How Men Watch TV

As a guy, I have perfected the art of channel surfing that is a mandatory skill amongst men. I can flick across several channels for hours on end, without ever really settling on any one for longer than the time between commercial breaks. What’s more, I can tell roughly what is happening on each one that I’m not-watching. I say ‘not-watching’ because when my wife asks me if I’m watching anything in particular, the answer is usually an honest ‘no.’ But still I persist in flicking across the spectrum. It drives her nuts.

What she doesn’t realize is that this is the male equivalent of flicking through a glossy magazine. When a girl picks up a gossip mag, it is rarely to work through it from cover to cover in any sequential or focused way. I’ve seen how you do it: A woman picks up the magazine and flicks across a few pages, pausing when a particularly juicy headline or interesting picture appears. She stops and reads the caption, or maybe the opening paragraph, then flicks on. The magazines are even designed to enable you to do that, with lots of sidebars and text boxes floating on the page, ready to be digested in the time it takes you to readjust your grip ready to flick some more. But if anyone were to ask you what you were reading, the answer would probably be ‘nothing in particular.’ What you are doing is distracting yourself for a while, enjoying a few snippets of color and interest, without committing to really having to read anything. And that is okay, because we all need a few moments to slip our brain into neutral and relax. Just realize that when a guy is channel surfing, he is doing exactly the same. It is an exercise in evading boredom without really settling in to invest in watching something. It’s a magazine with moving pictures and talking captions.

So although it might seem infuriating, accept it for what it is. If you are trying to watch together, you might need to communicate to him that you were planning on watching something that made sense, so he doesn’t automatically ‘turn the page’ on what you were watching. If commercials come on, you may need to distract him so he doesn’t flick over in search of something more interesting, or remind him to go back to where you were. But if you aren’t particularly watching anything yourself, let him go and don’t stress about it. Pick up a magazine and flick through the pages a little, and you can both enjoy some down time for a while.


Dan Kelly

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