Notobvious things you shouldn't say to men
September 17, 2010 1:47 AM   Subscribe

What are some not-obvious things you can't/shouldn't say to men?

Inspired by the recent post of things that might cause some females to become upset, I became curious about some things that might bother some men. Previous post here:

Please understand that I am posting this without any intention to cause trouble or press any buttons. I am honestly very curious.

I understand that gender and sex are ambiguous and that we cannot easily categorize or generalize people. I also don't mean this to undervalue any other persons unique experience--females typically have to deal with so much worse than do men.

For myself, living in Korea, I get a lot of direct opinions; for example, if I have any facial hair EVERYONE comments on it--usually not positive. I had the same in Canada; however, it is magnified here. I can understand where people are coming from without being bothered by it; however, sometimes when I forget that I have facial hair and someone points my attention to it I become distracted.
posted by Knigel to Human Relations (40 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Honestly, the thread this is copycatting was reaaallly borderline and chatty in the first place and a huge pain in the ass to moderate; doing it again for a reflexive now-switch-the-gender sequel seems like not a great idea. -- cortex

Response by poster: I'm sorry about not hyper-linking the URL~
posted by Knigel at 1:48 AM on September 17, 2010

Receding hairline can be touchy for some (but then again, I suppose the same would be for women).
posted by Gratishades at 2:13 AM on September 17, 2010

I have observed a la "In Darkest England" that for a certain group of men in the UK you simply cannot criticise their car. For another radically different group income wise, the same goes for their choice of watch.

Actually it's not even criticism. For both of these groups even the slightest hint that you are not wet at the slight of their ........ is inconcievable. It does not compute. Far, far more sensitive a topic than receeding hairline.
posted by Wilder at 2:34 AM on September 17, 2010

Like the more women specific things, it all depends on context and your relationship with male. Some individuals can't bare to hear certain things, while others wouldn't mind hearing the same things. Attempting to make blanket statements about men (or women) who exist across a myriad of classes and cultures is a fool's errand, in my opinion.
posted by nomadicink at 2:36 AM on September 17, 2010

"You are so thin! You are so lucky you get to eat what you like and still be skinny!"

Many men are a lot thinner than they would like and have trouble gaining weight. Women feel almighty pressure to be slim these days, and in the same way size is very much associated with masculinity for guys. I hear variations on the above all the time, and while it doesn't bother me hugely, it does seem amazingly shortsighted.
posted by distorte at 2:38 AM on September 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

According to a male friend, a lot of generalized male-bashing talk goes on within earshot of guys who work in offices with a lot of women. Rip on your specific boyfriend/husband if you must, but save the general "Men... can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em!" bullshit for girls-only spaces.

Don't complain about how "all the good ones are married or gay" in front of a straight, single guy. Nobody likes to be made aware that they are indeed "chopped liver" in the eyes of their female acquaintances.

Any guy with a less than massive penis is not going to appreciate hearing women rhapsodize about how well-hung someone else is, or sniggering comments about some guy's dick being small.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:50 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

We need to talk
posted by fire&wings at 3:00 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Don't think of us as a homogenous group that is all the same.
posted by mattholomew at 3:03 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

My ex used to hate it when I asked him what he was thinking.
posted by dzaz at 3:11 AM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

Don't tell someone they must be gay if they show a interest in moisturiser or fashion. Conversely I'm sure gay guys don't like hearing that they can't be gay if they fix cars for a living.

Don't assume guys are all pigs, inept at housework, or doing less housework or childcare than their female partners.

When someone gets engaged, you don't have to assume that he is being dragged reluctantly from the freedom of bachelorhood into the chains of marriage by a rapaciously nesting woman.

Don't assume that all guys like football (this probably only makes sense in the UK) or ribald conversations about tits.
posted by emilyw at 3:25 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

A little girl I know walked up to a man, poked his huge gut, and asked him if he had a baby in his belly. I've often been tempted to do the same.
posted by mareli at 4:01 AM on September 17, 2010

"I don't think that's where your waist is - isn't it higher up?"

