when not to laugh at a man

There are certain moments when a woman shouldn’t laugh at a man. Last night was one of those moments.

I have a problem with a drain field, and when a vent stack in the basement started overflowing, I figured it was too late to call a plumber. And too expensive.

My wife is out of town, but I put on some old clothes anyway. She has a thing about me working in my “work” clothes, since they usually consist of slacks, a dress shirt and a blazer.

And then I geared up. Water proof gloves. Check. Really big wrench for taking off the cap to the drain field. Check. A 30-foot plumbing snake. Check. Two 55 gallon trash cans. Check. And off I went, into the bowels of the basement. Literally.

An hour later, I was hauling sludge out of the basement in two gallon buckets, and looking for a third trash can.

After two hours, my snake had come apart, or at least the cover that keeps you from actually touching it. My jeans were soaked. And it was getting nastier and nastier. I know there are places in the world where people actually live in such conditions. But I don’t want to be one of them.

That’s when our renter came home, giggling a little to manage her discomfort. It was no way to manage mine.

As I told her later, still facing an hour or more of cleaning up and disinfecting everything today, there are moments in a man’s life when it’s not wise to laugh at him. Her boy friend was there, and I’m sure he appreciated this small fragment of wisdom.

No, I didn’t raise the rent. Or yell at her. In fact, it was much later, after I had taken a very long shower, before I mentioned the, uh, oversight. But there are two things every woman should know about men:

They don’t like being told what to do. And they don’t like being laughed at. Especially under stress.

Women’s magazines are filled with articles about how to stroke, decode, or manage a man’s ego. But this is not a woman’s magazine. So, let me tell you how it works.

If a man is trying to be your hero, make your life easier, or fix your toilet, don’t laugh unless he’s laughing. This is an important rule.

And if he is trying to stack the dishwasher, sweep the living room, or make your life easier in a way different from how you would do it, then don’t tell him how to do it. At least not right then.

You might want to wait until he’s gone and do it over, or you might want to call a friend and laugh your head off. But timing is everything. Trust me on this.

A problem to be solved
Men like to solve problems. And they will carry a lot of sludge, so to speak. But they can be as fragile as an egg. As one blogger puts it, “A single word or tone or facial expression can send a man into a hole so deep you’d have better luck finding Osama.”

But they aren’t really from Mars either. They are just sensitive about different things than the women they love. And respect is vital. Men want to be respected for the sacrifices they make, however imperfectly.

And, by the way, I hung the dirty clothes in the mud room before I came in the house.

Men can be trained.

But not laughed at.

11 thoughts on “when not to laugh at a man

  1. I hope that young lady realizes the wisdom she just heard. Oh, how I wish I’d known this before my wedding. Thankfully, my husband has been patient with me, but knowing these two things would have made our first several years of marriage so much better.

  2. Knowing you couldn’t see me–I laughed my head off as I read this post, in a most respectful way! Wally–you are a hero and this post will help many young women better understand their men. It’s already been emailed to my daughters and others.

  3. I don’t think this a particularly gendered lesson. You don’t laugh at someone when the sky is falling on them. Even if it’s their imagination.

    I could point out that in our house, I do the dishes and the laundry and when my wife decides to help out by doing either of those things for me, she gets snippy when I try to tell her she’s doing it wrong. 😉

    This is not just for mens. 🙂

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