Friday, October 19, 2007

What's Your Preference?

When hubby and I were dating, we went out for dinner to Moose Winooski’s. When our bill arrived, it was accompanied by two fruit-flavoured candies, and soon-to-be-hubby held out the platter for me to choose. Naturally, I picked the grape one – but the gesture prompted me to ask him why he always gave me the first choice in situations like that. Was it chivalry? A kind of archaic code of ladies-first that had survived long past things like opening the car door or pulling out my chair?

Not exactly. In most situations, hubby explained, it didn’t really matter to him which option we selected. He had noticed, however, that I always had a preference. It just made sense to let me pick.

I’d like to think that I would have been capable of enjoying the rest of the evening even if I had been stuck with the pineapple candy. Pineapple candies are kind of gross, of course, so I might have opted simply not to take a candy at all if hubby had wanted the grape one … and that might have made me self-conscious about my breath after the garlic mashed potatoes I’d had with my meal … so I guess I can see the logic there. It’s advantageous for everyone if I get to choose.

When asked for a preference, I’m the kind of person who can almost always come up with one. Other people, I have observed, do not. Perhaps this is one of those codes of politeness that I never quite mastered. How many times do you have to say “I don’t care” before you’re allowed to indicate what you really think? And once both people have moved beyond the “whatever you think” stage, how do you negotiate whose preference prevails? I have little patience for prolonged hemming and hawing – if a group is hesitating idly about where to go for supper or what movie to see, I’ll jump in and make the call. (Of course, that means if the food is terrible or the movie boring, I’m the one everybody blames … I can see the advantages of sitting back and waiting for someone else to cast the deciding vote.)

I can recall a character in The Joy-Luck Club whose marriage nearly collapsed because of her refusal to express a preference. Trained to defer to her husband in all matters, this woman had submerged herself so fully that her husband eventually felt he was living with a stranger. (This incident stands out in my memory because it prompted me to remark casually to then-, now ex-, husband, “Promise you’ll never leave me.” And he responded, “I can’t promise that.” Ironic, really, considering that among the causes of that divorce, no one could ever suppose that my refusal to express an opinion was one.)

Another literary character for whom expressing a preference can be problematic is the autistic narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Christopher explains in that novel that his phobic avoidance of the colours yellow and brown functions as a decision-making device – it gives him a guideline, a template to narrow down the options that might otherwise be overwhelming. I'd like to assume that my ability to express on-the-spot preferences arises from my deep self-knowledge: that I am so attuned to my emotions that I can quickly and easily determine what I would most enjoy in any situation. Upon reflection, though, I must admit that, like Christopher, I rely on many self-imposed codes, ones I use without being fully aware of them. I only wear soft, comfortable clothing in cool-toned colours (red, navy blue, black, or forest green). I like romantic comedies but I won’t see horror films. I don’t eat foods in which rice is a major component. I pick the item from the dessert menu that is served hot with ice cream on the side.

I could provide a convincing rationale for any of these preferences – it’s really true that I look better in navy than I do in pumpkin or turquoise – but functionally they are a kind of shorthand: I continue to use them long after I’ve realized that a really bright yellow shirt can actually look good on me if I pair it with something blue. When my rules break down, I can generally intuit a preference, but I often seek confirmation from others. When I’m torn between two items on the menu, I ask the server for a recommendation, and my favourite kind of server is the one who can answer readily and decisively.

Which kind are you? Do you usually know what you want, or would you rather let others decide? And if you say, “It doesn’t matter,” do you really want the other person to decide, or are you waiting for the ball to be tossed back to your side of the court?

76 comments:

Terri said...

I'll admit to being indecisive sometimes if I truly don't have a preference, but when my husband tells me he doesn't care where we go eat or what movie we see then proceeds to shoot down all of my suggestions it makes being decisive rather frustrating for me. We tend to do this a lot and yet we've been married almost fifteen years.

There are times where the indecisiveness of a group frustrates me, and I'll tend to speak up and make the decision for the group.

I do agree with you that a lot of hemming and hawing is annoying. Sometimes I wonder if it is just overworked politeness especially here in the South where I live.

I've found that as I get older, I'm not as hesitant to express my opinions about a lot of things. Sometimes that's good and sometimes I just get myself into a heap o' trouble.

nomotherearth said...

Interesting. I would peg myself as hopelessly indecisive. However, the truth is that I almost always know what I want, I just hate foisting my preferences on others. I hate the feeling that we're only doing something because it was something I wanted to do. So I often say that I don't care so that other people have the opportunity to express their preference. And if they don't, then I come in with mine.

Although there are some times when I truly can't make up my mind, and I want the other person to make the decision for me.

It's a toss up.

Mary G said...

I always have preferences, and some of the templates are completely irrational. (I won't pair green and yellow because that was my mother's favourite and the whole house except my bedroom was done in that scheme.)
If I don't state my preference (movie choices, etc), I can be really sulky about someone else's choice, so I do speak up. I try to be polite about it, but I'm not sure I always succeed. And choice deference drives me *nuts*! I want to scream 'Tell me what you waaaaant!'
I think I would be perfect hell to be with except that I will always negotiate!
Boy, that question really hit a spot for me. And I love to pair navy with yellow.

mopsy from lifenut said...

