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Women like to keep track of time. Ask us how long it's been since our daughter's last dental checkup, or since our dog's last bath, or since we spoke on the phone to our mother, or since we had our hair cut, or since we made love with our husband, and we will tell you. Accurately. Men are always astonished at our ability to do this, and often become quite annoyed with us, particularly when we correct them.

"You know, we haven't been to the movies in a long time," a woman says to her husband. "I'd love to go out Friday night if we can get a baby-sitter."

"What do you mean—we just went to the movies. Wasn't it a few weeks ago?"

"No," she replies with certainty, "it wasn't a few weeks ago; it was more like two months ago! I remember exactly when we went, because it was right after my parents were here for my cousin's wedding."

"Whatever," he grumbles. Of course, now that she explains it, he knows she is right. But he's still irritated with her for remembering so precisely!

This penchant women have for accurately chronicling time manifests itself in many ways:

Women keep track of tasks men don't want to be reminded of.

"You haven't called your mother in three weeks."

"It's been a month since you mowed the lawn."

"You were supposed to drop off that package for your brother five days ago."

Women keep track of how accurately men keep promises about time.

"You said we'd talk this weekend about possibly re-landscaping the front yard next spring, but it's Sunday night and we still haven't discussed it."

"Where have you been? You told me you'd get home by six so we'd have time to eat before going to the play, and it's almost seven!"

"You promised you'd call me when you got to your hotel, but I didn't hear from you until late last night."

Women keep track of romantic and intimate time.

"It's been months since the last time we talked about our relationship and where we're going in terms of commitment for the future."

"We haven't taken the time to really make love when it wasn't just a quickie for five weeks now."

"The only time you give me a romantic card is once a year on our anniversary."

Women are conscious of rhythms and patterns in time.

I've noticed that because women pay more attention to time in general, we see rhythms and patterns that men may not recognize. We notice how certain behaviors or experiences repeat themselves over and over again. Men, on the other hand, often don't connect these events to one another within the context of time.

For instance:

It's a Friday night, and your boyfriend, Robert, is spending the evening with his old college roommate, Frank. You've been dreading this for months—actually, since the last time Robert and Frank got together—because whenever your boyfriend hangs around with Frank, the two of you end up in a fight afterward. This has happened over and over again, and you're hoping by some miracle that tonight will be different.

It's almost two in the morning when Robert arrives back at the apartment. "Hi, honey," you say as he walks into the bedroom. "You guys must have had a good time—you stayed out late, didn't you?"

"Were you watching the clock or something?" Robert responds.

Here he goes, you groan to yourself. It's happening again. "No, I wasn't watching the clock. I was just commenting on the time," you say in as sweet a voice as possible.

"Well, I'm a big boy and I can take care of myself," Robert snaps.

"You know, Robert, you don't have to talk to me in that tone.

Why are you picking a fight with me? Every time you go out with Frank, you come home like this—feeling mad at the world."

"I do not," Robert insists. "You're just pissed off that I stayed out late."

"No," you reply strongly, "I'm not pissed off that you stayed out late. I'm pissed off that every time you are with Frank, you are in an angry, defiant mood for days. In fact, the last four times you've been with him, we've had a fight when you got home."

"What are you, the CIA?" your boyfriend says angrily.

I have heard so many versions of this kind of dynamic between a man and a woman, when she recognizes a pattern of cause and effect that repeats itself over time and he just doesn't see it:

A man doesn't notice that he gets depressed for days every time he talks to his ex-wife on the phone. When his girlfriend tries to point this out, he blames her for being jealous.

A father isn't aware that whenever his little boy goes to a certain friend's house to play, he comes home and behaves aggressively. When his wife tries to discuss this, he tells her "boys will be boys," and that she's just being too protective.

A man doesn't realize that every year around the time of the anniversary of his father's death, he becomes despondent and withdrawn. When his wife suggests there may be a correlation, he insists she overanalyzes everything and is making something out of nothing.


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