“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.

On Being Wary of Men

My best friend and I were talking last night about men and the fact that I, as a woman, am inherently wary of men. It’s not always a conscious thing and it’s not a reflection on individual men or the gender as a whole. But it is nevertheless a fact, and the more we talked about it, the more compelled I became to write a blog about it. The first thing you should know is that my best friend is a man. I have known him for six years and he is one of my three favourite people in the whole world. The second thing you should know is that my other two favourite people, my brother and my father, are also (obviously) men. And the most important thing you need to know is that I am not attacking men and I don’t hate them. I understand that what applies to one man does not apply to all and I’m not trying to be a victim. The trouble is that I don’t imagine I’m very different from a lot of women in regards to my wariness, and therein lies the problem.

The conversation tonight pretty much began when, after discussing my sexual preference for women and the fact that I haven’t been attracted to a guy in over a year, he asked about my wariness of men. (Which is incidentally part of the reason why I am more attracted to women, but that’s another blog for another time.) The question was raised; ‘Why do you think you have a problem with men when you’re so good with them?’. By which he was referring to the fact that I have at least three incredible men in ny life. The answer took a bit of thinking but, despite being somewhat inarticulate, I eventually managed to explain.

I’m not very big. Despite often proclaiming my toughness, I’d probably suck in a serious fight. Years of fighting with my siblings taught me a thing or two about fighting dirty and I compensate for my small stature with aggressive confidence but honestly, I’m infinitely better at verbal arguments. Guys, as a general rule, are bigger than me and thus, something in my subconscious immediately registers the possibility of a threat. As much as it pains me to admit it, most men would be physically superior to me and I can’t defend myself against that. So the anxious part of my brain tells me to be on guard around strange men. Reason the first.

Years of objectification has conditioned women to fear men. I have, more times than I can count, been jeered at and leered at by men who think they have the right to make vile comments and stare at me with lecherous grins as they make clumsy grabs for my bum or try for other unwanted physical contact. It’s uncomfortable, tiring and offensive. I am not here to be pawed at and breathed on and yet it happens entirely too often. I don’t enjoy being fed lame and/or vulgar pickup lines, and I will inevitably assume my resting bitch face to attempt to dissuade jerks from trying them on. Yet every time a guy gets in my personal space, I’m instantly on edge. Reason the second.

The catalyst, as I told my friend this evening, was something that happened to me last year. I trusted a guy, and he broke that trust. He made me realise that I’m not as strong as I think I am, and the paralyzing fear that overtook me at the time made me terrified of being at the mercy of another person. I came to realise that since my trust was betrayed, some part of me expects all men to be the same. I know it isn’t fair and isn’t the least bit accurate but I can’t separate the fear from my experience and thus, I find myself a little tense whenever I am around men that I don’t know or alone with a strange guy. Whenever confronted with an obnoxious male, my poison tongue lashes out with vitriol but a tiny voice in the back of my head is pleading silently that they will give up and leave me alone before things turn really nasty. Because I never know if and when they will. Reason the third.

And finally, I have a kind of social anxiety. Crowds make me nervous and I struggle to talk to people I don’t know, particularly men. When combined with all my negative experiences with men (of which there are entirely too many) and my inferior strength and stamina, it’s a cocktail for wariness. Reason the last.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t hate men. I just don’t particularly trust them and, though I have a few good male friends, I am much more inclined to befriend girls. I have three marvellous male figures in my life who I adore and trust wholeheartedly, but strange men make me inherently nervous. Women shouldn’t have to fear men any more than the male gender as a whole should be judged on a minority. Unfortunately however, that’s the way the world is today, and that minority ruins it for everyone.