vendredi, mars 31, 2006
Men and boxes
On this first Friday of genuine East Coast spring, when birds and flowers are reawakening and inspiring us to madness and daring, let's be brave and take a foray into the perennially hot topic of the gender gap. Once we leave the realm of the chromosomal (and there's probably even some ambiguity about chromosomes, but don't tell me right now) the whole debate about gender differences starts spinning off into more subjective places. How quickly we can move from speaking about "gender differences" to "gender wars" or the "battle of the sexes"! Once arrived at that point the conversation enters a much murkier landscape littered with prejudice, unwarranted assumptions and assumptions that may be warranted but make us cringe because they are not politically palatable. But isn't that what makes these kinds of conversations fun? In the interests of full disclosure, let me confess: I am totally fascinated by men. I love hanging out with women. I've been truly blessed by many friendships with women who were very different from each other. But whether they were practical or intuitive, gregagrious or introverted, had doctoral degrees or never attended college, we shared, at the least, the assumption of similarity. Across the gender divide, you have to work harder. Thank God for that lovely ( sometimes dangerous) rush of attraction, or, frankly, some of us might never make the effort. I'd like to throw a question out there for consideration: what does it mean when someone says that guys "compartmentalize" better (or more) than do women? Let me give you a couple of examples I've heard, both from men and from the women who love them. I've known upper middle class men who hated their jobs. Yet they sucked it up on the weekdays and lived for the weekends with their families because their salary paid for the bigger house, the cool vacation and the kid's private school tuition. Who told them they had to do that? I've had guy friends tell me there is one code of ethical behavior that applies in personal relationships and another in business ones. How come no one taught me that? Men also appear, if the statistics are accurate, to be willing to tolerate difficult or even moribund marriages for much longer periods of time than their spouses before they either sound the alarm or get out. I gotta admit, this one totally mystifies me. None of these behaviors is unique to men, though I've observed them occuring more frequently with my guy friends. They aren't either good or bad. In fact, I've often thought dividing my life into neater categories might help me be more organized and assertive. I'm also a little envious, because when it comes to the state of my kitchen or my daughter's math grades there are moments when I too would like temporary amnesia. I'm hoping there is someone, or a couple of someone's out in the blogosphere who are willing to take a crack at answering these questions: what is this thing called compartmentalizing? Do men get special classes in it? Is it a skill more women need to learn? Or do we have a role, on either side of the gender divide, in helping each other understand what it means to see the world through different eyes?