Monday, June 16, 2008

Two Random Theories

Theory #1: Gender and Marriage

After a year of practising family law, hubby says that divorces always happen for the same reason: one partner is crazy, and the other is controlling. When a new client walks in the door, it's just a matter of finding out which one it is. Your wife is crazy? Oh, hello, Mr. Controlling. Your husband is controlling? Hey, Crazy Lady. Gender is a useful predictor: most of the time, it's the wife who's crazy and the husband who's controlling. At first glance that seems counterintuitive to me. None of the women I know have controlling husbands. Lazy husbands, sure. Distracted, inattentive, unromantic husbands, yes. But not controlling ones. I know plenty of husbands, though, who would say that their wives are too controlling. (Okay, maybe those are just my husbands.) Perhaps the true lesson to be learned here is that when the husband is controlling, it leads to divorce, but when the wife is controlling, it's all for the greater good. (My mother-in-law and I had a good laugh at that idea. FIL and hubby were less amused.)

Theory #2: Performer and Audience

Bub's best friend is the kind of kid whose presence in the room is felt by everyone. He has a big voice, big emotions, and an enormous appetite for adventure. It's no mystery why the two of them connect so well: Adrian is like a roller-coaster and Bub loves going along for the ride. A bit more mysterious is the Pie's adoration. "Adrian is my favourite!" she sighs happily whenever she sees him, despite the fact that he has spent the entire time smashing swords with Bub. Pie at age two is not much different from my teenage self: she does not require actual interaction to sustain her love. If Bub is a giddy passenger on the Adrian roller-coaster, Pie is content to be spectator, enjoying the excitement at a remove.

"Adrian's a Performer and my children are Audience," I told his mother yesterday. In most friendships, I suspect, people are allotted one role or the other. Performance can take many forms: the Performer can be a class clown, a teller of anecdotes, or even a provider of wise counsel. The key is the element of appreciation. An Audience friend nods, laughs, and smiles, applauding enthusiastically while the Performer does his shtick. The engine that drives the friendship is the Audience's willingness to buy what the Performer is selling.

I'm a Performer at heart, despite the fact that I'm not especially funny, adventurous, or zany. I'm the kind of person whose teenage diaries contain occasional disclaimers from my BFF, scrawled in margins or on the back cover, warning readers, "I am not a mere sidekick, as depicted in these pages. I am a real person." I have occupied the sidekick role a few times in my life, but never very successfully. Being an Audience friend has taken me places I would never have gone otherwise, but my Performer friends have always had a tendency to move on (perhaps to a better Audience), and their departure has always been something of a relief.

Which do you prefer to be, in friendships or romantic relationships? Audience or Performer?

33 comments:

Omaha Mama said...

I'm probably the performer, because I never shut up.

I'm probably crazy and controlling all at once and so is my spouse. Perhaps that's why we click.

:-)

Mad said...

My husband is a performer in his professional life and my sole audience in our personal lives. Therein lies his balance. It keeps him from being controlling and me from being crazy. Win, win, win.

kittenpie said...

I think my MIL would agree with that first theory... a lovely woman, but I'm glad she wasn't my wife or mother!

And me, well, I guess being a blogger about say it, don't you think?

Karen said...

indeed, I am our resident performer. i keep matt's life entertaining - it needs to be so, his artistic mind is always a million different places. If he had not married a performer type, marriage would not work for him.
and yes, you are right, in general when women run the show, no one seems to really mind all that much except in a sit-com cursory type of way.

Chaotic Joy said...

I much, much prefer to be the performer. The problem rarely am I (especially in my mind) worthy of an audience.

My BFF went through a nasty divorce a few years ago. I think she would agree that she was controlling. Her husband: an absolutely off his rocker. So your husband's theory may have some validity.

Cyndi said...

Well, I agree with theory 1. My husband would be the crazy one and I am a bit controlling. Not in a bad way, I don't think.

As for theory 2, I would be the audience friend.

Mouse said...

I'm crazy and controlling. Trillian's just controlling. Somehow we've still made it 15 years.

Something I'm finding interesting is that Scooter is a bit of a Performer when given the space. I can hear him right now talking the ear off of his 9-year-old friend--who keeps coming back, so he must be a willing Audience.

Swistle said...

You are blowing my mind recently with your interesting and thought-provoking posts.

My mind is turning nervously now to my divorce. Was I the crazy one or the controlling one?

In some friendships I'm the performer, and in others I'm the audience. I can be happy in either role.

cinnamon gurl said...

This is great. I'm definitely controlling but it's definitely for the greater good. ;)

And I think I'm really a performer. Although I think it explains a lot of some challenges in a particular friendship of mine where perhaps I'm a bit forced into the audience role. You're right that it makes me grow but I'm also just a lousy audience.

nomotherearth said...

Well, since we're both actors, I would say that Mr Earth is the comedian, and I am the comic foil. Individually, we're both talented, but as a team, we're brilliant.

Lady M said...

Performer, definitely.

