she's writing a novel

a lot of her writing tends to be tongue-in-cheek. this is because she grew up in an evangelical tradition which was more concerned about where else she might be putting her tongue.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Much ado about nothing

Arguments are rarely disagreements.

That is, they are usually not about a difference in opinion. He wants Thai, She wants Chinese. He wants Cabernet; She wants Chardonnay. He’s thinking stripes; She’s thinking floral. He sees them London; She sees them France. Compromise is easier than people think. Most people aren’t as passionate about take-out and wine, wallpaper and travel destinations, as they think they are. But we fight about these so-called differences with sound and fury (just ask the neighbors).

It’s not because I care that much about the white wine or the city we book for our summer vacation. It’s a fear that- in not caring, in not defending my arbitrary opinion- I somehow lose ground. Me blurs and becomes nothing but a burr on You. Maybe we think that if we fight it out long enough, we can come up with an US that is about both of our desires.

But that’s not really what we want, the US. And so sometimes we'd rather fight indefinately than blur, or blend. Sometimes the argument is just about reminding ourselves that I am Me, and You are You.

Sometimes an argument is something we pick to test our lover’s boundaries, to see just how much irritation we can cause without losing their affection. Sometimes it’s just a way to work out a mood, a prelude to makeup sex; a desire to push each other away so we can remember how nice it feels to get close.

But mostly, arguments are a refusal to hear. Arguments happen when I stop being willing to be surprised by what you could tell me, when I stop believing that what you have to say is anything different from what I expect you to say.

That’s why when you tell him you are upset because he turned away from you mid-sentence to talk to a pretty acquaintance, you have an argument. He does not want to hear that you are upset, because you should not be upset. And so he will respond with words that are an attempt to get you to confess that you are not really upset. And when you tell him, finally, that never mind, it doesn’t bother you at all….then he won’t believe you. But he will believe finally that you are upset about something. And then he will try to get to the bottom of it. For you to be upset about something as simple as him talking to some pretty girl…well, that’s just too obvious and so it can’t possibly be the case. Because women are complicated and layered and above all passive aggressive, and he knows this, having dated many women. So he will try to solve the mystery, he will delve deep trying to determine what it is you are trying to tell him you are upset about when you tell him you are upset about him talking to a pretty girl. Are you afraid he will leave you? He assures you he will not leave you. Are you upset because you think she is prettier than you? She is not prettier than you. Or, if she is prettier than you, she is not as smart or clever or desirable as you, so it doesn’t really matter that she is prettier than you. If you are stubborn or brave or foolish, you will stick to your story. You will tell him that you simply did not like that he turned away from you while you were speaking to him, and that it was made worse by the fact that it was another woman who stole his attention from you.

He should be apologetic and flattered that you covet his attention. But he will continue to insist that there is something more to it, something you aren’t disclosing. Finally, he will decide that it is because you are a bitch that you are upset. You are a woman like other women, a petty bitch who won’t tell him what’s wrong but makes him run around in circles trying to guess. A bitch who gets off on making him jump through hoops of guessing, making a stammering monkey out of him. Well? He’s tried. But if that’s the way she wants to be, he can’t fix it, he can’t make it right.

And she didn’t need anything fixed, didn’t need anything made right. She just wanted him to know that she wanted him to listen to her, then and now and always. But he can’t hear her, and so now there is only her sniffling and his silence.

That is the way that arguments happen.


  • At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    that is so sad and yet so very true. communication is always muddled by our experiences, our fears, our egos. we are always messing with each other, testing each other, trying to fix each other.being human is so difficult and limiting. I am sorry this argument happened to you, and that it probably happens all the time with men cause we can be dumb.
    perhaps there is something TO dying to self, if only for the fact it would make conversation way less annoying.

  • At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    no way. arguments happen because women don't understand that men are always right.

  • At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hahah. Word, dave. You are so right. Heh.
    Don't worry anonymous, this wasn't an actual event - it was a writing exercise - but it WAS based on my observations of human interaction. I really just created a pseudo-fictional montage of my "arguments" with a few different men.

  • At 7:44 PM, Blogger Jessie said…

    Hey Sarah. Your writing gets better all the time. I felt literally stripped naked in front of a crowded room reading this because it was so painfully accurate. And I appreciate that someone can articulate it.



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