Sometimes, I misunderstand what people are saying. It’s not my hearing; I had it tested recently. I suspect there’s a disconnect between my ears and that part of my brain that processes words.
Take the other day, for example. The telephone on my colleague’s desk rang just as he was about to pop out for a coffee. I waved him off and took the call on his behalf.
I’m positive the caller told me his name was Peter Prawn. I heard him say so loud and clear. It wasn’t as if he was mumbling, forcing me to guess or ask him to repeat his name. At the time, I did think Prawn was an unusual surname, but I also felt it would be rude to ask a complete stranger about the origins of his name.
When my colleague returned with his coffee, I told him about the caller.
“Prawn?” he said. “I’ve been here for ages, and I’ve never had a client with that name. Are you sure he said Prawn?”
“Yep. Peter Prawn.”
“Sounds like a character from a SpongeBob SquarePants episode,” he said, a puzzled expression on his face.
A short while later, I looked up to see my colleague standing at the side of my desk, a huge grin on his face.
“You know Peter Prawn, the man who called earlier?”
“Well, it turns out his name is Peter Truong.”
I stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds, and then said: “Well, you’ve got to admit it does sound similar.”
He laughed. “Truong and Prawn are about as similar as Truong and Octopus.”
A few hours ago, the same colleague asked me if I knew the meaning of the word “mansplaining”.
“Mansplaining describes what a man does when he’s getting rid of unwanted body hair,” I said, ever so confidently.
“You mean like a bikini wax for men?”
“That and hair from other parts of his body, such as back hair and chest hair.”
“Why would any man want to remove his body hair unless he’s an elite swimmer or a drag artist or a bodybuilder?”
“I think it’s also something that some metrosexuals like to do. You know, the same guys who go for facials and manicures and carry man bags? Although that’s probably a huge generalisation.”
“Well, there must be a lot of men removing their body hair in Sweden because the government over there has set up a hair removal hotline,” he said.
“Is this some sort of joke?” I asked.
“Take a look at this,” he said, passing me his mobile phone.
I read a headline that accompanied an online news article: “Swedish women get hotline to report mansplaining”.
“Those Swedish women must really like their men hairy for their government to create such a hotline,” my colleague said.
I began reading the article. That’s when I realised that “mansplaining” has nothing to do with any sort of hair removal. I’d actually been describing “manscaping”.
Ever felt like a complete prawn?
Mansplaining is what a man does when he explains something to a woman in unnecessary detail and in a patronising or condescending manner.
I think we’ve all experienced men (and women – womansplaining?) who explain the simplest of tasks in such excruciating detail that you wonder if they think you’re a complete imbecile who knows nothing about anything.
I once worked for a man, who would explain everything to me, ad nauseam. As I listened to him telling me how to format a document, or use the coffee machine, or even how to make the perfect breakfast croissant, my brain would slowly turn to mush.
Later, after he’d run out of mansplaining material, I would wonder how many man hours he wasted every day talking about inconsequential stuff to his female staff. There was also the lost time we female morons (forons) spent trying to recover from these weary mansplaining sessions.
After a “talk” with him, I would usually return to my desk and stare into space for about 10 minutes, listening to the sound of my liquefied brain running down my nasal passages, dripping off the end of my nose and forming a little puddle on the perfectly formatted document in front of me.
There must be an awful lot of male bosses like him in Sweden to justify the government spending the money on a hotline so that women can air their mansplaining grievances.
Ironically, I find it a bit sexist that men don’t have a similar hotline to complain about female bosses and colleagues who explain the living daylights out of stuff in a holier-than-thou tone of voice. I have a friend who has a female boss who speaks to him as if she’s just stumbled over the Holy Grail and he’s just graduated from kindergarten.
By the way, foron isn’t a real word. Or at least I don’t think it is.
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