Why men watch television

2008-11-12 00:00

There are two occasions when the mother of my six daughters feels like refunding the lobola I paid for her. The first occasion is when I get home and remember that it’s her birthday and that I have forgotten to buy her a gift. As a husband who is a fool for ideas, I feign sickness and go straight to our bedroom and go to sleep.

But she seems to have the mind of a criminal lawyer because she knows when I am lying. She hits back by giving me the silent treatment. Then I know she’s a time bomb just waiting to be triggered by a simple question from me like: “What’s the problem honey?” Since I know the consequence of that, I would rather open my mouth for hot porridge than do so.

But the second occasion is like a ritual for me and a mystery for her to unravel. Quite commonly after work, I sit on my favourite couch and either pick up a newspaper or watch television. Last week, the mother of my six daughters decided to unravel the television mystery, and sat opposite me.

With her X-ray eyes looking directly at me, I felt as though I was about to undergo a polygraph test. She broke the tension with: “How was your day?” What she actually meant was: “Let’s talk. I am interested in your day and I hope that you are interested in mine.”

I didn’t want to trigger the time bomb and calmly re-sponded: “I am fine.” Even though what I was saying was: “I am giving you a short answer because I need some time alone.” I thought I had given her a satisfactory answer, but as I continued to watch television she had another question for me. “How was the response from your clients about your new products?” I was tempted not to answer, but I knew that what she really meant was: “I will keep questioning you so that you know I care and I am interested in your day. I hope that you will be interested in my day. I have lots to share.”

Once again, I calmly re-sponded with a short answer: “It was okay.” By that time I was becoming impatient and my answer was a way of saying: “I am trying to be polite and not reject you, but would you stop bothering me with your questions.”

As determined as usual, she adjusted her position on the couch and released a question which was now more direct. “Something is wrong. What is it?” The mother of my six daughters was now saying: “I know something is wrong. We need to talk.”

As I didn’t want to erupt into a verbal tsunami I said nothing and walked to our bedroom. By dodging further questions I was silently saying: “You are the mother of my six daughters and I don’t want to get mad at you, so I am walking away. When I have calmed down we will talk.”

Since her cross-examination yielded no satisfactory response, she probably thought that I was upset or that I was ignoring her. To express her anger further, she started sulking and banging things. When that failed she did what she normally does in such a situation — she phoned her best friend and poured out her anger and frustrations.

But what the mother of my six daughters doesn’t understand is that when I get home from work I need to distract myself from the stress of work. Then what I need most is to be given space to “shift gears” from my work environment to my home environment and reading the newspaper or watching television is my way of achieving this.

But when I am nagged to “talk it out”, I withdraw and that’s why I walked away.

I decided to discuss what my relationship with the television and newspaper is all about. The dinner table was the ideal place and I was hoping that she wouldn’t hit back by putting excess salt in my favourite dish.

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