I know what I want most of the time. I am hopelessly decisive and have had to learn that my way is in fact not the highway. My way can be an interesting side road, though.

Life's too short to get my way all the time. And I've discovered many new flavors, sights, sounds that I wouldn't have left to my own devices.

It removes a burden when I shrug my shoulders and say "I don't care." Because, when it comes down to it, does it really matter if we have Italian or Mexican? Both have tomatoes.

Janet said...

I used to be terribly indecisive, mostly because I was afraid to assert my opinion for fear that I would be at odds with everyone else.

The older I get, the more comfortable I feel in my opinions. I am much better at making decisions now, although compared with some, I would still be considered indecisive. My husband is Mr. It Doesn't Matter, mostly because he is just super easy going. This dynamic works for us except when he takes it too far. Pasta or rice? Just choose for cripes' sake. It's dinner, not rocket science.

Kathryn said...

I almost always know what I want, and have no problem saying so. Some say I am a little too opinionated, however, if someone disagrees with me I have no problem with that. Even though I know what I want it doesn't mean everyone else has to want the same thing.

painted maypole said...

When I have a strong preference, I voice it, when I don't, I often let the other person (people) voice there's first.

My husband, however, would say i'm terrible about saying what I want, and he may truly be a better barometer of this. ;)

painted maypole said...

theirs. i meant to type theirs.

of the many, many typos and grammatical errors that's one that bugs me a lot. and I just did it. ack. sorry.

Kimberly said...

I once completely lost it at a dinner out with The Man I Didn't Marry and parents. After an interminable half hour of hemming and hawing with the waiter over what they should order, I finally shouted, "They'll have the chicken! They ALWAYS have the chicken! We all know they're going to order the chicken in the end, SO JUST BRING THEM THE CHICKEN!!!!"

So yeah, I'd say I'm capable of making the hard decisions.

Probably a good thing I didn't marry into that family after all.

Amanda said...

I generally know what I want. When I shrug and take an "It's up to you" approach, it is often because I am with someone who leaves it up to everyone else, and later grouses about the way things went down. I suppose it is a tad immature on my part, but growing up with a strong sense of what I wanted drew judgment from others that I was too opinionated. It hurt that they assigned the blame for their failing to choose on my own ability to choose.

nikki said...

I'm the "I don't care type" if the outcome doesn't bother me either way. When I care, then I'm all about letting my opinion known.

metro mama said...

I know what I want. My husband always lets me choose first too!

Suki said...

I have opinions, on things i care about. I usually let those opinions into the open, unless it's a really formal situation and I'm holding my tongue as far as possible.

Used to be the kind "nomotherearth" here is, but am slowly getting more assertive. That's about it.

I guess both sides - the decisive and indecisive - have their pros and cons. They're facets of the yin and yang, if you will. We need both to survive.

PS: Would totally agree with Janet here.

Beck said...

I NEED to make decisions. If I don't, I feel powerless. My husband really doesn't care one way or the other.
(unless I'm in a restaurant, where I frequently find myself UNABLE to decide and forcing my poor husband to help me out.)

b*babbler said...

Hmm... I think the majority of my indecisiveness stems from not wanting to upset the apple cart. In a large group of people, I never wanted to be the one that chose the wrong movie, the wrong restaurant, the wrong activity, and risk the wrath of others when they hated said movie/restaurant/activity.

With Mr Babbler it often comes down to true indecisiveness. Unfortunately he is often afflicted with the same thing. This would explain why we end up "settling" on sushi so often, for lack of imagination, perhaps?

Andrea said...

If I know what I want, I'll say so; if I say so and I'm flexible about it , I'll add that; if I say it doesn't matter, then it really doesn't matter, and we could end up hula-hooping on YOnge Street for all I care and I'd be content. The latter happens more than the first two.

Lots of people find this frustrating so I try to at least provide a framework for narrowing down the options: I really don't care where we eat, but I've had pasta every day this week so it would be nice if it weren't Italian. Or: I'm happy to get out and see any movie at all so long as car chases aren't a central plot device. In either case it's because spending time with that person or group is my primary motivation and the rest of it is inconsequential.

bren j. said...

I can totally relate to the candy story at the beginning of the post! That's just how we are around here. The Husband always knows I have a preference whether I state it or not.

And it never fails: when I ask him first which one he wants, he'll often pick the one he wants second best because his first choice almost always results in my exclaiming, 'Hey! That's the one I was going to choose!' So I guess great minds think alike.

Like you, it drives me nuts when people can't make up their minds! Just choose something (ANYTHING!) already!

Lawyer Mama said...

