Omertà: It’s Italian for top secret men’s business
Sometimes I have a moan about my husband to my mates. I’m not talking character assassination – that sort of trash talk is plain nasty – but occasionally I’ll blurt out something that infuriates me.
And, no, I’m not going to go into details here. That would be monstrously mean (and possibly unjustified). Suffice to say, if your 23rd chromosome is XX, I’m guessing you’ve had your own blab or two.
Naturally, my good mates also confide in me. At least, they did. (They’re probably reconsidering it about now.) As long as these chats are good humoured and don’t descend into mockery, I’ve always thought they were perfectly healthy – a bit of emotional cleanse, tone and moisturise.
Me: “It annoys me how he…”
Her: “Have you thought about…”
Me: “Yes, you’re right, at least he doesn’t…”
And the world is all smiley and sunny again. No one is harmed and that $120 you may have otherwise spent on therapy will go nicely on a new pair of shoes. Of course it means that when we meet up with Pete and Mike (not their real names), I know who bought yet another surfboard and who forgot their daughter’s birthday.
But it doesn’t make me like them less. Actually, I like them more because it’s all these nubbly little imperfections that make us interesting. Idiosyncrasies are the messy scuff marks of our lives; the stuff we show the people we really know. Frankly, the more we dispel the notion of the ‘happily ever after’ marriage and talk about the tricky stuff, the less we expect our own to be perfect.
But what about men? Where does my husband go when he’s suffered the full force of PMT, my frequent bouts of control freakery or just the flippin’ monotony of living with three females who are genetically incapable of picking up a bath mat? Does he blab?
I ask Dan and Chris (again, not their real names). “No,” says Dan, shifting awkwardly and willing my husband back from the bar. “Ange, he only ever says you’re wonderful.” Did I mention Dan is a writer? Of fiction. A few drinks later, I ask Chris. “Ange, it’s the universal male lament – you can’t live with ’em and you can’t kill ’em.”
But they must talk, because these men have stood in bars, watched rugby, skied, shifted furniture and gone on road trips with my husband. Even I know that the Wallabies’ form, Pink Floyd’s greatest hits (are there any?) and the charms of Pippa Middleton aren’t enough to sustain lifelong conversation.
“We’re subtle,” my husband finally relents. “We might occasionally touch on the odd thing, but the consensus is you’re all wired to the wrong Mars bar.”
No, I don’t get it either, but I’m not sure I’m supposed to. And that’s the point – men may prefer action to words, but buying into the popular psychology myth that they’re a bunch of emotional Neanderthals seriously underestimates what they manage to share. The same primeval codes used to slay bison are alive and well on golf courses today.
The difference? They shut up about it. Whether Chris’s wife wants another baby, Dan’s wife is giving him grief, or my husband loathes our new Moroccan inspired quilt, I’ll never know. Why? Because of omertà – the Italian word for the code of silence deeply embedded, not just in the Mafia, but all mankind.
Catch Angela Mollard on Weekend Today, Sundays at 7am on the Nine Network.
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