June 12, 2012
As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list--I've got a little list.... - W. S. Gilbert
"The List" is the bane of testosterone-driven humans. "The List" is kept in the secret mental lock-box of human beings of the estrogen persuasion. Some believe that "The List" is a social construct, while others believe that "The List" is hard-wired into the DNA of the human female. I favor the latter theory since it seems to me that "The List" is merely a subset of "The Plan" -- and "The Plan" is not only part and parcel of the basic makeup of the human female regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, or historic epoch, it is also the reason that -- over time -- women triumph over men. Women, in short, always have a life plan while men are stuck with something that looks like a cross between a spread sheet without a recalc button and a really slick marketing idea.
In short, men might have a plan for making a rocket-propelled street luge, but they have none at all when it comes to human activities that stretch across decades -- unless it involves such trifles as national defense or energy policy. Men seem to see items like this as actually important, but women know that what is really important is the command and control of male behavior. Hence, "Your Permanent Conduct Record" aka "The List."
Women reading this essay are, of course, not the type to ever keep an indelible list of male transgressions, large and teeny-tiny. But trust me, there are many that do. Why? Because it works.
"The List" is a means of male-control through negative feedback. Positive male actions towards a woman are expected, perhaps noted at the time, perhaps not, -- but always in pencil. A brief pat and nod of encouragement and then the woman goes back into the default mode of "what have you done for me lately?" "Lately" is, as all men know, but a small subset of a single day.
Failings of the male -- such as lapses in mental telepathy -- are kept on "The List" in indelible ink, preferably blood-red. "The List" also includes transgressions, large and small, against the woman from previous relationships with previous males. The ownership of all these transgressions is automatically transfered to the male of the current relationship at the moment of inception or conception, whichever comes first. This is the reason men sometimes feel they are expected to pay an overdue bill for a meal they did not eat in a restaurant that no longer exists. Plus a 20% tip.
"The List" is a lethal weapon and has the combined qualities of a rapier, a bludgeon, and a bread-knife to the heart. It can be employed silently via "The Look," or over great distances via the telephone or a highly compressed text message such as "U no wht u did." Its deadly deployment is not dependent on current transgressions. It can be brandished and employed at any inconvenient moment, such as, say, pants half-off. Just because you have presented a woman with a 10 caret diamond right now does not mean she will not think in the next moment, and perhaps ask, "Why not 11? And why not in 'canary'?" The lack of that last caret and the color will, invariably, find its way onto "The List."
"The List" exists outside of time. Hence the passage of time does not make for erasure. List entries cannot be expunged because they can always have an immediate utility.
"I am behaving this way today because five months ago you did X, and even though I didn't mention X at the time, what you did then excuses this behavior now. Y for X makes us even."
Don't believe that last part. You are not "even." "The List" does not grow "even," it only extends. The existence of an item on "The List" is eternal, and will be used --explicitly or implicitly -- on many occasions, numerous and multiple.
Women who use "The List" will recognize, but never admit to, the existence of "The List" even when you call them on it on the spot. Should you press the issue with hard evidence, they plead "not guilty by reason of 'You don't know what you're talking about.' If, in rare cases, they are convicted their plea shift to, "Guilty... but with an explanation." In very rare cases, usually involving bribery, they will confess that they are keeping "The List" and promise, sincerely but falsely, to never consult it again. This is merely a ploy. No woman who uses "The List" can ever really give up "The List" (It is a control item.) Regardless of what they agree at the time they will immediately put the fact that you had the gall to call them on "The List" *on*The*List*.
It is very foolish to call them on "The List" unless you no longer want them around. Once you do, they are going to look for ways to blow you off since they need men who don't know about "The List;" men ignorant of its existence and doomed to remain so until marriage -- which is when "The List" really comes out. Then, of course, it is too late for our poor pilgrim.
"The List" is usually found attached to another larger and even more ancient body of female laws known as: Rules You Will Not Be Allowed to Know Exist Until You Break Them. You might think that "The List" is the source of such rules, but you will be wrong and your assertion that it is will become yet another entry on "The List."
