After 15 years of marriage, The Boffin and I still cross our communication signals like all couples do. We join the Mutual Irritation Society over my mumbling. It’s simple. I mumble to myself to process my thoughts. He automatically assumes something is wrong and asks if I am OK. I get annoyed that he assumes that I am angry yet again. He gets annoyed that I am annoyed that he is looking out for my welfare.
And so it goes.
When it happened yet again this morning, we knew it was a blog post. The Boffin said, to him, it’s an environmental thing. Where he grew up, muttering to yourself meant that you were angry, and he can’t escape that social conditioning.
There is a popular Twitter account called Very British Problems that has even turned into a TV show. It discusses the stages of anger.
Rising stages of anger:
Slightly put out
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) February 9, 2016
The Boffin thinks that needs to be compressed a bit.
In order to severity:
1) Look everywhere else but at the person
2) Shake your head slowly, outside of their peripheral vision
5) Stare aggressively at the back of the offender’s head
6) Invade the offender’s 2ft personal space radius
7) Engage them in polite conversation. Persist until they leave.
I can’t help but think his being in America so long has him resorting to the nuclear option of engaging in polite conversation. And I am not sure where writing letters falls into this.
Regardless, back to our marriage, he knows when I am truly angry because I am a slow burner who goes silent. I can control my temper very well, and someone can intervene to keep me calm and reason with me when I am on the edge.
But when I go…well, as far as having a “fight or flight” impulse, The Boffin has stated that there is not much flight in me. I mostly have “grenade or baseball bat”. Let me put it this way, whenever I take a The Big Lebowski personality quiz, Walter Sobchak always shows up.
It is a case of my husband knowing my true personality vs. a conditioned response.
Some will say we are perpetuating stereotypes by proposing this idea. It is a valid comment. Of course, not all Britons mumble when they are angry and not all Britons would interpret mumbling as anger.
However, we are also talking about communication and how society agrees on what gestures and actions mean. Verbal language is hard enough, and we have dictionaries and other reference materials as guides. The Boffin is not the first British person who has interpreted my mumbling as “She’s in a strop,” which is something I have never encountered on this side of the Pond. My mumbling has been interpreted as confusion over here, which is a different stereotype altogether.
So I can only give you my narrow experience with this, and I know it is not definitive. It would be interesting to hear how others have had their actions interpreted internationally.