Saturday, 31 December 2011
Conquering the Caveman
There is no doubt about it, men and women just function differently. Some of the most major "discussions" that the Sweetpea and I have had over the course of our relationship have involved just such differences. Mostly in the field of communication, I must say.
It has always intrigued me that our styles of communication are so disparate. After all, we come from the same species, right? I remember one of the earliest discussions we had as a married couple, that taught me that a man can speak at length on any subject, so long as it does not engage him emotionally. The conversation went something like this:
Me: I am not sure how this Pill works (talking about my contraceptive pill).
The Sweetpea (without hesitating, whips out a piece of scrap paper and a pen): Blah, blah, progesterone, blah, blah, estrogen, etc. There followed a forty-five minute lecture, illustrated with diagrams on the back of an envelope, of just how the Pill works, its action on all the different hormones in the body and also on unmentionables such as periods, etc.
Me (confused, but still trying to be supportive): Um, I actually meant do I have to take a red pill now or a white one?
A little while later, we had another discussion, this time involving that most unmentionable of phenomena, a woman's emotions. I talked at length about how I was feeling, the angst I was going through, and ended with a heartfelt "So what do you think?" And was rewarded with a considered "Hmmmm...."
What could be at the bottom of this fatal flaw, I wondered. I believe the basis can once again be found if we glance back at our prehistoric origins. Picture it: the women of the tribe wander away from the fires in the light of dawn (carrying their trusty handbags, in which are located all of the objects they will need during the day, such as digging sticks, cutting tools, and who knows, perhaps even an antelope horn full of the prehistoric form of lippy? But I digress...). For the day, they wander about, gathering the food that will be consumed by the tribe that evening. Boring work, no doubt. And while their hands and eyes are busy searching out sustenance, their tongues are wagging, with the latest gossip ("Do you know what Grog said to Ungh?"), the doings of their children ("Ug stood upright and his knuckles did not even scrape the ground!"), and a rehash of all of the nuances of the previous night around the fire ("then she said..., and he said 'uh' ", etc.).
Meanwhile, the men of the tribe are out hunting. In silence they stalk their prey, sneaking up until they are close enough to fire their primitive bows and arrows into it, or club it to death. Heaven help the misguided fool who tries to remark on his neighbour's loincloth ("I do so love what you have done with that leopard skin, Grog - really stylish!") at such tense moments. Yet when the hunt is over and the men return to the camp, who are the most voluble then? The men spend ages rehashing every moment of the chase, their prowess as hunters, their extreme manliness, etc. They have conquered.
Skip forward a few hundred centuries and the parallels become apparent. Men are only comfortable talking about something they have already conquered. Subjects in which they feel like they have the upper hand. Emotions, though, are like that big hairy mammoth, tusked and dangerous, something they can look at with longing, even understand the rudiments of, but never hope to conquer.
Women, on the other hand, have no such qualms. They travel the well-worn path of emotional disclosure with equanimity, their ease of using emotional discourse learned at their mother's knee (or more likely while eavesdropping on womanly conversations).
Thus the inability to communicate one sex to the other is hard-wired into our programming. Perhaps the secret is not to agonise about making the other sex understand us, but rather lower our expectations to realise that, in order to entice the hunter in our man, we should offer him a very small mammoth to hunt at first. Perhaps a small, cuddly-looking beast (like, um...I can't actually think of one offhand...) rather than an angry, sharp-tusked creature (such as "Does my bum look big in this outfit?").
And the Sweetpea's response to this idea: "Hmmm".