"The Look of List Is In Your Eyes" Warning Signs: Men, when you see this look you'll know there's an entry being made on "The List."
Brought back from 2007 because I like it.
UPDATE: The always articulate Cassandra offers an impassioned and, in many ways, correct objection to The List @ Villainous Company: Through a Dark Lens
Posted by Vanderleun at June 12, 2012 1:51 AM
I've never understood the "List" thing. Life is far too short and frankly too enjoyable to waste it trying to manipulate and shame my husband. He has enough worries without me tormenting him for every mistake, real or imagined, that he makes. As long as he avoids the big ones (placing his heart or his gonads in someone else's care), everything else can be worked out. He's not a child or an idiot for me to mold and toy with, he's a mature, responsible adult.
There are an awful lot of bitter men out there. I think this whole List mentality plays a big part in their bitterness.
Having said that, I must apologize for my utter lack of a sense of humor this morning. Clearly, it did not get out of bed when the rest of me did.
Uh oh, sounds like Vanderleun screwed up big time. LOL. Whadja do?
It took me only a year or so into my marriage to figure all this out, and yet I kept up the charade for another 18 years before bailing.
Translation: I am a complete idiot.
You Sir -- on the other hand -- are a genius for describing the "List" so succinctly.
As I said in the essay, Sara,
"Women reading this essay are, of course, not the type to ever keep an indelible list of male transgressions, large and teeny-tiny."
Somehow I knew that would be true.
OK, Gerard...where the Hell were you 40 years ago when I could have clearly benefited from this fine piece of work? ;-)
That's so true, it shouldn't be funny.
Sometimes the list comes in the form of "The Sack," in which case the female carries grievances in a canvas bag, about the size made popular by S. Claus.
The Sack is filled with failings, issues, "the time you did," "the time you didn't," "the time I expected you to," "I never thought anyone could," various misdemeanors in the areas of fashion ("He wears a polka dot tie with a stripped shirt! Can you believe it, Marge?") as well as felonies ("He told me my hairdo looked like something worn by a parrot after being dragged backwards through a hedge.").
The Sack or List is carried, or schlepped, from relationship to relationship, across all time zones and geologic formations.
The female is prepared to extract items one at a time for purposes of prosecution and cross examination, or to dump them all at once in a display of "Look what MEN have done to me."
However, Lists can be crumpled and Sacks can be made to fold like a wet sock if the male merely stands on his hind legs and announces (with no trace of dudgeon--high or otherwise), "Oh. Ah. And when did you first begin to think that I was impressed with this sort of thing?" Or, "When I need your feedback, I will hire you as a consultant. But thanks for applying."
Either the relationship is now over or, on the other hand, it is now over.
But all's well that ends....
So true! I'm a woman, but not entirely unable to laugh at myself - "Failings of the male -- such as lapses in mental telepathy" -- that's hilarious were it not something I actually have tortured my poor, loving husband with.
What you don't have on the list, though, is the fact that women need men to love them. "Players" all know this - woman HAVE to be loved...it's like air. Pretend you love a woman and they're yours for the taking. Women NEED men.
Better yet...sincerely love a woman and the world goes round.
Somebody needs Dr. Laura's book, "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands". or "The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage."
Women and the pu**y-whipped men that fear them. It's one thing to be nipped at by someone who has an overdeveloped sense of attention to detail. It is quite another to believe the marketing of "Super Women. Hear Her Roar" and apply that archetype to one's life.
When a boy is raised by a herd of cats it is unlikely that he will later be attracted to dogs.
There's a corallary view to this:
The scene... The 'All Guys, Everywhere' meeting.
"Come to order, sort of...All rise"
"Repeat after me...It's all my fault."
"It's All My Fault."
Well, there are guys who are masters of "The List" technique, too, as I know from painful experience. Specimens can be found in any medical or law school.
I believe more people need to learn "Failure Modes Effects Analysis".
"The List" is one of those things that works really well right up until the point where it fails catastrophically. Worse, any indications of impending failure are treated as additional material, effectively increasing the severity of the failure.
That is not generally a desireable failure mode.
