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 historical 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 spreadsheet 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 transferred 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-carat 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.
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It all relates to how we learn and our long journey from baby to adult. We learn not to touch a hot stove by touching it. We learn to fight for what we want and to not start a fight we cannot win. We as humans are violent and greedy. We want what we want and will take it through violence if we can. Girls learn early on that violence doesn’t favor their cause and they learn another way. They use subterfuge, perfidy and rely on societies tendency to treat them better because they are the weaker sex. Boys don’t see this coming, they prefer either to confront their antagonists or to avoid them but they are unsuited to dealing with being ambushed by lies and social traps and once caught in this situation society assumes the worst. Anyone who has had a divorce knows that not only do women lie but they eagerly double down and have no conscience about doing it. We all know this, men know it and women know it but society continues to take the woman’s side when a man is accused. And of course men continue to act like a deer in the headlights when it happens. And as the Kavanaugh carnival proved, if the man does react in righteous anger and refuse to submit to the punishment he is then guilty of over reaction and being mean to a female. This is a game that a man can’t usually win and the women know this.
Once the aspiration of having children is removed from the equation, a balance point is quickly approached. Without children there’s little point in remaining in a relationship in which the goal posts of satisfying the other are constantly moving, if they’re achievable at all. Arguably, as has been written, it is not good for man to live alone. I would agree that to be in a harmonious, equitable relationship; this would likely be true. Where honesty and parity are absent and “the look” and “the list” are wielded as cudgels, not so much. After many failed attempts at satisfying the implacable, one realizes that life is too short and precious to worry about things beyond one’s ability to influence (see the Serenity Prayer).
Both OneGuy and Richard are right, but the only way you’ll ever learn that is to stay in the game long enough. Eventually, a couple reaches and equilibrium, where being temporary enemies is not beneficial, because in the long haul all wins by one side are losses to the team. Our only child moved out about 19 years ago and since then there has been very little arguing and almost continuous harmony. I do very little without considering the consequences, to my wife of going on 4 decades, and I believe she is the same way. In a way we have become a part of each other.
” ‘The List’ does not grow ‘even,’ it only extends.”
C’mon, Gerard, guys use this technique too. “The List” is SOP for lefty journalists, Democratic politicians, the CEOs of Twitter, Google, and Facebook, and guys who identify with any other official victim group. The one major difference is the deployment of the “lethal weapon” at specific groups of Americans or the general population rather than (or in addition to) intimate relationships (one does wonder about life in the de Blasio household sometimes).
Hey you guys pair up with those little pin headed doll babies and that is what you get. There is more to it than some skinny blond with fake tits and a lot of makeup. IOW spoiled brat women.
Hey, back in Genesis we were told Woman owed us a ribbing. It’s always payback time; may as well learn to love it.
“It is better to live in a cave than a large house with a brawling woman.”
“Who hasn’t wanted to shoot at a woman once or twice?”
~Al Swearington Season 3 of Deadwood
Women hold The List and utilize The Look against other women, too.
I’ve always reacted poorly to “the list” tactics. It tends to put me in the kind of mood where I don’t care if she stays or goes – and I communicate exactly that in response.
Still as true today as it was in Eden. “Women ruin everything.”
“Women hold The List and utilize The Look against other women, too.”
A new couple moved into the ‘ville and the wife was with child which was delivered without incident in June. We knew in advance, and that it would be a gurl so my wife promptly ordered some gurly Onesies from amazon and took them over there right after she was born, gave them to the husband.
A month later we’re sitting on the porch and I can “feel” my wife fuming about something so I say, “What’s bothering you?” Without looking at me, just staring in the distance, she says, “I can’t believe she didn’t send a card.”
(pause, while running back thru my mental Rolodex)
“A card for what?”
“A Thank You card for the outfits I gave to her for Hazel.”
“Is that why you gave her the outfits, so that you would get a Thank You card?”
She glared at me and said, “Of course not.”
Then I told her the husband thanked me last week when I was walking past their place.
“Still, that is no excuse. All women learn early on that you ALWAYS send a thank you card. It’s always been that way.”
(another pause for reflection)
“You know, they’re young folk and things have changed a lot since we were their ages, maybe that’s just not the thing to do these days.”
She got up from the chair and said over her shoulder as she was heading inside, “You’re not helping.”
The door wasn’t slammed but was closed coldly, if that’s possible.
More and more I am becoming my father in law who was married to the same woman for 60 years and died 10 years ago. He never said anything against his wife in her presence. He had learned long ago that there is nothing to be gained by doing so. I am still struggling with my helpful nature in thinking that I can help my wife think through her problems. But the problem with that route is that her problems are HER problems and not solvable by me. Though I keep trying….
I’ll never be exactly like my FIL I guess.
By suppertime we were back on the same page.
I don’t think that this is true for all women, all over the globe.
My late wife was enough Japanese that she had much of that races female attitude. Which was nice.
God I miss her.
Gerard, what you have written here is a major element of the Family of Truths Not To Be Spoken. A man who desires domestic peace must acknowledge it internally only, for to express it aloud guarantees him the enmity of the entire Y-chromosome-deficient half of our species unto the furthest reach of Eternity.
Go armed at all times, my friend. It’s become necessary for your continued existence.
Mr. Porretto is correct in his comments although I would offer one modification. The acknowledgment should remain internal except when it can be covertly shared with one’s male offspring, so he might understand the concept of The List and how to operate within the rules of engagement.
My wife of almost 30 years had such a list early on. After many iterations of “I cannot reasonably be expected to read your mind”, “tell me clearly what you want me to do or not do”, and “I can hardly be held accountable for crap that happened 6 months ago”, we came to an accommodation. I kept explaining to her that we are a team and that it is counter-productive for either of us to win while the other loses: how can that be an effective way to form a loving and trusting relationship? Oddly enough, I was a road warrior for 6 long years and my wife found Dr. Laura Schlesinger. What a profound difference that made. To be sure, I had to resist the temptation to complain that her actions are different that what might have been, especially when the results are acceptable. We are almost mirrors of each other now and have a wonderful life; I really don’t know how I would live without her.
My travels as a military brat/veteran have taken me to the four corners of the earth. The List seems to apply primarily to females of the western persuasion. I have found generally that foreign women treat us like gold, especially in male-dominated cultures. And there’s no generation gap.
Women may have a plan but it is my observation that men mellow over time while women become post menopausal and embittered. Men are generally happier than women. I don’t know why but it just might have something to do with the list thing and that women hold onto things that irritate them while men settle it one way or another and forget it.
Some borrowed thoughts:
A Poison Tree by William Blake
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
Learning by Jose Luis Borges
…Over time you learn that words spoken in moments of anger
continue hurting throughout a lifetime.
Over time you learn that everyone can apologize,
but forgiveness is an attribute solely of great souls.
Over time you comprehend that if you have hurt a friend harshly
it is very likely that your friendship will never be the same…
But unfortunately, only over time…
Four Things That Cannot Be Recovered by Anonymous
The stone after the throw.
The word after it’s said.
The occasion after it’s missed.
The time after it’s gone.
C’est la vie!
Make that Learning by Jorge Luis Borges.
My parents have been married for 72 years. My mom’s List includes my father shutting the door on her thumb the day of their engagement. Watching my poor dad squirm over the years made me a woman who swore to never keep a List!