Just as there are many things men don’t understand about women, there are also aspects of the male psyche that females don’t fully appreciate. Perhaps this could be avoided if men explained themselves more clearly, but that is often easier said than done.
There are some questions or statements that, when uttered by their female partner, strike the fear of God into a man. You have the usual things like ‘We need to talk’, ‘What are you thinking?’ and ‘Do you like this dress?’, but there is another more incendiary utterance which can bring on sheer panic.
It might typically occur on a romantic evening out. You’ve coerced a babysitter into the loopy fun of putting your kids to bed, and you’ve high-tailed it into the local restaurant. It doesn’t matter what the food or service is like; you’re on a night out.
The evening progresses well, especially since the decision was made to ditch the car, have a glass of sherry or two, and get a taxi home.
Then, all of a sudden, the ambush occurs in the middle of dessert. ‘Tell me something nice,’ says the lady. Time freezes instantly. Your surroundings become a slow-motion blur as her words echo through your head: ‘Something nice... Something nice...’
The moment you dreaded has arrived.
As far as she is concerned this is an utterly legitimate request at this point of the evening. The food has been great, the wine is very moreish, and you’ve been rekindling the old rapport from B.C. (Before Children) with flirtatious chat. She’s thinking to herself: ‘Now this is the man I married!’
So she wants to top off the dessert with a from-the-heart romantic gesture; is that too much to ask? I’m afraid it is.
Coming up with something nice might seem a simple matter, but it has complex repercussions. You see, as soon as the words are uttered, all pretence of spontaneity is removed. Most men want to do this sort of thing (i.e. romance) off their own bat, uniquely and when they’re ready to do it. It’s not that we don’t think lovely things about you; we just get freaked out when asked to deliver them by request.
It may surprise you, but during dessert a man could be thinking many different things. These would rank, in order, from: ‘Would it be too mad to get another bottle of wine?’, ‘Will they wrap up this leftover pizza?’, ‘I wonder how United got on today’, to finally: ‘That’s the third time I’ve heard that song, have they only the one CD?’
He may also be thinking that he’s a lucky sod to be out with such a beautiful, smart and wonderful woman, but this heartfelt thought can easily get caught up with all the other neurological circuitry.
The main challenge with the request to ‘say something nice’ is the instant pressure not to come across as corny or cringeworthy. You don’t want to sound like a Coldplay lyric or a Love Actually quote. As a result, you get a bit flustered and feel compelled to come up with something breathtakingly, profoundly romantic. You feel a sense of duty to do this. The evening has been going so well that everything now hinges on the impact of your ‘something nice’.
Naturally you fall short of the posts, because it is the relationship equivalent of the pressure conversion in the game of rugby. You bottle it, you choke, and you make a mess of it. Why doesn’t she understand you’re not Wordsworth or Chris Martin? ‘I really like... I mean, you look great in... I really love...’ you mumble, as you stutter and stagger through a compliment.
Eventually you get something out, but by this stage she’s looking at you, face perplexed, wondering why you can’t just utter a modest token of love and stop being such a Jessie about it.
This is the reality of the situation. However, I really admire one gentleman I know who had the lethal request sprung upon him two weekends ago during a meal out with his wife. He innocently responded by telling her about an article he’d read on the success of Irish produced butter in Germany and how one brand accounted for over 15 per cent of the market share. ‘I mean, isn’t that something nice altogether? A great success story is what that is,’ he enthused as he tucked into his banoffi pie. ‘Are you not having yours?’ he continued, as he reached over to her bowl with his dessert spoon.
Here’s the thing: we think you look great, we think you’re the best Other Half a person could wish for and we’re having a wonderful evening, but the sudden appearance of ‘something nice’ on the menu could cause a letdown. Unless you actually want to discuss Coldplay lyrics or Irish dairy export success.