why can’t mister fix it just shut it?

The Mister I married turns out to be Mister Fix-It. And I don’t mean in the put up a ceiling fan, rotate the tires, get the legos out of the sink drain kind-of-a way. Although he does all those things and more. I mean that he wants to fix me. He wants to fix all my problems the second they leave my mouth, his brain is processing the solution. Except I don’t want a solution. I don’t need a solution. My recent moaning about being stuck in the house with two small boys in the grim winter months was met with this response:

“Just get in the car and start driving and then when you get someplace, hike around.”

Mmmmm. No. Okay so not only do I now feel like a lazy ass sort of a mother, apparently I also hate nature. I didn’t want this brilliant solution to my vent on boredom and laundry and playing Dora Chutes and Ladders (with a two-year old CHEATER, yea I said it). What I wanted was for him to say, “Aw honey, that must suck for you.” But in a totally genuine way, with some concerned brow furrowing and maybe a hug to wrap it all up.

What I got was what he would do and does. On weekends he and his buddy and five boys age 10-3 set out to build a campfire someplace and go traipsing through streams. There’s oreos involved and partially warmed/blackened hot dogs on sticks. And everyone comes home happy, stinking like high hell of the nastiest campfire ever for some reason, but happy. So he figures if it works for him, why not for me too?

The boys out on one such "solution". All you need are rubber waders, firewood, large sticks, a lighter, newspaper, winter clothing, rubber boots, hot dogs, marshmallows, ketchup, water bottles, sleds, hammocks, and a keen interest in having your spirit broken by a group of boys using big sticks to poke a fire.

This is what one of my mothers in arms would have said, “I know right, I was so totally bored yesterday I was picking up dog poop in the back yard to have something to do!” I don’t actually know any valley girl stay at home moms, but we would totally be on the same wavelength if I did. Why is it that another woman knows just what to say and my Mister hasn’t the slightest clue? I know that this is almost a stereotype or urban folklore or something, but is there an actual reason? That brings us to the question of the week:

Why can’t Mister Fix it just shut it? Once again I turn to the wise Louann Brizendine and her book The Male Brain (p. 95-99). Could there possibly be a real, physical difference in how we deal with problems? Is it more than just feelings and listening and a deeper understanding of our partner? Yea, it turns out it’s a lot more than that crap.

So it turns out that our brains actually process emotions differently. Basically as I understand it (and that’s not saying much- I only signed up for science seminar for the field trips, I have no deep interest or even sub basic understanding of science.) this is what is happening in the Mister’s brain and in mine:

Mister Fix It’s Brain: I complain/bitch/moan and the system he uses for processing emotions switches on. Very soon after that, like immediately “the analyze-and-fix-it” part of his brain switches on (p. 97, Brizendine). One of the characteristics of this system is it creates a strong boundary between the man’s own feelings and someone else’s. This system allows Mister Fix It start to solve the problem immediately without being bogged down by the emotions of an outsider. Once Mr Fix It’s brain starts to search for a solution, he has left emotional empathy behind and has ceased to notice my moaning and tearful declarations of incompetence. So in conclusion, Mister Fix It only feels emotional empathy for a split second, before his brain switches over to problem solving mode.

Wise beyond my years

My Brain: I also have two systems for processing emotions, but unlike Mister Fix It I spend a much looooooonger time in the emotional empathy system commiserating with my sistas. Much like my above mentioned valley girl friend I spend a long time caring about how the other person feels, noticing their sad sally face,  interpreting their moaning, and saying things like “true that” rather than, “now see this is what you do: just start driving…”

So I told Mister Fix It what I wanted him to say. I understand that his brain processes this stuff differently than mine does, but since I’m trying to understand and listen thoughtfully to his multitude of solutions to my ills, I also want him to occasionally try to hold that in and just say, “Honey, you’re right that sucks.”

Maybe someday it will naturally glide off of his tongue, but for now it sounds like the recently memorized one-liner of a middle schooler in their first stage performance.

I’ll take it, at least I don’t have to just start driving…

You whippersnappers with your rock and roll and your ripped up jeans. Hogwash I tell you.


1 Response to “why can’t mister fix it just shut it?”

  1. 1 stephen
    March 26, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Now wait a second. I’m Mister Fix It. But I live on West Lawn not on Monroe. What are you doing talking about me like this on the internet?

    I will be forwarding this to Missus Feelings Don’t Need Fixing at home. And stop listening in our open windows!

    Love it Rebecca. Your going to get to the bottom of this thing. Or is that just more looking for solutions?

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