The WB Chronicles: Translation Mishaps, or It All Started with Lipstick

Translation is the art of failure. (Umberto Eco)

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash
  1. He said: ‘I don’t like make-up on a woman. I want to be able to kiss her lips without the taste of lipstick getting in the way… yuck!’

I heard: ‘I don’t want you to wear lipstick. I love you so much that I cannot stop myself kissing you at any time of day or night.’ 

Translation error: I stopped wearing lipstick. And became invisible.

Conclusion: Never trust a man who tells you what you should look like.

2. ‘You are not like other women. You may not be as beautiful or as blonde as the women I am usually attracted to, but you are very special. You really know how to look after a man.’

I heard: ‘You have a winning personality. You are a mature woman who knows what she wants, not a whining young girl.’

Missed translation: This woman seems low maintenance and reminds me of my mother but with lots of sex. Let me just slip in that comparison, so that she remains forever grateful that I even noticed her. Besides, driving a thin wedge into female solidarity makes me feel so good!

3. ‘I cannot wait to have children. That will make us really complete. I’m going to be a much better father than mine ever was.’

I heard: ‘I will leave you if you don’t give me children. But once I have them I’ll grow up, become mature and be a good Dad, because see how critical I am of my own father?’

Translation error: Delighted to become a father as long as someone else does all the work and thinking and planning, and they don’t have a negative impact on my nice lifestyle. Oh, and it’s nice to boast about good results at school, they’ve obviously inherited my intelligence.

4. ‘Whatever you want, darling.’ (when being asked to help make a decision about holidays, major household purchases – other than a car, taking a job, quitting a job, choosing childcare options, choosing schools etc.)

I heard: ‘I trust you completely to make a wise decision.’

Translation error: This does not restrict my rights to disparage, mock, quibble about, complain about or criticise those decisions. Post-factum, of course. 

5. ‘I can’t help this. It’s the testosterone. Science has proven that men and women are different.’

‘I always warned you that I wasn’t a romantic. I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day/ weekly dates/ shared hobbies/ couples therapy.’

‘Is it really necessary to do the laundry/ change the oil filter/ put up those tiles/ XXX now?’

Translation: I can’t be bothered. Can’t be bothered. Bother!




16 thoughts on “The WB Chronicles: Translation Mishaps, or It All Started with Lipstick”

  1. Oh, this is brilliant, Marina Sofia. Just brilliant. It’s why it’s so important to really think about what someone may really mean, and watch actions as well as words. It can be so painful to learn those lessons, though…

  2. Brilliant and oh so funny…to read but not to live.
    As we say in French Mieux vaut être seule que mal (mâle?) accompagnée. 😉

  3. He sounds like a real schlub. I believe that’s Yiddish. I’m not sure what it means, but it sounds right.
    Be glad that you are done with him, my dear. Not soon enough, but done with him.

  4. You were probably right in doing so as long as they didn’t adopt his wiley ways in treating women. At the age of twelve I was thrilled when my parents had decided to separate. Their constant bickering created terrible anxiety in me, although I felt that my father’s total indifference toward me was a blessing. However, not having had any masculine guidance, or any guidance at all, threw my ship off course and into the roiling waters of life, unprepared for it’s challenges. I have been trying to keep my head above the water ever since.

    1. That’s my fear. Torn between teaching my kids that kindness is the best quality in a human being, and yet not teaching them to have their kindness taken advantage of, like I did.

  5. I must be a skeptic here, or just learned a lot in the women’s movement, but I see danger signals right away: Don’t trust a man who tells you what to wear or not wear; don’t trust a man who compares you to other women –or tells you you know how to take care of a man (on that I’d have gotten on the nearest train out of there!); don’t trust a man who says having children to ‘make us complete’ (others don’t complete us; we complete ourselves!). Do ‘whatever you want, darling,’ would make me pause as to what he is thinking or planning to do about any of this.
    Saying ‘I can’t help it. It’s the testerone! The differences between women and men are proven scientifically! This one sets my teeth on edge. It’s an excuse for everything, not doing anything to help out, not being sympathetic or empathetic — i.e., all of it. It’s the testosterone. I’m the way I am — can’t change. I’m not a romantic, don’t believe in holidays, etc. Eeks! I’d have run the other way.
    So glad you’re out of this relationship and can enjoy your life! As long as he’s not teaching your sons this stuff, they’ll be OK. Mothers have so much work to do to teach their sons to be considerate, empathetic, helpful people who respect women and treat them as equals.

    1. Yes, working hard on teaching my sons to be kind and respectful to all. Some day I will write a piece on how my ‘hyperrealism’ and low expectations of others led to this situation. Perhaps reading too much noir fiction didn’t help?

  6. You are still hearing his voice in your head. Eventually–hopefully soon–that will fade and you will be truly divorced from him. You saw what was impossible and left. Now you can leave his words behind, too.
    Of course you will still have to deal with him as an acquaintance, since he is the boys’ father. But not as your husband; as a stranger, really. Someone whose opinion does not matter!

    1. Still struggling to overcome my parents’ voices, even after living apart from them for decades. Maybe the two situations were not unrelated…

  7. This happens to so many women. You are by no means alone in this phenomenon. So many women want a relationship to work out. But as the great Maya Angelou said — which is often quoted — “When someone shows you who they are, believe them!”

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