It depends. As for clothes, I know what looks good on me. But for food, I like to try new stuff so I'm usually up for whatever someone else suggests they'd like. But movies? There I have strong preferences. If I'm paying for a sitter & tickets, I want to see a drama or a romantic comdey NOT an action film or horror flick. Those are for video.

I'm with you on the pineapple candy though. Ick. I always pick orange or lime.

MOM-NOS said...

Okay, this is a major digression, but since I know you're all about the MBTI I have a hunch you'll indulge me.

Here's my take on it, through the MBTI lens:

From what I read here, I gather that you have a very clear J (Judgment) preference on the MBTI.

I have a clear P (Perception) preference.

When I do MBTI presentations, I explain J/P this way:

S/N are PERCEIVING functions. They are about the way we take in information.

T/F are JUDGING functions. They are about the way we make decisions.

In any decision-making situation, we have to do two thing: we need to gather information (whether we tend to do that through S or through N), and then we need to use that information to make a decision (whether we evaluate the info through a T lens or an F lens).

PERCEIVERS tend to enjoy the "taking in information" (S/N perceiving function) part more than they enjoy the "deciding" (T/F judging function) part.

JUDGERS tend to be the other way around.

SO (I am going somewhere with this), my hunch is that as a J, you are inclined to take in just as much information as you need to feel comfortable about making a good decision, and then you move to the deciding step.

BUT, as a P, I put off moving to the deciding step, because I want to leave the door open to the possibility that there may be more information coming just around the bend that could better inform my decision or further sway my thinking. So, I may say "It doesn't matter," but (often) what I really mean is "I'm not ready to decide yet" or "I don't have the information I need to feel good about a decision yet."

In the candy-choice example, I would have said "It doesn't matter" NOT because I needed more information about the candy, but (probably) because I needed more information about this man I was dating and the "meaning" of the candy choice incident (because, as an F, it would be more important to me that he feel good about the candy incident and all that it said about our relationship than that I get a particular kind of candy.)

Whew. (FYI - My brain can be an exhausting place to live.)

DaniGirl said...

I'm the worst possible combination - vociferous on my opinions but a horrible waffler. When I know what I want, I'm incredibly decisive and not shy about sharing my opinions -- but I can be paralyzed by indecision, or by too many choices.

My husband is my perfect foil. 99% of the time, he is laid back enough to allow his pushy wife to call the shots, whether on what to have for dinner or what colour to paint the living room or what to name the baby... so much so that on the rare occasions when he actually expresses a preference I know I have to subsume my preferences to his. It works for us.

Christina. B said...

I almost always have a preference, when it comes to every and anything. I am usaully hoping the other person is care-free or laid back( like my husband) so I can get my own way.

kgirl said...

I'm like you. I usually know what I want, or have the ability to choose, because I am totally comfortable with the things that I don't want. And if given the choice wtih no need to compromise, why not get what I want?

slouching mom said...

I always have a preference. Always.

And yet -- my husband doesn't believe in being chivalrous. Or, rather, he has a preference just as strong as mine.

Sigh.

bubandpie said...

Mopsy - "hopelessly decisive" - I love it.

Kimberly - I've said that - in my head - many times. Never out loud though.

Mom-NOS - I'm enjoying that comment so much it actually tickles. And yes - I'm pretty much 100% J. Your comment casts an interesting light on Kimberly's story: the interminably indecisive in-laws were likely enjoying the process of examining each item on the menu and savouring the possibilities as an essential element of the dining experience - whereas we J's just sitting there fuming and saying, "Let's just get to the food already!"

Kgirl - Hehe. I think I sensed that about you. ;)

Jess said...

I am a decider, but if my preference clashes with Torsten, I sometimes feel guilty. Usually what will happen is that I will convince him that my preference is better and then as soon as he capitulates I immediately backtrack and say, "Are you sure?"

But in general, I know what I want and I say so. And if I say I don't care, it's because I truly don't.

Mary Joan said...

When I am choosing for myself--clothes, books, music, movies--I know what I want. Group choices are trickier. I grew up in a family of 8 and mothered in a family of 6. I recall when I was a kid, we had ice cream once a week, and each child got his week. I am used to only have one vote among many. My first husband was very decisive; my second husband is more considerate and diplomatic. I do have problems making a choice for both of us. Fortunately, our taste is similar. I am tremendously influenced by his taste in music. I am usually the one who vetoes movies since I avoid both horror and violence.

AnneK said...

I am terrible at making decisions. Unless I have a very specific opinion or something. Even something simple like buying a dress, I keep vacillating. Growing up, my dad gave me a lot of freedom (as against the prevailing culture in my area) and now my hubby leaves a lot of things to my decision. This has made me worse instead of improving my decision making capabilities. I guess it is an intrinsic fear of making a wrong one and facing the consequences. And while in a group-forget it ~unless they are doing something that I definitely don't want to do, then I speak up.

Major Bedhead said...

I tend to make decisions quickly, although sometimes a little input would be nice. If I don't get any, though, I no longer hesitate to say "Well, I want to do this and if you don't care, that's what we're doing."

