[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 Four]
(Note: I’ve had to re-order the questions, to make the images fit… because I’m anal like that)
Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with a fair number of smart, funny (platonic) female friends, and I’m very grateful for that, because I agree that when guys get together alone, the breadth of conversation can narrow to the point where you spend an entire evening just yammering on about bands, TV shows and movies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that once in a while, but personally I crave more variety and insight, and always enjoy hearing gossip. On the other hand, I’m quite taciturn myself at times, and I never talk as openly as I write… possibly because (as yet) I haven’t found a peer group that’s especially supportive of the subjects I’m most absorbed by.
The book’s “answer” to this question, by the way, is that men view conversation as another form of “fire gazing”… i.e., a mindless activity to take their one-track attention away from their real-world worries and concerns. The book’s “solution” to this problem, is for women to simply write men off as a dead loss where “information about the health, career, relationships or whereabouts of your family members or those in your social circle” is concerned (p. 122), and converse only with other women. Harsh.
2. Why Do Men Avoid Commitment?
To answer this one, the book kicks off with the same argument you’ve probably heard a thousand times before: “For almost all of human existence, males have been polygamous for survival reasons… from a species survival standpoint, it made sense for a male to have ten or twenty females, but made no sense for a female to have ten or twenty males, as she could only bear one offspring at a time. Only 3% of animal species, such as foxes or geese are monogamous… the brains of most other male species, including humans, are not hardwired for monogamy.” (p. 124) Thankfully, it does follow that up with the welcome retort: “We differ from other species however, in that our advanced brains have developed large frontal lobes that let us make conscious decisions about what we will or won’t do, so it’s never enough for cheating men to protest that they couldn’t help themselves. They always had a choice.” (p. 125) Amen!
According to the book, “most men” will mock a friend who starts talking about getting married, but I simply envy my married friends, and remind them how lucky they are… so I can’t help thinking that the men this book is aimed at are kinda dickish. Still, I rather like the analogy the book draws between loving and driving: “If you want to be a motorist you must learn the rules of the road and follow them – otherwise you’ll always be a pedestrian. A relationship is simply a negotiation with rules – if you want love, friendship, sex and a person who will nurture you, you must offer something in return… love, devotion and loyalty.” (p. 126) Well, yeah… duh. The spiritual rule-of-thumb seems to be that, while monks and other holy types are required to take a solemn vow of chastity to negate the Sin of Lust, common folk can assuage God’s judgement by taking a vow of monogamy instead, and only “lusting” after their betrothed. Just throwing that out there.
Blah, blah, hunting practice, blah, blah, pack mentality, blah, blah. Meh.
As a fat, nerdy, short-sighted kid, I always hated sport, and never got into the habit of watching it as entertainment. As a much trimmer (but still quite nerdy and short-sighted) adult, I’d be interested in taking up Yoga sometime… but that isn’t really a “sport”, so much as a physical form of spiritual meditation. Meanwhile, I simply can’t understand why it’s considered “gay” for me to watch a show like Sex and the City (where beautiful women take their clothes off and talk dirty), while it’s considered super-straight to watch football matches (where sweaty men run around in tight shorts and hug each other). Le shrug.
4. Why Do Men Feel The Need To Be Right About Everything?
The book blames this flaw on the infallible male role models that young boys encounter in their formative years, as embodied by comic book characters such as Superman… but personally I always preferred basically-competent-but-comically-flawed characters, like Justice League International’s Blue Beetle or Guy Gardner. To this day, there’s nothing that turns me off a hero (or heroine) faster than infallibility, and the humourless arrogance that always seems to go with it. I’ll admit it stings when I’m corrected or criticised, no matter how constructive that criticism may be… but thankfully I’ve long since grown out of believing that everything I do is perfect, because I know that perfection is impossible this side of Heaven.
Um… this post is starting to get a bit “churchy”, isn’t it? Sorry about that.
5. Why Are Men So Interested In “Boys’ Toys”?
This section features a mildly disturbing anecdote in which the authors give their friend a motorised stapler with “a see-through plastic case, so you could watch all the wheels and dials moving inside.” Despite the fact that it’s pretty much just a large, battery-guzzling machine for folding thin strips of metal into bundles of paper, their friend almost had an orgasm when he opened his present because “it had lots of wheels and dials that went round and round, was lit up by flashing lights, and made real motor sounds.” He giddily confesses to them that “sometimes when he gets up in the early hours of the morning to go to the bathroom downstairs, he passes the stapler sitting on the table and can’t resist putting 4 or 5 staples into a sheet of paper just so he can watch the wheels whizz round.” Now, they don’t specify how old their “friend” is, but if he’s over the age of ten, I think they should seriously consider taking him to the hospital to check for some sort of concussion, ‘cuz that boy ain’t right. Even worse, “when his male friends visit him, they all stand around and take turns at putting staples into paper, laughing with delight.” (p. 131) Oy.
Y’know, if an alien landed and picked up this book, with all of its banal generalisations about what “most men and women” do and think and feel, they’d have to conclude that all of the art and literature and music on our planet simple sprouted up out of the ground, like mushrooms. How could anyone possibly find time to create such beauty, when they’re busy giggling over staplers, setting their TV on fire, or fretting about how many roses their boyfriend has bought them this week? Good God, this book is debasing… and we still have eight more chapters to go!
6. Why Can Men Only Seem To Do One Thing At A Time?
So, um, apparently women have super-powered brains which allow them to multitask (this book calls it “multitracking”, for no apparent reason), while men can only focus on one thing at a time. In theory, this makes men much better at specialising in certain fields… but also very hard to stir, when they’ve locked their attention on to something that isn’t you. Which has a certain ring of truth to it, I guess… and the book claims to have brain scans to back the theory up, so who am I to argue with science?
The book takes two pages to answer this one, but does at least get the answer right: Nothing. And thank God for that! I could happily do without the whistling as well.
However, I did have an odd encounter in a public toilet a few weeks back. I’d just come out of the cubicle (where I’d gone “number one”), and was washing my hands, while an old man nipped in to take my place. He was disgusted to discover that I had not flushed the toilet, and stepped back out to demand an explanation. I informed him that it was “for the environment”, and he was outraged. He spluttered a little, and tried to badger me into backing down, but I just shrugged and walked out, because… well, life’s too short to waste in “rest-rooms”, having pointless conversations with strangers! For the record, if I’m in someone else’s house, I’ll flush every time… but a public loo gets so much traffic, I don’t see the point. As God said unto Moses: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down.”
Next entry: Chapter Six