The other day, my stepmother called to console me in the wake of having had my gall bladder taken out. I appreciated the call. Who couldn't use a little consolation from time to time?
But after a few minutes on the phone talking about what was, after all, a fact about which no one could do anything, I began to feel a sense of irritation. "Oooh, Adam," she crooned more than once, "I'm so sorry." And the more she said it, the more empathetic and sensitive and caring she announced herself to be, the more I felt as if I were being put in a position where I had to console her ... poor dear, she was just so sensitive. But truth to tell, I wasn't much in the mood for consoling anyone. I had my own aches and pains to cope with.
By contrast, Bill, my stepmother's live-with of about 40 years, dropped in unannounced yesterday. "How you doing?" he asked, acknowledging that my medical situation had made the family rounds. "On the mend. Not cured, but on the mend," I said. And I asked how he was faring. And we went on to talk about the wind that had blown the shed doors off at his house in the hills not far from here. And how hard it was to find people who cared much about excellence of accomplishment. And the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And how other family members were doing.
Maybe it's a boy-girl thing, but I have met plenty of women who can express concern without begging for consolation.
I guess I just wasn't in the mood for it.