[This post is part of a series, inspired by the book Why Men Lie and Women Cry (2003) by Allan & Barbara Pease. Previous entry: Chapter One]
1. Why Do Men Continually Offer Solutions and Give Advice?
This topic was also touched on in a book I read about Buddhism, although without the gender bias… essentially the message is the same though: Sometimes a person “wants to be heard, not fixed”. This book describes offering a sympathetic, supportive but largely passive ear as “listening like a girl” (p. 49), but the Buddha book would probably term it “listening like a Buddha”. Either way, you sometimes just have to let a person vent, and give them the mental and emotional space to figure things out for themselves. In the past I’ve definitely been guilty of throwing solutions and opinions at people who didn’t want/need them, so this is something that definitely strikes a nerve with me. I also felt a twinge of guilt while reading the section about how men tend to bottle up their feelings, and regard asking for help as a sign of weakness. Mea hella culpa on that one!
It’s also important for men to remember that when a woman attempts to establish an “emotional connection” with him, it isn’t an automatic invitation to touch her boobs… because apparently there’s a difference between bonding and flirting. Tragically, I don’t have the faintest clue what that difference is, because I’m useless at reading those sorts of signals… which is why I err on the side of celibacy. Fun!
2. Why Do Men Keep Flicking Through the Channels with the Remote?
The basic premise of this section is that women (and ONLY WOMEN) “like to relax by becoming involved in a televisions show, especially any series involving human interaction and emotional scenes” (p. 50), whereas men like to “watch the TV evening news bulletins… [because] by looking at other people’s problems and not feeling responsible for them, he can forget his own worries”. (p. 51) Apparently we also constantly change channels in an attempt to recreate the effect of the roaring fire that our cavemen ancestors used to stare into after a big hunt. WTF!? This whole section makes men sound like total psychopaths, so I’m calling shenanigans on it.
3. Why Won’t Men Stop and Ask for Directions?
According to the book, men are born with a “higher concentration of iron in the right hemisphere [of their brain] which allows them to feel magnetic North.” (p. 53) There’s no specific citation to back up that “fact”, though… so, who knows? I’m not a driver, but I know that when I’m on foot I always like to keep a map handy for reference… of course, even then I still manage to get lost sometimes… so, I guess I don’t have enough iron in my brain? Luckily, I don’t really consider “finding my way” to be my “number one skill” (p. 53), as all real men supposedly should. Frankly, I’d feel rather sorry for any man who thought that way… unless he worked in mountain rescue or drove an ambulance or something like that.
The book takes three pages to answer that question, when really it only requires one word: Laziness. It’s not that men “insist” on “leaving it up”, it’s just that they can’t be arsed putting it down again. Simples. When I was growing up, our toilets had really cheap plastic seats on them, which wouldn’t have stayed up even if you wanted them to, so I never understood the hoary old jokes about this. For various reasons we won’t go into, I don’t like urinals and much prefer to sit down to pee anyway. Considering all the trouble we have with aiming (especially in the morning), I think the ideal, mess-free “toilet” would have to provide a sucking nozzle, similar to the one found on cow milking machines, to extract the urine… the only problem then would be convincing men to take the nozzle off again! Ho ho.
5. Why Do Men Make Such a Fuss About Going Shopping?
Again, my answer would be “laziness”, but not according to this book! Apparently, it’s all to do with our evolution “into creatures that made a quick kill and then went home again” (p. 59) In other words, shopping is seen as a hunt with a specific target, rather than a recreational end in itself. Which reminds me of the scene in Mallrats (1995) where Ben Affleck’s yuppie storeowner beats the crap out of Jason Lee’s slacker, after informing him: “I don’t like you. I see you every week in this mall. I don’t like you shiftless layabouts. You’re one of those loser f-cking mallrat kids. You don’t come to the mall to shop or work. You hang out all day, act like you f-cking live here. I have no respect for people with no shopping agenda!”
I can relate to the “shopping = hunting” premise to some extent, because I do always feel weirdly deflated if I come home without buying anything… and I do tend to let myself get quite hungry and dehydrated, as I single-mindedly scour the second-hand shops for bargains. But as I’m sat there on a cold bench, scarfing down a quick sandwich, I do start to envy the more glamorous, cosmopolitan types sat in the coffee shops, idling their day away. Obviously the men described in this book wouldn’t be caught dead watching a show like Sex and the City, but I’ve just completed my collection of DVD boxsets (yay!), and can’t help but envy that lifestyle a little. Sadly I was born too straight, too “big boned”, and too sloppy to ever make it as a Glamazon. Le sigh.
6. Why Do Men Have Such Disgusting Personal Habits?
“Farting is universally unacceptable by women even though it is a sign of a healthy body and diet.” (p. 63) Oddly, when I fart, I apologise… but when my eldest sister farts, she laughs loudly, as if it’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened. So, I can’t really buy into the premise of this section either. I’m a vegetarian, and stereotypically we’re supposed to be more flatulent than meat-eaters, but I don’t really tend to fart that much. Not enough to attract stares in public or anything, anyway. I do pick my nose a lot though, and for that I feel shame.
This section presents six sample jokes, to demonstrate the difference between male and female humour… but I only found myself laughing at the three “female” jokes, because the “male” jokes were just straight-up misogynistic. There’s an annoying little section about how people who are offended by dumb racist/sexist/xenophobic jokes should just choose not to be offended by them… but for me it’s not so much a matter of being “offended” as being bored. I want jokes that surprise me and make me think, not jokes that just regurgitate tired, lazy prejudices. Still, the book does make some interesting points on the purpose of so-called “gallows humour”:
“The main purpose of humour for men is threefold: first, to gain status with other men by having a good repertoire; second, to allow him to deal with tragic events or consequences, and third, to acknowledge the truth about a topical issue.” (p. 65) “Women deal with calamity or tragedy by openly expressing their emotions to others, but men withhold their emotions. Men use joke-telling as their way of ‘talking’ about the event without showing any strong emotions which could be seen as a weakness.” (p. 68) “The harder it is for a man to talk about an emotional event, the harder he will laugh when told a joke about it, however heartless and insensitive it may seem to women. Men rarely talk about their sex lives to other men so they tell jokes about it as a way of discussing it. Women however, will discuss their sex lives with their girlfriends in graphic detail without the aid of any jokes.” (p. 69) (giggle)
A glorious exception to this generalisation is, of course, Sarah Silverman… whose super-cute delivery of shocking and provocative material allows her to steal a movie like The Aristocrats (2005) from right under the noses of the male comedians around her… and steal the hearts and minds of all right-thinking comedy fans along with it. God bless her, and long may she poop!
Next entry: Chapter Three