My mother asks where I’ll be having Thanksgiving dinner. I tell her my friends Pete and Rhonda have invited me and my youngest son over to join their family. My mother asks, “What are you bringing?” And I laugh out loud.
It is a perpetual gender cliché. Phone rings. A husband answers. On the other end is another husband inviting you over for dinner. Recipient husband registers date and time of get-together. Says: “Yes … Thanks … That’ll be fun,” and hangs up. He calls up the stairs, “Honey! That was Andy inviting us over to their house for dinner Saturday. I said yes.” And lilting down the stairs comes the sweet wife’s voice: “Did you ask if we could bring anything?”
And the husband will say, “Uh-h-h …”
Now, a few words about “uh-h-h” because “uh-h-h” is a crucial part of the Guy Lexicon. “Uh-h-h” is used to buy time while the Guy Brain is gripping, trying to understand a question. Plus, “uh-h-h” is laboratory tested to be much safer than “Whhaat?!” especially when the latter is said with irritation, impatience and a contorted facial expression similar to the one you use when you discover your dog has gotten into the kitchen trash.
“Can we bring anything?” is one of The Girl Questions. And, apparently, no matter how many times I’m reminded of the critical social importance of this question, I just can’t get it saved to my Guy “hard drive.”
See, Pete’s exact words to me were, “You and the boys coming over for Thanksgiving?” Meaning, he didn’t even say, “We would like to invite you ….” There was an assumption in his very choice of words that I probably would be there. He was just checking. I said, “Yes.”
Now, this next part is really important. I trust Pete to BeAGuy. That means I trust that, should Pete need me to bring something, he would say so. That’s how guys do it. Hey, you coming over for Thanksgiving? Yes? OK, can I get you to bring some ice/your cooler/beer/a salad, etc. And I would say, “Yes” or “What’s your favorite beer?” or “I’m sick of buying you beer you mooch” or some such. But, the point is, we’d work it out.
This year, he didn’t ask me to bring diddly-do. I simply announced to him that I’d be bringing my famous leg o’ lamb. I wasn’t trying to be sociable and polite. I just really like my leg o’ lamb recipe and it was a hit last year and that made me feel proud so I’m bringing it. I didn’t say, “Would it be all right if I ….” I just announced it, trusting, I guess, that if there was a valid reason for me not to bring the leg o’ lamb, Pete would have BeenAGuy and spoken up.
But women live in a very different world, socially speaking. It’s important to ask if you can bring anything. So your host can cluck and shrug and say, “No, no – we’ve got everything handled.” And then with a concerned, pouty face you can say, “Are you sure?” And then the host can say, “Well, maybe you’d like to bring some dessert.” And you can say, “I’d be happy to.”
This exchange makes women very, very happy and loved. It’s hard to know, when women talk like this, who is doing who the favor.
The Girl Questions. The Guy Brain. It also occurs when friends give birth to babies. Phone rings. Husband answers. Proud husband announces his wife has just given birth. First husband hangs up and calls up the stairs: “Andy and Carla just had their baby!” And gushing down the stairs, this time probably accompanied by the wife herself, comes a swirl of Girl Questions: “What did the baby weigh? … How tall is the baby? … How long was the labor? … Did she have the epidural? … What was the APGAR score? …”
And the husband will say, “Uh-h-h,” which means, “I’m pretty sure everybody is alive, and I know that the baby came with an identifying appendage commonly associated with boys. The child’s name is Max. But he might have said Victor. And, apparently, Andy won’t be having sex for the next six weeks.”
I read this column to my girlfriend. She rolls her eyes. Shakes her head. Gives me the ceremonial glare. Which I’m pretty sure makes my point.
By the way, you should really try my leg o’ lamb.
(Steven Kalas is a Nevada author, therapist and Episcopal priest. He writes a weekly column for the Sparks Tribune. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)