Professor's House

Don’t Poke the Bear—You Won’t Like the Result!

Poke the Bear

I can only chalk it up to the fact that we men fancy ourselves to be daredevils. We like the thrill of the chase, of pushing the envelope just a little bit further than is actually safe. I’m not sure who we’re trying to impress, but if we are completely honest, we would all admit that we do it.

We know we shouldn’t “poke the bear”. We know that he is bigger and stronger than we are, and his retribution is always fiercer than the blow we attempted to deliver. Yet we are drawn irresistibly to delivering that one little jab regardless of what the consequences may be.  And we know that consequences are coming.  We’ve never poked the bear before and come away unscathed.

Is it a death wish that compels us to ask our wives if maybe they’ve put on a little bit of weight recently? Maybe even slipping in a few “terms of endearment” such as “chunky monkey” and “love handles” just to sweeten up the query?  After all, who could be mad about being described as a “chubby bunny”?  Cute, right?  Your face still stings from the slap across the face you took for that “innocent” comment.

While some of our best “work” is reserved for conversations with our wives, we don’t limit our poking the bear to just family.  Maybe you’ve attempted to correct your boss’ spelling.  Or worse, MADE FUN OF IT…and publicly. Yeah, that’s a bear you don’t want to mess with because your income is attached to his reaction.  You learned quickly that that bear’s bite is fatal.

Why do men like to “poke the bear”?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I can’t decide if we men are a) really badly misunderstood (because come on, IT WAS JUST A QUESTION!), b) everyone else around is just wayyyyyyy too sensitive, or c) we are idiots. I don’t dare ask my wife’s opinion on this matter.  She’s still kind of ticked because last week I told her that we were going to need a bigger vehicle to house all the makeup she was packing for our weekend vacation to New England. I KNOW!  Funny, right?  She didn’t see it that way.

I have to be honest, I’m totally befuddled when it comes to this matter. So, I took some time to take a poll of sorts amongst my fellow bear pokers to see if we could come to some sort of consensus as to what it is about us that draws us to do and say things that though well-intended on our behalf are often not as well-received.

Here is my list of reasons why men like to poke the bear:

We think we’re hilarious.

Deep within every guy is the desire to be a standup comic. We know we’re funny; we crack up our guy friends all the time. Get out of the way Kevin James and Chris Rock, your jobs are in jeopardy with the bear pokers on the scene!

So, why is it that our wives don’t seem to “get” our humor?

Guy humor can be a little “different”, I guess. I’m starting to discover that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t really understand it because the things I say have the guys rolling on the floor laughing every time we meet to blow off some steam after work. Clearly, I’m funny.  Clearly, YOU’RE funny. So, why did my wife not get it when I said the only thing that would help the current state of the kitchen is a bomb? She seemed rather insulted by that. I thought it was funny AND accurate. 

We think that EVERYONE else thinks we are hilarious.

You would think that being swiped by the bear one or two times would be sufficient to teach us a lesson.  NOPE.  We just assume if other people aren’t laughing at our comments it’s simply because we’ve got the wrong audience.  It couldn’t possibly be that we aren’t funny.  WE ARE FUNNY.  YOU HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR.  This is how we think.  It’s really just simple math. 

We honestly want to know the answer to the question.

Yet sometimes, we aren’t trying to be funny with the things we say. There are times when a guy just wants a simple answer to a simple question. So we put it out there. We ask our wives if they MEANT for their hair to look that way.  What’s wrong with that?  Simply trying to be helpful.  If that’s the style the lady was going for, she achieved it in spades. We’re not up on the latest hair trends for women.  We don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.  We just know what WE like, and we’re trying to be helpful, so you don’t go out the door looking like an idiot.  No thanks necessary.

We haven’t clearly thought through what we’re about to say before we say it.

Guys are generally very logical. Common sense comes quite naturally to us. Because of this, we don’t really see the need to think before we speak. We assume that everyone is going to understand that we mean no harm, and we are simply expressing our thoughts as they occur to us.  No malice there. Just blunt, direct honesty.  We like it, and we assume that you like it too.

So, we’re kind of taken aback when people take offence to things we say.  After all, we didn’t give it much consideration.  We just said it.  Half the time, we don’t even remember what we said.  It is why we get so good at saying apologies. We don’t remember the conversation; we just know that you’re mad, and we don’t want you to be mad any more.  Saying sorry makes you LESS mad which means we might get supper.  So, we say sorry.  And in that moment, we do think that next time we should maybe not just open our mouths and let the verbal diarrhea spill right out unfiltered.  But we’re guys.  We just keep on keeping on the way we have all of our lives.  Common sense says it’s the right thing to do. 

Our feelings don’t get hurt easily, so we figure no one else’s do either.

Guys aren’t really known for nursing hurt feelings. We speak very directly to each other, and we see the humor in the things we say.  If a guy asked his wife if she was off to clown college for the day as a means to communicate that her makeup is a little too intense this morning, another guy would find that completely hilarious. We really don’t understand why you don’t.

We are not that articulate.

Let’s face it; we’re guys. We don’t use flowery language, and we don’t take offence at words. We say what we mean as plainly as we can. But sometimes the words we choose carry more potent meanings for the people who hear what we have to say. And this gets us in trouble.

When we say that you look “fine”, that’s what we mean.  You look acceptable to go out in public.  No one is going to make fun of you or mistake you for a Smurf. To us, this is great.  We really don’t understand the grilling to get to the deeply hidden sentiment behind why we chose the word “fine”.  It’s a perfectly acceptable word that is self-explanatory.  No hidden motives.  YOU LOOK FINE.

We value the truth.

Guys don’t like to waste time.  We don’t engage in endless hours of conversation with our guy friends. To us, words are quite utilitarian.  You use the least amount of words to convey precisely what you need to communicate.  It’s simply wasteful to use more words than that, and we don’t have the time for it. We don’t love talking, and we don’t sit around analyzing feelings.  After all, there are more important things to do and to think about such as what’s for lunch.

Guys like the truth, and we don’t like it prettied up.  Put it to me straight, man.  That’s how I like it.  So, it’s very confusing to us that people want us to use the “sandwich” method when communicating with them.  We don’t understand the “good then the bad topped off with more good” approach to conversation.  We skip the bread and get right to the meat.  “Your dress makes you look like a sausage stuffed in a skin.”  That is exactly what you look like.  It is bad; you need to fix it.  This is how we think.  Nothing, but the facts, ma’am.

We like the reaction we get.

Guys can kind of be like dogs. We respond well to positive reinforcement.  If we’ve said something to you before and you’ve laughed, we’re gonna do it again.  And again.  And again.  We need very little encouragement for a repeat performance.

We assume our wives have senses of humor and can take a little good-natured ribbing.  We just don’t seem to have that sensitivity part quite down pat, and sometimes we just don’t know when to quit.  Be patient with us; we’re a work in progress.

The truth is we’re harmless.  We never intend to hurt anyone’s feelings, and we’re always quite perplexed when we do.  We like to poke the bear, and we’re always confused when we send in a finger and pull back a stump.

Men like to poke the bear; of this, there is no doubt. But our intentions are always pure, and we don’t mean any harm.  In the mean time, we’re sorry for the things we’ve said and the things that we will say.  We’ll work on it.

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