The Other Woman was a Laptop

Portable computers causing decline of Western Civilization; film at 11

I never thought I would see this day, but the impossible is finally upon us.  The Globe and Mail‘s own Leah McLaren is finally ascending the heights of CanLit and writing about one of its timeless, well-trodden themes—middle-aged couples too alienated to have sex, but too lame to do anything about it.  Get your Governor General’s Award nominations handy as Ms. McLaren goes on a tear complaining about laptops in the bedroom.  Or more accurately, men who habitually bring their laptops to bed and ignore their girlfriend’s plaintive telepathic yearnings for cuddle time and serious talk about the relationship.  Why do men do such evil things?  Because we can’t stand talking about relationships, of course.

Men—whether they admit it or not—avoid pillow talk. The reason is simple: While snuggling and giggling and chatting in bed often leads to sex, more often than not, it also leads to more in-depth talk. And more in-depth talk leads to serious talk, which quickly gets converted into serious plans, which leads to making choices, which leads to not choosing other things, which leads to a feeling of vague, unshakable entrapment, which leads to misery, which leads to death.

— Leah McLaren, “Why online should be off-limits in the bedroom.”  Globe and Mail, 09 December 2006.

Here’s the thing.  Men are not adverse to Serious Talk, which leads to Serious Plans, which leads to Making Choices and Sacrifices.  But we do object to feeling entrapped.  And here’s a hint: if contemplating a future with someone leads one to feel Entrapped and Miserable, then that feeling might be a hint that one is, perhaps, with the Wrong Person.  And whether or not we like to drag the laptop to bed then becomes secondary or even tertiary to the rest of the equation.  But that’s not the best part of the whole piece:

Wherever you find a household with wireless technology, you will more than likely find a man who is trying to bring a laptop into bed and a woman who is trying to prevent him from doing it. One girlfriend of mine confided that she got wireless so her boyfriend wouldn’t retreat to his study all night. Now, the computer in bed is threatening their sex life.

This passage merely demonstrates how little Ms. McLaren knows about the male brain.  How many men would rather geek out than have sex?  Show of hands?  Right then.  How many men would like to 1) geek from bed, 2) geek from the kitchen or 3) geek in front of the TV.  Bingo.  Home wireless networking allows us to take a half-hearted stab at being productive while doing something far more interesting.  That is its real purpose.  If one’s spouse would rather check baseball box scores from bed, one could infer that perhaps you’re not that interesting.  The cause and effect are a little more obvious than a technological boogeyman like laptops or wireless networking.

The real secrets to preserving the sanctity of the bedroom are:

  1. Good time/task management; only you can decide how much of your down-time gets eaten up by other tasks.
  2. Make it more attractive, convenient and efficient to work somewhere other than the bedroom.

You need to control your interaction with technological toys, whether it is the telephone, TV, computer or BlackBerry.  These things have no ability to set boundaries or prioritize their communication with you, so you’re the one that has to make all of the tough calls.  This is pretty easy for me because I am the kind of guy who likes to tackle things on my own terms.  For instance I don’t answer my cell phone unless I am expecting a specific call from a specific individual or company on that particular day.  I will bounce the call to voicemail, finish whatever I am doing, and check the message later on.  I don’t like to go to meetings where people jaw for hours; tell me the agenda, what my 15-minute time block is, and I will be there for that time and leave once I am finished.  If your meeting is running late then call me and tell me what the new time block is.  I don’t check company e-mail or fire up the Firm’s laptop after I’ve left the office, either.  If there is an emergency, or I am on-call for a specific after-hours event, then this may vary, but otherwise it’s ironclad.  I guard my time pretty carefully.  You have to, otherwise it’s easy to get distracted by the urgent (versus the important).

I have two laptops, one for personal use and one provided by the Firm.  The Firm-provided laptop I cart to the office every day, but rarely if ever fire up while at home.  I like to get my work done at the office, and my rule is that work stays at the office unless a bona-fide, all-hands-on-deck emergency occurs.  I drag the laptop home every night simply because I was once a Boy Scout, and one must Be Prepared.  If there is a transit strike or some awful downtown calamity the following morning, I do not want to be the only team member who cannot plug in from a remote location because I was dumb and left my laptop at the office.  The personal laptop suffered an AC port failure last year and I simply have not bothered to get it repaired.  It’s not as speedy or convenient to use as the new desktops, so it sits packed away and unloved.

There was a time, though, when I used to drag the dreaded laptop to bed.  Miraculously, something ended the habit — about $4,000 in new office furniture and computer hardware.  Making the home office much more comfortable and efficient had the unforeseen side effect of making it less desirable to do computer work from anywhere else.  54Mbps wireless networking is convenient, but it is dead slow compared to wired gigabit to the desktop.  There’s enough space on the desk to work with the laptop and the desktops.  There’s also a spare gigabit port to plug in the laptop, so that it too can benefit from the newer, speedier network.  Likewise, a 15″ laptop screen is not nearly as convenient or easy on the eyes as a 22″ LCD.

The moral of the story is not that one has to blow wads of money to stay up-to-date and preserve intimacy in the bedroom.  One just has to make the home workspace is a more attractive, convenient and efficient place to work than the bedroom.  And you have to decide how much of your relaxation time you’re going to allow to get eaten up by other tasks.  It’s not rocket science.

Category: Web/Tech
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2 Responses
  1. Nathan B. says:

    I always think people like to be told that “men are like this, and women are like that,” but in my marriage it rarely works that way. I would love to divorce the TV, for instance, but I can’t. I hope things change after our move to Canada; I’ll be sure to keep in mind your comment about workspace (right now, there’s just no space period).

  2. Alan says:

    You have it dead on. And have a merry Christmas to you guys – maybe we will catch up in 2007.