I think to one of the nastier divorces I saw, and the wife was definitely crazy. I think the husband was a passive-aggressive controller. Not a good combination.

Marian said...

I'd go with audience if forced to choose, but it depends. I get put into the role of performer often enough, but direct spotlights make me uncomfortable. I'm probably best and most natural as supporting cast, a responder who steps up to play the counterpoint. I know, that wasn't a category.

Terri said...

I'm definitely the audience.

Kyla said...

I think I'm more of an audience. KayTar is a performer, no doubt. And BubTar, he can be both, I think, but he leans toward performer.

I asked him who was the class clown and he said, "What?" and I said, "You know, the kid in class who makes everyone laugh." And he said, "Oh, that's ME!"

niobe said...

My first thought is that there's some sort of connection between the two theories. Like, um, if your preferred role is the rapt attentiveness of the Audience, you're less likely to be controlling.

But maybe that's wrong. When the performance unexpectedly turns out to involve scantily-clad women and copious quantities of alcohol, perhaps the Audience is being controlling when it says, "I think I'm going to go check out what's playing next door."

gretchen from lifenut said...

I think you are right about audience/performer.

My eldest son is definitely a performer. His best friend forever in the whole wide world is an audience. I once told the boy's mom one reason I am so happy about their friendship because her son "got" my son's humor---and not many kids do.

Cole said...

I think my problem is that I always try to be the performer but my performances are never memorable. I really do make a much better audience. Maybe I'd be a better friend if I resolved to be satisfied with that?

As for marriage, are crazy or controlling the only options? Because I think that I'm often both. Except when he is. Maybe that's why we're both happy with each other? The trick is to never be controlling at the same time.

Andrea said...

Studiously ignoring the divorce part....

Um, I'm both. I'm a rapt audience in person, then I use all of that to create written performances.

Anonymous said...

My husband is a teacher and I am CEO of a corporation. We are both audences to each other at home, performers with friends and of course the audience to our grown sons.
Interesting and thought-provoking post!

Anonymous

minnesotamom said...

I think both Husband and myself can be Performers in the right situation. He likes to lecture and be listened to, but he also will give ear to my stories. I think he might be slightly more of a Performer, though, because he usually can't care less about other people and their lives. Maybe that just makes him selfish. I dunno.

Me, I don't mind some attention until I know I'm the center of attention, and then I clam up. But I could listen to people talk and interact all day.

Wow, thanks for the help psychoanalyzing our marriage!

Mimi said...

Performer. Obviously: ENTJ types are not audience dwellers. Stage managers, maybe, but never just observing.

:-)

You're asking the BLOGOSPHERE whether it's a performer or an audience???

Bea said...

Niobe - I suspect that in many marriages, the Audience to the craziness eventually becomes the Controller. (Not necessarily a Fat Controller, though.)

Minnesotamom - Yes - I felt all the time I was writing this post that self-identifying as a Performer may be just another way of saying I'm selfish. ;)

Mimi - I know, I know. But I'm surprised at how many people are identifying themselves as audience, at least some of the time. I thought we'd all be Performers.

Jess said...

I think I am more of a performer. Also, I love your first theory, and am fairly certain that neither of us is crazy or controlling. Perhaps this is a good sign for the longevity of our marriage.

Someone Being Me said...

I always tell people I am the straight man to my husband, the comedian. He is always the center of attention, the big story teller. I am always the one rolling my eyes and telling what really happened. It works for us. I think for the most part I am the controlling one.

goodmum said...

I'm definitely the audience, except, perhaps, in my marriage. Then maybe I'm more of a performer. Then again, I'm sure hubs doesn't think I "perform" nearly enough! LOL

Veronica Mitchell said...

I'm not sure which I am. Az is the one who most enjoys shocking people, and I find I vicariously live through his shocking statements. Does that make me a closeted performer?

Magpie said...

I used to be audience. And often I still am. But sometimes, and it surprises me, I become performer.

Adria Sha said...

Interesting theories!

Of course now I am wondering, am I more crazy or controlling? Or can I answer that by defining my husband?

In life, I think I'm the Audience. And wow, that sounds so boring. Maybe I alternate roles, depending on who I'm with.

And like a previous poster said, being a blogger who probably puts way too much out there, maybe I'm more of a performer than I want to admit.

Beck said...

I AM the performer, definitely. And now I am also wondering if I am also the crazy one and if my husband is controlling and if so, can this marriage survive? Uh oh!

Susanne said...

Okay, you have me. I am the crazy performer. I probably should be on stage more. If only to save my marriage.

My husband on the other hand is the controlling performer. We're two people (in fact three) always looking for an audience. This theory explains a lot.

So, do we need counsel?

Kelly said...

I've learned recently that I love being performer, especially since I'm audience to my children all day. Get me a drink and some friends after the kids go to bed, and the show begins.

the new girl said...

Oh I love this!

I am a TOTAL performer. I'm also an Audience, to those who uh, out-perform me. There are a couple who do.

the new girl said...

I forgot to say HA HA to the theory #1. I believe it.