Sharon’s Blog : Revisiting the Guy Zone by Sharon O’Donnell
My sons are now 24, 21, and 15, and even though they’ve gotten older, and you’d think that communication with them might have become easier, I find that still sometimes I’m stuck in the Guy Zone. Below is an excerpt from my book House of Testosterone that still — unfortunately — rings true today.
What is The Guy Zone?
Good question. I’m sure you’ve all been witness to it, even though you might not have recognized it as the guy zone at first. This is that zone, that place where the minds of guys seem to drift to every so often where women find it difficult to communicate with them. Okay, so it’s more than ‘every so often’. To fully understand the title of this book, allow me to share with you below an excerpt from an essay entitled “The Guy Zone” from my first book, House of Testosterone. The back story here is that I’d congratulated my husband’s good friend and his bride at their wedding, adding that I hoped they’d have a great time in Cancun on their honeymoon. They looked at me very oddly, her confused and him panicked as my husband pulled me aside and told me his friend had been keeping the location of the honeymoon a secret from his wife. I was totally flabbergasted as to why my husband didn’t mention that when he told me about where they were going.
“Who knew you’d bring it up?” he asked.
“Who knew I wouldn’t?” I replied. “It’s very strange to leave out something so important.”
My husband shrugged. “I didn’t think about it.”
Ah-ha. There are the five little words with which I’ve become so familiar throughout our many years of marriage—“I didn’t think about it.”
The other phrase I hear all too often is, “Oh, yeah.” As in, “Kevin, why did you plan the big Scout camping trip for that weekend? That’s the weekend you’re supposed to be in your cousin’s wedding.”
Kevin pauses, stares into space, looking like the English language is making sense to him for the first time in his life and says with wonder in his voice, “Oh yeah.” It’s as if an invisible barrier that had surrounded him his entire life suddenly crumbles to the ground, allowing a brief moment of enlightenment, before being built up again.
It’s the guy zone, ladies—a scientific theory that will be proven in this century.
Billy, our eldest, used to be my companion in laughing or complaining about all the silly things my husband does—such as not remembering a conversation about something that everyone else seems to recall. There were times Kevin would say to me, “You didn’t tell me about that.”
“Yes, I did,” I would reply.
“No, you didn’t.”
I’d pause for a moment to replay the conversation in question in my mind. Yes, it had happened. “Don’t you remember?” I would ask. “It was Thursday night after David’s baseball game, and we were driving home.” He’d stare at me blankly, while I began to question my own sanity.
And then Billy, God bless him, would come to my rescue. “Yeah, Dad, she told you that. I heard her. It was in the car.” Having a witness is always a good thing. A requirement if you’re married to a man who has testosterone-induced Alzheimer’s.
Billy and I were also observers of my husband’s inability to locate a single, ordinary object that I asked him to find, whether it was in the kitchen, garage, closet, or grocery store. The guy zone is as amazing as it is frustrating. I can’t count the number of times Kevin would swear up and down that an item wasn’t in the pantry where I had told him to look. Take, for instance, a can of vegetable soup. “It’s not here,” Kevin would insist, as he stood like a statue in front of the kitchen pantry, never bothering to lean over and take a closer look or move cans around in his search. He’d peer into the rows of cans and bags of snacks as if he thought the soup can would raise up arms and wave at him. “Yoo-hoo, over here by the green beans!”
Then Billy or I would stand beside him, glance into the pantry, and pluck the “missing” item right in front of him. “Oh,” he’d mumble. “I didn’t see it.” Billy and I would exchange knowing glances and shake our heads in exasperation as Kevin walked to get the can opener, unaware of our obvious irritation.
I was always so glad to have Billy’s sympathetic support and testimony during these times when my husband descended into the guy zone.
But I fear those days have come to an end. During Billy’s early teen years, he began to display some of his father’s “you didn’t tell me that” and “I don’t see it” traits. I tried not to believe it at first, but there was no denying it. Billy wasn’t my little boy any longer. He was becoming a “guy.” Like it or not, boys start doing more guy things as they get older.
Billy still tells me play-by-play of moments in Red Sox games and verbatim dialogue from every episode of The Simpsons or any James Bond movie. Yet, if I’m yearning for meaningful conversation or details of real events in his life, I’m left to scrounge for crumbs.
I remember when I first knew he had become a guy for sure, leaving my little boy somewhere behind. It was after a seventh-grade dance when I realized that scrounging for crumbs would be futile. I picked Billy up in the carpool line, and he hopped in the back seat. We exchanged hellos and then sat in the traffic without talking. I knew he had information that I wanted about the dance, but I also knew he’d get perturbed, as most males do, about my asking questions. But I decided to risk it anyway.
“So did ya dance?” I asked.
He mumbled something that sounded like “yeah.” My heart soared.
“So you just walked up and asked her?”
As someone who lives with four males, I knew this meant I had to interpret his answer, to connect the dots. “You mean she asked you?”
I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed a slight smile tug at the corners of his lips. “Yeah.”
I was eager to garner every possible scrap of information, but I had to play it cool. “That’s nice,” I said, as I watched a group of giggling girls get in the car ahead of us. I could see them through the window, chattering away with the mom as soon as they climbed inside. I felt a stab of pain. The carpool line started crawling forward. “Who was she?” This time I tried to sound casual.
“I’d never seen her before.”
I paused, giving him time between questions. “So what’d she look like?”
“I dunno,” Billy muttered.
I sensed my window of opportunity closing. “You don’t know what she looked like?” I repeated.
He scoffed. “It was dark, Mom.”
“How do you know you didn’t recognize her if it was that dark?” No answer. Sighing, I decided to try again. “What was her name?” I asked as I watched all the females in the other car laughing and having a grand time gossiping and exchanging details.
He shrugged. “I dunno.”
“She didn’t tell you her name?”
“Yeah, she did but—” he paused. Then I realized it was not a pause at all; he’d simply stopped talking and let his sentence dangle there in mid-air. My curiosity was piqued, to say the least.
“I didn’t hear her.” I glanced at him in the mirror, then looked away, shaking my head in frustration. “It was loud,” he said.
Right. As if that was an adequate explanation, and as if I was going to buy it.
So far I knew it was dark and it was loud, supposedly. I felt like an FBI interrogator trying to get a confession out of somebody. That’s when I realized this conversation seemed all too familiar. It was the kind of “pulling teeth” talk I’d often had with—a chill ran down my spine at this point—my husband.
Suddenly, I wanted to reach over the back seat, grab my son, and yank him back from the abyss. I almost screamed, “Billy, Billy, come back to me!” Yet I knew it was too late. He was already slipping over the edge, into the vast wasteland known as the guy zone.
FOOTNOTE: Billy, now 24, has certainly demonstrated more of these ‘guy’ traits over the years; however, his dad still has many more of them – so many that, yes – Billy still shakes his head in despair over some of Kevin’s guy zone tendencies and can still sometimes be my witness.