Washing dishes is a dangerous thing for me. I think a lot. That’s usually trouble. Like when the Carpenter decided to paint the kitchen (he did it to shut me up). I washed the dishes while he took the cupboards apart. That was probably not the ideal time for my thinking to form into words that spilled out, “How come you never pay me a compliment?”

There was a long pause. The Carpenter was straddling a step stool and a counter-top, with a screw driver in his hand. Though behind me, I knew he was contemplating pushing the screw driver into his eye socket at the realization this was how his morning was to begin, with the ultimate female question to a defenceless and unprepared male.

“What do you mean?” he asked, faking distraction.

“Well, for instance, I’ve been growing my hair long and you’ve never once said you like it, or you don’t like it. Nothing,” I replied, with a tone that suggested this conversation would be longer if he didn’t cop to a good excuse.

“I like it,” he said. That was not the right answer. He knew it. The screw on the cabinet was not the only thing getting screwed. He knew that too.

“Why don’t you ever say you like it then? Why do I have to ask?” It wasn’t meant as an interrogation, but more as an observation. “I always tell you how sexy you look when you’re covered in mud and concrete dust. Why don’t you ever return the fav­our?” Dead air. That poor screw was getting entirely too much attention.

“What do you want me to say?” This is how men discuss things. They answer a question with a question. It is a trick. They want you to give them the right answer.

“I don’t know,” I had taken the bait. “How about, ‘You look nice,’ or ‘I like it when you wear that.’ ”

“You have a nice bottom in those shorts.” He said it like a question, as if this was a test.

“Too easy,” I laughed. “You can do better than that.”

“Not right now, I can’t,” he stated firmly. “I’m busy and I’m not getting dragged into this conversation.” Wise.

Eighteen years together and this was the best he could do. I pointed out how his compliments usually came about with an express interest in getting lucky later. Yet, much like foreplay, if men realized that the investment in compliments and attentiveness would actually do more to stoke the fire in their favour, perhaps they’d be more generous with simple words. It’s not rocket science.

That poor screw was really not budging. The Carpenter was suspended, like a fly spinning in the web, as I, the spider,  paced back and forth, waiting to make him lunch. Minutes passed in silence.

“I don’t do compliments,” he finally stated. “I never have. That’s your nature, not mine. Now let me paint your kitchen the colours you choose, like you asked me too,” he said, with particular emphasis on the words you and your. He was making his point.

It wasn’t exactly foreplay, but the Carpenter knows what all men should know: a completed home renovation is just about the sexiest thing in the world; that and a tool-belt. I’ll take either over a compliment any day.


Kelly Waterhouse