My husband is an "I don't care," kind of person and it drives me insane. It makes me feel as though he's abdicating responsibility for any decision so that when things go pear-shaped, he can say "Well, it was your choice." In my opinion, people who say they don't care (but really do) lose all right to complain if things do go pear shaped.

Florinda said...

I got much more comfortable about decision-making during my years between marriages, and I think it was largely because I didn't have to be concerned about accommodating anyone else. I've still got a strong enough people-pleasing streak that I don't like feeling that I'm forcing my opinion on someone else.

The problem in my second marriage is that I married someone who's much the same, so we have a lot of pointless "what do you want?" "I don't know, what do YOU want?" "I asked you first" conversations about lame things like what to have for dinner. Usually in those cases, one of us cares less than the other and will defer. He usually does offer me first choice, though - and if I DO have a preference, I'll let him know right away. That's progress for me.

Sarcasta-Mom said...

That scenerio sounded a lot like me and my husband. He's more inclined to let me make the choices since I am very decisive.
I tend to like things a certain way (yes, that's Type-A rearing it's ugly head) and he's content to let me make the coices. Of course, I always get his input, put in the end, it's usually me who makes most of the important, and not-so-important decisions.

Piece of Work said...

Usually I'm pretty content to let other people make the decisions, and I'm almost always happy with the decisions they make. If I'm by myself, i make decisions very quickly and don't spend a lot of time wondering if I've made the right one--again, I'm almost always happy with whatever decision I make, so it doesn't really matter.

Karen said...

I am almost always capable of expressing a preference. In the rare instances when I do not, it is because I cannot - usually I am overwhelmed in some larger arena of decision making a choice with much further reaching consequences. In those cases, I am actively looking for a break in the weight of the world being on my shoulders. In that sense, when I don't prefer, it is because I am looking for someone else to do the choosing (usually my husband) as a way to expressing care-taking - like a cup of hot tea when I am suffering from a headcold and moaning on the sofa.

Patois said...

I must be allowed a choice, and I must be able to make my choice. However, if it buys me any kind of brownie points, I will defer to the other if we both make the same choice. I will not always defer, but I will often enough to make it appear that I'm willing to negotiate. My husband never makes a choice. He always defer. It is sometimes difficult to always be the decider. (But it is also quite often nice to have that power.)

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

Great discussion! I am completely decisive if I care, in fact I won't go to a movie or restaurant just b/c everyone else wants to if I really hate it. But, and this gets me into trouble, if I say I don't care, I REALLY mean it. I have no patience for people who say they don't care, but really do. This is why men get frustrated with women, especially in a business environment. Women are trying to be nice and accommodating and then they end up getting their feelings hurt.

I enjoyed Mom-NOS's comment. I love those personality profile things like MBTI.

This also made me think of Deborah Tannen and her books about how men and women communicate ("You just don't understand", "That's not what I meant").

I could go off on another tangent about having trouble making decisions because you want everything. This is my son's problem. He always wants everything that can be ordered at a restaurant so as not to miss out. This impacts his ability to decide what activity to do at home, too.

bubandpie said...

MJ - Like you, hubby feels uncomfortable making decisions on behalf of other people. Perhaps surprisingly, though, I think his taste influences mine more than vice versa - certainly our TV shows have somehow become all sci-fi/fantasy all the time (Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes) - not what I would have chosen before I met him. But I'm not precisely accommodating his preference - I really like those shows now.

Karen - I get to that breaking point sometimes too - hubby will ask for my input on some minor thing (per usual) and I will snap back, "I am not capable of expressing any opinions right now!"

Kyla said...

I don't care, really, in most cases. If I do have a preference I'll speak up, but most of the time I'd rather someone else decide. I am much more likely to know what I DON'T want than what I DO want. Josh could ask "Where do you want to go to dinner?: and I'd say, "I don't care." and then he might say, "Joe's Crab Shack." and I might say, "Well, no, I don't want seafood tonight. Pick something else." But I really don't have a preference about what I do want, if that makes sense.

jen said...

can i say yes to every question. i have firm opinions. i know what i want. i defer. i allow for the choice of others. repeat.

now you just try living with this kind of mayhem!

natalie said...

It takes me a long time to come to a decision, so I often let others decide because I know how annoying that facet of my personality is.

I think I'm suffering from not having the kind of coherent set of rules for making quick decisions that you have. I end up trying to create a set of rules afresh for each new experience. Great for writing essays--not so good for choosing a movie.

When my husband was out of town, I spent well over an hour in the video store! But I did enjoy having the leisure to make my decision in my own time, and I came out with "Murder on the Orient Express," which was fantastic.

dawn224 said...

When I really don't care, I try to get hubs to give me a few choices - we both end up happy.

Mimi said...

You know, I really liked that about you on those occasions we have hung out together: you are supremely self-confident in articulating what you want. Hooray.

