Middleagedmum.com: just ask!

As I get older, I find when I meet new people (women), I either click with them straight away or I don’t – simple as that. Obviously age and experience have taught me to persevere with the ones I don’t ‘get’, as there is usually something interesting buried deep down, that may require a bit more effort to find. But when you meet someone new and find they are on the same wavelength, you instantly feel a sense of kinship and empathy.

I find women are open to new friendships and are willing to cultivate new relationships as they get older, while men can be reluctant to invite new people into their lives as it requires a certain amount of effort and a lot of questions!

An encounter I had with one of my sons best female friends recently, made me think perhaps it wasn’t just about being middle aged, but more of a male v’s female thing.  

I was in the local hairdressers where sons friend has a Saturday job and she was washing my hair. We got chatting and when I came home, I shared our conversation with my son. I knew what grades she needed for uni, what she was doing on her gap year, what her parents and sister did for a living and that her whole family were vegetarians.  “How the Hell do you know all that from a 15 minute conversation” he asked. He has known this girl since he was four and knows lots of surface stuff about her but not much detail –  ‘Because I asked’, I said ‘women do’.

Having a son and a daughter backs up my theory that asking questions is a nature over nurture thing. When they were little and went to play with new friends with interesting houses, I would not so discreetly ask, ‘so what’s the rest of the house like’? – as annoyingly you usually only got to see the hall or kitchen when picking kids up. Son would reply ‘ it’s like ours, why do you want to know,’ which it clearly wasn’t, as I’d seen the huge double fronted house from the outside and caught a look at the stunning architect designed kitchen!

Daughter however, would reply, ‘oh mum it was amazing, they had lovely flowery wallpaper in the bedroom you would love, and the bathroom wall was bright orange.’ In fact I taught her so well, that when she progressed onto secondary school and no longer needed to be picked up from play dates, she would text me pictures from interesting houses she knew I would like. ‘Am at Georges house, his mum is a stylist, you would love her, and look at their bathroom.’ 

Yes, yes, yes, I know this is wrong and not to be encouraged, but think of it as flattery, not weird and stalkery!! And quite frankly the level of detail in that text meant I had clearly done something right, she knew exactly what I wanted to know and see.

As she’s got older, her powers of observation have far surpassed her brother. Ask him actual facts about a subject, intelligent or otherwise and he will come up trumps. Who starred in some obscure cult French 80’s film? He will know straight away and might even know the director. If the dog is under the weather and we can’t work out why, he’ll be straight onto Google and come up with a diagnosis. But try finding out where his friends are going to uni or who’s feeling a bit down, you have no chance. He quite simply doesn’t ask questions.

We women get to heart of the matter straight away. I have been known to find out a complete strangers whole life story on a train  to Brighton. There is a subtle knack to this however, as too many questions can make you look freaky and too much probing is just wrong. It’s all about asking the right questions in the right way and seeming really interested in the answer. Something men have yet to learn.

Teen daughter is doing well, she knows her science teacher is divorced and fancies the deputy head, that a boy in year 10 thinks he’s gay and she’s happy to gossip about who’s going out with who and who shouldn’t be wearing those leggings with those legs.

But I have all but given up on teen son, after all he has learnt from the master. MAD can speak to his mum on the phone after she’s just been told she needs an operation and not ask what it’s for. Or he can go for a drink with a friend who’s just had a baby and not find out the sex, name or weight. He gets round to asking eventually, but it can take a while and by then his mums fully recovered and the friends have had their second child.

It seems what men see as nosey and instrusive, women see as interested and caring, which is fine with me, as long as I remember, if I ever want to know anything remotely interesting, I need to ask a woman!


  • Caroline says:

    I thought it was just my teenage son! I consider myself to be pretty clued-up about school stuff but he ‘just remembered’ at 8pm last night (which he still thought was 7pm, despite being up since 2pm – don’t go there…) that he had 10 hours of art exam this week. Thank you for posting this missive; I’ve been doing this job on my own for 14 years and I thought I’d been doing something wrong when my chatty little boy morphed into a mute. I feel better now.

  • freethequay says:

    oh dear. I have three pre teen sons and have been attempting to train them in the art of the non-intrusive personal question: should I just give up now?!

  • Anna says:

    Oh Jane this did make me smile! I too tend to discover someone’s life story during just a brief meeting and also despair of ever getting any details out of my husband. The gender difference for detail does start early. Just as you described my daughter will come home from tea at a friends with all sorts of information, whilst my younger son can only remember what the pudding was and what games for the Wii they had! It is similar to the way that small boys can never remember any of the things they had been doing at school, even whilst still on the premises. xx

  • Cath says:

    This made me laugh so much, it is absolutely spot on. My husband is always amazed that I can learn so much about complete strangers within 5 minutes of meeting them, he always thinks I have a “listening face”, but now you have confirmed it’s a male/female thing. And my daughter is able to report back on houses she knows I’d love whilst son knows I’d love them but can’t give me any detail. However, I had to laugh when my nephew took photos of a house interior he knew I’d like to see. His mother, was astonished that he’d done this, but I was just very impressed that he knew his aunt so well.

  • Susan says:

    Gosh yes, this is all so true! As the mother of 2 boys I have no daughters to make the comparison but it is a standing joke in this family that I find out all sorts of details about people I have only talked to for 5 minutes whilst the menfolk know nothing about their closest friends and colleagues. I think everyone is potentially fascinating and most people just love to talk about themselves. There is an art however in knowing when to back off – but in general there is no harm in asking and most of the time you get answers. I am continually amazed at the connections I find between people – the ability to translate this skill into effective networking is an asset in business and something that many male managers struggle with. (One once told me “I don’t have any children or pets so why should I be interested in other peoples’? ” !!!)

    And I also used to persuade my sons to go to birthday parties even if they didn’t want to as I wanted to see beyond the front door of other houses – so don’t worry you are quite normal in that respect!

  • Jane says:

    Oh so glad to hear everyone else is as nosey as me!! It is our duty as mothers of boys to ensure the communicate as much as possible, we can break the cycle. My son is so much more evolved int his respect that men of my generation, but it just doens’t seem to come naturally! Can someone remind me why is it that we women are running the country? Imagine how amazing we would be at resolving huge issues and conflict. ‘Any one fancy a cup of tea, now come on tell me whats wrong?’

    Cath I love the idea of a ‘listening face’


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