Also, during any sports game on TV

"What do you think about.. []?"
posted by MuffinMan at 4:07 AM on September 17, 2010

Seconding dzaz, don't ask me what I'm thinking. I'm usually thinking about nothing that could possibly interest you. Also, if you're in the business of asking me that question, this usually means I have one of two options when I answer it:

1. Lie, so that you don't get upset that my current thoughts aren't about you
2. Tell you the truth and upset you that my current thoughts aren't about you


In general, just treat me with respect, and you win the game. Remember though, I'm a white man. You can't even hurt my feelings.
posted by King Bee at 4:10 AM on September 17, 2010

Don't use the terms "mansplaining" and "man flu" unless you know the guy doesn't mind.
Yeah, some men find it funny, but then, some blondes also find blonde jokes funny.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:12 AM on September 17, 2010 [11 favorites]

Instead of keeping all this in mind every time you meet someone you don't know well, it'd be better to:

1. Not assume anything, especially based on a type or gender,
2. Not comment on any personal features, and
3. In case of a "mistake" (a wrong assumption or a comment that caused hurt), learn to apologize with some grace and/or humor.

It wouldn't make for great sitcoms, obviously. But if you're trying to avoid registering even a blip of negative emotion on another human being's radar, it's probably best to remain silent or pretend to be a clueless foreigner.

Oh, and on the receiving end of things, remember that people are always talking about themselves and how they see the world (or would like to see it), and rarely about the person they're talking to.

PS: Your question is contradictory (you understand that "gender and sex are ambiguous and that we cannot easily categorize or generalize people" and yet want to know "things we can't/shouldn't say to men"?) and against the spirit of that other thread, in my opinion - what that showed was that there's not only variation in what women don't like to hear but also that a lot of it can apply just as easily to men - depending on the individual. Wilder is spot on, in my opinion - these threads are more about cultural (mis)perceptions and stereotypes than what you shouldn't say to someone based on their gender. The latter reading misses the point IMO.
posted by : ) at 4:16 AM on September 17, 2010

Don't assume we're all color blind!

It doesn't come up often, but it's annoying when it does.
posted by nangar at 4:30 AM on September 17, 2010

"My, you have a large family....are they all yours?"
posted by jquinby at 5:16 AM on September 17, 2010

I find many men are sensitive to criticism of their attempts to participate in activities that are not traditionally male, ESPECIALLY if they have done this as a favor to a significant other. This applies primarily to things the gentleman in question isn't great at and has little practice with. Of course it varies from man to man, but say he never cooks and put together a not-so-great dinner for his girlfriend who's working long hours this week ... criticism will get you the biggest sad-panda look in history. (I think that's relatively non-gendered -- it's terribly rude to criticize someone's nice gestures -- but it seems like this area of what in the 50s would have been "women's work" and criticism of men attempting it is more fraught than usual.)

I have also noticed that even if a guy has such a short-man's complex that you are afraid he may invade Russia and march his army on Moscow in the winter, YOU SHOULD NOT POINT THIS OUT. (I guess being super-sensitive about being not-very-tall is part of the whole short-man-complex thing.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:17 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't call me "hubby" unless you're Jean Teasdale.

Don't refer to my lake cottage as a "Stabbin' Cabin'"

Do not comment on the way I'm dressed, even if it's positive. I'll have to assume that all the other times you saw me, I looked like shit.

Thats about all.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:18 AM on September 17, 2010

Upon determining that you enjoy a man's company when meeting them for the first time, don't then say "well okay, now I'll have to marry you."

Everything else? Sort of a case-by-case basis.
posted by Mizu at 5:20 AM on September 17, 2010

Oh, a couple my husband has gotten --

Following on jquinby, a shocking number of people pointed out to my husband that he couldn't be SURE our baby was his. They thought they were funny. They weren't, we were both offended.

"Your wife cut her hair -- dude, she's either a lesbian or planning a divorce." Again, an offensiveness twofer! And, again, from several people.

(This is like a whole subcategory -- insulting a man via sideways insult to his female partner!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:21 AM on September 17, 2010

Don't sweat it. Boys are trained to kill each other. Most aren't very prickly. We are aware that our male companions can eviscerate us and eat our livers at any time, so we are kind of immune to petty bullshit. There are some special snowflake boys, of course, but most are the kind of people who would use sandpaper for toilet tissue in a pinch and who don't own any Cure CDs.

