Roger & Elaine

dating0I’ve been indulging in a break away from computer things, so it’s been a while since the last post. I haven’t really set any publication schedule, so it’s not like I’m out of compliance. (I have at times been out of luck, out of town, out of wack and out of my mind. I’ve also been “all out of love,” and speaking of which, I’ve even been out of air! (supply… see what I did there?))

The problem is, the longer I don’t post, the harder it is to get back in the saddle.  Since I’m still kind of in break mode, I thought I’d share another item from my files. It’s a riff on the (very general) differences between the male and female approach to life.

Here is the story of Roger & Elaine.

Let’s say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves.

dating1They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else. And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: ”Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months…

dating2And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward… I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: So that means it was… let’s see… February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means… lemme check the odometer… Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here!

And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed — even before I sensed it — that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

dating3And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say, the scumballs.

dating4And Elaine is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a goddamn warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it…

“Roger”, Elaine says aloud.

“What?” says Roger, startled.

driving1“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have said… Oh God, I feel so…”

(She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Roger.

“I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Roger.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine says.

“No!” says Roger. He’s glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that… It’s that I… I need some time,” Elaine says.

dating5(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

“Yes,” he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

“Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Roger.

“That way about time,” says Elaine.

“Oh,” says Roger. “Yes.”

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

“Thank you, Roger,” she says.

“Thank you,” says Roger.

tennisThen he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand that, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This is also Roger’s policy regarding world hunger.)

unhappyThe next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing squash one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: “Bill, did Elaine ever own a horse?”


About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

13 responses to “Roger & Elaine

  • Lady from Manila

    You had me laughing in amusement while reading this from start to finish. You seem to be keeping some real gems in your files worth sharing to your readers.

    I have, as a matter of fact, been itching to write about the difference between men and women in the area of love on my blog. But my blog pals are all male; it will irrevocably annihilate my fellowship with all of them 🙂 – even if I share my thoughts in written form for mere fun.
    For what it’s worth, I do envy the way men think. When I was a young girl, my mom would shoot the breeze with something like: “Women are the perpetual losers in the game of love.” Well, through the years of loving and learning (she was right, of course), my stance has become: God (if there is one and who’s supposedly male) must not like our species very much. How could he have made us susceptible of turning into an emotional mess when it comes to love in the first place? 🙂

    I bet you’re crazy about Air Supply’s love songs, huh? Admit it. he he…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      That’s exactly why I saved them all these years: they were keepers! 😀

      You definitely wouldn’t lose all your readers, and honestly I doubt you’d lose any. We guys know women look askance at us sometimes (and often with good reason). I would hope that fellowship wasn’t so fragile that it would end over offered opinions. Mine certainly isn’t, and any that is isn’t very precious.

      As a woman, you equate your experiences as evidence that women get the short end of the stick in love, but I venture to say that men can match every story. Love is hard, and it’s possible romantic love is a broken concept from the start. It may be simply beyond the ability of most to have a successful romantic relationship that lasts a lifetime. I know some pull it off, but given the huge numbers of divorces and bad marriages, I wonder at how large the successful fraction actually is. Still, as with airplane crashes, it’s the failures that command our attention while most airplane flights are quite successful (in point of fact, air travel is safer than car travel).

      I’ve known plenty of men who’ve been an emotional mess over love. Hell, I’ve been an emotional mess over love. (Enough times, in fact, that I’m largely done with it now.)

  • bronxboy55

    Have you ever tried getting this published somewhere? Other than on your blog, I mean.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      This particular piece isn’t original work, although I did some elaboration and polishing. (None of the “From My Collection” pieces are 100% original material.) This one is a longer version of a shorter riff that revolves around the, “Did you know we’ve been going out six months?” question and Roger’s internal oil change thinking. It had the setup, the question and just one round of internal thoughts. I had this piece on my personal website since the 90s and can no longer remember where it came from or who did the editing. (There was likely no source attribution on the original copy that came my way… I’d guess the original goes back to fax days.)

      In general I’ve thought about trying to get published in one way or another… but the low readership, and even lower level of reader engagement, suggests I wouldn’t be very successful! I’ve even thought about trying my hand at a fiction blog, but I think the reality is I’m more aligned along teacher/preacher lines than along storyteller lines. [shrug]

  • The Color of Lila

    See Sherman’s Lagoon from 11 April 2008, at this link. Completely backs up your scientific observations here. ; )

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Indeed, this is hardly a new meme, but one that has been around a long time! The piece I posted here, I’ve had in my files since the 80s (as mentioned above, I’m no longer even sure what parts of it might be mine), and I can recall much older discussions about our “Roger & Elaine” that touched on the difference in outlooks.

