He must have inherited a stray gene from Wyoming. Republican state Senator Jim Anderson has introduced a bill to the Wyoming legislature to recall the “cowboy ethics” of the old West. According to The Boston Globe, the cowboy code stresses “the importance of living with courage, keeping promises, finishing what you start and saying more by talking less.”
Whoa. My husband is just like that. He’s the most responsible, ethical, productive person I know. And he really likes horses. Maybe I should check his birth certificate.
I confess to squirming a bit at discovering I like everything about the code of the West—which no doubt cowgirls also lived by—except for the silence part. While I’d like a number of men in meetings and at parties and other public gatherings to take up less air time, (perhaps they could ask more questions of women instead of talking about themselves?) in private, I find, too many men say too little.
I have accused my cowboy husband, for example, of talking as if somebody were charging him by the word. Especially on subjects like relatives, relationships, feelings, or Christmas presents.
Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, described this phenomenon in her book exploring communications between women and men, You Just Don’t Understand. Men, she said, were raised to believe they owned the public arena and therefore felt quite comfortable holding forth in group or public situations, whereas women were raised to believe they were responsible for private discourse and found themselves far less comfortable speaking up in more public settings.
Tannen also said men tended to state their opinions as facts. Period. Women often stated their opinions as questions. (See my example of the parenthetical question in paragraph 4 above.) The result? Men thought women in public sounded uncertain and lacked self confidence; women thought men in public dominated and pontificated while in private behaved like the proverbial sphinx expecting women to do all the heavy verbal lifting at home.
Was it like that in the West? Maybe the cowboy code of ethics only worked when there were no women around, like on cattle drives or before women showed up in mining towns and such.
Over the years, my husband’s loquacity has waxed and waned. Now we face each other in an empty nest, which means robust communication between us has become even more important. Actually, I do find him talking to our daughter’s so-called “daughter,” our grand-dog. That’s a good sign, I think.
So long as he’s not simply treating her like a very small horse.