Men and Their Missing Gerbils

I study moms all day long, and—in all honesty—one thing they often complain about is dads.

They’re less-than-no-good at the breakfast routine, they don’t always understand our deep-seated doubt, and their repeated ability to pee on a toilet seat is beyond comprehension.

Men aren’t perfect. They’ve got some growth opportunities in the realm of manhood, husbandhood and fatherhood. But let’s hit pause on the less-than-helpful story we keep telling ourselves and take a minute to turn it around.

Let’s look at something men don’t have that’s remarkable and beautiful: they don’t have gerbils going round and round on running wheels in their minds.

My husband and I are on vacation and I just watched a situation play out in full Mexican color that demonstrated his profound lack of gerbils and running wheels.

I woke up early this morning to save the best seats by the pool.

Of course, the resort has signs all over the place strictly prohibiting this behavior (racing down to the pool groggy eyed and tired, dropping off your multi-colored beach towels and going back to bed), but I don’t care. I’ve never been much of a rule follower. We’re in Cabo without our children and by-gosh we’re going to have the best seats in the house as we watch this kid-free vacation unfold.

While saving our seats, I took a minute to sit on the lounge chair and project in my mind the amazing day we were going to have—laughing and talking and lovingly applying suntan lotion all over each other’s backs. I knew it was a lie—that he’d be glued to his ipad all day and I’d be glued to the newest addition to my self-help book library. But, hey, a girl can daydream.

My fairytale of a daydream was quickly interrupted when we returned to our hard-fought seats to find a nearby couple blasting country music.

Uh-oh.  This isn’t going to end well.

While I adore country music, my husband (born and raised in Switzerland) does not share my affinity for the genre.  He’s said on many occasions that the lyrics make him feel “overly sad and angry—and who in the hell wants to feel that way?”

He immediately looks over at me and says, “I’m going to have to say something.”

Oh. Lord.

And they’re off. It’s like the gerbils in my mind heard a starter’s pistol and took off, racing to nowhere on their teeny, tiny running wheels.

Two years ago, my girlfriends and I came up with this term of endearment for the rat race that occurs in our minds when we start to stew, project and worse-case-scenario the hell out of a everyday situations.

I immediately start projecting how this situation is going to end, despite the fact that it hasn’t even remotely begun.

It’s amazing. In 47 seconds, the gerbils single-handedly helped me envision three very different but equally horrible outcomes:

  1. This 250 lb man-of-a-man (who could easily punt kick us both across the pool) is going to start yelling at my husband, calling him horrible names and causing the entire pool-side audience to think we’re lamer than lame.
  2. The guy’s going to refuse to turn it off, my husband’s going to get pissed and we’re going to have to move to a crappy set of seats that are only open because the rule followers are still sleeping.
  3. I’m going to feel horrible every time we see this couple around the resort and I’ll go out of my way to smile and make small talk so that they don’t think we’re jerks.
Man, those gerbils are swift. They should be in Sochi.

As I’m sitting up in my chair, scoping out where we’re going to move to and how long it’s going to take to haul all our stuff over there, I spot my husband walking over to the music man.

Since it’s a short walk, I only have time to blurt out, “Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease be nice. honey!”

Richard: “Hey man, I don’t mean to be a pain, but is there any way you can turn it down?”

Music Man: “Oh, gosh, sorry about that, man. Of course. No problem.”


And the gerbils collapsed on their running wheel, looping around it in defeat. The very dramatic, day-ruining, lord-we’re-horrible-people event was over in 2.6 seconds. Handled like men handle things—quickly and honestly.

As I sat in stunned silence, I thought about how, when presented with a problem, my instinct was to stew on it and project horrible endings to the situation, while my husband’s instinct was to simply go solve it.

Men aren’t perfect. And neither are we. Every once in a while it’s nice to look at what they don’t have in a positive light, as a lesson to be learned.

Men don’t live in their minds.  They live in the real world.

Can you imagine such a thing?

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