I have a hard time with emotions. Maybe it's because I'm male or maybe it's because I'm getter older - I just turned 44. Despite my many birthdays, women are still a mystery.
Women seem to have so many emotions. Like their scarf collection that spills out of their dresser drawers, their emotions have such abundance and variety. They are able to mix and match at will. In the space of a single day, they'll smile at you with a tropical pastel, then, for kicks, they'll hit you with bold, nautical stripes. When they feel sad, it'll be blue velvet. And when they're angry, beware animal-print scarves that scream.
Give most guys a ball of some kind - a baseball to throw, a basketball to shoot - and they're happy. Women seem equally comfortable sharing their emotions. They make it look so effortless, offering up their feelings as easily as they pass about a plate of mushroom caps. I wish I could pass around my emotions like a football or a tray of hors d'oeuvre, but frankly it's more like a game of toss the hand grenade. Emotions are bombs.
I spent some time living in Sydney, Australia, a few years back and enjoyed the snide, ironic grins of the meteorologists on TV as they'd deliver weather reports that never seemed to vary: Sydney 31 degrees, fine; Melbourne 29, fine; Adelaide 28, fine.
That's me when I'm asked how I am: fine. I'm Canadian, so I know the difference between freezing rain and a snow shower. But if I'm forced to admit that I have an emotion (that's right, one lousy emotion), I'll go with fine.
I learned a lot about emotions from the images on 1970s television. On one hand, there was Tom Landry, the stoic-faced coach of the Dallas Cowboys. As good as the team was (Super Bowls VI and XII, anyone?), the coach's mug never changed. If he had any emotions, Mr. Landry kept them to himself. If Twitter had existed back then, his tweets would have been fairly dull: good, good and yes sir, still good. So what if Pittsburgh beat us in two big games? Real men don't cry.
On the other hand, Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie kept getting herself in trouble by wearing her heart on her sleeve. She had the habit of sneaking up on people and eavesdropping on conversations. The scene when Pa Ingalls told Laura's sister Mary that she was going blind ended with Laura overhearing and fleeing across the grassy prairie of Minnesota.
I'll never forget the look on her face as she heard the news about her sister; it resembled the hard spike of a speedometer as a driver hits the gas of a sports car. The emotions that she felt were bewildering and painful to watch. Surely when you're just trying to survive on a small family farm, emotions are a distraction to a good wheat crop.
As a high-school English teacher, I help my students study such characters as Othello, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Willy Loman. They learn about the characters' downfalls and the tragic flaws that lead them to their destruction.
You can slice the tragedies up in many ways, but I think it comes down to one thing: too much emotion. Feeling is dangerous stuff. Willy Loman wouldn't have died the death of a salesman if he hadn't suffered such extremes in his emotional amplitude. He should have retired to Australia, where things would have been fine.
In all honesty, I do have a few emotions. I think so anyway.
I get sentimental when I think back to my late teens. Back then, I'd hang out with my male buddies and life was relatively simple - touch football and Big Gulps in front of the 7-Eleven afterward. We'd talk about women but it was fairly abstract. We weren't exactly ladies' men. We longed to know them better but I think we were holding out because the whole thing scared us.
Communication, I've been told, is the key to a successful relationship. Women want us men to talk about how we feel - how we feel about our day at work, how we feel about her day at work, how we feel about the future. Even though I studied English at university and know a few good words, using them to describe my feelings makes me want to run across the prairie.
But I'm getting remarried this year, and before I say "I do" (again), I have to figure out if I have any emotions I'd like to declare. At the security gate of love, there are a few pressing questions: What do you have, sir? Are you hiding anything?
I've been flying solo for a while now. Soon there will be someone across from me. We'll be on a long flight together and there will be much to talk about. Will I sit quietly, staring at the seat ahead of me, cautiously sipping my in-flight can of pop? Or will I have the courage to turn to her, lift the armrest divider between us and let her know what I really think?
I plan on the latter. I'll talk to her. I'll confess to her. I'll share.
I feel joy when I'm with her. The beauty of her eyes thrills me, and her easy genuine laugh comforts me. When I'm with her, it's like every day is summer. The sun shines brightly and the breeze is gentle.
I also feel scared. I want to make the darn thing work.
Getting remarried makes me feel scared.
There, I said it.
Sean Donaghey lives in Toronto.