silhouette of a woman

Silent treatment

Have you noticed how we, the female of the species, are made to carry a lot of unwanted baggage? From time immemorial, we have been tagged with labels that are totally contradictory. Like: beautiful but dumb, intelligent but unattractive, smart but arrogant, informed but opinionated. The list is endless.

In our formative years, these harsh generalisations bother us, but, with time, we outgrow them. We learn to have faith in our own judgment and begin to view the needless labelling with great amusement.

Nevertheless, what is almost impossible to come to terms with is our collective inability to get over the sulk. What is that you ask? Well, in simple words, ‘sulk’ is used to describe a bad mood.

When we are morose, glum, displeased, gloomy, upset or plain depressed, we sulk. Also, sulk – like the definition of the English verb – is a doing word. Yet, contrary to what it suggests, while sulking, one does nothing other than simply and totally becoming silent.

This silent treatment is the greatest weapon in a woman’s armoury and when we go on a non-talking mode, the war is won even without going into battle, so to speak.

Sulking, incidentally, is quite different from throwing a tantrum. The latter expression involves a vociferous demand for something specific and is accompanied by an outburst of temper and a stamping of feet.

This is rather childish behaviour, which sometimes follows us into adulthood and is not accepted very well sociologically. Yet, going on a sulk is a universal phenomenon that is undertaken regularly in the entire of womankind.

So, what is it exactly that makes us sulk and give up speaking, albeit temporarily? Talking is one of the most enjoyable activities that we indulge in and is the very essence of our existence. Why do we voluntarily place a halt on it?  And the most important question of all, how do the non-sulky men in our lives handle us randomly sulky ones?

To answer the last query first, the best response is to leave us alone whenever we are enveloped in such an arbitrary disposition. Excessive prodding leads to the sulking period getting extended. But there is a sort of fine balance here. If you abandon us for too long, the result is not good either. In that case, the length of the silent treatment increases.

However, why do we sulk? Now that depends on a wide array of issues that range from the minuscule to the absolute. Some of us sulk at the drop of a hat, while others are more accommodating, and only resort to sulking to cool an argument.

But one thing that life teaches everybody is this: nothing scares a man more than a woman going silent on him.

Last night, when we took the fifth wrong turn at a precarious roundabout in peak traffic, I just gave up. My husband would not take directions from me, so I reclined back into the passenger seat and closed my eyes. Determinedly, I chose to respond with complete silence to his next several queries.

“Why are you not saying anything,” spouse asked the minute I became silent. I continued to keep mum as the quietness stretched between us. “See, you were right, I’m taking the turn you suggested,” he conceded immediately.

There you have it. Slowly but surely the silent treatment always works.

By Nickunj Malik
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Nickunj Malik’s journalistic career began when she walked into the office of Khaleej Times newspaper in Dubai thirty-one years ago and got the job. Since then, her articles have appeared in various newspapers all over the world. She now resides in Portugal and is married to a banker who loves numbers more than words.