Overgeneralizing, which I am prone to do, boys will just ignore stupid insults or respond in a way that will quickly train you to develop new communication techniques. Insult away, if you must, but bring a dustpan to sweep up pieces of your ass. You may need it. More likely, you'll just be relegated to irrelevance.

All we are really interested in is seeing you nekkid anyway.

Oh, and when we are silent and brooding, it's BECAUSE we're thinking about seeing you nekkid or pissed that you aren't.

I have to get back to cleaning out my ears with a roofing nail now. Bite me.
posted by FauxScot at 5:37 AM on September 17, 2010 [9 favorites]

Piggybacking off of Eyebrows McGee, my father runs into the same problem with me. I'm the middle child of five (first son). Everyone in my family has dark hair, except me, who is naturally blonde. He gets comments like "you sure that one's yours?" (referring to me).

Yeah, he really doesn't like that. He's pre-crafted some response that involves a lot of words about genetics, and generally tries to make people feel like idiots for suggesting such a thing, even if it's in jest.
posted by King Bee at 5:38 AM on September 17, 2010

It is not "cute" to comment on a man's weight.
posted by smackfu at 6:01 AM on September 17, 2010

A bit specific, but if you are dating a dude who is not handy, please don't say that you need to get "a guy" in to repair something that doesn't need to be fixed by a professional.
posted by griphus at 6:06 AM on September 17, 2010

There is no third party called 'the relationship'.

For example, when she says to him 'Honey, let's tlak about our relationship', she is really saying 'Honey, lets talk about you'.

This can work both ways of course.

Stollen shamelessly from 'The Evasion English Dictionary'
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:10 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Assuming that all men like sports, cars, and instinctively know how to use power tools is dumb. Don't do that. Being surprised when a (straight) man loves opera or ballet is also dumb. Don't do that either.
posted by rtha at 6:14 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

When I bring in an awesome chocolate cheesecake with a raspberry glaze for the potluck, don't assume my wife made it.

When I tell you I have to give my son a bath or do something child-related, don't ask me why my wife isn't doing it.

Don't ask me if my wife will "let" me go out after work. We encourage each other to do things with other people, thank you very much.

That said, if I decide I can't go out for some reason, don't make whip sound effects or comment about my ball and chain. My family is more important than you are, I like them better, and sometimes I either choose to be with them or have obligations that, as a responsible adult, are more important than sharing a pitcher of beer with my co-workers.

Don't ask me if I saw "the game" last night. Unless you're talking about Jeopardy, I probably have no idea what you're talking about. Not all men follow all sports.
posted by bondcliff at 6:15 AM on September 17, 2010 [16 favorites]

Oh I have another one: when you see a man with his child, don't express how awesome it is that he's babysitting and giving mom a break.

Y'know; he's being a father. It's not a favor to watch your own damn kid.
posted by dzaz at 6:18 AM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

He's pre-crafted some response that involves a lot of words about genetics, and generally tries to make people feel like idiots for suggesting such a thing, even if it's in jest.

One day I swear I'm going to snap and respond with a "What sort of a question is that? What are you driving at? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, friend."

As it is, the children are usually around so it's a long pause and a "yes".

Man alive, just thinking about it is starting to piss me off all over again.
posted by jquinby at 6:22 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Saying "I'm fine" or "nothing's wrong" when you're bothered by something. Every man I know would rather I just say it. So would some women, but other women I know would prefer to avoid confrontation.
posted by desjardins at 6:23 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

This may be the result of Male Answer Syndrome or something but when there's a problem that neither of us know the answer to, and I suggest a possible solution that doesn't end up working, don't act like I'm the biggest idiot ever for not knowing that it wouldn't work. You know I'm not an expert!
posted by ghharr at 6:24 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

(I'm a man who is a feminist and totally non-homophobic. I'm not saying this is how men should be, but I think it's a fair description of a part of the male lizard brain that women don't always grasp intuitively. I'm not sure where the line is as far as how much you should cater to the male lizard brain and how much you should refuse to play along. Use this information to help you make a judgment.)

