Women tend to get a bad rap for talking too much. We’re always on the phone nattering away with our girlfriends. We are forever gossiping at the water cooler or the coffee machine at the office. We keep talking at the men in our lives even when it is patently clear that they are not listening. And so on, and on and on...
Well, you know what, I plead guilty as charged. I love sitting down with my women friends for a nice chat over endless cups of tea or the odd glass of wine. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a marathon telephone conversation late at night. And all the women I know confess to feeling rather invigorated after a robust bitching session in which they tear apart reputations built up over lifetimes. As for twittering on at a man whose mind is miles away, hey, who hasn’t done that?
But, I can almost hear the men mutter at this point, what on earth do you women talk about all the time? How can you possibly keep conversations going for so long, every day, week after week, through the years? Don’t you ever run out of things to say to one another?
Um, well, clearly not. Or we would not be talking loudly on the phone even as you try and read this column.
As to what we talk about: oh well, where do I start? (Or end, for that matter?)
Well, obviously, we talk about you quite often, the men in our lives, and the many, many ways in which you irritate, annoy and disappoint us. Then, there are those rare moments when we praise you – when you’ve remembered our birthdays, brought us flowers for no good reason, or made dinner as we lay sniveling in bed with a bad cold. (But this tends to tick off our friends, whose husbands/boyfriends may have not been so loving that week, so we try and keep it to a bare minimum.)
We talk about our mothers, our children, our friends and those neighbours from hell. We talk about our hopes and fears, relate our nightmares, share our dreams, compare notes about recalcitrant maids and nannies. We complain about our bosses, we whinge about the pathetic pay rise we got at work, we giggle over the silly jokes that pop into our email inbox. We indulge in some existentialist angst about why we get women politicians like Mayawati, we discuss the latest series of Dexter and Damages, we mourn the fact that those adorable kids in Harry Potter are all grown up now.
See, there’s a lot that we can talk about. And if we ever ran out of things to say (perish the thought!) then we would probably talk about how we absolutely don’t get all the stuff that you guys talk about.
Seriously, what is it about male conversations? Why do they always end up being about three things: money, sex and sport?
Money, of course, comes top of the list. Stick five men in a room together and the odds are that the talk will soon turn to money. How much money they made last year; how much their best friends made; how much they lost in the global meltdown; how you can make a killing on the stock exchange; how gold is a better bet than real estate (or is that the other way round? I never can remember).
And then, there’s all the stuff that money can buy and men never tire of talking about. Top of the agenda are cars: the top models, the many add-ons that you can pile on to your purchase, how fast they can go, how well they handle on bad roads, and several other technical details that go right over my head. (In younger circles, motor-bikes tend to take the place of cars.)
Watches, the one piece of jewellery that most men feel comfortable sporting on their wrists, come a close second. Which is the best make of hand-made watch, how self-winding is better than automatic, the relative merits of different movements (don’t ask), why Patek Phillipe is better than Franck Mueller.
Other gizmos get almost equal attention: mobile phones (the I-phone vs the Blackberry debate can get them particularly steamed up), electronic organisors, laptops, notepads, i-pods, the list goes on and on – and do they.
There are the sports freaks who when they are not watching a football/cricket/golf tournament are talking about it. And then there are those who can’t stop commenting on what they charmingly call “the babe action” every time they are out at some nightspot. It doesn’t matter if they are sitting next to their wives or girlfriends, they will still discuss every woman who comes through the door, rating her on some sort of sliding scale of sexiness.
Yes, this is boring as hell for most women. But when we are subjected to such torturous stuff, we don’t sit around and complain (well, at least not until the next day). No, this is when we deploy that much-vaunted female skill of multi-tasking. Even as we smile and nod along as if we are actually interested in your latest BMW or Mercedes or your adventures on the stock exchange, we are really thinking about something else entirely – what a great anecdote this will make when we next talk to the girls.