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Opening Arguments

Nag, nag, nag

Check out "A Month of No Nagging," fascinatingly instructive for any men who have had to put up with female nagging (that would be all of us) and any women who have been frustrated to the point of hysteria by their need to nag men (that would be all of them). Call it sexist if you will, but that is the way it breaks down:

Each time we talk, he agrees to my request. So why, when he is caught not doing the very thing he has agreed to do, am I greeted not with an appropriate word like sorry, but with a horrible, totally inaccurate word like nag? I don't think I nag. I remind! I suggest!

Let's remember, too, that nagging is inherently a chauvinistic word, used for women but never for men. My husband argues that this is because men don't do it. I say it's because women comply with requests the first time.

[. . .]

Yet... I hear myself--reminding, suggesting--and wonder, When did I become this person? Because just between us, I can admit it: I do nag. It's the simple request to take pictures of the kids more often so the burden isn't on me. It's the frustrated plea to put the medicine away out of the reach of the children, and so we know where it is when we're awakened by a baby with a fever. It's a gentle reminder to hit SAVE so I don't have to hear middle-of-the-night cursing as my husband's 2,000-word document disappears into the ether. It's the little things I need help with, the small tasks so innumerable that they'll never get done, if not with some assistance.

[. . .]

I decide to start over and learn how to communicate effectively in order to--let's be honest--get what I want. The rules: For 30 days, I won't ask for anything I've already asked for. I won't remind my husband what needs doing or what he has agreed to do. I will not look disappointed when things don't go the way I wanted. Hopefully, I will triumph in the end. I tell him my plan. He smiles. "I am 100 percent behind this," he says.

Don't ask me why women are the naggers and men the nagees; that's above my pay grade. Maybe it's because most women desire an ordered world and men are disorganized slobs. Maybe women, long subordinate, feel the need to control their environment, and men are resenting it. Maybe women are just bossy and men are just procrastinating slugs.

I'd never expect a woman in my life to give up nagging for a month -- it would be cruel and unusual punishment and undoubtedly cause more harm than good. But I have a"fourth time makes it nagging" rule that my female friends and relatives seem to accept. They can remind me to do something three times with no harm, no foul. But the fourth time becomes nagging and they then earn my withering contempt, which of course is a force much to be feared. It seems to make them think carefully about what they say, and I seldom get reminded of anything more than three times. But the rule is also a reminder to me, and I often get around to something even before the third reminder.

Naturally, some of my naggers try to get clever. "Don't worry, I promised not to tell you again you need a haircut, and by God I won't" is a nagging non-nag in the same family as the non-denial denial. One time my mother was visiting and, having exhausted her three reminders that I was letting the living room get cluttered, simply placed a wastebasket at the end of my couch without saying a word.

Devil women.