This Boy's Life: Anatomy of an Argument

In anthropology class, we were taught that we, as a people, abhor direct confrontation.

In his column in the Inquirer, anthropologist Michael Tan notes that this tendency is reflected in the way we address difficult issues. Humorist Tomas Andres calls it “the sandwich method.” We confront others in between slices of small talk.

We don’t just do it when we converse. In the old days before changing rooms became fashionable, writes Ambeth Ocampo, we created privacy for ourselves by which we could change clothes turning our backs on the rest of the room. Asking everyone else to leave would just be, well, rude.

Instead, we resort to passive-aggressive techniques to show our displeasure with others. We rely on subtle hints that may or may not hit the mark. The thing is, we fully expect those against whom we show our scorn to fully appreciate the extent of our scorn, hidden though it may be through layers and layers of Tupperware.

I personally experienced this while in the grocery with my wife today. I suppose it’s her form of retail therapy, having had trouble in class earlier.

In my ten years of being attached, I’ve found out that when women want to do something for themselves, they want their significant others to do it with them. I’m no psychologist, but I think my experience as my wife’s whipping boy qualifies me.

Anyway, I think that the logic behind the behavior goes this way:

  1. Girl wants to do something. Remember that this something can be any activity. Let’s call this activity “shopping”, for lack of a better term.
  2. “Shopping” is relaxing for the girl. People have been “shopping” for years as a way to relax. In fact, everyone should go “shopping”.
  3. It would be wrong to go "shopping " alone. Not only is “shopping” fun, I enjoy “shopping” more if I’m with people I love.
  4. I love my boyfriend.
  5. Therefore, my boyfriend should go “shopping” with me.

(I showed this diagram to my friend Cliff, who retorted, “That’s stupid. Women have no logic.”)

When girls go to the bathroom, you can apply the same logic to explain why you need a whole army of girls to go peepee. In a female world, not only does it work, I think it can be an agent for world peace. Imagine that.

Unfortunately, there is one big flaw with this argument. Men, strange creatures that we are, do not usually find all things that women find relaxing as actually relaxing.

Take shopping for clothes, for instance. I would think that most of the time, shopping is less pleasant an experience than going to the dentist. I may speak only for myself, but when I go to the dentist, I not only get a nice, comfy chair where I can sit and listen to your dentist tell me stories about her and her boyfriend’s (mis)adventures in cyberspace. When my wife drags me to go shopping, I ought to expect nothing, except being asked a million times, “Do I look fat?”

On the other hand, if we were to replace “shopping” with “getting drunk at Hooters”, you’d find most men in agreement with female logic, and agree that this, indeed is one of the most pleasant things to do in the world.

Which brings me to my story. Did I digress?

So it was that I found myself dragged against my will into the depths of Rockwell, trying to appear excited over shopping for salad ingredients. As with all supermarkets, girls end up buying things they never intended to buy in the first place, and today was no different. Among the non-salad items that we bought were:

  • Two tins of tuna in water (how appetizing!);
  • 100g of fresh cherries (which I don’t eat);
  • One issue of YES! Magazine (featuring Marjorie Barretto).

We ended up spending more than eight times the cost of the salad greens that we got. Apparently, Rustans Fresh! is not the place where one can expect the freshest vegetables at the lowest price. That would be the wet market, I think.

That we had to pay so much for salad greens irritated me to no end. I wanted to show my disgust at the state of things, but couldn’t because decorum wouldn’t allow me and experience told me that it would only make matters worse. So, in typical Filipino fashion, I kept quiet until we made it home.

By the time we made our salad, all was well with the world.

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