Boxes

Just reading a book at the moment that revealed something about me I found rather disturbing.

I’m square.

Or, more accurately, boxed shaped. Apparently.

The book is Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel and, yes, is based on the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus series. I rather liked this book’s version of the metaphor suggesting that men are like waffles because waffles are like lots of little boxes joined together and men go through life hopping from one kind of box to another.

Some boxes have no words in them and other ones have nothing in at all and one never knows what the next box to be hopped into will contain. I like this description a lot. It certainly describes me and seems to relate to an awful lot of men I know.

Women, the Farrel’s maintain, are like spaghetti because spaghetti is a mesh of interlinking strands and in a similar way they link everything and everyone together in a complex fashion that often leave men bewildered in conversations.

Again, I can’t talk for all, but this is definitely the way my wife works. In what I mistakenly might think is a simple conversation, she will have gone through at least five different subjects whilst I am still trying to figure out if the box I happen to be in actually has any words in it! It would appear that all these subjects are all vitally important to each other. I just thought we were working out what to have for tea.

So, yes, this book seems to describe at least my married life and, I suspect, the life of a lot of married or courting couples. But it was the description, a few chapters in, of the man relaxing that disturbed me.

The book suggests that men, when stressed, retreat to easy boxes – things they enjoy where they can just do something and escape the troubles of the day. Fair comment, I definitely have a lot of these ‘easy boxes’ – hobbies if you like – that help to bring the blood pressure down during the day. I may only spend ten minutes doing it at a time, but it has the effect of an hour long massage or a good bottle of wine.

But then the book says “How do we recognize a man’s easy boxes?…(they) are generally shaped like boxes”. This came as a shock as I realised it was true – not just for me but for most men I know.

The TV with the sport on is box-shaped. Sports fields are shaped like boxes. Newspapers, computers, crossword puzzles and even the bed is box-shaped. My hobbies include playing the piano (a big box), chess (64 boxes) and card games or tricks ( with a box of cards). Best of all is my favourite hobby – reading – from, of course, books which are (you guessed it) like boxes.

So it seems there is no escaping it. Boxes define my flight from reality, my rebellious nature, my desire to break free. And it is not very awe-inspiring. Squares, making up boxes, are the wildest thing about me.

Oh dear.

It is depressing to realise that the image I had from youth of the dashing young rebellious romantic, of Mr Darcy or Gilbert Blythe proportions, is mere fantasy and I could not be further from the truth. And a book, written by a couple who do not know me and I am not likely ever to meet has been able to nail me firmly to the wall on this one.

How very, very sad.

Nothing else for it. I’ll comfort myself by eating a waffle (if I can find one) and then go to bed with a good book. Unless the wife wants to talk, of course.

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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10 Responses to Boxes

  1. Abzisme says:

    Ohhh this made me laugh a lot. I do talk to much and that does seem to describe every relationship i’ve come across. This has been rather enlightening 😛 x

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    • Lol! Good – I’m glad you enjoyed it. It made my wife and I laugh a lot when we read the book so I’m glad the post caught something of the book’s humour for you. I think that that things like this, that describe our life in some way that makes sense to us, are very helpful because they help us to understand why we do the things we do.

      In a similar way, when I found out both my son and I have ADHD (you can search for that on my blog and find my posts about it) I found it really helpful to be able to put a name to something I’ve had all my life and use that to help my understand myself better. 🙂 x

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  2. Nicky B says:

    A little late to this discussion but surely most things have a box shaped connotation to them if you look hard enough… It doesnt matter what your retreat is you can probably link it to a box somehow…. And of course spaghetti is pliable enough to pour into most box shaped things which means (quite rightly) women can always supervise and/or take over the mens box shaped thngs whenever men seem to be spending too long in them 🙂

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    • Thanks for that Nicky – good to hear from you at last! Where have you been? 😦

      I think you are right in that any metaphor, if pushed too hard, breaks down. I think you are better off seeing the meaning to the metaphor here. Men do tend to think in box-like ways – very concentrated, single task focussed kind of things and often that does manifest itself into real boxes – which ‘contain’ everything in an order that makes sense to a man. My office might be a total mess but it is my mess with everything I need in it.

      A woman, by contrast, has more of what looks like (to a man) an internalised mess. A conversation with a woman might actually make connections to many different places and people that men often mention leaves them quite bewildered! She makes connections quickly and easily and can perform several such connection (multi-tasking) simultaneously. In this way she thinks like spaghetti.

      Of course, we are individuals and some men think like spaghetti and some women need their boxes, but generally speaking it fits the description well. But it is just a metaphor and just a tool and, as you point out, can be stretched to make it say anything you like. It is always best, I think, to take such pictures as they are intended and resist the urge to push further.

      But maybe that is just my simplistic box-like thinking?… 😛

      ps – I think actually there is a “let the woman do the thinking and doing so I can just rest my head” type of box in every man’s head that he leaps into whenever she wants to take over. You may think you are controlling our box but really we’ve moved next door – ha ha! 🙂 🙂

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  3. Tim Naylor says:

    Yes I think it’s true men do retreat into boxes (in Venus/Mars it was caves men retreat into so there’s a direct parallel).
    Let’s try and mesh this with other theories to test it out. In Myers-Briggs the theory talks about people being either Introverted or Extroverted. And the definition I remember is that if you re-charge your batteries by being alone – then you are an introvert. If you get energy from being with others then you are extrovert. So an introvert recharges his batteries with books and newspapers etc – are you introvert? I am by the way! So what does an extrovert find box shaped? A bar showing sport on sky tv with his mates? So I’m definitely rambling now – anyhow, what’s the equivalent for women? My wife talks the hind leg off a donkey before we go to sleep – I just want to do a crossword or sudoku before I go to sleep (I know more boxes)- and we have a laugh that I’ll sit there going “um” and “ah” until she realises I’ve taken my hearing aids out and she might as well be talking to a doorpost . . . or a donkey!!

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    • Hmm…well I love the Myers-Briggs but not sure your theory entirely works. I refresh by retreating into my ‘boxes’ but I am not sure you can call me introverted! I do have some introvert tendencies though. But I think you are right in general. I can imagine your wife doing that – mine’s much the same! 🙂

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  4. Karen Browne says:

    So do women retreat to easy spaghetti shaped things?

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    • no, they do ‘spaghetti’ like things such as talk to people interconnected with problems at hand, or similar more complex things. Pam Farrel suggest that woman are often more prone to depression than men because they interconnect all these loops and link all the stresses together making things worse in their own minds. In short, a man under stress often just ignores it by going into his box until he is stable enough to deal with it, a woman though has a lot more to be stressed about as she ‘spaghettifies’ it! Again, I am sure not everyone does it this way, nor any of us all the time! But the wife has definitely confirmed this is her way of doing it in general and it matches what we tend to see in others.

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  5. Christa Schout says:

    That’s an extremely interesting thought! Thinking about my dad, his two hobbies are fishing and grilling; a tackle box and many box shaped grills (although one is egg shaped!)

    Like

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