      I’ve always thought the really interesting discussion involved trying to pick apart what part of that is nurture and what part is nature. I do believe men and women are wired sightly differently, and that this gives them slightly different viewpoints in life. One way I’ve put it is that women (as a very general observation) tend to focus locally and men (again, very much in general) tend to focus globally. Women build the villages; men build the roads and bridges that connect them. In general.

      • The Color of Lila

        Ah-HA! I had exactly that discussion with an obnoxious drunk Tajik I was trapped next to on an old Aeroflot flight. In talking to people from certain cultures, the question inevitably arises: do you have kids? No. Then, they are mystified. They cannot imagine why in the world a woman might not actually want to become a parent. This guy told me that women focus on “internal” things and men on “external” things (his words, meaning inside and outside the home/family). I told him I like focusing on the “external” things. He looked at me like I was the weirdest person he had ever met. Clearly, it did not compute.

        That conversation took a lot of other bizarre turns, but… I’ll save those for another time…

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Just to be precise: your Tajik has a much narrower definition; I wasn’t thinking in terms of family, but more of community and consensus.

        So let me ask this, since I’m not sure where you stand: Do you disagree with the characterization or feel it has merit? I get the impression you are more explorer than village-builder; do you feel you are representative of your sex? (My guess is that neither of us is!)

      • The Color of Lila

        Wyrd, yes… that guy was very narrow indeed. I had a couple of Tajik women behind me who listened in on the whole thing (and oh, there was more), and just beamed with smiles at me as we got off the plane (they have had quite enough of similar attitudes).

        I do think the overall characterization has merit, though. Things like the experience of Grameen Bank have proven that; so does female empowerment in traditionally impoverished, patriarchal areas. When the women can run things, they focus their attention and resources on things that benefit children first. Men – well… not so much.

        I am not a girly girl, though, never was. My personality is, and always has been, more confrontational, aggressive, and adventurous than most other girls / women I have known. I have always, from earliest childhood, preferred pants (for purely practical reasons), my brother’s toys, tree-climbing, tadpole-catching, and so on. Dollies and tea parties, sewing and baking? Boring and… dare I say it… I even looked down on it a little, which I think I picked up from social cues that tended to trivialize “women’s work.” Well, THIS kid was not about to be trivialized! My thinking was (and still is): if the boys have the good stuff, I want that for me, and if the other girls aren’t smart enough or aggressive enough to demand the same, too bad for them!

        Probably the best way to explain it is: if there is a sliding continuum of gender, I am still solidly on the female side, but with a big ol’ helping of masculine personality characteristics.

        I think it is completely normal for most PEOPLE to want kids, and some PEOPLE to not want them, but there is a very strong social perception even in the US that it’s OK for men to enjoy being the carefree eternal bachelor, but for women, it is weird and even “selfish.” ??? I have never understood why that word, “selfish,” is so often applied to women (me) who intend to not reproduce; as if I am keeping my pore li’l chilluns trapped in purgatory or something, clamoring to get out, looking on in horror as my eggs rot and I probably laugh maniacally at their suffering.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I wonder if the “selfish” terminology isn’t usually directed towards educated, intelligent women? (I can’t honestly say I’m familiar with either the thinking behind, or the practice of, such insults. It seems kind of stupid to me to confuse general tendencies with required behavior, but I’ve never been rule-oriented.) Is the “selfishness” denying the world more educated and intelligent children? I mentioned that “Marching Morons” theory to you recently… could be the same thinking behind both. [shrug]

        At the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy is personal fulfillment, but we each define that personally.

        As for male and female qualities, I’ve used the Venn diagram as a metaphor. The Male and Female circles overlap almost completely, but the circles are just slightly off-center from each other. (You might find my article, Mars & Venus interesting.) Thus there can be men deep into “female” territory and vice versa.

        Another way to visualize it that takes away the zero-sum aspect is as an “XY” (Cartesian) graph, where Male is “X” and Female is “Y” (or vice versa; it doesn’t matter). We all have varying degrees of “X” and “Y”. (I hope to write about this metaphor in more detail soon, but the introductory article is Vector Thinking.)

      • The Color of Lila

        Hmm, I will be interested to see what you write on this.

  • piegoose

    laughed out loud, the truth, loved it

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