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The Things Men Say That Get on Women's Nerves

Sometimes, they even ‘misspeak’ with emoji.

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Animation of phrases men say to women
Carolyn Sewell
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A divorced friend of mine had been texting with a man she met on an online dating site for the 60-plus set. Things were moving along merrily until she made a little joke about gaining a few pounds during her COVID sequester and how she hoped Weight Watchers still offered lifelong memberships. He responded with an emoji. Mind you, not the ubiquitous happy face emoji that conveys “that’s funny” or “great.” No, this was a strange and unfamiliar emoji that, when later passed around among her friends, drew interpretations ranging from “I’m stunned and not in a good way” to “Well, that’s unfortunate news. Where’s the exit ’cause I’m outa here.”

For some reason, older men still flub it big when it comes to messaging. Even the enlightened ones struggle sometimes with how to communicate in an honest, respectful and unhurtful way that recognizes the concerns of modern older women. Here are some of the things men say that date them, make them sound out of touch or show that they just plain don’t recognize the societal changes that have occurred over the past half century or so.

Those “my wife is the boss of me” sayings

We’ve all heard them: “A happy wife makes a happy life,” the ubiquitous “Yes, dear,” or that perennial favorite, “Ask the missus.” What these sayings have in common is that they convey the message that you, the man, are (falsely) claiming to be powerless — subject to the whims of a woman. And that you, the man, have no voice in the decision-making that goes on in your relationship and that this, somehow, is all supposed to be seen as adorable and appealing to women. Sorry, dude, but no.

Saying these things ignores the fact that men still have vastly more power than women in pretty much every aspect of existence. And it further ignores the fact that what many women really want anyway are partners, not subjects whom they can lord over.

Further, can we all just agree that Henny Youngman is long dead? While a successful comedian in his day, the day when it was considered funny to mock your wife and marriage has long passed. So, no more “Take my wife, please.”

Those sayings that deny our feelings and dismiss us

Let’s start with “Calm down,” the command that men use in the midst of a heated discussion even though it has literally failed 100 percent of the time when uttered. Saying “Calm down” does exactly the opposite; it infuriates. It’s akin to waving a red cape in front of a charging bull.

Why? Because women hear it as, “You are behaving hysterically and acting too emotionally.” It not only fails to calm anyone down, it infuriates women when they are trying to be heard and have their feelings validated. A raised voice is a frustrated voice. If you want to lower that voice, acknowledge that you’ve heard it. Closely related to “Calm down” is the dismissive “What is it now?” Saying that only serves to convey your impatience and anger with having to speak to us about a subject you clearly feel uncomfortable about. You are missing a big opportunity here to delve deeper into what’s going on with us. Try “I’m glad you are willing to talk to me.”

Those sayings that infer judgement on us according to someone else’s standards of what a woman should do and be

“Did you really just eat all those fries?” or on the flip side, “Is that all you’re going to eat?” are observations probably best left unspoken. Men don’t control what and how much a woman should eat. Many of us grew up in an era when women were valued by their appearance. That time is over. Don’t tell me I should “smile more” — ever say that to a man? And for the love of all things good, please don’t encourage me to order dessert and then comment after how I must have a sweet tooth. That’s a setup.

Those sayings you mean as compliments and kind of really aren’t

“You look great. How much weight have you lost?” Let’s start by just saying being judged on appearance is just not in anyone’s best interest. A simple “So nice to see you again,” suffices and keeps you on inoffensive ground. In this particular case, try flipping this so-called compliment on its tail. Aren’t you in fact saying she was overweight and unattractive in the past?

“You don’t look 70.” Here’s why you might get a raised eyebrow for that. If I’m 70 and this is what I look like, that means, this is indeed what 70 looks like — not the speaker’s false and preconceived notion of what he thinks a 70-year-old woman must look like. It is not a compliment to say I don’t look my age because there is nothing wrong with being and looking 70. And for those times you let emoji do the talking for you, please use caution. They don’t always mean what you think. Here’s a handy reference guide to the new batch for 2021.

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