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Monday, June 18, 2012

Men are Different

Is that a "duh" statement or what? Around Mother's Day, I wrote about how women are different. I figure it's the guys' turn now. hehehe

We all know that men are bigger, stronger and can lose weight more easily than us—the last we hate them for. I suppose I'd better insert my caveat: the above and what follows are generalizations and don't apply to all men.

In this post, I'm concentrating on how they think. I mentioned before about the workshop Eileen Dreyer did for Mid-Michigan RWA's Retreat from Harsh Reality in April on how men's and women's brains are different. Since this was a retreat for writers, the purpose was so the characters in our books are more true to life and their motivations more realistic. A side benefit (which many of us talked about during meals) was she helped us understand our guys. Those of us who've lived with a man—father, brother, best friend, son, husband—already knew that men think differently. Many of us didn't know why or to what extent.

Men are wired for survival. From the beginning of time, their job was to hunt, thereby providing for the family/clan, while women protected the nest. This delineation of the sexes remained unchanged until the last century. Men are becoming (or allowing themselves to be) more nurturing. They are sharing child care with their spouses. As a mother and grandmother, I'm thrilled to see men becoming more involved with their babies. They don't hand off the baby with a stinky diaper. They read bedtime stories and, in general, share responsibilities with their wives.

Women define themselves by who they know, whereas men define themselves by what they do, which certainly explains why it's so devastating to a man when he loses his job. Or retires. He's lost his purpose. If a woman loses her job or retires, she still has her friends and family—the people with whom she has bonded. Women share their feelings with other women. Men don't. They talk about achievements and sports. "How 'bout those Lions?" Which makes when we start talking about how we feel almost painful for our guys. Sometimes, I think they'd rather have a root canal than discuss how they feel.

Men tend to be single-task oriented. Sorry, guys, but we multi-task better. Well, most of us do. I'm told I have tunnel vision when I'm into a project. Here's something I wasn't aware of: when men are in the middle of a task, they are so absorbed they don't feel pain. Whoa. We should have gotten that trait. It would've come in handy during childbirth.

Did you know that a sense of color is attached to the x chromosome? Is that why my guy can't tell the difference between beige and tan? To him, it's brown. Women have a more highly refined sense of smell, too, which probably explains why men don't smell the onions in the wastebasket.

Men are problem solvers. They want/need to fix things. Which is wonderful when the AC doesn't work in the middle of a summer heat wave or the garbage disposal doesn't work. However, don't you want them to just listen when you try to talk out a problem and not tell you how to fix it? "Now, honey, this is what you should do . . ." I have to say the guy I live with has never (not that I can remember, anyway) told me what to do—especially with my writing career. He doesn't do it with our kids, either, though there were times when they were young that I wanted him to. Instead, he patiently waits for us to work out our problems, come to our own conclusions, make our own mistakes. When asked, he offers information and, sometimes, suggestions. The best part is he doesn't say "I told you so" when our decisions don't work out.

There were many other points Eileen made during her talk, but this next one surprised me the most. To men, help means failure. If a man offers help to another man, this translates as that person doesn't think he's capable of doing the job. Consequently, men wait to be asked for help. Women see help a lot differently. We see what needs to be done and offer help instead of waiting to be asked. We often wish our guys would do the same. Really, I don't think I'm a failure if he offers to run the vacuum. Women helping each other (say, in the kitchen) is a time of bonding and sharing. One of my brothers started hanging out in the kitchen after large family gatherings because that's how he found out what was happening in the family.

Men tend to be more left brained—detail oriented, stronger in math and sciences. Women tend to be more right brained—languages, arts. Again, a generalization, but it's interesting how many female writers are married to engineers (raising my hand here). I wonder if it works the other way. Do male writers (musician, artists) marry scientists?

For all our differences, we make good teams. Rather than declaring one sex is better than the other, I think we complement each other. Together we are stronger than we are as individuals. Although we drive each other crazy at times, I wouldn't want to go through life without my guy.

If this post about the differences between the sexes helps you write better characters with more believable motivation, great. If you understand your guy(s) better, terrific. I know Eileen Dreyer's talk certainly helped me understand some behaviors. One of the really great things about the time we're living in now is that men's roles and women's roles are no longer etched in stone. Women can be "hunters" who bring home the necessities of life and men can be "nurturers". Again, complementing each other.

Although this is a day late, Happy Father's Day to all the men who are modeling to today's children what a "real" man is. To our fathers who are no longer with us, we miss you.

 Forty years ago, on Father's Day, I told my dad I'd met the man I was going to marry. We'd had two dates and I knew he was the one. Happy Father's Day, again, sweetie.


  1. Dad.....mmmm....<3

  2. Nevertheless, we have more traits in common with men than the differences we can count. Bless them all.

    Rohn Federbush

  3. Much better living with them than without them!

  4. I think it's great that men are joining in with the family chores and love your example of diapering a baby. So wonderful to have a guy like that! Love this post, Diane! And I'll chime in with Margo, we sure are lucky to have such awesome 'fathers' in our lives.

  5. I made the mistake of suggesting to my son that he call his brother and ask for help with a do-it-yourself project. Ack, will not do that again!

  6. Great post, Diane. It's always good for me to remember Bill can't really tell the difference between teal and green, and to remember if I don't want suggestions on how to fix it, don't mention I'm having problems with...

  7. I also learned a lot from Eileen's workshop. Am going to try and remember some of this when I'm writing. A few years ago there was a similar article in the RWR called Brain Sex and it explained why men's and women's brains are different, leading us to act so differently. Really helped me cope with a then teen-age son and also Tom. This info should be included with marriage counseling! But I'm glad we are different, otherwise life would be rather boring, yes?

    1. Definitely should be included in a pre-marriage course.

  8. Good post, Diane!

    Some say we marry our fathers, but I'm sure glad I didn't. My DH is reliable, family oriented and is a solid father.

    1. Me, too. My father was from the "old school" and DH is so much more enlightened. Good thing. :)

  9. Loved your comparisons and wished we had more workshops on the differences of the male vs female brains. Interesting note on color, as most men are colorblind. Thanks for a great post, Diane.

  10. I met my hubby when I was 14 on the first day of h.s. and I knew as soon as I saw him I'd marry him:) 14 yrs later, and we're still happily married. Sooooo glad I didn't have to play the dating game!

  11. A little late -- catching up with email etc...

    Diane, what a great blog! I really enjoyed it and I think it complements everything we heard from Eileen.

    Maybe this is why men refuse to ask for directions???
    And I can not buy ties for my husband. They never are the "right" color as far as he is concerned.


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