My Problem With Men

Lately I’ve been noticing a strange thing about men. If I get upset by something they say, even if they are simply imparting information and not saying anything to purposely hurt me, they respond, “I shouldn’t have told you.”

Huh? Just because I don’t like the news doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have told me. Just because I get upset is no reason to keep me in the dark. Are men so fragile they can’t handle anger, tears, heartbreak, even if it’s not directed at them? Or even if it is directed at them? (To tell the truth, I’m not sure I could handle anger or tears if they were directed at me, but if I did something to provoke those reactions, I sure would do something to try smooth things over.)

I seem to have lost the ability to deal with men, assuming I eCowboyver had the ability to begin with. I’ve lost a friend who was dear to me because he couldn’t handle my emotional reactions. He didn’t seem to think I had the right to be angry or feel hurt by anything he did, or maybe it was just that he didn’t like my show of emotion. For a while, I thought my problems with him were more of a personal nature, but now I see that the problems stemmed from a basic conflict — he is a man and I am a woman. We might not be from Venus or Mars or whatever planets we are supposed to be from, but there is a distinct difference in the way we see things.

Today, another man told me that my neighbors were hurt by my not telling them about my father’s funeral, though I had done so. They had been shunning me, turning around and walking the other way when they saw me or when I spoke to them, and even though I was upset by what he said, I needed to know because his words explained their actions. When I made the comment that it was my father who died, I got tearful as I always do now at the reminder of death. He immediately said, “I shouldn’t have told you.”

So what if I was upset? So what if I cried a bit? So what if I was momentarily angry at the unfairness of it? It’s not like I’m going to spend the rest of my life agonizing over the neighbor’s snubbery. (My word processor doesn’t like my making up words. It keeps changing snubbery to snobbery.) Luckily, my emotional reaction passed as quickly as it came, and luckily he was reasonable so we were able to get beyond our differences.

My real problem with men and emotions comes when I interject my emotions into the middle of a story or explanation. I don’t know whether it’s the interruption that upsets men or that the interruption is emotional. (I never notice this with women.) I don’t deny that my emotions are close to the surface now, and they pop up when and where they will without waiting for the end of a tale. I suppose I should try to cap my emotional responses, but I’m not sure I want to. It’s easier to get beyond life’s sad/bad parts if I can emote a minute (or a lot of minutes) and then let go.

There is a lesson in all this, though I’m not sure what.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

She Says, He Says; She Does, He Doesn’t

Writers often make men and women characters interchangeable, using only physical attributes to tell them apart, forgetting that there are differences between the two species. (I know, men and women aren’t two different species, but you have to admit it feels that way sometimes.)

Brain scans show that women have between fourteen and sixteen areas that evaluate others’ behavior, while men have only four to six. Because of this, women are better at juggling several unrelated topics in a single conversation. They also use five vocal tones to make their points. Since men can only identify three of those tones, they often miss what women are trying to say. So men accuse women of not being direct and women accuse men of not listening.

It’s amazing we manage to communicate as well as we do, considering that men and women have different reasons for conversing. Women ask questions to show interest in the person; men ask questions to gain information. Women find that talking about a problem provides relief; men feel that talking about a problem is dwelling on the negative. Women think that continuing to discuss the problem demonstrates support; men want to make a decision and forget it. Women provide peripheral details because they want to be understood; men just want them to make their point. Women think that talking about a relationship brings people closer; men generally think it’s useless.

Women are better at interpreting body language than men. Because of men’s inability to read body language, a crying baby often confuses them, though women know exactly what the infant wants. Women’s subconscious ability to interpret body language makes them seem more intuitive than men, but men (and women) can consciously learn to interpret body language, which evens things out.

There are differences in the way our eyes work, too. A study of nonnudists at a nudist colony showed that men had difficulty resisting the urge to look, and their gazes were obvious. Women, on the other hand, were not caught gazing, though they had just as hard a time resisting the urge. Does this prove that women have more self-control than men? No. It only means that men and women are hardwired differently. Women have better peripheral vision than men, so they can appear to be looking at a man’s face when in fact they are checking him out.

Men generally have poor close range vision, which keeps them from seeing what’s directly in front of them, but they are better than women at spotting targets over long distances.

I’m not sure how to use this information to make male and female characters non-interchangeable, but knowing some of the differences should help.