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Love Languages©

February 10, 2010

I have to admit, I don’t know everything there is to know in the world.  I still don’t understand how it is that common baby wipes seem to remove every stain known to moms.  I’m still in the dark about how modern tech gadgets work, why my children think food tastes better off of my plate, or why my brain sees sugar as an acceptable fifth food group.

But I know that come this Valentine’s Day, the secret to love in our house is one hour spent speaking the same language.  He will talk about something I understand, like his experience shopping at the mall, and I will use phrases that can be taken at face value, like “Please bring me a glass of water with ice.”

It’s not always like this.  Most of the year we’re like two foreigners sharing the same home.  Our time together includes lots of squinting, blank stares, absentminded nodding and the occasional burst of excitement, “Yes!  I understood that!”

A good example came several years ago.  My husband and I decided we could still be in love and not include chocolate in the gift-giving ritual.  My husband said, “Instead, get me the new plug-in zip drive.”  What I heard him say was, “Get me something I can zip up when I drive to work.”  When he asked me if I wanted chocolate, I said “That sounds good.”  The evening ended with me yelling, “Do you WANT my rear end to be that big?”

We realized we had a language problem.  I don’t understand half the things he actually says, and he doesn’t pick up on the things I leave unsaid. He speaks man-ese and on its face is a very simple language.  He says things like, “What’s for dinner?” and means it.  I speak woman-ese and that same question translated in our complicated system can mean:  “That same dish again?”  Or, “I expect dinner to be ready now.” 

Love in our house means that most of the time we will be speaking to somebody who 1) has a blank expression on their face (him when I ask, “What do you think my friend Cheryl meant when she said…”, or the look on my face when he talks and I plan next week’s dinner menu in my head), or  2) has an angry look on their face (him as he realizes I’m planning the dinner menu in my head while he’s talking, or me when he doesn’t do something I never said.)

Sometimes I forget the language barrier and ask him a straightforward question.  “What does 64-bit encryption mean?” I asked one night.  I was feeling playful.  As soon as he started to talk I realized I couldn’t follow two words of what he was saying.  He said:  “In cryptography, key length is the size of the key used in a cryptographic algorithm.”  I heard:  “Blah blah blah, key.”  Then, after dinner, he clearly couldn’t understand woman-ese.  I said, “Please clear dinner from the table.”  He heard:  “Move dishes over to counter.”  I walked by later to see a dirty kitchen table covered with salt and pepper shakers, used napkins and crumbs.

This Valentine’s Day, my husband and I definitely won’t splurge on chocolate, probably not on flowers, and jewelry is looking like a big question mark.  But I know we love each other because tomorrow I’ll try to follow his conversation about computer problems at work, and he’ll try to interpret, “We’re getting low on creamer.”

©2010, Kim Knuth.  All rights reserved.

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