Me (being an ENTJ), I know exactly what I want, and can make decisions on any topic usually with great dispatch. I have TRAINED myself to defer and pull back, otherwise I overwhelm everyone. My instinct is to make the decision and let's be on with it, but I recognize that others take longer to choose what to eat, what movie to see, which way to walk, what Christmas tree to buy and that I can knock these people over flat with my fast decisions.

That's why I like going out with you. You way what you really want, then I do, then we move on!

Magpie said...

Sometimes one, sometimes the other. If I don't care about the outcome, then it seems polite to offer the choice to the other. If I care (chicken vs. fish, chocolate vs. citrus), I may speak up. All depends on the circumstance.

Terri B. said...

I'm fairly decisive and can't stand hemming and hawing. Hubby is the same. The rest of his family pretty much hems, haws, and mills about until someone just makes a decision. In our family we call it "bogan-ing," as in "they're bogan-ing again so lets just make the decision, tell them where to go, and then get in our car." Yes, the term has something to do with our name.

Kellan said...

Oh ... I know what I want. And I loved this post. I also love "The Joy Luck Club". See ya.

Tracysan said...

Total decision maker. Which really pisses me off when I get blamed (as you mentioned) because NOBODY ELSE WOULD STEP UP! Argh. Hate that. Usually, I'll state a preference just to save time and/or control the situation, but sometimes I REALLY DO want somebody else to say, "This is what we're doing...you just sit back and enjoy it."

Alpha DogMa said...

When choosing restaurants my in-laws (I'm talking 40 to 50 people in the extended family) say, "I don't care." My husband - whom I've cured of this affliction - says they believe it makes them appear 'easy going.' It makes them appear like a much of indecisive louts who should bend to my will.

Regarding after dinner candy selection: I would choose the pineapple over the grape. As there is a 100% chance I will not like the taste of grape, but there exists a slim possiblity that the pineapple tastes authentic. I would rather eat my napkin than consume an apple flavoured candy. Orange or lemon are the safest bets.

Yes to romantic comedies or spy movies. No to horror movies and any heartwrenching drama.

Angela said...

I have days when I just don't care
and I have days where I know exactly what I want and still I have days when I don't know.

bubandpie said...

Kyla - Yup - the non-decider gets ultimate veto power. It seems to work.

Mimi - This made me laugh and laugh: you are supremely self-confident in articulating what you want. It's such a nice way of saying "arrogant and dictatorial." ;)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Most often I truly don't have an opinion. My mother and youngest sister are exactly the same. This is lucky, because my dad and other sister are so decisive and opinionated that our household could have been a war-zone... My sister Julie has a way of dismissing my opinion that makes me feel like a moron, and which leaves no room for argument. I wonder sometimes if that reinforced my natural indecisiveness.

andi said...

My apologies for being so far behind on my commenting as of late...

Anyway, I'm someone who is ridiculously indecisive. Sadly, the husband is the same way. Whenever we get a chance to go out, there is and endless and nauseating circular conversation that goes like this: "What do you wanna do?" "I don't know." "What do you wanna do?" "It doesn't matter."

So aggravating. And yet, neither of us is capable of making it stop.

Bon said...

very telling question...and answers.

i have preferences...and like you, many of them are based on old codes. as i've moved away from some of those codes post-marriage breakup (i realized that defining myself entirely by my quirks might not be working for me) i've come to care less about a lot of decisions, and so will say, now and then, "don't care." and usuallly i mean it. but at the same time i'm hoping partner will have a preference instead, so that we can engage in that economy of exchanges and favours that makes up a relationship and thus allows me to garner some points for accommodating him.

sigh.

i do go batshit crazy when a large group of people gets paralyzed by politeness and can't decide the most mundane things, though. that's when i start saying things like "well, i know Susie really likes Chinese, but Kate is in a rush and the Italian place is faster, and i myself do enjoy the pizza but would like to get some veggies in this meal..." probably drives others mad.

Julie Pippert said...

Waffling annoys me. It feels merciless and disingenuous. Then again, having no preference *ever* can annoy me because it leaves the decision-making entirely up to me, always. And sometimes, I want the space to have no preference. KWIM?

Because I am a decisive person who often has a preference, this can become too common.

People will also schlep off their lack of preference onto me, as a responsibility, as a burden, as in, "Oh we'll let you decide because t matters so much more to you," as if they HAVE a preference but are doing some favor to me by subverting it to mine.

This is one reason the South annoys me. It is SOP here.

Wow, I sound really harsh.

Or maybe just decisive, with solid preferences.

;)

Julie
Using My Words

MOM-NOS said...

RE: Kimberly's story -

Ordering at a restaurant, particularly when I'm with a group, is one of the most difficult tasks in the world for me. It's not because I'm savoring all the possibilities. It's because I know with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that there is more information coming after I have already committed and am unable to alter the plan - to wit, when the food is delivered to the table, I will look at all of the other plates and compare them to my own and know INSTANTLY if I have chosen poorly.

I've learned, therefore, to always order last, and to take an informal survey 'round the table before the server comes to get the official one.

So, I'm apologizing right now, in advance, just in case we ever meet for dinner.

bubandpie said...

