What makes dads so bad at talking to their partners about what’s going on in their lives? Even musical genius John Legend has trouble with disclosure, at least according to his wife, supermodel Chrissy Teigen. Earlier this week the pregnant superstar mom tweeted her surprise that Legend had been nominated for a Tony thanks to a song he wrote for the Spongebob Squarepants show on Broadway.
“Why does he not tell me when he writes spongebob songs??” tweeted the incredulous Teigen. “What else is he lying about??”
Look. I get it. My wife has been telling me for years that I suck at keeping her updated about my life. And I do. Sure, it’s not like I’m keeping the fact that I’m a Tony-nominated songwriter from her. But still, good news about work or even friendship might take weeks to reach her, emerging only when it becomes too topical or too ridiculous not to mention. And weirdly, the things I neglect to tell my wife are almost always good.
That’s why I take issue with Teigen’s characterization of these omissions as “lies.” They are not lies. In fact, if my wife asked me something like, “Did you boss say anything nice to you today?” and by some miracle he had, I would tell her so — the buttons virtually popping off my vest as I swelled with pride. But she rarely asks me these kinds of direct questions. And here we are.
None of this explains why I and John and probably millions of dads across the world are so bad at reporting the news of our daily existence. Perhaps it’s because men have been conditioned to equate masculinity with a particular unemotional silence. Research would suggest that’s the case. There is no end of studies that find men equate emotionality with femininity and weakness. The weird thing is that this appears to apply to any big show of emotions. Despair, sadness, and joy — their expression shows cracks in the armor.
What’s strange is that even though I rage against gender stereotypes in my personal life, the omission of my emotional day is something I can’t shake. And it’s not a good thing, particularly when those emotions are raw. Instead of coming right out with it, I’ll fume and glower until I’m pressed by my wife to reveal what the hell is going on.
Hiding the good stuff is almost more pernicious because happiness and joy have little bearing on my effect. I may be easier to smile or have a bounce in my step, but otherwise, I’m just good old dad. Who would think to interrogate me about the good news?
Weirdly, deep down inside, I want to share all of the good things with my wife. I want to share my pride in a day’s work well done, even if I haven’t done something as profound as writing a song for a yellow sea creature. I want her to be happy with me.
But to get there, I need to loosen up the emotional reigns a bit. I’ll need to be vulnerable in a way that I’m not on a day-to-day basis. And I know that will take work. That said, I know my wife would probably appreciate the window into my private world.
And frankly, John, I think Chrissy would appreciate that too.