Posted by: Amy Spencer
Topic: Why do men hate it when women ask, “What are you thinking…?”
Ah, the "What are you thinking?" cliché. Sherry makes a good point about the potential sexism of it: It's one of those things that ends up in every comic's male/female joke repertoire at least once, along with the "Why do girls go to the bathroom in groups?" But then again, I think women are more likely to ask "What are you thinking?" and we do go to the bathroom in groups. Sigh. It's a cliché because it's true. No matter how much we want to equalize the sexes, for me it always comes back to the fact that men and women are just plain different.
In the case of "What are you thinking?" I asked my husband what he's never liked about the question. He gave the simple answer, "We don't like it because we're probably thinking something we don't want to say. And now you're making us say it."
A-ha. He's hit on something: That men probably are thinking something they don't want to say. That's because we women don't ask the "What are you thinking" question randomly. Duh. We ask it when they seem quiet and lost in thought, when their eyes are focusing on some invisible weight in the air, when we sense some delve into his experience of the relationship we don't know about. But like most men who are masters of the black & white: If he wanted to say it, he'd SAY it. And if he's not saying it, it's because he DOESN'T want to. So who are we to intrude on the line between thoughts and words we all have a right to keep? In fact, for couples that share every meal and, for some, even bathroom time with each other, thoughts are the one private area we have left.
Personally, I've gotten so many depressing answers from the dang question over the years, I don't ask it much anymore. If I really think there's something spinning in there that I ought to be in on, my new angle is, "If there's something you want to talk about, you let me know, okay?" And then I let nature's male default kick in: If he wants to say it, he says it. But it's his thought, so it shouldn't be my decision to make.
I think Lindley's idea is a brilliant one: Before you ask the question, examine yourself. Find out WHY you're so itching to know. Because it's a 50/50 gamble. Sure his answer might be something that opens an important line of communication you should be talking about, which is good. Or...it might be a passing fear or a stroll through some emotional window-shopping that you really don't need—or want—to know.