Mom-NOS - You raise a fascinating subject - the politics of restaurant menu choices. There's nothing worse for me than discovering that hubby has chosen the same item I have - because we can't go to all the trouble of going out to a restaurant (the sole purpose of which, apparently, is to enjoy eating DIFFERENT dishes on the SAME night) and then eat the same entree. So then we have to waffle around ... who gets the preferred dish and who takes a second choice? Or do we just bite the bullet and order the same thing, feeling kind of silly and provincial for doing so?

All of which is to say - how do your companions' selections affect you? Do you switch to what they've ordered (COPYING!) or do you go the opposite way?

MOM-NOS said...

Oh, I'm afraid you'd hate dining with me. I am delighted when I'm able to say "I'll have the same."

Truth be told, though, I'm a lot like Kimberly's not-to-be-in-laws. Nine times out of ten, I go with the chicken. You can't really go wrong with the chicken.

bubandpie said...

Mom-NOS - It wouldn't be so bad so long as we weren't on an eating-from-each-other's-plates basis. We really DO have to go for that coffee sometime.

Poppy said...

Reading the 54 comments before mine almost caused a pulled muscle in my neck. I kept shaking my head up and down in agreement with something everyone said!

I guess that means I am a mixed bag :)

If I had not read those replies I probably would've said I was indecisive but that is honestly not true. I am very decisive. I tend to keep my choice to myself until all others involved in the decision making speak up. If I'm A-OK with their choice I happily go along. If they can't make a decision I'll voice my preference. If my choice is overruled I try to go along and not be all pissy/pouty about doing something I really would rather not do but am doing to not be the one who says Nope, not doing that.

I can't remember the other questions you asked :)

Cyndi said...

I usually leave it up to the other person unless I really do have a preference. If I want to go somewhere for dinner, I tell my husband, lets go to the Olive Garden. If I don't care, I just want to go out then I let him decide. I usually say, I don't care, just not McDonalds. (for instance)

I guess I have rules, too. If it is someone I am not comfortable with I will usually just let them decide. But ultimatly, I am not very hard to please.

JCK said...

This was a facinating discussion -especially reading through all the responses. What I found interesting is that so many women feel that they are pretty decisive and know what they want. It makes me wonder if that is a quality in a blogger? After all, bloggers go out and create a blog and just do it. Pretty cool. Here's to knowing what you want...or waffling on the way to getting there.

edj said...

I am often indecisive because I truly don't care. However, if I do care and don't speak up out of politeness, then I feel frustrated. If I feel strongly enough about it, I will speak up.

bren j. said...

P.S. You're tagged!

Swistle said...

I can't decide which one I am.

Sometimes I can easily decide and/or I have a definite preference. Sometimes I struggle to decide and/or I don't care either way.

Also, let's be friends: I like the pineapple ones.

cinnamon gurl said...

Wow, I think I'm exactly like Danigirl. Except that I've gotten tired of ALWAYS being the pushy wife and when I'm waffling I try to encourage the huz to make a decision. It just takes a bit of the pressure off... I think I've gotten less decisive over time (probably from the increase in choice everywhere), though I'm still not shy about stating my preferences, if I have them.

I love it when you post like this (see? One of my preferences!)

Catherine said...

Funny, I was just trying to explain this to my husband yesterday. Once in college, I was shopping with a sort-of-friend and it was time to eat. She said "where do you want to go?" and I said "I don't care - wherever you want."

She was so annoyed by this. We had to talk about this for what seemed like hours. She wanted me to tell her what I wanted, but I WAS. I wanted to go wherever she wanted to. I could utter the name of a restaurant, but it wouldn't be the one I wanted. Because I DIDN'T CARE. If she had an opinion (which she did), what I wanted was to facilitate it. If I said anything else, I would have been making it up.

My whole family is that way. And she's not the first or last person to be annoyed by it.

As anyone who has been to my blog can see, I have strong and strange opinions on many things. And when I have one, I express it. There are just many things that I don't.

Carrien said...

Ya know, I think it has to do with being Canadian that reluctance to indicate a preference. I find it happens much less often down here in the US which is somewhat freeing, they're more my kind of people. I too often have an opinion.

One of the most formative books I ever read was The Path of Least Resistance, by Robert? Foster?. He talks about exercising our ability to make decisions and practising so that we are good at that.

I came to that book at the same time as I realized that decisions, making choices out of true freedom that have real consequences is one of the most defining aspects of our humanity and one of the most powerful. To avoid choosing is to avoid becoming what God created us to be, companions, rulers, cooperators with him in his Kingdom. It all sort of melded together with me and now one of the most foundational things for me is learning to and teaching my children to choose wisely and direct the course of their existence instead of letting their lives happen to them.

It was about then that I started taking responsibility for my own life too, which kind of makes sense.

