Friday, February 24, 2012

Complaints About Spouses

My current set of coworkers is, on the whole, a quite nice group of ladies.  My sole major complaint about them is that they constantly say awful things about their husbands.  Their husbands are apparently incapable of personal hygiene, work, speech, and perhaps even thought.  It all seems somewhat inappropriate water-cooler talk, as well as quite exaggerated.

In a fit of pique I tried to recall any time I had heard a man gripe about his wife in a similar setting (actually, to anyone but a marriage counselor or a close friend, in private).  I couldn't recall a single time, and chalked up this as another case of big differences between men and women.

Fate of course decided to intervene to teach me a lesson.  Not two weeks after I came to the above conclusion, I went to the dentist to have a cleaning.  My dentist is a big old grouch, to be sure, but that day he was in fine form, going on at length about what a "lazy and stupid" woman (his words!) his wife is.  (He was mainly talking to the hygienist, a personal employee of his.)  At that point I recalled that he had actually complained about her on the previous visit, only then I didn't know (or suspect) that the woman he held in such contempt was his wife.

So of course I had to retract my observation.  The bitterness that my dentist displayed was not at all mixed with the sarcastic mirth displayed by my coworkers.  Furthermore, family-strife-venting in front of a patient is surely even more inappropriate than it is in front of peers.

Today it hit me--this really is a difference between men and women.  I noted that I've never heard a woman of whom I'm a customer (patient, client, etc.) complain about her husband.  And the fact remains that I've never heard a male coworker complain about his wife.

Has anyone else ever noticed this pattern?  Is the pattern that (a) men are happy to air their dirty laundry (and, let's face it, their history of poor decision-making) among subordinates and customers, while (b) women are comfortable doing so only among peers?

Can anyone explain this, or is it just a chance anomaly of the individuals I know?

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