What Are You Thinking?
Today my wife asked me, “What are you thinking?”
There is usually no good answer to this question. Years ago, I heard a comedian say that when his girlfriend asked him what he was thinking, he responded with: “If I wanted you to know what I was thinking, I’d be talking.” The audience laughed, but even as I laughed too, I knew responding that way was a bad idea (unless a guy doesn’t care about his girlfriend).
Women sometimes ask “What are you thinking?” during quiet moments, but women might not really want to know what a man is thinking. If guys answered honestly about what they were thinking, the women asking the question would likely get disgusted. The women who wouldn’t get disgusted probably aren’t the type to ask, “What are you thinking?”
Men sometimes get thrown off by the “What are you thinking?” question because it seems random. It comes out of nowhere. Maybe if women prepared men for the question ahead of time, men would be more likely to answer. Maybe women could say something like, “In a couple minutes, I’m going to ask you what you’re thinking.” Then maybe men would be ready. Maybe the answer would even be honest.
When my wife asked me, “What are you thinking?” it was not a random question. My wife does not ask random questions.
My wife and I are buying a house, and we’re going to close on it in a couple weeks. There are inspections coming up and then more papers to sign and a bunch of contractors coming in, and there are a bunch of numbers involved. My wife was sitting at the computer adding more numbers to a spreadsheet, and I stood and watched her add numbers. Watching somebody add numbers to a spreadsheet is mind numbing, even if you love the person who is adding the numbers. I’ve always thought one person should add the numbers and then call the other person in when the numbers are done. That’s how I do it when I’m the one doing the spreadsheet. But when my wife does it, I have to stand by her and watch (or pretend to watch).
While I pretended to watch, my mind wandered a little bit. I have a couple writing projects that I’m working on, and I started thinking about them. I won’t discuss them right now because that’s not the point. I was supposed to be paying attention to my wife adding numbers to the computer spreadsheet, and instead I was thinking about my writing.
Then out of the blue, my wife asked, “What are you thinking?”
It was more like a statement than a question. She wasn’t really asking me for my spontaneous thoughts; she wanted to know if the numbers added up and if they were within our budget. Was there anything missing? Could we afford the house with these numbers? That’s what I should have been thinking about. That’s what I should have been paying attention to. Instead, I was thinking about my writing. But if I had admitted that I was thinking about my writing, it would have led to an unnecessary argument with my wife, and that would have meant less time to write later.
“It looks good, but I need some time to think about it,” I said.
That sounded like something I would say if I had been paying attention. I’m a deliberate thinker. I always want more time think about stuff. I probably need too much time to think about stuff. The problem was that if I was going to use that as my excuse, I’d better actually look at the numbers. So I willed the writing out of my mind and inspected the numbers for a few minutes. I even found an expense that my wife had forgotten about. I’m glad that my wife forgot about that expense and that I later remembered it. It demonstrated to her that I was paying attention to the details, even though I had a momentary lapse.
I was lucky this time, but my mind can wander any time. If my wife ever decides to ask “What are you thinking?” then I need to have a new answer prepared. I probably can’t use the same answer twice. My wife is too smart for that. Should I just admit that I was thinking about my writing? Should I claim that I was thinking about football? I usually think about football when I’m not thinking about my writing. I’m probably fortunate that my wife doesn’t ask me “What are you thinking?” very often.