Those four words. Like dogs to a high-pitched whistle and flies to mortally electrifying light, they render the same degree of involuntary response among North American men. We are brought to our knees reeling in pain as those words make ruthless contact between our legs.
They come as we are spooning after making love to our partner. Or while we’re hand-in-hand for a lovely stroll at sunset through botanical gardens; the sound of songbirds and the smell of flowers filling the air. Or when we’re sipping lattes after a glutinous, ostentatious breakfast sharing the Sunday Times, periodically breaking the comfortable silence to offer musings on the week’s news.
Out of the blue, instead of savouring these serene, emotionally uncontroversial moments of bliss for what they are, for no good reason the four words are unleashed, grazing insensitively at the most tender side of unsuspecting, fully descended testicles.
“What are you thinking?”
Ohhhh gaaawddd *knees buckling*
Where in the living hell did that drop-kick in the pants come from? And for Christ’s sake, why? What does it matter?
We’ve just made love. To make sure my role in the affair extended longer than a commercial break, I may have had to deploy radical counter-measures to fend off premature detonation of missile warheads. This possibly involved tapping into childhood memories of larger mammals mating on Jacques Cousteau or National Geographic. There could have been thoughts of grannies playing Twister in their over-sized underwear, or naked old men juggling puppies.
You know how long it will take to incinerate those despicable images from my mind? You couldn’t just let us spoon in relative peace. Next time, I’m letting my missile blow wherever and whenever the hell it feels like it.
As we have our breakfast, I am reminded of a YouTube video of a dog at the table wearing a hoodie stuffing his breakfast into his face with human hands. Oh god was that funny! He was eating scrambled eggs just like me – but way funnier! Because he was a dog and had hands! Get it! A DOG! HA HA HA!!
I see yellow daffodils and think of Sponge Bob and Patrick getting drunk on ice cream and coke floats, then trashing his pineapple home; the fact that Squidward’s face looks a lot like a dude’s package.
That is basically what I am thinking. The thoughts don’t diminish my lapping up of the experience.
So, why you gotta ruin a good moment like that?
“Um, what?” is what I actually say instead.
Oh yeah, I heard the question. How could I not? My testicles have been catapulted to my spleen.
But I need to buy some time so I pretend I didn’t hear. I need to clear the cobwebs and muster up something pithy to say, and quick. These moments call for pith, don’t they? Or is it mirth?
Do you not know how hard it is to come up with good pith and mirth after I’ve been schtupping? How can I think when I’ve just had enough sausages, eggs, pancakes, ham slices, hash browns, and bacon to feed a rhino? Think of how stupid rhinos are. You wouldn’t ask a rhino how it was feeling, would you?
As we stroll in the garden I am being eaten alive by mosquitoes, who seem more attracted to me than the livestock in nearby farms. It’s as though they’ve learned their favourite drink – Venti African Dark Latte – is being given away for free on this night. I am trying to keep my shit together without jumping in the fountain to spare myself the onslaught.
You look like a snow cone to mosquitoes. No mosquito in the world likes a 7-Up-flavoured Slurpee. The little bastards know where the good, down-home hooch is. Those little parasites are a-comin’ to harvest some moonshine from my black ass because they only have one day to live, and they ain’t risking an early death sipping wimpy wine coolers from your pint-sized body!
On a sunset night in the garden, that’s what I’m thinking; if it can be so called. It’s not exactly romantic. It’s not going to make you bat your lashes quite like, ‘I’m thinking of how wonderful it is to be with you’ or ‘I feel lucky,’ or ‘I wish we could walk in the park like this every night.’
Believe me, I think those things. Well, in a roundabout way, I do. All the time, in fact. Sometimes, at least. Just not at this particular moment. At the moment you ask, the thoughts can be a little, well, romantically underwhelming.
“I saaa-id, ‘what are you thinking?'”
“Oh, nothing. Just enjoying the moment. Why?”
“No reason. Love you.”
And then you go to sleep/keep walking in the garden/take a sip of coffee. A masterful deflection. Right?
I bet every dude reading this is agreeing, while every woman is shaking her head. I know, I know. I really want to be better at this shit. I want to find a way to enjoy that boot to my junk. But it’s just so – I don’t know … begging me to lie. I am a terrible liar. I get twitchy and stupid.
