Advice for guys

And now, a public service message for you (straight?) guys out there. This piece of advice comes from my personal experience and from conversations with girlfriends.

Here is the most pointless thing you can say to a girl with whom you have a non-platonic relationship: “Are you okay?”/”Is anything wrong?”

This question serves no useful purpose, and as such, it pisses us off. If there is nothing wrong, there is no reason to ask. If something is wrong, if it has nothing to do with you, we’re probably already going to tell you so there’s no need to ask.

Most likely, if you ask us this question, it is because YES there IS something wrong and it has to do with you… and what’s more you probably already suspect this, don’t you, otherwise why would you ask? That’s the part that drives us crazy. If you already suspect us of being mad at you, don’t tiptoe around it by asking if we are okay. Nothing fuels our irritation more. You already know the answer, so just come straight out and deal with it.

Here’s what you should do: If you think we might be annoyed with you, take a moment to ponder why this might be. I can tell you right now there are two main reasons: (1) You’ve done something wrong, (2) You’ve done something only marginally irritating, but we are annoyed at you for reasons that have to do with our larger relationship and not with the particular issue at hand. Examples of each: (1) You forgot a birthday or anniversary, (2) You didn’t wipe away your little hair-bits from the sink after shaving and this makes us think you are careless, sloppy, and inconsiderate, and therefore potentially a bad mate. The latter reaction may be irrational, yes, but get used to it. It’s not going away anytime soon.

Any guy who has been in a relationship beyond high-school level should be familiar with these two kinds of mad-at-you-ness, and be able to recognize the signs. So when you see us fuming around the apartment, just take a minute to think about what you might have done. Then you will be able to ask us a more useful question.

Good: “Are you mad at me because I didn’t clean up after shaving?” This gives us a chance to tell you what’s on our minds, without having to do an unprovoked hissy fit. There might still be a hissy fit, but at least it won’t come at you three hours later out of left field after we’ve had a chance to stew.

I should add, though, that if you’re really done something big, like forget our birthday, “Are you mad at me because ____” only serves the same purpose as “Are you mad at me?” You’d better skip straight to the

Best version of the question: “I’m really sorry I didn’t clean up after shaving. I know I always forget to do that, but I’ll try to remember in future.” This statement acknowledges that you have annoyed us and that you know why, and the promise to behave in future pre-empts our anger and prevents us from having to blow up at you this time. This is good for all parties involved (but it had better not be an empty promise).

I have theories about why the “are you okay” question bothers us so much, but they’re too complicated to get into here. The bottom line is that the old cliché is true: if you don’t know why we’re mad at you, we’re not going to tell you. If you demonstrate, however, that you are able to make an educated guess, we will be less mad and more open to explaining ourselves. So please take this advice to heart, guys, and don’t ask this silly question. And if you do find yourself asking it, don’t say I didn’t warn you when there’s a giant blow-up hissy fit afterward.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]