In our small Georgia town of Rincon good quality restaurants have a dismal record of making it beyond their first year, almost as if the lack of grits on the menu condemns the place to insolvency. The exception to this is a yuppie-sort-of place called Baibry’s. They make the most wonderful desserts, Panini, exotic coffees, barbecued chicken pizza! Like many big-city coffee-shops, there is even a back room where people can bring their laptops and spend hours tapping away.
One Saturday I was sitting at a table in the front room delighting in my southwestern Panini, one of my favorites. At the next table sat a couple who stared off into space while waiting for their orders when the woman suddenly asked the man, “What are you thinking?” The question caused him to startle, as if someone had just slammed a door. “What? Nothing,” he replied. This was not an acceptable answer. “What do you mean ‘nothing’? What were you feeling?!” the woman demanded. “How can you be thinking of nothing?!”
You see… what she does not realize is that we men, when ambushed while within our thoughts, reply “nothing” because we really mean that we weren’t thinking of words about the thoughts, we were simply experiencing being IN the thoughts. It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that when we think we might then need words to describe those thoughts… until we are asked to give an accounting.
Whether male or female, the human heart can sometimes become tongue-tied and unable to find the words for what is being felt. Words describing feelings arise out of reflectiveness about experience; this means that experiencing is not sufficient, we must then reflect upon what we experienced in the thoughts and try to find words that resonate with that experience. We men, being a lower life-form, generally find having the experience to be sufficient, which is why we are sometimes mute. Nonetheless, it really is necessary that all people, men included, try to understand feelings by way of naming them.
When we name feelings we give them a linguistic form that we can then examine and handle, which can help us to understand what we are feeling, better than when those feelings remain in an amorphous un-named state. The ability to communicate, not to mention “relationships”, requires that we be reflective. So guys, when a woman asks, “What are you thinking?” and you automatically draw a blank, do NOT utter, “Why don’t you tell me”. It will not turn out well.