Wait. Is this a test of my creativity? Am I supposed to lie really awesome and romantic-like?
One time after the question I said ‘oh nothing, really.’ Oops. Really? No. Not ‘really.’ Nothing. I was thinking nothing at all. Well, nothing I wouldn’t be ashamed of, anyway. After that stupid slip, I was a Taliban captive at Guantanamo, having the hairs on my testicles removed by tugging them off, one-by-one until I coughed up some intelligence about the inner workings of my mind.
Okay, I had a bad week at the office, and yeah, sometimes I do feel kind of insecure in relation to other dudes. Damn! That wasn’t what I was thinking about. I was thinking about how funny it would be if Sponge Bob and Kermit the Frog were getting fisted by Miss Piggy.
I cracked like a fat kid to a pile of Twinkies. I just handed crucial intelligence to the infidel. I revealed a way through the posturing, macho façade my brothers and I have masterfully erected to keep our emotional secrets hidden in our man-caves. Now she has a target to launch drone strikes and blow my little emotionally-stunted jihadis out of their repressed hiding places.
I will get revenge against the infidel, my brethren. Do not worry. I will buy some jewellery, a dozen roses, take her to dinner, and let her choose the romantic comedy for movie night. Then I will give her a back rub, and light a trail of scented candles that lead her to her pillow, upon which there will be two exquisite chocolates on it – less than the six I started with, because chocolate is my heroin and I had four as I was lighting the candles.
I will not resort to playing Barry White music and offering to dance at the bedside. That much North American romantic cliché in one day will have destroyed what little remains of my soul. A man must be able to enter the cave of brothers with his head held high.
I will never forget the jeers I received when I opined over beers and golf that The Notebook wasn’t bad, and another time when I described the colour of eggplant as aubergine. Come on guys, it ain’t purple. So, there will be no Barry White. Sorry, Barry White, it’s not you, it’s me.
So, having showered you with campy bribes to weaken your mental defences, I’ll get even by asking the male equivalent of those four words. “So, am I, you know, uh, compared to your past ones, relatively speaking, of course, bigger, average, or, uh, you know, uh, smaller. Down there, I mean? (Me, pointing to my penis)”
On second thought, maybe Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men was right. I’m not sure I want the truth because I really can’t handle the truth.
The thing is. Well, see, the thing is, I have a hamster in my mind. I have ADD. He’s always running on his wheel up there, especially when he’s content. But when you introduce unexpected emotional depth at random?
Hell breaks loose. He tries to run away the little idiot. But he’s on a wheel, so instead the heat builds up until metal fatigue throws the wheel off its moorings and it abruptly ceases spinning upon hard contact with the ground. The fleeing hamster is sent flying into the side of his cage. He is woozy and groggy, wondering what hit him.
That’s what happens when you ask “so, what are you thinking?” You send hammy running for the hills.
That is when my fear you’ll discover the sad, puerile nature of my pet rodent-like mind will scare you off. Yes, the hamster runs in place on his wheel, even when he’s accompanied by a beautiful woman. He can’t help it. He’s a bloody hamster.
He’s on the wheel to stay happy. It will calm his emotions down so his head doesn’t explode. But sometimes a stupid thought pops into his mind that he simply can’t ignore. Like the scene from This is 40 when Melissa McCarthy, Paul Rudd, and Leslie Mann are in the Principal’s office to clear up a bullying issue with their kids. McCarthy threatens “to rear up and jackknife my legs and kick you both in the fucking jaw with my foot bone.” Oh my god, that was so funny.
Because I don’t want you to have proof you’re with a moron, I don’t say what’s really on my mind. My guess is there are few women who would want to hear about hamsters while on a romantic stroll in the garden.
So, erring on the side of caution, I don’t mention Sponge Bob, dogs eating breakfast, Melissa McCarthy shit-kicks, or hamster wheels. I say something else. I want you to be too invested in this relationship before I start revealing the true man-child you’re with.
“This is phenomenal. Good night, mia amore.”
And then I roll over, hoping the hamster will soon go to sleep in his comfy bed of wood shavings and poo pellets. He needs the rest for the marathon to nowhere he’ll be running again tomorrow.