Say what?

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, where are gay men from? Let’s avoid the obvious potty-mouth “Uranus” answer, shall we? Like most self-help books, the 1992 best seller took a broad swipe and ended up stereo-typing genders. I should probably preface my comments by saying that I never actually read the book. But Wikipedia does a pretty good job of summarizing. The premise is that men and women communicate differently, as if they were from different planets. Men grunt, retreat to their man caves and consider taking out the trash to be huge displays of affection. While women whine about their feelings and are like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction: I will not be ignored, Dan! I’m sure there were some witty observations, funny anecdotes and nice workshops, but that’s all you really need to know about the book. The only truth is that everyone, EVERYONE is from different planets.

Paul and I are both men, but we communicate as if we speak different languages. Over the years I have figured out about 50% of his language. Throw in some alcohol and there is less than a fifty-fifty chance that I am going to understand Paul-speak.

The Eskimos have eighteen different words for snow. Paul is like an Eskimo in reverse, using one word to describe eighteen. That word is “little”. He uses it constantly. It can mean cute: as in “Look at your little shorts!” or it can mean low-calorie: as in “I had a little salad.” But sometimes he throws it together with cute for a more nuanced effect “There is a cute little restaurant over there.”, which actually gets me confused, because I’m not sure if it is a “cute- cute” restaurant or a low-calorie restaurant, or really a small restaurant.

There is one thing that is never allowed to be called little whether it means cute or not.

Another phrase that Paul uses is “You need to”. I am told that this really means “I would advise you to.” I discovered this bit of lexicon after a “discussion” that we had early on in our relationship. After the third “you need to” was uttered I became very quiet, which Paul quickly learned was “you better shut the fuck up.” But he never gets angry with me. He may get “frustrated” or “tired” or “confused”, but never angry, which makes arguments extremely difficult to figure out.

The other evening we had a “discussion” by telephone that I would like to share for educational purposes. Allow me to deconstruct it for you:

Paul: “I read your little blog post.” Translation: (It is too early in the conversation to figure out the meaning of this “little” yet, we will translate the rest before deciphering.)

Me: “Did you like it?” Translation: “I need validation!”

Paul: “Very cute.” Translation: “It sucked.” (Intonation and brevity are key here. Also, we can now decipher the first “little” to mean “trivial”)

Me: “Oh, you didn’t think it was funny?” Translation: “My humor is above you”

Paul: “I think I was too close to the situation.” Translation: “I can’t friggn’ believe that you wrote about me again!”

Paul: “You sound tired.” Translation: “You’re pissed”

Me: “I am tired.” Translation: “You’re right I’m pissed!”

Paul: “OK, why don’t you go to bed and I’ll talk to you in the morning.” Translation: “I really don’t want to talk about this anymore. Call me when you’re not being such an ass.”

Me: “OK. Love you.” Translation: “I may not like you right now, but I love you.”

Paul: “Love you too” Translation: “Ditto.”

As you can see this whole translation business can be extremely tedious. Throw in some wordplay, intonation, regional differences and as you can imagine, complete understanding becomes downright impossible. But when Paul greets me on the train platform after a week of absence we resort to the most basic of all, body language, which is never misunderstood.

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