columnBy Maggie Mzumara
"Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast." So said one, Marlene Dietrich.
I may struggle to remember my bank account number which I use every other week, but I remember with exact clarity the first wrong my husband did me, all those seventeen years ago when we got married. I may not remember the alarm password but the exact shirt my husband wore when we had such and such argument and his words verbatim, I can recall them with a razor sharp memory and say them even in my sleep. I remember wrongs of ten plus years like it was yesterday. But somehow the good eludes me. The presents bought and the compliments passed, just quickly slide like water on a duck. The same way the wrongs I have done him are somehow bit more difficult for me to remember, yet so easy to tuck away in unreachable memory.
Hey, I am no angel. I am a woman. We remember stuff, albeit selectively. Get it! As women are we proud of this? Do we wear this like some badge of honour? No, not necessarily.
I posted the above message by Marlene Dietrich on my Facebook wall last week as an ideal I wished to reach and uphold: "Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast," and the messages in response that came to my inbox from fellow women were overwhelming. I guess this hits such a certain spot in women that it's not surprising many of them felt they wanted to inbox privately rather than share publicly on the wall their thoughts and experiences on this.
This is one area us sisters are so prone to: dredging up past deeds and serving them over and over. Bringing past wrongs in any which way for a relevant or not relevant issue and just dishing it all out willy nilly. I can see how it happens - some things these darned men of ours do are so darning darned, we just can't let go of it. We store stuff and nurse hurts longer. Not that it's any excuse for mucking up arguments with the moment's emotions laced with residual feelings and thoughts from arguments long past.
Many of the women who inboxed me felt that Marilyn Dietrich's words, while great advice, were a hard act to master. Some said this was "easier said than done".
You see boys, what happens is that some of the things you do to us are so heart-renching that no matter how much we try that is all that fills our minds, our hearts, our vision. Such that when you buy me those new clothes I am busy thinking - why is he buying me this? Why is he being nice, is it because he has done something bad? Is he feeling guilty and trying to butter me up? Has he started cheating again...? Especially if you are not always nice. Your wrongs just cloud everything else, in our minds. Our memories, especially on wrongs done to us, are so long. Too long. They can date back decades.
And it's not as if we are saints. We acknowledge we wrong our men, but somehow have to dig deep to recall our own sins. Is it a good thing? No, many of us know it's not good, but, you know, I don't know.
Someone has said that it is in the way we are wired. To understand us and our penchant for hoarding all wrongs done to us, one has to appreciate the differences in thinking between men and women. While men are compartmental in thinking - they keep everything separate as illustrated in that insurance advert we watch here from South Africa. Men keep things separate. Apparently they have a separate box for stuff - a box for finances, a box for work; a box for sex, a box for soccer, and even a box for nothing - for when he just wants to chill and not worry about anything without being bothered by wife, kids and anybody else.
This is the very reason why a man, who is in the middle of grieving his passed on mother, will still seek his wife out for some sexual activity on that very day. Apparently the grieving can be shelved in its own box and so will not affect the sexual activity box. The boxes don't touch, we are made to understand. So contents do not overspill and affect each other.
On the other hand, we women have connected wires for brains. Everything touches everything else. An argument on finances can result in frozen intimate relations. A fight about the toilet seat being left up, can result in no supper being cooked for that evening. One event affects or sanctions another totally unlikely event. And in the same way, all the past wrongs are connected in some wire that can upon demand be instantly reproduced in a highly interconnected manner. "This is the same things you did when John started school in 2002 and after my mother came visiting Christmas last year you said... just like when .... that is why..." So no supper tonight and by the way I have closed shop, just so you know, I am going to have a headache come night time, so don't even think about it.
Inter-connectivity! If all IT networks ran on wires as efficient at recall as ours, no Internet user would complain of inaccessible or unavailable documents. On the "woman's wire", files are accessible! Certain files, I daresay.
In as much as men would do well to try and appreciate how women are wired and why women do certain things or think a certain way, as women we too should try and understand how the men also think. It is a two-way street, and yes, it does take two to tango. And once we know how it is so, we are better able to understand why it is so. This way we don't just react impetuously but respond empathetically to presenting issues and challenges in our relationships. Tough yes, but that is the standard to thrive for.
But men, just so you know, forgiving is not necessarily forgetting. Forgetting takes a bit longer and a bit more. Get it.