Read the whole thing again while channeling the sound of Ron White reading this like it was a routine. Gold.
The comedy of the list, of course, lies in its instant recognition by all sensible people. The tragedy of the list is the same as the tragedy of its corollary - male malicious obliviousness syndrome.
Victims of either pathology could easily believe that all members of the opposite gender will sooner or later manifest the dread symptoms. Having been burned, they assume they must of necessity be burned again anytime they allow anyone into their hearts.
The ability to love and trust is lost, sometimes permanently; and all-too-often within reaching distance of those who would rather vote for Hillary than exhibit these pathetic attempts at controlling behavior.
Perhaps men and women truly are different species who have a symbiotic breeding system, but fundamental differences that make understanding and peaceful co-existence impossible.
What is sad is the author of this blog cannot even clearly see the anti-woman drivel she/he is spewing.
HIDDEN AGENDAS THAT MERE MORTAL MEN CANNOT UNDERSTAND!
Conspiratorial insanity or an insult. Doesn't look good either way does it sweety.
[Dear Lou, Please adjust medication. The author of this blog understands many things. First and foremost is that the lapse into a state of CAPS LOCK indicates and unhappy and unstable mind.]
Looks to me like it is time to pull out the "The Vanderleun Apology".
Right you are and here it is:
I come to you today penitent, conscience-stricken, regretful and contrite. I have been touched by your pain and deeply regret my words. I repent them with every shred of my soul. I am, for having hurt your feelings and bruised your tender buttons, a base and abject man mortified by my cheesy, contemptible, insignificant,. shabby, small, and pathetic being. I know now the low things I have said and I am filled with remorse, melancholy, and self-reproach. If I could have myself flogged fleshless by an flock of Carmelite nuns on Methamphetamine I would so. But I can't locate those sisters right now, so I must continue to apologize.
I therefore continue to apologize.
I am so wretched to have said the bad words to you. They may well have been true, but I forgot that your feelings, no matter how puerile, always trump the truth in this world. So I admit that even though they were true, my words were unworthy of me and hurtful to you. I see your raw suppurating feelings oozing to the top of your mind and erupting from your mouth wrapped around your screams. I shall carry that Polaroid with me for the rest of my days right next to the organ donor card in my wallet. Can I fill one out for you?
But I digress.
I am compelled by my inner idiot to say that I bleed for you, wish only to console you, empathize with you, and open my heart in an anguished lament that my words, wittingly or unwittingly, have raised upon your soul these unlanced boils of your metaphysical angst. It is my hope you will allow me to lance them and to bandage them in the saline soaked cloth of a this apology.
I come before you today an abashed, chagrined, conscience stricken, guilty, shamed, demeaned, crestfallen, humiliated, penitent and mortified man. I can only seek, humbly, that one thing that will make me whole again after ripping the flesh of your feelings so senselessly. That one thing is the infinite balm of your acceptance of this, my guilty apology, and your forgiveness.
In this I hope to be resurrected to the realm of the acceptably human. I live in this hope because I have a deep and abiding faith that although I am really, really sorry, you are the one person in the universe who is a sorrier son-of-a-bitch than I am.
Thank you for letting me share.
As soon as I read the first few lines, I thought "Oh no, you dinnunt, Gerard!" But of course I kept on reading every delicious line and enjoying every scandalized comment, and I'll have to come back several times today just to enjoy it all over again.
"I'm a man, and I can change, if I have to, I guess."
This is an intriguing site I found while 'googleing' 'the list'. Yep, I'm a man too but I believe everyone is my equal untill they prove different. Find out more about me by reading my blog at:
(A woman with a brain... I can't wait to meet her! a little 'attitude' can be fun! I just don't want to date a 'slave')
David Elton, Reading, UK.
If you're not on my List, you're gonna miss out!
(You can 'google' my name too! I'm not afraid of who I am. Don't ever be afraid of who you are either.)
I have what has been referred to as a frighteningly good memory. I choose not to expend any of it on something so trivial as "The List."
Especially when I can instead remember such fascinating things as the mating habits of flounders or the like.
