What Makes Men Different (and you thought you knew!)''

Mike Tuthill
Jun-27-93 04:14PM
Differences

Read this article during my Sunday morning mall coffee and it gave me a
chuckle so I thought some of you folks might enjoy. Those who can't tolerate
fluff should start skipping messages now. The article is entitled "What Makes
Men Different (and you thought you knew!)", was written by Roland Williams and
appeared in Modern Woman (a Sunday suppliment to the Sun chain of papers).

A man and woman are having dinner at a swank uptown eatery. The man smiles,
then pulls a small jewellery box from his coat pocket. The woman smiles back.
He opens the box - which contains a ring. A ring that she realizes is very
similar to the one he gave his former girlfriend. She leaves, in a huff. He
scratches his head, thinking to himself: "What? What did I do?"

He'll never really know, and she'll never really be able to explain it to him
completely. In the war between the sexes it's hard to call a truce, since
neither party can decipher the other's dialect. But the problem goes far
deeper than minor semantic misunderstanding. It's more along the lines of,
"You say tomato, I say Granada."

Why? Because men and women are unbelievably, fundamentally different.

Now, you may disagree with this. If you do, it may be because you've bought
into the often-heard hypothesis that, essentially, there are no real
differences between men and woman. Aside from divergent physiology, goes this
theory, a woman is simply a man with a keenly honed fashion sense. Or,
conversely, a man is just a woman who can't dance and refuses to dust.

Years back, I too subscribed to this thinking. I honestly thought gender
differences were minor, at best. Riding the crest of the politically correct
wave, I believed that the male brain and the female brain were identical. I
refused to accept that women were better communicators, or that men had a
natural affinity for things concrete. I flunked math as easily as my female
friends. That alone would be enough to disprove the thesis, I reasoned.

Obviously, this argument has more holes than my teenager's earlobe. And after
decades of laughing, crying and arguing with various members of the opposite
sex, I now believe that in almost every way possible, men and women differ -
although I'm still not quite sure why.

Of course, we don't start out noticeable dissimilar. As infants, we're
actually very much alike: cry, eat, burp, eliminate; cry, eat, burp,
eliminate, etc., etc. At this point in our lives, even the physical
differences between boys and girls are minimal. (With balding heads and
wrinkled faces, all infants bear a striking resemblance to an elderly man who
has just tossed back a shot of castor oil.) In fact, the pink-for-girls, blue-
for-boys color schemes probably provide necessary discouragement to
embarrassing and repetitive inquiries regarding the child's gender.

The first real differences between males and females - and therefore the first
real tensions between same - emerge around the age of four. Little boys, now
easily bored, spend their leisure hours hunting for action. They soon discover
that things are made to be broken: toys, rules, their mother's fragile grip on
sanity. About the same time, little girls start to hone their conversational
skills. For them, play generally involves only one of two others and lots of
talk. Boys think girls are dull blabbermouths; girls believe boys are crude
and destructive. They will carry these initial impressions throughout the rest
of their lives.

In grade school, the differences become more evident. Now, the opposite sex is
not just unbearable, it's contagious. ("Boy's fleas!""Girl germs!") During the
teenage years, however, this viral quarantine is officially declared over. But
even while playing a heated game of chesterfield rugby, adolescent boys and
girls are thinking very different thoughts: "I wish he'd bathe," she thinks,
avoiding the musky fumes by breathing through her mouth. Meanwhile, he's
thinking: "I hope this isn't a tricky bra, and that she's got pizza in the
fridge."

But even if the seeds of our differences are sown very early on, they really
don't bloom until we stumble blindly into adulthood - the stage of our
development at which we begin to spend serious kinds of time with each other.
This period also represents the first point in our lives at which we learn
that any topic - from politics to bathroom etiquette - can illustrate
divisions drawn along sexual lines.

You don't believe me? Let's start by looking at something uncontroversial -
like, say, going to the movies.

Before suggesting a flick, a woman will know whose thumbs pointed which way,
the director's substance-abuse history, whether the leading lady has ever
slept with Warren Beatty. Then, without exception, she'll pick the only
romantic comedy in release.

