Someone said, “Life is lived in the subtext.” I’m not sure who said it. Possibly me.

What it means is, if you want to find the truth of what another person is thinking, it’s not enough to listen to what they say. You have to search underneath, far below the surface to find out what’s really going on. Depending on how you look at it, this is either wise, insightful life advice or an excellent plot for a sci-fi movie.

When it comes to dealing with subtext, people fall into two categories. Some have no idea subtext exits. Generally, we call these people “men.” This accounts for painful events like this.

A week ago, a friend called, sobbing that her husband hadn’t bought her a birthday gift. Apparently, he’d asked the week before what she wanted — she’d said, “Oh honey, being married to you is enough,” and, inexplicably in the opinion of every woman she told this to, he believed her.

All miscommunication between men and women could be eliminated entirely if men would take the time to learn one simple skill — how to read our minds. Women, on the other hand, not only know subliminal messages exist, we’ve turned it into an extreme support. I’ve spent many hours with my girlfriends, hunkered over glasses of red wine and low-fat nacho chips, happily playing “Guess The Subtext.”

Friend: He isn’t taking me to the basketball game. He says it’s because I keep telling him I don’t like sports.

Us: That’s what he says.

And the game begins.

It is possible for subtext to go unrecognized between two women. On the flimsy excuse that she has vacation days to use or she’ll lose them, and I have no time off available, my partner, Liz, recently announced that she’s going on a cruise with her mother and without me. My subtext went like this:

Me: That’s so great. I’m happy for you.
Subtext: You’re what?

Me: I mean, what would you do if you stayed here?
Cook me dinner, paint the laundry room like you keep promising, be waiting at the door when I come home …

Me: Of course, I’m happy for you. I love you.

Even more than my iPod. I love my tunes. Hey, if Liz is away I can crank up the David Cook CD, sing really loud and practise my rock moves in the living room ... naked!
So maybe sometimes, there are things better left unsaid.

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