Seriously, ladies, it's amazing how happy you can be when you remember that not only are men not psychic, they aren't good at reading subtle emotional cues, and they tend to take answers at face value. If they ask, "What's wrong?" and you reply, "Nothing," they believe you. And they don't remember birthdays, or anniversaries, so give them advance warning. You know, as in two weeks before, tell them Hey, my birthday's in two weeks, and I've got a wish list on Amazon. (Even better, send an email.)
My husband of six years remembers what day of the month my birthday is, and that it's in the spring. He still has to ask what month it is, though... :D
I don't know what had me laughing harder... the post or the apology in the comments. Now that the tears are wiped away from the laughter... Thank you. I needed that this morning. (oh... here via Harvey)
The apology was priceless!
The List is kept and passed around by gossipy women. Which is why the most successful men (with women) make sure that the next type absolutely despises the current type and is thus unlikely to be the victim of an effective handoff.
The urge for men to be polygamous is directly correlated to the size and depth of the List accumulating with the current woman.
At some point, overuse of the List creates a dead spot in the man's ability to be shamed by it.
And the List, my friends, is why I've remained a lifelong bachelor. I've got better things to do with my time than spend it attempting to apologize to a woman for some supposed failing that I may not have even noticed. That, and relocating to a different foreign country every 6 months to 4 years for the last 20+ years. Guys, you want to stay single? Tell your girlfriend you'll be living in Afghanistan or Cambodia for the next year or two. Then you'll be moving somewhere else, don't know where yet. Could be a nice place like Paris or Tokyo. Could also be a toilet like Islamabad or Bishkek. Oh, and I won't be living in an "expat bubble". I'll be living with the locals. Any women want to tag along? Thought not...
Ouch. We women who don't keep "the list" still have a nature that tends to want to. My husband calls it "the illusion of control". Listening to Dennis Prager and returning to the Church has helped me a lot in this regard (fighting my nature). The times we're living in should also teach us something about lack of control, if we're paying attention. Great post again Gerard!
Yes, it's funny to hear about it, but it is not funny to deal with it.
I'd never hit a woman. Never. Even if I was attacked by a crazed, weapon wielding nutjob female, I'd be at odds to defend myself.
But the list...
Pulling out the list is a great way to drive me to irrational anger. It's just INSANE! It is in moments like that that I could almost imagine why someone would hit a woman. It scares the crap out of me.
Why do women seemingly go out of their way to antagonize men in the worst way possible?
A woman can use The List to threaten and intimidate, but this ("Let me tell you how you made a unilateral decision eight years ago.") works only if the male wants what the woman can withhold.
The List does not work on me. I scoff at The List. I say, Fie and forsooth.
For I, Lance de Boyle, hold all the cards I need.
1. The house is in MY name.
2. I cook all the meals. That way I eat cheeseburgers and chicken wings as often as I like.
3. My excellent bone structure and natural vitality make me look 15 years younger than the harp...I mean, wife.
4. I have several girlfriends for whom my mere presence instigates nonstop revelry.
Hey, w teh f? Why am I still married?
So, what happened to that "original list" as shown on the T shirt. A bunch of us men want to buy some.
Also, you seem to have left out "The Look!" It's an early warning signal. (You get "The Look" when you are treading to close to something on "The List".
The only thing funnier than "The List" is "The Apology". And I thought seeing Comet Lulin was going to be the highlight of my day....
Oh, i'll get to "The Look." I know it well.
A wonderful piece Mr. V. I feared the existence of such a WMD, but had somehow deluded myself with thoughts that it was perhaps only I who suffered. Unlike the Yeti or Nessie, you have proof of this which you speak? It is a most bittersweet moment to realize that there are others with whom I may mourn.
Very dangerous humor. Will men who know of the List's existence, ever find a mate who does not keep "The List" or want to? Is there a Litmus test?
Sleddude, I am now married to a lovely woman and we have an informal agreement. She can keep the list and mention anything on it at any time. I can ignore anything I want to, but I may listen to her plaint. I have to admit, on rare occasions she's right. OTOH, she's finally had to admit that a great deal of stuff on 'the list' is trivial, shouldn't be used in an effort to alter my behavior, and is mostly counter-productive.
