Happy Friday! I hope you enjoy our first guest post! This was written by my hubby, or the Silver Haired Fox (SHF) as I have dubbed him. SHF will be (hopefully) a regular guest poster to get one mans perspective on issues that are important to him. Maybe they're important to the man in your life too!
How Not To Be A Nag - by Silver Haired Fox
Tonight the Gray Haired Goddess asked me to contribute to her blog. One does not simply refuse the Goddess, so here I am. That, and the GHG is my wife. Happy Wife, Happy Life, and all that.
She asked me to post “something relevant” to mature women, and to be honest, I was thrilled. She really is All That and Bag of Chips. So off I sped to my office. I arrived with energy I expected to fade. After all, the blank page is where bad ideas die and good ones show up only when they’re good and damned ready. But ... my enthusiasm didn’t die.
I paused and wondered why. I mean, how many husbands of nearly three decades receive a request to do something kind of complicated and prance off to comply? Wasn’t this a chore? If it wasn’t a chore, it was definitely a task. Why didn’t it feel like one? I’m ten minutes into this word soup and I am ... enjoying myself? WHY? What follows is my best attempt at an explanation and advice on how to do whatever it is that she did to me.
The GHG’s audience is mature women who have lived and learned, tried, failed, and succeeded. When Indiana Jones says “It ain't the years – it's the mileage”, the GHG community can only nod. This is the time of your lives when you need people to hear your advice and benefit from your experience. Experience you probably want to share. You cannot do that if you sound like a nag, or perhaps I should say, if you’re perceived as one. So I wrote my title and, amazingly enough, that’s where I found the advice I wanted to offer.
How: It didn’t feel like a task because of HOW she asked - with respect. She didn’t play damsel in distress, either. That isn’t her. At all. No, she sincerely valued my thoughts, and that’s a big deal. Her blog is important to her. She takes it seriously. And after 29 years, I can tell you when she gets her game-face on, you better help or get out of the way. Point is, she delivered her offer as just that – an offer, an invitation.
The door was open for me to refuse – and I could have. That bit about the Happy Wife thing above, that’s just a joke. The reality is I always have the option. Regardless of how poor these ramblings are, I CHOSE to offer them. Requests for assistance, invitations to help, appeals for advice – I think men (and women) perceive these very differently from orders. There’s no threat and no whiny tone, just some respect, the kind that compels one to return in kind.
“Give me a hand,” “Do me a favor,” or the one that makes husbands’ and employees’ skin crawl “Hey, ya got a second?” These are not nags – but they’re cousins. They’re orders with a smile. And when they are part of a relationship that has some nagging in it, well, guilt by association. They come across as naggy, even if the nag is only implied.
Not To: Let’s look at that bit about how things come across. Her request was set up for success by the context of our relationship, which is just about “nag-free” – there is no shrewish woman living in our house. She’s strong, has her own opinions on things, and a moral compass that (annoyingly) does not move when I enter the room. But she’s not a nag.
Does the GHG never nag? Ever? Truth be told, only rarely - when I am so lazy that I force her to. Point is, she works hard to not be, and I don’t always make that easy. GHG lets me be me – she doesn’t try to herd or confine or control me. Nagging is annoying to both the nagged and the nag. But of course, I really wouldn’t know.
When we were younger, she influenced me with a good deal of cleverness. If I wanted to go out with my friends, she wisely did not let the idea become a Matter of Independence (can you hear the trumpets? I can!). She let it collapse under its own weight: “Have fun. Be safe.” No drama. No fuel for the fire. And before long, my friends and their shenanigans, well they just got boring and I stopped going out. Pretty sure there’s a TED talk in that little story, somewhere.
Be a Nag: I imagine some of you might be wondering “if I can’t be a nag, what other option is there?” Trust me, after a couple decades in the Army, I understand that many, many of the men out there are in great need of ‘guidance’, to put it mildly. And I’m in that group, if I’m being honest. So it’s a fair question.
Well, if you could pick any word to describe the way you want to influence those around you, what word would you pick? And I do mean ANY word – not the ones that are ‘appropriate’ for mature women, or whatever. I can only guess at what word GHG would pick. (spoiler alert: I think we’d both pick the same word)
The word we’d pick would be ‘leader’. Leader is a term best described by what it isn't: a leader isn't a manager – no one likes to be managed. Manager is a synonym for a nag. A leader isn’t a bully, either. Bully’s another word for pushy, harpy, shrew - things no one wants to be or be around. A leader is someone who pulls, not someone who pushes. It’s the mom in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, turning the head as she likes. Not with malice, annoyance, or neediness, but with love and wisdom. If that’s not a good definition of the ideal mature woman, then I can’t imagine what would be.
Maybe you’d pick a different word, one with less ummph to it. Maybe you like “neck” better. But GHG just peeked over my shoulder and didn’t object, so it seems I was right – she likes leader, too. And it fits. She doesn’t manage me - she influences me. She leads by example, and it works most of the time. (Think I read that in a military leadership manual once). And at the risk of introducing sentiment into the cold, hard world of the internet, I’ll tell you she is a good leader, one of the best.
Does that make me a follower? Not at all. I am a strong leader myself. And I married a strong leader with very different gifts. When a problem needs a single voice, one of us leads, and the other DECIDES to hand over the reins. Sometimes there’s conflict, and that’s fine. Sometimes instantly, sometimes after a debate, one of us emerges as the leader, and the other CHOOSES to follow. Until the next thing, and we do it again. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Tonight my wife invited me to contribute to her blog. And I chose to do so because she asked me.