Chas and Dave wrote a song about it and how right they were. Women just love to rabbit! Whether you calling it chatting, nattering, gassing or just plain talking, we're way ahead of the opposition in the vocal stakes. Not that I'm saying it's a reason for our men to dump us, as suggested by Chas and Dave, but I've no doubt there are times when they wish we'd put a sock in it.
More often than not, talking to another woman is far less work than trying to get a decent conversation going with a bloke. How many times haven't you tried initiating conversation by mentioning something you're sure he'd find agreeable only to receive the standard "mmmm" reply. If you know he loves BMWs and there's a fine example of one parked along the road, try saying "that's a nice car, isn't it?" and see what happens. Yepp, the standard reply. If you really want to get him talking, try "I can't see what anybody sees in those cars" and before you know it, he'll be chatting on about how reliable the engine of a BMW is (assuming it is, of course), how comfortable the interior is, not to mention how well planned the layout is and the luggage room's just awesome! And did you know it can do 0-60 at the speed of a fart? The point is, men need to be dragged into action through a good disagreement. Small talk, just for the sake of it, isn't their forte.
It's hardly surprising, given our differences, that men become frustrated at their women who constantly want to talk about things that offer no argument. They don't see the point in discussing the scent of the roses unless you happen to think it smells like sherbet whilst he thinks it smells of honey! And if you've already decided to get a Greyhound, why continue to talk about them? The subject would really only merit further discussion if you've started doubting the decision but to him, simply reiterating that Greyhounds make wonderful pets is hardly worthy of word expenditure.
Women, on the other hand, are happy to spend hours discussing various aspects of life, be it which washing powder does the job best (although I have to admit that this particular subject has a short life around here) to whether or not there's life in outer space. We'll analyse our lives from every perceivable angle and serve our emotions on a plate to be shared and devoured. When we talk about sex it's because we're either experiencing difficulties in that department or finally achieved multiple orgasm. The fact that the bloke standing next to the BMW (the one you earlier admired with your partner) has a huge lunch box isn't THAT important to us. Sure, we'll joke about it but where men stop at "I'd give her one", women will discuss 'why' they'd give him one.
How often have you known your partner (or father or brother) to pick up the phone for no other reason than because they fancy a chat? They may well have done during your courting days but do they ever call their male friends just to have a natter? I doubt it. Women, on the other hand, can spend hours on the phone to the same girlfriend, talking about anything and everything, going into minute detail about every event that's happened since last time they spoke and still finding it all just as interesting as they would've had it been the very first conversation they'd ever had. When witnessing this behaviour, men simply shake their heads and wonder how the heck we can find so much to talk about to somebody we visited with for three hours just last week. To a man, the telephone is either a means of making contact when something needs to be said or done or, for some, a means of getting a quick thrill through dialling premium rate numbers. It certainly isn't a tool designed for nurturing friendships.
I'm not saying that men will never talk; of course they talk. Men are great at discussing business deals and are generally happier speaking publicly than women are but they need a definite goal to make talking worthwhile. To them, when talking about next door's new car, the technical specs are what interest them, whereas we'd probably wonder about it's cost and how on earth they managed to afford it! Gossipy, yes, but that also comes naturally to women.
Evidently, our propensity for gossip stems from way back when we lived in caves. The men went out to hunt leaving the women to look after the cave and offspring. For those women, it was important to know what was going on around them in order to keep their own home and family safe, something which eventually evolved into gossip once we mastered the art of meaningful speech. Knowing that Missus Chucklebum could be likely to steal your food supplies or that old man Poop-pants had been known to rape women while their men were away were important things to know. Gossip was what moved this information quickly through the villages, rather like the jungle drum. Unfortunately, gossip often changes facts so poor old Annie Spottyface was seduced by Tommy Littleballs could easily turn into something that makes Annie sound as if she's slept with half the village. Men, as much as they deny it, also gossip. They don't see it as such because their gossip takes on a different stance. Knowing that Dave has put a new turbo in his motor or that Bob's been promoted is just as much gossip as anything we women talk about. Men gossip because, going back to the days of old again, they needed to know which tribes or villages were strong and with which weapons they were likely to fight with. That sort of thing translates in our modern society to who's got the most money (money = power) and what they've earned it by doing. Facts were, and still are, important to them from a strategic point of view. My partner would call it "intelligence gathering" but no matter what impressive name you put to it and how pretty the packaging is, it's still gossip, plain and simple. They just don't do it quite as much as us ladies.
Conversation's a bonding agent between women, something that men don't need. They bond through activities; either doing them or discussing them. If they're not out on some muddy field kicking a ball around then it'll be "Did you see Beckham's penalty last night?". Oh, and "look at the knockers on that" will sometimes come into play because sex is an activity just as much as football, biking, fixing cars, fishing or downing pints.
Most of us have heard that women use about three times as many words a day than men but even so, mixed gender company, men are likely to dominate the conversation. Why? Because they need to exert their power and strength, of course. That isn't to say there aren't women who wouldn't dream of allowing a man to dominate in this way and there are also men who wouldn't dream of trying but in general, men like to have their voices heard. I'm afraid we girls have to take some of the blame for that, too, because of our tendency to tack a question on the end of a statement. Saying "that was a lovely meal, wasn't it?" allows others to jump straight in and, in the case of a man, answering the question then allows him to go on to change the subject in order to satisfy his need to dominate the conversation. Believe me, the only way we can control a conversation is to stop leaving open-ends, because while we might see them as showing a concern for the opinions of others, men will see them as weak statements from a woman who doesn't know her own mind.
Another way in which the sexes differ can be clearly seen when a woman wants to discuss something that's bothering her. I'd be reasonably well off now if I'd been given a pound for every time I heard a woman complain "he always has to be so argumentative". He isn't doing it to hurt, though; it's just his nature. Discussion's good, small talk's a waste of time. We just have to accept that they're not women (and I can assure you there are times when I'm glad my partner isn't) and let them do what comes naturally. That, incidently, also includes offering advice. Again, for him, if the conversation's to achieve anything, a solution's needed. You might not want advice but he's gonna give it, regardless. One friend complained that her husband wouldn't listen to her problems because she never took his advice anyway and if she isn't going to listen to him, why should he bother to listen to her? I can see that a man could get frustrated by women who "don't listen" but when we desperately want to share our feelings with somebody else without being "told what to do", that's when we really need our women friends.
For life to continue, women need men, but when it comes to talking, women need women. It's good to be understood.
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Sharon Jacobsen is founder/administrator of FriendsYourWay.co.uk (www.friendsyourway.co.uk), a web service designed to help women meet other women for platonic friendships in their local area of the UK. Having grown up in East London, Sharon moved to Norway at the age of 19, where she remained until 1998. She now lives in Cheshire with her partner and two of her three children. Contact Sharon on: firstname.lastname@example.org