What Are You Thinking?
-- by John Scalzi
The question this time, from the men's side of the table: what should you
do when the women you're with asks you: "What are you thinking?"
Every male in the world has had to deal with this question, which is more
often than not uncorked at entirely inappropriate times, such as when you
are watching sports, locked in a passionate embrace, or reeling in a feisty
marlin from the Gulf of Mexico. Regardless of what you're doing, you must
come up with a complete and satisfactory answer, or stand accused of Hiding
Your True Feelings. Which means, of course, you'll spend the next week
pretending to be sorry. So you've got to come up with something. And it
had better be good.
Now, the obvious question here is: WHY do women want to know what we're
thinking? Simple: They assume we're thinking in the first place. Hard to
believe, but there it is.
Why on earth would they think that? Well, go up to a woman and ask her what
she is thinking. I have just done so with my wife, and this is what she is
"Off the top of my head, I'm thinking about the party we're having Saturday,
and how I'm going to fix that chandelier in the front room so that people
can walk around without hitting their heads. Underneath that I'm thinking
about my work schedule this week and whether or not I'm going to have time
to do some of the things I need to do at home as well. And under that I'm
wondering if it's too late to get tickets on a plane to Ohio for Christmas.
AND I'm thinking about getting a snack."
Not only is she thinking about something, she's thinking about four separate
things. If I check back in five minutes, she'll still be thinking. Women
are always thinking, and often about practical things.
Men, on the other hand, are actively thinking for about five minutes out of
every hour (usually not in sequence). So, at best, you have a one in 12
chance of catching a man actually having a thought. What are we thinking
3. Steve Miller tunes
5. "Beavis and Butthead"
8. The black unknowable nothingness that frames our existence, and
whether a benevolent and omnipotent higher power can possibly
exist within it (or Beer)
In summary, randomly asking a man what he's thinking has precisely a 8.83%
chance of turning up a real, verifiable, honest-to-God thought. You might
as well bet on the New York Jets. Sound harsh, guys? Fine. Quick -- what
are you thinking? Had to think about it, didn't you. You lose. Sit down.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that men, in fact, are almost never
thinking, women will still demand to know their innermost thoughts. In a
way, it's touching; women are expressing faith that, if prodded long enough
and frequently enough, they may yet boost the number of times we think in an
hour. And they will. Unfortunately, most of what we'll be thinking is
"stop asking me what I'm thinking." And that's just going to get us in
The best way to keep a woman from constantly asking you what you are
thinking is to have a ready, pre-memorized answer for the times that she
does. Here are some tried and true responses, with the pros and cons of
"I'm thinking that tonight it'd be nice to stay at home and sit by the fire
Pros: Romantic; Sounds as if you're spontaneous.
Cons: Requires fireplace (or a cement floor and ventilation); Romantic
moments often prompt even more "What are you thinking" queries.
"I'm thinking how much I love you."
Pros: Generally provokes a positive response that short circuits any need
for further conversation; Is often also true.
Cons: If you use it too much, she'll know it's a line, and then you're
really in trouble.
"I was wondering if there is actually life on other planets."
Pros: Cosmic; Shows you are a deep thinker.
Cons: Woman may wonder if this is an intro to the same sort of "alien
sigmoidoscopy" story that ruined her last relationship.
"I was imagining, if I were an animal, what sort of animal I'd be."
Pros: Imaginative; Allows woman to spend many happy minutes trying to
establish your place in the animal kingdom.
Cons: She might think you resemble a marmoset or skink; She may forego
the animal world altogether and go straight to yeasts.
"I'm just thinking about how true the lyrics to 'Dust in the Wind' really
Pros: Shows depth of musical knowledge; As last resort to forestall
conversation, you may break out into song.
Cons: If she's a connoisseur of 70s melodic rock, you may find yourself
in a bitter, divisive quarrel about which is deeper, "Dust" or
Aerosmith's "Dream On".
Keep in mind that these responses are not to supersede an actual thought. If
you find yourself having one at the moment she asks, go ahead and share it,
as long as it's not something along the lines of "This relationship blows"
or "I really like margarine". With a little practice, you should come out
But, hey. That's just what I think.
(John Scalzi is a writer and editor for America Online. His wife almost
never asks him what he is thinking. He can't decide if this is a good or
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