I should also point out that since we met she's known that I claim (without any real evidence) to be "the most honestly selfish person in the world." I never, ever do anything I don't want to, and you can't guilt me into it. I may do what you want for my own reasons, but it's best to ask nicely. Attempts at guilting me into doing what you want always fail.
I always enjoy your prose Gerard, and I miss Cassie's blog something awful. Wish she would take it up again.
Didja ever get around to writing that essay on The 'Look', Gerard?
As we've all known for centuries: You can either be right or you can be married.
The counteractant to "The List" is to be utterly indifferent to it and confident in one's own value. Women absolutely hate that; it indicates 1) a man they can't control; and 2) a man they'd sell their souls to win.
I've known women with no "List," but in these latter years of the Republic they've dwindled to a bare few. Men aren't exactly endangered by this development, but they're learning, by stages, that the time to "man up" is upon us.
"He made, in his inexperience, the classic mistake: he tried to explain. Life had not yet taught him how futile that approach is, with men and women alike. He did not know that the only respect-compelling attitude toward any accusation, true or false, is 'Take me or leave me as I am, and be damned!'" -- Frank Yerby, An Odor Of Sanctity
She never stumbles
She’s got no place to fall
She’s nobody’s child
The Law can’t touch her at all
Dylan - She Belongs To Me
It's true that many men are handcuffed and jailed in their own homes for "not having a clue". The dangerous psychological and manipulative bat she uses is simply not seen in our new age society as the assault weapon that it truly is. She, as the pitiful victim, is justified and empowered by her omni-feminist goddesses to disrespect and lash out, and he is warned again and again that he had better not defend himself in any way.
The LIST is nothing but ephemeris.
Two simple responses to it halt it like the military shout GAS!" Is that a wrinkle? Hmmm, those shorts don't fit like they did last year.
When that frog hops across the lawn, up to your lawn chair, saying "Kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful Princess." Your proper response is, "Oh no, I'd rather have a talking frog!"
I grew up with a household of listkeeping womenfolk.
My grandmother had her honeydew list, and my mother kept my shrivel-spined father in line with her list, and my sister's list....do NOT get me started. When my mother died, my father remarried a woman with a list so long that I not only got on that list, but am still on it, even after they divorced and went their separate ways. My mother's mother (we were never allowed to call her grandmother) had a list and when she crossed you off it, it meant there was a large and horrible bill to pay, like the ostentatious, expensive flowers she sent to my mother's funeral...and the bill to my father.
Oh yes, there are listkeepers in my family.
The moment I realized I was a list keeper was over some trivial thing, and I heard this harping voice come out of my head, followed by the crash of hairbrush against the wall, nearly missing my new husband's head.
After I picked up the shards of plastic and saw the look of horror on my husband's face, I burned that mental list and replaced it with gratitude.
Not always easy, but a better sort of list, to be sure.
Thousands of jokes have been made about women running home to Mother when things weren't going right with their husbands. In my case, it was my husband of approximately 2 years, who went running to my Mother. Listen guys, if you are dealing with a strong, opinionated, independent woman, you do not go running to her Mother to solve a problem. Whatever had caused our original tiff was magnified to full scale war. My husband was looking for insight from my own Mother on how to "handle" me. Being handled was not then nor is it now on my agenda.
My Mother, appalled at being asked to be involved in what she considered a private affair none of her business, gave my husband the following advice: your wife is a very complicated person, you are a simple man, do not try to understand her. Just love her and make sure she knows that each and every day, no matter how mad she is or you are. And remember, no matter how angry she might seem to be with you, she would fight to the death to protect you from outsiders, can you convince her you would do the same for her, because if not, you should hang it up now.
