“Does This Sound Stupid?” and Other Things Men Say About Engraving

My job is multifaceted, and there is quite a lot involved in what I do. One of the things that I do at my job is engraving by hand. I do everything from pet tags to birthday gifts, memorial plates to awards; basically if you give me anything metal or glass, I can engrave on it.

When it comes to engraving, women are – nine times out of ten – a hell of a lot more forthcoming with what they want to engrave. They buy a gift with the idea to engrave it already set in their minds, and more often than not, women are content to write down their sentiment without any shame or embarrassment. Alas, it is not always so with men. Today was a prime example of this very thing. A young man came to my counter with a heart shaped pendant, and wanted to get something engraved on the back. When I asked what he wanted to have engraved, he was suddenly struck dumb.

Ten minutes or so passed, whilst he deliberated, asked me what he should write (I dunno, man. She’s not my girlfriend), deliberated some more and finally settled on the phrase “I love you more than you love me.” Upon writing it down, he looked intently at the paper for a moment and then slid it across the counter and said, without meeting my eye, “Does this sound stupid?”

It’s something I encounter a lot, this strange kind of embarrassment from men when it comes to showing affection. It’s as though they’re ashamed to admit that they’re capable of any kind of sentimentality, or endearment. Oftentimes, they feel as though they need to justify their kind words for their significant others, and they do this in many ways. One of the most common things I hear is “you know how chicks love that kind of mushy crap” or some other variant. Another is “Yeah, I know it’s gay but there you go.”

I don’t know if it’s just because of some kind of societal expectation that men have to be gruff and uncaring that makes them get so awkward, or if perhaps they just genuinely are uncomfortable with showing affection. If it’s the latter, I can certainly relate; I’m probably the most emotionally awkward person I know! I almost feel like putting a sign up that says “Engrave what you want, we don’t judge” but I feel like that would just be drawing more attention to the discomfort, and these guys are clearly already weird about the whole thing enough as it is.

At any rate, I’ve engraved some sappy things, and some funny things, and some genuinely awful things. I really, truly don’t judge what people want to say to their friend/spouse/relative/significant other because at the end of the day, people show their affection in many different ways.

Awkward Affection

image

Look, I’ll be honest. I’m not very good at consoling people, or being a shoulder to cry on. When people cry, I just kinda of flap my hands helplessly and ramble senselessly, or pat them on the back awkwardly whilst keeping as far away from them as possible. I won’t even try to explain my own bewilderment when I cry. Trying to pat yourself on the back is an exercise in futility. Suffice to say, I suck at emotions and affection.

My friend sent me a message yesterday, to ask if I wanted to hang because the guy she likes kind of pulled the plug on their budding relationship for personal reasons. Now, my friend is very good at pretending to be ok when she isn’t, so when she openly told me she was upset, I knew she was feeling pretty shit. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to tell her I’d be over. I hung up my sewing for the day, had a shower and brushed my teeth and off I went.

I arrived at her house with chocolate, beer, and a creepy stuffed toy that I knew she would love because I hated it. (our relationship is based almost exclusively on opposites) I pretty much just crawled into her blanket fort – because yes, it is perfectly acceptable to make, and hang out in, a blanket fort at the age of 23 – gave her the pink gift bag and sat awkwardly while she cried quietly and told me she felt like an idiot. I did my best to console her but it was less words of comfort and encouragement, and more acting the fool to get her to laugh while we continued our Harry Potter marathon from the previous week. I think it worked, for a while anyway.

The thing is, I’ve never really been comfortable with affection. I have a tendency to apologise after I say nice things to be best friend because I always feel like I’ve made it too saccharine, and get subsequently embarrassed. My other best pal and I deal almost entirely in insults, just so neither one of us has to be nice! I just…find it difficult to express affection verbally. I am much more comfortable giving someone flowers, or chocolate, or some obscure gift to make them feel better. Yes, I would rather spend money on various useless or edible items than say ‘I love you’ or ‘are you ok?’. And when I do, I rush through it to get it over with quickly.

It’s not that I don’t feel it, I just get uncomfortable saying it. Maybe there’s classes that I can go to, teach me how to be nice. Then again, my approach works in all circumstances. Boyfriend just broke up with you? Here’s some alcohol to drown your sorrows. Just got a promotion? Have some flowers! A loved one has just passed? Have an awkward hug and botched attempts at consolation. Ok, so maybe not appropriate for all things but you can’t win them all. As Tony Soprano would say, whaddya gonna do?