Upon announcing her choice, she reluctantly hands the newspaper over to him.
His eyes now carefully roam the page, invariably settling on the advertisement
featuring a steroid junkie the size of God standing amid a burning, war-torn
city. For him - as it was when he was a boy - it's action/adventure, or it's
nothing. They may compromise, staying home to watch MacGyver reruns, or work
out a mutually unsatisfying system of he-picks-one-week, she-the-next, in
which every Saturday night finds one of them (him) bored or the other (her)
queasy. You can see another classic dividing line between the sexes drawn
across the doorway of any retail establishment. We're talking shop here - or,
specifically, shopping. For women, shopping is a delicious process, to be
savored like a fine meal. For men, it's more like scarfing down a drive-
through-burger. A woman will try on clothes for hours, for the entertainment
value alone. A man will impatiently scoop up a few garments - or, even better,
request six of the exact same shirt he's now worn daily for three years
running - flee the store, try them on at home and, if they don't fit, persuade
whoever buys his underwear (wife, girlfriend, mother) to take them back.

Accessories, of course, are another matter. Women wear peripherals such as
belts, bustiers or bangles to dress up, disguise, update or (if the woman has
aspirations for rock-video stardom) take the place of an outfit. To them,
accessories are whimsical or fashionable - mere props, accents or diversions.
To men, though, accessories are deadly serious. They Make a Statement.

Remember the 1980's yellow "power tie?" Or the wide Wall Street suspenders
that said, "greed is good?" Or here's an even better example: earrings. A
businessman who wears one earring is saying that he is an individual: although
he spawns in the corporate stream, he does not smell like the other fish. A
man who wears more than one earring is saying he has given up all hope of
gainful employment.

But mostly, we're saying that we have no idea what looks good. Unlike women,
who, at any age, surf the ebb and flow of haute couture with an athletic
finesse, men tend to get sucked in, becoming overwhelmed by fashion's
undercurrents. Around our 40th birthdays, we finally sink like stones. From
this point on, accessories become limited to bifocals, a sports car and a
lecherous grin.

Speaking of lechery, I now come to the area where the most profound, and most
memorable, differences between men and women can be identified: the bedroom.
Although I hope this is now changing, I suspect it's still true in many cases
that men make love to have sex, while women have sex to make love. We're not
even sexually compatible: while most women want to take it slow, for many men
a quick swig of mouthwash is as close as they ever get to a pre-game warmup.

And to top it off, even our sexual timing clocks are inherently out of sync.
First, a man's libido seems linked to solar cycles: while it shines brightly
in the morning, it quickly fades at night; for women, sex tends to be a
nocturnal activity. Second, men attain their peak sexual energy at age 18,
while women do so at around 35 - according to popular mythology, anyway. This
indicates that (a) women should take their dating cues from Cher, or (b)
somebody up there is enjoying a hearty laugh at our expense.

Actually, sex, like almost any other element of life, is just one more point
at which men and women don't come together. It seems that no matter how close
we are, like infinite parallel lines we go on and on, never truly meeting.

That said, there is a time, toward the latter end of life, when we converge
slightly. I am fast approaching my golden years - the only time, aside from
infancy, when my wife and I will be considered more alike than unalike. Our
lives will be simpler, as when we were young: cry, eat, burp, eliminate.
She'll now be able to grow a decent goatee, while I will sport an impressive
set of breasts. Together, we'll guzzle castor oil and grow crotchety,
contentedly spending our days in twin rockers on the porch, screaming at the
neighborhood children: "Hey, you kids! Get out of my yard!"

Honestly, I'm looking forward to it, just as I'm looking forward to the next
inevitable curve ball my wife will throw at me. See, after years of trying
unsuccessfully to tune into her wavelength, I have learned to embrace our
differences. Because, for us, it is the differences that make each day
together lively and unpredictable. And now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

So I really don't have any complaints. My wife? She has but one. After all
these years, she still wishes I'd learn to dance. Oh, yeah. And dust.


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