08 Mar Helpless… or Hopeless?
Learned helplessness is a real thing. It appears to affect most of the male population in some way and, in particular and in most ways, the average Aussie bloke. It certainly seems to be for my generation and the countless generations before my birth. These sons and heirs learned and honed their craft from early days on their mother’s knees, and have excelled in demonstrating it at every available opportunity thereafter! Therein lies the problem for the women of the world… Happy International Women’s Day!
Along with this helplessness, is an inability to learn and retain many necessary and day-to-day skills that are required to survive in this hectic world of ours, even though we have the benefit of a wide range of technology and time-saving devices. My first observation is that men are excellent at consuming food from a plate, yet lack the capability to place said vessel in either the sink or the dishwasher. And when they remove their repleted body from the chair, are totally inept in replacing it to its former position… under the table or bench. Instead, it sits proudly where it’s in the way of the flow of traffic and patiently waiting for the long-suffering woman-of-the house to rectify the situation.
Dare I mention the place of sleeping, and most notably the bed? Isn’t it amazing how its rumbled mess is magically transformed into the well-made and neat presentation ready for the next night’s sleep? Not to comment on the regular arrival of freshly-laundered sheets. Bliss! And the ‘floordrobe’ disappears too. Shoes, sporting equipment and gym bags, along with other things of indistinguishable nature, can be miraculously found in their rightful places, no longer the obstacle course they provided for the hapless lady of the manor. How marvellous for the menfolk!
Along with that, clean and dry towels arrive in the bathroom and, would you believe it, are in fact hung on the towel rails! Amazing. How does that happen? It’s a transformation that lasts for less than the time it takes to wash the old towels before it reverts back to the squalor left after the occupant has made his presence felt in that room. And we know it’s a male by the toenail clippings and whiskers floating in the putrid water left in the sink. The dirty clothes on the floor are another dead giveaway. I suppose one should be grateful they’re so close to the laundry basket! It’s a pity he couldn’t have practiced his basketball skills and shot a three-pointer! Now… should I make reference to the toilet? I’m still trying to fathom how, after many years of training several times a day, the men-of-the-house are totally powerless to carry out two things: to actually pee into the bowl (as it’s certainly a large enough receptacle) and clean up after themselves when they have a dump, use the crapper, let go of a load… to quote just a few of their quaint phrases. If I wanted that image of a dirty bowl, I’d have used a public toilet. Wouldn’t it be lovely if they’d turned on the exhaust fan and used the air freshener too? Oh, and replace the empty toilet roll. Not a lot to ask…surely?
If all of this is way beyond their skill level, how can we expect them to actually communicate? You know, let us know the important things by passing on messages and using the calendar to note down appointments they have made. Having the right day and time would also be extremely helpful, as would filling out the necessary paperwork in a timely fashion. It also saves on embarrassing phone calls to apologise for their ineptitude in carrying out the simplest of tasks. Funny how most men are unable to make that phone call and truly own up for their lack of organisation! Why is it such a dent to the male ego to admit that sometimes, just sometimes, they’re human and not infallible?
So, back to the question I posed in the title… are men displaying a learned helplessness, or are they really, down-to-earth hopeless and incapable of demonstrating the simplest of tasks on a regular basis? Are we, the women of the world, at fault? Or, have we just given up trying to teach them and/or nag them, believing it is more time-efficient and less stressful to do the chore ourselves than to wait for the footy game on telly to finish in order to get their undivided attention and have them carry out the said activity with the enthusiasm and competence of a man walking to the gallows? Stronger and braver women have been ruminating on this conundrum for hundreds of years so why am I now rocking the boat and obviously just having a whinge?
Because, in the immortal words of Helen Reddy,
I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore. And I know too much to go back and pretend… I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.