Monday, January 24, 2011

When A Nag Is Not A Horse

Barbara: My daughter blurted out a comment the other day that hit a nerve. And while I don’t want to betray her confidence, I did think it was the kind of subject apropos to throw around here for a bit. She had something she wanted to discuss with her boyfriend but was worried she’d come across as a “nag”. This thing she wanted to discuss was neither a demand nor a recurring issue between them; it was more along the lines of a request that he might or might not like. Okay, enough about them. Now to the subject: ARE we nags, or do we FEEL like nags, or do our significant others BELIEVE we’re nags?

And whoa, Nelly, no hating on men, women, significant others, or nags for that matter, equine or other. Just a debate on the difference between how things are and how things are perceived.

Please believe me when I say I am not dissing my husband here—I love him madly, you know that and he knows that––but I will confess that over the years I’ve had my own issues with requests. If I bug him about the tap dripping, am I a nag? If he doesn’t feel like fixing the tap, does he make me FEEL like a nag (meaning, it’s my fault I feel this way) or has he actually ever SAID I was a nag? Honestly, I don’t know!

When I look back over the years, I can remember often feeling that I was a nag, but as I write this I’m not sure if that comes from a literal experience or from my own ingrained response that just because someone doesn’t welcome my suggestions (“Honey, would you mind fixing the tap?”) that their negative reaction turns into a REJECTION OF ME, thus turning the whole sordid affair into an implied accusation that I am a … NAG.

Over the years I’ve gotten a lot better at not twisting people’s responses into indictments against me (it’s win-win, if I misinterpret, I’m an idiot, and if I’m right, I don’t wanna know). But this nag thing keeps nagging at me. And the reason I brought up my daughter’s experience is because I thought their generation might be past all that (especially modern urban creative types). But clearly, no.

So, here’s what I told her—and what I try to tell myself. If you want something, there’s nothing wrong with putting it out there (even if it’s an unwelcome chore). And if the other person doesn’t like it, that doesn’t mean they don’t like you. Even if it takes 200 reminders that the tap needs fixing J

Deb: The word Nag has been around as long as I’ve been alive. And sadly it has always been attached to the female of the species. But I have seen male Nags. And really, to me, Nag simply means someone who is responsible. Someone who wants to get things done that need to be done. Man or woman. It is the person in a relationship that is trying to keep things in running order and keep things looking nice. 

I have witnessed first hand on occasion those who overuse the Nag moniker and they are scary. But my general take on it is that those who are calling someone a Nag, are generally those who don’t give a damn how anything works and are even less interested in keeping it in order.  Do I sound bitter? I have a husband who does more than his share. And a father and a brother who do the same, so I am really not speaking from family experience. My bitterness around this has nothing to do with personal experience. 

I just hate when woman are saddled with these unfair labels and I think that this one has been passed down through generations, which is probably what made your daughter cop to it. There is nothing naggie about this lovely girl. 


  1. I don't often hear the word nag used. I'm Jewish so requesting things is a natural. Of course I don't see that as nagging but if you ask my kids they would say it is criticizing or repeating a request- a conversation that is often in our family. I see it as love and letting them know how I feel. Again they will stop me in my tracks and tell me to cut out the criticism. I swear that is not what I am doing but I think nagging is like controlling and that is where I often get into trouble. I have learned to do better but sometimes my nagging or repeated questioning makes them nuts. I must say since they had their own kids this is much less of an issue. I try not to butt in but sometimes I just can't help myself. But in the end we are very close so something is working. Mouthing shut-up also works. :) Or the proverbial "Look"- which says it all.

  2. I really try to not be a NAG when it comes too me and my boyfriend. There might be things that I have to tell him over and over but thats just because he has a bad mind sometimes. Like me. My boyfriend has always been that type of guy where I can talk or tell him anything and he never is offended. So Im guessing if I ever do NAG at him about something he would not tell me that I am doing it.

  3. Actually, that's a good addition, Madge, those words to our kids. My kids would definitely say I nag! But like you, I'm trying to learn where the fine line is.

    Lyndsie, your bf sounds adorable!

  4. *sigh* I'm married to a bit of a nag. It's because I am very bad about doind certain things that he'd really like me to do (like cleaning up all my stacks of paper...) I think the 'pipe is leaking' is fair. It is a new thing. You'd like help getting it done. But the every day behaviors that I HAD BEFORE WE WERE MARRIED, AND WE DID LIVE TOGETHER FOR OVER A YEAR should not be so surprising as to merit daily reminders... But then, I knew he was a Virgo when I married HIM, too... *cough*

    Seriously though... I think 'nag' is about repetition... new request, counter starts over.

  5. Oh Hart, you poor thing. I live with a Virgo man too, and let me tell you, he can be a nag and a harsh critic. God love 'im though, he doesn't like to BE nagged or criticized (and rarely needs to be, bless his Virgo heart)!

  6. Aha, Hart and Kate -- the tables are turned! The Virgo half of my guy likes the order, the Libra half likes the "justice" of not being nagged :)

  7. Uh, with your bad self
    Say it louder (I got a mouth)
    Say it louder (I got a mouth)

    Look a'here, some people say we got a lot of malice
    Some say it's a lotta nerve
    I say we won't quit moving
    Til we get what we deserve
    We've been buked and we've been scourned
    We've been treated bad, talked about
    As just as sure as you're born
    But just as sure as it take
    Two eyes to make a pair, huh
    Brother, we can't quit until we get our share

    Say it loud,
    I'm a nag and I'm proud
    Say it loud,
    I'm a nag and I'm proud, one more time
    Say it loud,
    I'm a nag and I'm proud, huh

  8. Nag, Nag!! LOVE this! Thanks for sending the tunes. And I really wanted to ask if your "nag" had a good story???

  9. I was going to call my blog Mouth Of the River (that would be the Niagara River) because I do have a mouth on me - sometimes I'm almost ashamed to eat with it. My husband suggested that Nag On The Lake might be more fitting and, being Niagara on the Lake's most accomplished harridan (really I don't let up for a moment) I jumped on the title and persona before anyone trumped me.

  10. "sometimes I'm almost ashamed to eat with it." Man, I love that.

    Thanks for clearing up the nagging nagginess. It is a pretty damn wonderful moniker!


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