Lately I have been doing some serious hard labour in the garden, as you may recall from my recent blog.This unaccustomed combination of outdoorsy-ness and hard work has been entirely altruistic, to enable my wife to embark on a mission to embrace the good life and begin growing vegetables.
When I tell my (male) friends about my endeavours I am inevitably met with one or both of the following responses: ‘stop setting dangerous precedents for the rest of us’, or ‘blimey you must be racking up the brownie points.’
This got me thinking about the whole notion of brownie points. According to the ever helpful and reliable source of information that is Wikipedia, brownie points ‘are a hypothetical social currency, which can be accrued by doing good deeds or earning favour in the eyes of another, often one’s superior.’ I don’t know about superior, in my experience the term is almost exclusively used in relation to a man earning brownie points with his wife/ girlfriend. Some may argue that this is the same thing. Especially women.
Wikipedia goes on to give several possibilities for the etymology of the term brownie points but it doesn’t tell you the things you really need to know about them. Speaking with my (male) friends there are clearly some common unwritten rules.
The first thing is that men earn brownie points from their women; this rarely works the other way around. If women do something stupid, thoughtless or selfish (perish the thought) we are expected to forgive them. If they want their men to do something nice for them we are expected to do it. These things are expected because we love them. As a man, seek forgiveness or ask a favour from your loved one just because they love you and see how far that gets you.
Secondly, brownie points have an expiry date. It is impossible to know in advance when this is, but it is inevitably not as long as you would think or hope. Whereas if a woman wants something and decides to play a card other than ‘because you love me’, she can quite reasonably say: “go on, remember that nice meal I cooked for your birthday in 1993.” As a man, on the other hand, you may have built your wife the house of her dreams with your bare hands and bought her a jewel encrusted car, but if you bring it up two weeks later when asking for a favour you’re likely to get “I thought you did that because you loved me” or “are you going to go harping on about that forever?”
Lastly, brownie points are fragile: hard to win, but easily lost. And no matter how many brownie points you’ve racked up, one careless word or deed can see them all wiped out in an instant.
Bugger, this blog may have just resent my brownie point count to zero….