Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Chatty Men

Fixing up my father's house has required me to hire all kinds of workers.

Plumbers, electricians, contractors, lawn maintenance workers, tree trimmers, flooring installers.....etc.

They have all been men. They have all been ordinary, blue-collar, working class men with calloused hands, manly banter and gruff exteriors.

However..they are a very chatty bunch!

Maybe I give off the air of sister/wife/mother/generic female stand-in...but I am always surprised by the things they talk to me about while they are working and the openness with which they speak. I don't know if there's something about me that draws them out, or if the stereotype of silent, unemotional men is simply untrue.

They tell me about their divorces, about their wallets getting stolen but how it's no big deal because their credit cards are maxed out anyway and they can't make the minimum payments, about their plans for retirement, about their wives, about their health scares, about the towns that they grew up in and what brought them to Florida.

It's quite strange how completely honest and talkative they are.

Maybe it's the nature of their jobs. Not only are they practicing a trade, but they are required to constantly interact with people, going from home to home and trying to please their customers. They're probably used to the forced intimacy of working in their client's private spaces, surrounded by the tokens and photos of family life that fill most homes.

It's also been heart-warming to see how many of these guys work in close partnership with a "buddy" of some sort. Father and son, cousins, brothers, lifelong friends...they seem to come in deeply bonded pairs.

I don't know that I have noticed a correspondence in the women I know. I can't think of any common, similar working partnerships that are as prevalent among women.

I don't know what it means...but it's interesting.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think I know what it means. Keep turning this over in your mind. I don't want to steer your thinking, but my suspicion is that neither the 19th C stereotypes of men and women (found most often in fundamentalists who believe they are preserving a 1st C norm) nor the late 20th C Second or Third Wave feminism that reigns as politically correct, are very true, though some older beliefs are.

Anonymous said...

I am an construction worker who found your message interesting and so I thought I would comment on it. I think you are correct in assuming that the 'chatty men' are a product of their job. You might be surprised to find that although many of us discuss what to you is intimate information, to us it is idle talk and not deeply meaningful. We make an art of discussing personal things with an impersonal heart. You are also correct in your view that construction workers share a bond. Not always males though. My best friend is a woman. She is the platonic 'office wife.' although our 'office' is on the construction site. I am more intimate with her in a non-sexual way than I am with my own wife. I text my 'buddies' all the time and I carry my phone with me everywhere, often talking to my work friends after hours. I can say this because I don't know you, but I think part of the reason construction workers bond, besides shared work experience, is because of the crude work conversation and jokes that are shared and are addicting and the people we make fun of and talk about behind their backs. You may not hear these but unless your 'crew' is very virtuous, it is happening. The work buddies that go to the bar together after work also share a friendship beyond the work environment. I hate to admit it, but it is easier to carry on a buddy relationship with my co-workers, and a surface conversation with those on the job site than with our own families and wives. After all, we will never see you again, and we have to face our families every day. Most of what you perceive as emotion is probably a lot of constant anger and complaining disguised as conversation. We are not the 'good guys' that you seem to be imagining. Although some of us work with family, the work environment is often the same. Many of us have personal and family lives that are less than desirable and we are not that honest in matters that really matter. Just thought I'd let you in on that...