I only know of this conversation, because later, my Mother raked me over the coals for allowing my husband to doubt how much I truly cared for him. She gave me a lesson on how to make little moments where I could reinforce his ego and reassure him in his insecure areas. I'm ashamed to admit that at that time in my life, it never occurred to me that males were ever insecure about anything. Yeah, yeah, I was in my early 20s. She then really let me have it, telling me that there was more than one way for a person to exhibit their intelligence. She reminded me that I picked him, not for his academic achievement or degrees, but because he filled a very big gap in my own ability. My husband was a genius with his hands. He could design and make anything, he could turn packing crates into beautiful furniture, brass big gun shells into artwork, piles of used bricks into patios and BBQs. A real junkyard dog who could look at a pile of crap and see something beautiful, with the famous words, just a little tweaking. She reminded me that he was doing these things to please me and that I was not giving them their proper due.
Lists, forget it. Being with someone who keeps lists is impossible. I've been with list keeping men and before long you feel like a whore. There is nothing worse than a man who thinks because he did X, Y, Z you owe him A, B, C. If you go thru a relationship keeping count, you'll end up hating each other.
But let's do ask the big question: why women feel the need to rely on the list. I say women instintively recognize patterns, especially dangers and or insecurities - for whatever evolutionary reason.. It's just built in - it's innate, not voluntary. If a woman has been hurt or traumatized, it's only natural she'll be even more cautious. I won't apologize for being that way - it makes me a vigilant and engaged mother - kids are so vulnerable, never more than these days of social networking, cyber-bullying, texting and sexting, etc. But I will admit, it CAN wear a man down. If the relationship SURVIVES long enough, both the man and the woman can push through to a better place - but it has to be mutual. The nicer we are to the men, the sooner they realize we're always right. haha. I prove it to Hubs on a DAILY BASIS and as long as we have sex, he's fine with it! Not that he always follows my stern advice and if my kids and I survive his defiance, we'll be lucky! But I get the satisfaction of being right and he gets.. satisfaction. ;) It's all about mutual SURRENDER! haha. And it's taken me 20 years of marriage to figure that one out.
List , I never had a list until I read this article or so I thought. I've never laughed so heartily. I buried that man of mine three years ago after forty years of marriage. I still remember the give and take. Thanks,Gerard
As I explained to my then-new bride long ago, "Darling, this is as good as I get. The first day that you can do better, I'd advise you to move on."
That was in about 1973. We're still married.
Thanks, Gerard. Great piece.
Somewhere in my piles I have the 1967 version of Maxwell Maltz's Psycho-Cybernetics, published by Melvin Powers. In his foreward, the wingtip bespectacled Powers predicted that women were becoming more mannish, and men more womanish, and that this was going to . . . . oh. Cause problems.
My take on your piece:
Splendide soir à vous tous ,
Pour commencer , permettez-moi de vous démontrer ma gratitude pour toutes les très intéressantes informations que j'ai lues sur cet impressionnant forum .
Je ne suis pas certaine d'être au meilleur section mais je n'en ai pas vu de meilleure .
J'habite à Richmond, canada . J'ai 43 ans et j'éduque cinq très gentils enfants qui sont tous âgés entre neuf et 16 ans (1 est adopté). J'aime bien beaucoup les animaux de compagnie et je tempte de leur présenter les articles qui leur rendent l'existance plus splendide.
Je vous remercie dors et déjà pour toutes les très pertinentes délibérations à venir et je vous remercie de votre compassion pour mon français moins que parfait: ma langue maternelle est l'espagnol et je tempte de m'enseigner mais c'est très ardu !
A la prochaine
I fine-tuned my jerk-o-meter and threw all the lists away. A whole lot less work.
Might I add that the List doesn't require a sexual relationship. Women supervisors of male employees also have a List.
Reading through all these comments, I have to say I like Jewel's from last year the best: "I burned that mental list and replaced it with gratitude."
So was there ever an essay on "The Stare," Gerard? You promised an essay. I may have to put you on my list...
The best damn thing I read in a while - I must have missed one of the original postings.
I always pictured The List as The Quiver, in which my two ex-wives kept arrows, tipped with venomous, bitter, resentment, loathing, and contempt for every wrong, real or imagined, that I had committed or omitted. They were able to whip out any given arrow with the speed of light and send into a vital and vulnerable area before defense could be raised. My armor grew to be impervious, my heart indifferent. They're gone, someone else's problem, and I'm going fishing.