crazy.

St. Augustine once said: “This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.”

Well, there is nothing quite like married life to bring one's own imperfections and shortcomings to light. Sharing a household and raising a family with someone who is so vastly different from ourselves challenges us constantly to improve ourselves and to sacrifice for the good of the one we love.

Part of the beauty of the vocation of marriage, though, is that it's a calling you can get a little bit better at answering, a little bit at a time, with a whole lot of practice every day. It's a calling that is rich with built in rewards and unexpected blessings.

In fact, at the end of that miserable Sunday of our colossal misunderstanding, Dan brought home a small package of M&Ms and presented them to me as a peace offering.

I'm still working on man-talk and he still struggles with woman-talk. But, happily for both of us, chocolate means love — in any language.

Danielle Bean writes from Belknap, New Hampshire.