I know a little bit about relationships since I was born female — and if you don’t pick up a lot of information and conclusions about relationships and other human beings, then what’s the point of the XX chromosome? None, aside from an inherent fondness for carbohydrates and spandex.
Which is why I’ve been watching my interactions ever since Obama secured the nomination. I like to think I’m a gracious, magnanimous winner, which hopefully makes up for my being a really sore loser who goes on to brood for hours after a loss. But maybe not.
The point is, my guy won this time and I’m happy, but I’m trying to handle it as well as I can. I know lots of Hillary supporters and many of them are my close friends. I find myself being solicitous and closemouthed, which is exactly what happens in any relationship when you’ve “won” a point.
Let’s say you want to go to the beach and I hate the sand and water and prefer to go to a big city, but you somehow win the argument. Why? Maybe you care more than I do. I don’t know. Maybe it’s your turn.
Whatever. The fact is, the winner necessarily goes on to eat a little crow helpfully dished out by the loser. This happens, as far as I can tell, to restore balance in the relationship. So I get to complain about how there are sharks at the beach and they eat people and jellyfish that sting and strong sunlight that will probably grow melanomas in 30 seconds. I can make these cracks because I’ve just given in. You, the beach person, has to listen to my rants and smile benignly. You have to take it because you’ve won.
Which gets us back to the Democratic race and which is why I found myself sitting across the lunch table from a friend who’s a Hillary supporter and nodding politely when she said she had always found Obama to be underwhelming. (Underwhelming? What in the hell did she mean by that? The guy is brilliant, charismatic, extraordinary. Unlike, say … but no, no, no, we won’t go there.)
So I talk about what a spirited, extraordinary race Hillary ran, which I do firmly believe, and how, yes, God yes, there was sexism all over the place and it was miserable and demeaning. But no, I don’t think she lost because of sexism. But mostly, I don’t talk. I just listen and nod, because that’s what you do when you want to maintain a friendship, that’s what we all do for one another if we care.
Then I went out shopping for used cars with my husband, since our daughter needs transportation for her new job. We hung around used-car lots looking for what we deem “basic transportation” and lo and behold, we had rather different ideas about it. What he called basic, I’d call base. What I called basic, he referred to as extravagant.
We ended up somewhere in the middle, but more on his side than mine. So, on the way home, I sat in the passenger’s seat and griped about the car’s interior and made occasional references to a certain person’s inherent cheapness. He just drove and nodded and listened to me. Because that’s what you do when you’ve won your point. For a little while, you just shut up.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)