Corona Diaries 26: Silence Of The Sexes

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It’s been a while we spoke about the sexes during the lockdown and had a light-hearted look into their predicament. In confinement together for such a long time, tied to similar routines and bored stiff by now, they have started discovering each other in new ways. To be more specific, men and women are getting increasingly aware that they could be from different planets.

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, claimed John Gray’s best-selling book with the same title. The female of the species is more about feelings, the male counterpart is about ability. The way they look at communication is unalike, as is their approach to problem-solving. The book from the relationship councellor was roundly panned by literary critics and gender activists for generalising too much and indulging in gender stereotyping. Was Gray smoking something odd and hallucinating about relationships?

The long lockdown was great scope for the sexes and experts to give his conclusions a thorough look. If there was some truth to each half in a marriage or relationship belonging to separate parts of the solar system, it would surely be evident when they interacted closely for so long, with no external variable thrown in.

We don’t know what experts have been up to, most spouses already appear to have had enough of each other. Men are desperate to rush back to office and women are desperate to see them out for the greater cause of order and sanity at home. Some men are convinced that daily cameo appearances at home is a better option than a full-time role. Most of them realise they are of little utility. Their wives agree. The refrain: this guy won’t even say sorry after pottering around the whole day, demanding good food so often and being totally unproductive. However, that’s not the complete story. In the absence of maids, some husbands have filled in well. So well that their wives don’t want the bais back.

Adjustment issues apart, one big spot of discomfort has been diminishing communication. Women, according to Gray, usually complain about their men being inattentive, not listening and not reciprocating; men crib about wives overreacting, being unreasonable and not being appreciative enough. The lockdown spouses fit right into this picture.

LET’S TALK SOME MORE

Spouses have run out of talk. After more than 50 days in one place, there’s not much left to be said to each other. The virus topic has been done to death. In any case, it is no match to a celebrity controversy or scandal in setting tongues loose and salacious opinions free. Celebrities have not been up to their usual antics due to the lockdown, so no input to spice up our lives. Who wants to hear their advice on using sanitisers or washing hands? Gossip, that ever-green juice in conversations, has gone dry without any new input in the absence of interaction with neighbours, colleagues and friends.

Acquaintances have been complaining about long silences at home. Arguments, the favourite entertainment of bored couples, are no more the time-killer they were. Spouses still look at each other with a lot of love, but, friends vouch, in the look lurks a plea: “Why the hell don’t you vanish for sometime and find something to talk about!” Well, it’s certainly time to move out and socialise.

MORE ABOUT WORDS

In their best-selling book ‘Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps’, which borrows heavily from research on distinctive biological legacies of men and women, Allan and Barbara Pease mention that the latter use around 20,000 words, vocal sounds and body expressions on a daily basis, and men around 7,000. The number varies from nation to nation, but explains why men are reduced to monosyllables at the end of the day and their spouses can go on and on. According to the book, men exhaust their limit during work hours and are in no mood to communicate further. Women misread the reticence and complain about men being inattentive listeners.

The veracity of the observation on women is open to debate. However, if the fact about couples using about 25,000 words and other expressions is accepted at face value, then a lot of it is going to waste during the period of confinement. To get this many words flowing one needs subjects, scurrilous and serious. We have said earlier that domestic arguments, which rarely end up with a clear victor or a conclusion but still useful at getting communication going, are fewer these days. Typing words on WhatsApp or Facebook is not half enjoyable as spoken words and gestures. Phone calls and video chats are not quite the same as direct communication. What happens to the pent up words then? Would they explode?

We come to the same conclusion again. Let’s meet up and the rest will be fine.

A BIT OF SPICE IN LIFE

It is not true that all spouses are getting distanced from each other. We might have overstated it in earlier paragraphs. Some couples, particularly young ones, have been busy with interesting experiments at togetherness, and it could result in a baby-boom by the end of the year. They would have the collective identity as corona babies.

Experts, however, discard the possibility. These are difficult times for the baby project. It requires repeat visits to hospitals and clinics, a risky proposition in the time of COVID-19. People have opted for the next best option: condoms. There was a 25 to 50 per cent hike in condom sales immediately after the first lockdown was announced in March. The sales have dipped now. But this may be because users had stocked enough to last them a few months. Well, foresight is certainly a virtue.

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