Thursday, January 06, 2011

Universal Truths: The Girl's Night In

It happens eventually. Maybe I've had a crap day at work and I want to unwind. Maybe my best friend from out of town is visiting, and we're both too broke to go shopping. Maybe I got a new DVD recently and I want to watch it while wearing a paste made of strawberries, sugar and guar gum on my face, covering my fingernails with coloured acetone.

It all sounds a bit mental doesn't it? Basically, that's what happens on a Girl's Night In.


You know about the Girl's Night Out: a female in your household spends the time between dinner and a taxi arriving clogging up the bathroom, darting between it and her bedroom in various states of undress before leaving for the night and not returning until the wee hours. Girl's Night In is exactly as it sounds - the opposite of this.


Whether your girl likes Sex and the City marathons or table football leagues during her 'me-time', there are certain key features of the GNI that you may recognise.
  • The Venue. This may be obvious but it is all-important. Many men have suffered the fate heralded by the cry of "Can you watch sport upstairs? We wanna watch Grey's Anatomy". The venue may range from the room in the house with the DVD player to somewhere the woman thinks she will not be bothered, i.e. in the bath. She wants to relax and unwind so assume it will not be the dirtiest room in the house - she wants a clean and quiet space for her to fill up with 'her things' for the evening.
  • A stimulus. The latest Patrick Dempsey film, a box set of her favourite TV series, her favourite album, a puzzle or board game. This could be either stuck on in the background or the main focus of the evening. If the GNI involves two or more women, often it is background stimulus for the girls to have a good chat over. Whatever you do, don't take this to mean that it is OK for you to turn it off.
  • Good company. If your girl hasn't got her friends over, she might treat the stimulus as 'company'. She may have a bottle of wine, a tub of ice cream, a box of chocolates or another favourite food or tipple. She might have a pile of magazines by her to keep her occupied. While these are a girl's 'company' on a lone GNI, they are not substitute for real friends and will become surplus items when she gets the girls together.
  • Luxury items. Items purchased in lieu of a GNI specifically for that purpose: may be a new book or album, it may be a video game or DVD she rented from pay-per-view or Blockbuster.
  • Pamper items. Another item purchased in lieu of the GNI, these will vary in accordance to the woman's taste. Popular items include scented or decorative candles, face masks, bubble bath, nail polish or make-up, foot spas etc.
  • Maintenance items. Similar to pamper items but should not be confused for them (I'll explain this a bit later). Includes epilators, waxing kits, manicure sets, hair dye, curling irons or straighteners.

So your female companion is having a GNI. I can't stress this enough, there's no need to freak out. Stop trying to climb out of the window. Here are a few 'urban legends' about the GNI I have explained and debunked that will make the time easier for you both.
  • A GNI is occurring because your woman wants to feel pampered. If she's been stressed and you've been trying to help out, don't assume this is her way of saying "Your effort isn't good enough". She knows what will relax her just as well as you do, this is just something she wants to do for herself.
  • Don't assume that she's having 'her time of the month'. Yes, she could be; on the other hand she could have just had a crap day and want a break. Never ask "That time of the month, is it?" In fact, never ask us this at all. It will never end well for you.
  • If your lady asks you if you wouldn't mind surrendering a room for the evening, let her have it. It's not for ever, is it? If you're watching the TV, is it really anything you can't Sky+? Be generous; it's not going to happen every week. If you absolutely can't bear the thought of missing your programme, offer to run her a bubble bath - put her favourite lotion in, light some candles and leave a book or mag out for her to read. By the time she's done, your programme may well be, too.
  • Don't assume you are 'barred' from the event. If she's having a solo GNI, she might want your company, but wait until she specifies (or ask her yourself if you're not sure). What she won't want if you are there: you eating all the chocolate, you laughing when she puts her face mask on etc. This is her night, she's let you join in on her terms. On the other hand, she might hate the idea of you seeing her in sweatpants with a gallon of Ben and Jerry's in her lap and pumpkin flesh smeared on her face, in which case, you're out.
  • Don't panic when she comes home via the Library with a copy of Legally Blonde 6. She probably doesn't want to watch it with you; unless she loves hearing Waldorf-and-Statler style smarmy commentary over the top of it.
  • The reason you are sometimes banned from the room: maintenance. If an item in your lady's arsenal looks more 'useful' than 'decorative', it's a "maintenance object". Examples include epilators, razors, nail files, curling irons, nail clippers. If there's one thing that a lot of women don't like, it's showing their other half their beauty regime. We know you love our silky smooth legs; but you don't need to see us with our foot up on the stereo grunting as we tear off wax strips.
  • 'Girly Chat' may occur. I've heard my other half answer the phone in this manner: "Yep. OK. OK. Sure. OK. Yep. Bye." and upon hanging up he gives me a detailed account of what he plans to do later that day with his best friend, a topic that was allegedly covered in seven words. I've had hour-long conversations about what I and my best friend have got planned next month. This is because men will say hello, establish a meeting time/place and hang up having achieved what they set out to do. Women will say hello, discuss their last meeting, swap opinions on what was on TV last night, exchange gossip, enquire about family or mutual friends, tell each other what they're doing for the rest of the day, and then still have a good five hours' worth of conversation in them. We're just wired differently: primarily men are problem-solvers while women are emotional analysts. We will talk about anything from how to make meringues with the proper consistency to what YOU did to us in bed last night. This is another reason we may not want you in the room. If this freaks you out, talk to your girlfriend beforehand and establish how little or much you are happy to share with an audience, or if there are problems between you two that need addressing. Don't worry - mostly girly chat will be pointless to you and it is acceptable for you to ignore it.
  • Have you seen the episode of sitcom Friends where Chandler has a bath? Women and men like baths like this, though men may take Chandler's stance of 'hidden shame'. Cosmetic giants Lush and The Body Shop are so popular because they make a necessary cleanliness routine into a treat for your senses for both man and woman alike. There is something to suit all (including the people who hate bath bombs: the option to suit you is "don't buy them").

Yes, you heard me right. It's intrinsically good for your lady, which means in turn it is good for you: she will feel relaxed, happier and indulged, she might have had a chance to catch up with old friends or new TV. And it might not have even cost you a penny - I certainly wouldn't expect my brother to know what I'd want, he'd probably come back with all the wrong ingredients, not for lack of trying but because he doesn't know what I want at that precise moment. I might have munched some dark chocolate last week, but if he comes back with 70% cocoa when I crave a Milkybar, my reactions will range from mild disappointment to spontaneous tears. And it'll only have been my fault for insisting on sending someone else out for the goods instead of doing it myself. If you find yourself in a spare room, use the time to get your own business together. Clip your toenails without fear of being yelled at, take the XBOX in and catch up on a few levels of COD4, reorganise your fantasy football team/saved game files/Stag Do photos. Make it your night too. 


If you sense your lady is a little low, making her feel like it's OK for her to have a GNI is probably one of the nicest things you can do for her. Admittedly so is buying her roses or giving her a hug, but it's just another option, and it's one she can do herself. Don't make her feel like a visitor in her own home - sagging your shoulders whenever she says "I fancy having the girls round" or "I could do with a good pamper" is a bad attitude, and you'll make her angry or sad which I assume you don't want to do. You don't have to lay yourself down in front of her, but implying that you wouldn't mind watching the TV in the spare room or surrendering the bathroom for a few hours is a priceless gift that gives and gives.

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