On working with men (and trying to understand them)

I need some help with a problem that’s going round and round in my head. I’d be grateful for insights….

***

Over the last few days I spent several hours working with a retired electrician who’s a friend of DB’s. We planned, installed and wired up the new lighting in DB’s aquarium. We went shopping for the parts we needed and talked about ‘Gott und die Welt’. A few things went wrong, lots of things went right, and although we’re pretty much finished, and could probably leave it as it is, we still have a little bit more to do, because it will make it that much better. He’s coming round tomorrow to put the finishing touches to it.

The electrician is a great guy. I like him, and working with him is fun. As we were working, he said we work well as a team.

***

Before Christmas, I spent a couple of days working with DB. We planned, installed and replumbed the replacement kitchen counters and old sink. We went shopping for the things we needed and talked about ‘Gott und die Welt’. A few things went wrong, lots of things went right, and although we’re pretty much finished, and could probably leave it as it is, we still have a little bit more to do, because it will make it that much better. (There are also plenty of other projects waiting for us in the kitchen, and the rest of the house, just waiting for us to make time to get round to them).

DB is a great guy. I like him*, and working with him is fun**. As we were working, he said we work well as a team.

***

Today, DB and I went to help the electrician move a heavy wooden workbench. Naja, I’m not that strong, so reality, DB went to help and I went along for the ride.

Whatever.

When we got there, his son had already helped him.

***

“Your woman’s been bullying me!”

Instead of moving the bench, they both complained to each other about how awful it is to work with me, how I am nit-picky and awkward and stubborn and slave-driver-ish, not to mention my perfectionism. How I bully them and boss them about. They compaired how much greyer they’d become and how much they’ve aged since knowing me/working with me. They agreed that it’s a pain in the wotsit to listen to me explain anything and that it’s easier to ignore me and say ‘yes dear’ when I finally shut up than to try and follow what I’m saying. They swapped examples of things I did or said while working on the respective projects which they found superfluous and/or annoying. They laughed companionably.

As they laughed louder, I got quieter.

***

This evening, as I wondered out loud whether it would be better if I kept out of the electrician’s way tomorrow, so as not to cause him any more grief, DB didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

Obviously I should carry on and finish the job with him. Why on earth not??

When I told him I didn’t feel particularly wanted on voyage, being as how they both find me a nightmare to work with, he said that was ridiculous; they both love working with me. The electrician wouldn’t agree to come back to finish off if he didn’t want to work with me.

I said it didn’t sound like that earlier…

Apparently, according to DB, it’s my own fault if I apply their words to myself/my behaviour (= take it personally) and think they’re getting at me. Especially since they/we live in Berlin.

***

Can somebody please explain male logic for me, because I don’t get it.

***

*’God and the world’
** and live with him 🙂
*** (most of the time)

0 Replies to “On working with men (and trying to understand them)”

  1. I’ve sorta been thinking the same thing. I’ve started working in a men’s clothing store and I’ve been watching a few of the male employees work with the customers and how easy it is these people approach each other and carry on. I’ve started entertaining the idea that the reason they can get along so well is that they don’t believe a word each of them says. Funny, since we are taught that relationships are built on trust and being the real you.

    An odd curiosity, for sure.

  2. Ouch. (Not sure what living in Berlin has got to do with any of it) But, I have found that men like to “companionably complain” (like comparing who has the biggest ….feet). Men seem to think this is normal behaviour, so my advice is to take it as their weird, warped sense of humour about expressing how magnificent they find working with you. Sometimes it seems the MORE they complain, they better they actually liked whatever you were doing.

    1. As far as I can tell, living in Berlin, or rather coming from Berlin, seems to entitle people to open their mouths and let the words fall out without engaging their brains first, and also to be an angry (and/or bad) driver. Having ancestry here seems to grant one a bigger entitlement – the more generations the better. There seems to be more specific requirements for people who just live here, but I haven’t worked out what they are… 😉 😉 ;).
      If you ask a Berliner (someone from Berlin) why they’re reversing the wrong way down a one-way street, they will most likely tell you “they’re from Berlin, they’re allowed to do that”. Except they aren’t allowed really, they just think they are….

      That is a very odd sense of humour… but I’ll take your reasoning, seems to work in my favour! 🙂

    1. Hallo Sandra, I think you’re new here? Welcome to my world 🙂

      Yeah, boys are strange creatures.. It’s stopped stinging so much now, but at the time it really did hurt. Maybe next time they won’t be so brutal, and I won’t be so ‘delicate’ for want of a better word…

  3. Hi Jesska – blimey, I hope neither of my sons ever fall into that way of speaking. I think Claudette has a point, that there is a way of speaking that weaves men together in their own one-up, one-down world. Where they have to outdo each other in stories about how they’ve ‘suffered’ at the hands of a woman. It’s a collective thing, isn’t it – and I’ve heard women do their own version when they gather to talk about how feckless and useless men are.

    But DB and the electrician shouldn’t have done it in front of you. Most of us speak about people with exaggeration, for speed and effect, when those people are out of earshot and, we hope, aren’t standing in the next room with a glass up against the wall. They become characters in our own story, rather than individual human beings.

    Which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel wounded in your situation. It’s not good to hear people speak as they speak when they think you can’t hear. It must be a bit like finding a version of yourself appearing in a novel written by a friend, with exaggeration and caricature for the sake of the story.

    You are not the woman that DB and the electrician were talking about. You had become a character in their story, your purpose, as a caricature, to reassure them that they would have been alright without you, that your help didn’t mean that they are incapable or lesser males, that ‘yes, of course, they put up with you because they had to, but just to let you have your way, that they were in control and in charge.’ A signal of their own insecurities – and they had to trample your ability, like St Michael trampling the devil. They restore themselves by diminishing your help.

    I can imagine the version of you that appeared in their story grew, like a fish in an angler’s tale of a ‘monster catch.’ The fish would never recognise itself in the angler’s story.

    It’s good to have called DB’s attention to how the experience made you feel. He’ll learn something from that, whether he acknowledges it directly or not. I suppose you have to decide whether you enjoy the work itself enough to carry on working with him. Not all men feel the need to diminish the value of others to reassure themselves, but many men do have a great feeling of insecurity in their abilities and how far they fall from the ideal ‘real man.’ Which can’t be comfortable, but doesn’t excuse bad behaviour.

    I hope you’re able to find your own peace in all this

    Elaine

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