Needless to say, I am one of the opinionated choice makers. MY husband forces me to choose often, American and realizes my weakness and tendency to not want to think about it, he often will stare at me all perceptively and say, What do you want, it's up to you, you decide." And then I always think of that scene in the Joy Luck Club too, because I know he's want to leave if I became like that too. He likes me strong and decisive. Which is work for me 'cause I tend to be all about making everyone else happy.

Carrien said...

Now I wonder from what I said in that last comment if I"m really decisive, or just pretending to be out of a desire to please :) Either way I guess I'm getting practice.

Damn, I am way too introspective for my own good.

Luisa Perkins said...

I always have a preference and an opinion. I usually decide very quickly. P and I complement one another.

When we go to the movies, he's fine if I pick out all the Skittles I like (red, blue, and purple) and leave the rest for him. Of course, I have to hurry and do this before the lights go down all the way, because otherwise the green (LOATHE) and the purple (LOVE) are exactly the same shade of grey.

bubandpie said...

Carrien - I love this part of your comment: decisions, making choices out of true freedom that have real consequences is one of the most defining aspects of our humanity and one of the most powerful. That's why I find the equation of male headship in marriage with decision-making (in some Christian circles) to be so disturbing. I've heard it defended on the grounds that a loving husband will make decisions for the good of the whole family - and even backed up with examples such as choosing a restaurant - with no apparent awareness that the result of the decision-making is less important than the process. Even with the most selfless husband in the world, a marriage in which the woman makes only the most trivial decision (and as few of those as practicable) would be a profoundly dehumanizing one.

(For the record, my reading of the passages on headship is that they reflect a social reality in which men had access to far vaster resources than women - educationally, economically, socially - and are asked to share those resources in a way that fosters their wives' ability to fully develop their potential.)

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

I absolutely hate indecision. Seriously, make a choice and move forward. If it's the wrong choice, make another choice and fix it.

Yes, I tend to have preferences. If I don't have one, (in some situations, it really doesn't matter to me) then I'm happy to let others decide. If someone else is decisive and convincing, I let them decide.

Picking a restaurant with a group of friends or organizing get togethers frustrate me. I tend to do the organization, because other people just sort of, well, wait.

Carrien said...

B&P I agree with you in essence RE: the intent of the passages regarding submission, I probably take it even farther than you because at this point in my life I can pick apart just about every single passage like that exegetically to show that it's patriarchal interpretation is not necessarily the most reasonable or accurate.

I just read something recently though which said it very well and came from a surprising source. It's from the NGJ magazine which is an ultra conservative homeschooling traditional family type publication that normally drives me crazy but this little gem, written by the man who started it, Micheal Pearl, was great.

"God did not command the man to rule over his wife. There are several passages that address the woman, telling her to be in subjection to her husband; (My interjection, there are as many telling everyone to submit to one another and to God) for that reason men get the impression that God granted them some divine right to rule over their wives. Not so. The Bible never gives the man license to command his wife. That is a Muslim practice, not Christian. God does command the wife to submit to and follow her husband, but it does not command the man to demand submission. God did not create one sex to rule, and the other to be ruled. A wifes' submission is a gift to be given. It is a praise and honor to her man. No man deserves the submission of another human being. No man has the right to subjugate another-especially not a woman whom he loves. The role of a woman's submission to her husband is a spiritual duty before God, not a social class system to be politically enforced. When Sarah called Abraham lord (1 Peter 3:6), God commended her for it because it was a voluntary act of humility and faith and an expression of her submission to God."

(I have always found that part of the story fascinating because Abraham was such a sissy ass pansy and allowed her to be taken into another man's harem, twice, because he was afraid that he would be killed for her, and each time it was God who protected her form her idiotic husband.)

And while I agree with you about women's roles in general I have to point out that regardless of what ever role a person is playing in their life, that of a submissive wife, or a leader of many people, or a slave in an ancient republic we all have choices that we can make regardless of our circumstances. Not all decisions, in fact most, are of the where we live and how we get there and what restaurant we eat at variety. There are thousands of more important and internal choices that we make all the time whether consciously or not. A woman may be a submissive wife because she believes she has not choice, but that's not really voluntary submission is it. In that context there are still a myriad of choices available to her. She can choose to argue, to cheerfully comply, to comply with bitterness, to go out of her way to be kind or out of her way to make things unpleasant. All of those possible attitudes and actions are within her realm of choice, and neither is she compelled to obey, she can always choose to do the other and as all real choices those also will have consequences with long term effects. Am I making sense?

A Five year old child does not have the choice over where he will live, what many of his activities will be, or even what he will get to eat in a given day, but ha can choose whether or not to have a temper tantrum when someone tells him to stop something in order to move on to something else, or he can choose to obey. He can choose to be kind, to smile, to let go of arguments, or he can choose to be angry, spiteful and cruel. All of these things are within the personal power pf a child whom we might consider powerless and it's these kinds of decisions that carry the most power and are the most free to make.

Did you ever read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich? It's the story of a man in a soviet gulag, and one of the central themes is the choices he makes within that very limited context that affirm for him his integral individuality and personhood in that dehumanizing place. Little things like removing his hat before he eats, or building an excellent wall out of brick when he doesn't really have to are the things which sustain him.

