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Sweating the (really) small stuff?

Gone Girl - by Gillian Flynn

When everybody was reading 50 Shades of Grey, I resisted: a) if I’m seeking prose to masturbate to, I don’t need a whole novel, and b) from my sketchy knowledge of the plot I’m pretty sure that I’ve been there, done that.

More recently, everybody seemed to be reading Gone Girl, and I buckled. Crime sucks me in everytime.

Stylistically similar - although I’d argue, substantially less satisfying than Elizabeth Haynes' Into The Darkest Corner - it tells the story of unlikeable Amy - the gone girl of the title - and her equally unlikeable husband Nick.

My interest, my angle, into this novel is an aspect of the he said/she thought mentioned early on. Early on - before the shonky twists, the turns, and before Gone Girl became the Bold and the Beautiful of crime novels.

In a coming soon chapter, I write briefly about the day after the love interest and I arrived home from a trip away. First email of the morning: him asking for my bank details to deposit his half of the hotel bill.

A classic he said/she thought moment.

Me, and I reacted as though he’d just left money on my nightstand. I expressed a controlled version of these sentiments. He responded - puzzled, and offended - that he just didn’t want to look like a cheapskate.

In Gone Girl there are quite a few of these moments. The ones that piqued my interest centred on memory.

On the bloke forgetting stuff, on the woman finding this really personal, really offensive, and him dismissing her as self-indulgent for even caring.

Nick describes one of their anniversaries: a treasure hunt Amy had organised. The clues were all obscure and recollections about things she found sweet and wonderful. Most of which he had no memory of. Nick tells us she reacted badly and we believe him: Amy spends an awful lot of time on emotional management - I won’t get angry, I won’t be so female, I won’t guilt-trip him: an explosion has to be imminent.

The forgotten anniversary is, of course, a very well worn trope. Essential for any hapless TV husband is forgetting a wedding anniversary. Or twelve.

Fawlty Towers

I think about this issue a lot - not forgotten anniversaries so much, but on the caricature of the guy who simply cares less. On one hand advertising’s consist parade of incompetent men - who can’t empty the bin, can’t plait their daughter’s hair yadda yadda - is offensive, is boring. But Gone Girl made me question: is pop culture’s forgetful dolt just a moron, or is he a reflection of real-life nonchalance?

Of men really not giving a damn about the small stuff. The domestic stuff. The emotional stuff. The details-stuff that arguably make up life?

Not exclusively because I once got a 17% mark on a biology test in Year 10, but biology - the natural sciences more broadly - aren’t my strong suit and aren’t my way of understanding the world. Rarely for example, will I resort to an innate-sexed-difference as an explanation for why men do/why women think.

Generally, in fact, I’m hostile to the idea of things being fixed, encoded, and too often “natural instinct” is a thorough cop out. Everytime we put on clothes, remove unwanted hair, poison weeds, we’re giving The Finger to The Natural anyhow.

My decades of exposure to film and advertising and sitcoms point to some stark differences between how women care and how men care. My 32 years of living amongst our breed substantiate a lot of this.

Women sweat the stuff routinely considered small and trivial. Men tend not to.

I’ve often wondered why men don’t complain about their media stereotyping the way that women have about their sexualising, their objectifying.

Is it because this stuff is considered small, trivial? Because it’s just not worth caring about?

If so, what actually makes the list of stuff worthy of our attention? Where could my academic efforts be better spent? A question, of course, at the very heart of the natural vs social science wars and a topic that bristles enough with my feminism to often keep me awake.

You say potato…