October 23, 2007

The List

listgraph.jpgAs 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." It's 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."

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Posted by Vanderleun at October 23, 2007 9:51 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

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.

Posted by: Julie c at October 23, 2007 11:35 AM

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.

Posted by: Julie c at October 23, 2007 11:45 AM

Uh oh, sounds like Vanderleun screwed up big time. LOL. Whadja do?

Posted by: Sara at October 23, 2007 12:27 PM

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.

Posted by: Roderick Reilly at October 23, 2007 12:33 PM

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.

Posted by: vanderleun at October 23, 2007 12:49 PM

OK, Gerard...where the Hell were you 40 years ago when I could have clearly benefited from this fine piece of work? ;-)

Posted by: Buck at October 23, 2007 12:50 PM


That's so true, it shouldn't be funny.

Posted by: pdwalker at October 23, 2007 1:24 PM

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....

Posted by: Lance de Boyle at October 23, 2007 4:18 PM

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.

Posted by: Patty at October 23, 2007 7:46 PM

Somebody needs Dr. Laura's book, "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands". or "The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage."

Posted by: Joyce at October 23, 2007 7:56 PM

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.

Dan Patterson
Arrogant Infidel

Posted by: Dan Patterson at October 24, 2007 5:12 AM

There's a corallary view to this:

The scene... The 'All Guys, Everywhere' meeting.

"Come to order, sort of...All rise"
(Everybody rises)
"Repeat after me...It's all my fault."
"It's All My Fault."
"Meeting adjourned."

Posted by: ed in texas at October 24, 2007 11:11 AM

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.

Posted by: Connecticut Yankee at October 24, 2007 3:21 PM

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.

Posted by: Dishman at October 26, 2007 1:05 AM

Read the whole thing again while channeling the sound of Ron White reading this like it was a routine. Gold.

Posted by: mezzrow at October 26, 2007 12:18 PM

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.

Posted by: AskMom at October 26, 2007 2:28 PM

What is sad is the author of this blog cannot even clearly see the anti-woman drivel she/he is spewing.


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.]

Posted by: Lou Vckell at October 27, 2007 4:43 AM

Looks to me like it is time to pull out the "The Vanderleun Apology".

Posted by: Gecko at October 27, 2007 12:32 PM

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.

Posted by: vanderleun at October 28, 2007 9:40 AM

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.

Posted by: Levans at October 29, 2007 7:04 AM

"I'm a man, and I can change, if I have to, I guess."

Posted by: Mikey NTH at October 29, 2007 12:45 PM

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.)

Posted by: David Elton at October 31, 2007 4:50 PM

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

Posted by: B. Durbin at November 3, 2007 2:21 PM

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)

Posted by: vw bug at November 13, 2007 3:29 AM

The apology was priceless!

Posted by: ChrisA at November 18, 2007 11:13 AM
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