Ditto for a Christian slave in the Roman Empire. Paul goes into detail about the choices they have available to them in the position they find themselves.

And so while I agree with you when you say "Even with the most selfless husband in the world, a marriage in which the woman makes only the most trivial decision (and as few of those as practicable) would be a profoundly dehumanizing one." I'm also aware that the decisions of the heart and attitude ore the least trivial decisions and they are available to all of us and therefor even such a stifling environment as you describe does not have to be dehumanizing in practice.

My husband and I have an understanding that if we ever reach a point where we can't agree about a major decision I'll defer to his position, and he will alone shoulder the responsibility for the outcome of that choice. It has never come to that, or even close in our 7 years so far. HE rarely moves an inch without asking me opinion 20-30 times, not because he doesn't have one, but because he trusts mine and finds my input a valuable aid to him as he makes choices. We have always been in agreement by the time a plan is implemented.

I have watched marriages that were dominated by husbands, my grandparents for example, and I have come to the conclusion that it takes greater strength to be the one who submits than the one who commands. The person who is able to gracefully submit when they know the other is being impossibly unreasonable and petty shows better character, and more largeness of personhood than he who must have his own way all the time because it's his right. I think the women who get through those marriages gracefully and even cheerfully are AMAZING and I hope to someday have that kind of strength. Like my granny had.

Hah! and you said that you wrote an essay.

bubandpie said...

Carrien - I haven't read Ivan Denisovich (I'm fearfully lax in my Russians), and now I want to. I agree that those internal decisions are in many ways the most significant of all - but I'd also say that facing up to real-world consequences is also pretty essential to our functioning as human beings.

I've always wondered whether that tie-breaking-vote theory ever actually works in real life. If the deadlock is really that severe, does playing the gender card really solve it?

Carrien said...

MMMM I love me some Russians, Especially Dosteovsky, GH finds it tedious but he's not relationship and motivation oriented like us women tend to be. And the theology...

I should really proof read my comments before publishing, so many typeos, it's embarrassing.

I think real world consequences are important too. I have noticed that in many such marriages it's women who make all of the money decisions and do all the shopping and budgeting, etc. Interesting...

Anyway, I think that id things are so deadlocked that the gender card needs to be pulled as you say, there are likely many other very bad problems that got it that way. But, and I maintain that this is a very substantial but, I think it works when the gender card isn't played. i.e. the difference between husband yelling, "We do what I say because I'm the man in charge." and the same woman after yet another discussion or moment in which they just can't agree going off by herself and praying and choosing to let go of her need to win or be right and deciding to bend to the one who won't bend. That it seems is very different from playing the gender card.

As my husband likes to say, because I know he does this from time to time as well, "It's better to be wrong than lonely."

Brook Ann ( the Great ) said...

I think it is about self awareness, and a sign of a really a healthy person. My mother is married to a man that has no preference ever, and all of his children are that way. They are like non human lumps of wasted flesh. I say, COME ON! Get an opinion and voice it!

alpineflower said...

I was raised believing that "I don't know" or "whatever you want to do" was the politest way to engage in decision-making with another person, but when I got to college I made a conscious decision to start voicing my preferences, doing what I wanted. Now, spending time with my mom drives me crazy - she's clearly the one who taught the "manners". What I like to do in groups (like to pick a movie) is come up with three options that I like, and ask the other party/parties to pick one from the list of three. I'm up-front that I would enjoy any choice, it takes the pressure off of them to guess whether I'm going to like it or not, and off of me as to whether I made a good decision for the group.

lar said...

I cannot stand it when people say, "Oh, I don't know, whatever you want." I think it's passive-aggressive and it bugs me to no end. I always hated it back in my dating days when a boy would pick me up and then not give an opinion on what we should do, where we should eat, etc.

I *always* have an opinion, although sometimes it's a negative one: "I don't want to eat here or here."

One of my favorite things about my hubby is that he always has an opinion too. Except sometimes our opinions clash. Okay, OFTEN our opinions clash. But we're never, ever bored.

Momish said...

I am usually the "I don't care" and "whatever" person in the bunch. That said, however, I do have some very strong quirks, which I will stand strong about and put my foot down. So, I guess it depends on the situation. I can be easy going or I can be stern.

My husband is completely easy going so I usually get first pick to choose for most things.

But with the colors and such, I am totally stuck in the mud. I stick with what has worked for me in the past thirty years. I think I have around 25 tubes of lipstick you would be hard pressed to tell apart!

P.S. Was that the "This house is crooked" daughter?

Julie said...

Unfortunately, my husband is a hemmer and I am a hawer. We are a big mess of "I don't care" and "whatever." Really, I can't figure out how we even get out of bed in the morning.

That said, I consider myself the one in the relationship who ultimately makes decisions. Because someone has to. And because I hate not having a plan just slightly more than I hate making the plan.

But I think he might say that *he* is the decider. It's really pretty silly of us.