I think a lot of women do not get male status issues. IF you don't want to trigger internal cringing in a man, even if that man "knows better", follow these don'ts:

Don't make fun of a man in front of other men* and don't question his ability about anything in front of other men. Don't give any instructions or make any requests to your male partner that seem like you are "in charge" of him in front of other men. Don't fight with him in front of other men. Don't insist that he say "I love you" in front of other men. Don't flatter another man too much in his presence. Don't put him in the position of having to go to another man for help. As Deborah Tannen explains, men are "afraid" to ask for directions because asking for directions is a submissive act.

Oh, and don't try to set your men up on play dates with other men.

* unless you're successfully trying to be "one of the guys" and know how to play the game.
posted by callmejay at 6:27 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

MetaTalk thread.
posted by nomadicink at 6:29 AM on September 17, 2010

I think just as women are presumed to be into kittens and lipstick, people often use sports as ice-breakers/conversation starters with men. This is awkward when said man is passionate about film, music, or anything else that has nothing to do with balls.
posted by mippy at 6:29 AM on September 17, 2010

Is it in yet?
posted by mokeydraws at 6:31 AM on September 17, 2010 [11 favorites]

When a man walks into your yarn store, selects some yarn and knitting needles and takes them to your cash register, don't stare at him, then the yarn, then back at him and ask, "So, what do you... do with it?"

Also don't assume he's buying it for his wife or girlfriend.
posted by reegmo at 6:35 AM on September 17, 2010

I'm not a man myself, but the tone of some of these answers makes me cringe. I know so many men who would be really annoyed or offended by the suggestion that all they're interested in is "to see [me/any woman] nekkid". Or more generally, that there's no need to take their feelings into consideration since they're men and nothing you say can hurt them. The whole belittling/reversed-sexism/bro-dude-AMIRITE humor doesn't really fly with all guys, so if that's your style, please choose your audience.

Especially when it comes to parenting. Many men take their role and responsibilities as a father very seriously. Implying that they're somehow clueless or comical second rate parents, remarks based on the idea that they're just "helping out", perhaps in order to "score points" with their spouses, or jokes implying that taking care of their kids is somehow emasculating, are very offensive to them. (And according to many guys I know, unfortunately not uncommon at all.)
posted by sively at 6:37 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, for me, this bugs me: "females typically have to deal with so much worse than do men."

We all have to deal with a lot. It isn't the same stuff, but I am way beyond tired of hearing that kind of statement.

I'm not saying men are better either.

I just find that kind of gender based generalities to be really annoying. Take it person by person if you want, but don't assume that I'm an emotional idiot because of my gender. If I'm an idiot, I managed that all by myself, without my genitalia having an influence.

don't assume that because of my gender, I have more or less responsibilities with family. Its all a person by person issue.
posted by midwestguy at 6:45 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Off the top of my head, here are a few things I've heard. These are all directly from my experience, not concocted to make a point.

(said upon meeting me, in front of a group of people:) "I've been studying evolutionary psychology, and I've learned that in earlier times, someone as short as you would not have been very attractive to women! Fortunately, our attitudes are more enlightened now!" [I'm 5'10".]

"No, you're a guy -- you don't like that, you like this."

"Are you a virgin?"

"Tonight is Ladies' Night -- we can't let you into this bar unless you're escorted by a friend who's a woman." (This was when a female friend of mine was in the bar I was fruitlessly trying to get into, but she didn't notice me calling her cell phone until I had left.)

"Wait a minute, you really don't like sports? Are you sure? Not even football? Really?" etc.

"Men don't do ___." [my response: "Well, I do that."] "But you're not a real man!"

"Men don't have feelings!" Being told you lack a basic component of humanity is a little irritating.

Though "men don't have feelings" is a specific statement, there's also a whole family of statements that seem to be based on this assumption. It's considered socially acceptable to put down men in a way it's not considered socially acceptable to put down women (e.g. I've heard a woman call her own husband a "pig" -- and this was just making small talk in a professional setting). Since it's also not considered socially acceptable for men to complain about this, there's little momentum to stop it. I recommend pausing to reflect for just a second on what the reaction would be if it went the other direction. Would the man ever call his wife a "pig"? No, because it's demeaning to be compared to an animal that people consider disgusting.

In short, treat people as unique individuals and don't make unsolicited personal criticisms. Same things you should do when talking to women.
posted by John Cohen at 7:04 AM on September 17, 2010

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