He Said She SaidFeatured — By M. Morford on December 4, 2012 at 3:00 am
Sigmund Freud’s most burning (and unanswered) question was wrapped around the idea of puzzling over what women want (apparently what men want is either too obvious or not even worthy of discussion).
The chasm and conflict between the genders has been the core material of nearly infinite numbers of films, novels, magazine articles and psychiatric diagnoses.
Even Freud’s ventures into cocaine use gave him little insight into this particular – though familiar – conundrum.
In fact, perhaps it is our gender familiarity which makes this particular dilemma so complicated and vexing. Who of us does not have a parent, sibling, friend or neighbor of the other, dare I say, “opposite” gender?
Wouldn’t anyone just assume that as we grow up with those of the opposite gender, we would have at least the most basic understanding of each other?
A girl with many brothers, or a guy with many sisters might have some inherent understanding hidden from most of us, but they, also, are puzzled most of the time.
It is obvious that gender dictates and defines every aspect of who we are. It has been said that men and women inhabit parallel (near but never intersecting) worlds.
Consider the most basic routines of life. From the moment of waking, males and females have different rituals and priorities – even different materials used to prepare them for the day and for public exposure.
One obvious example is visible in almost every public setting. Consider that most bland, everyday setting of grocery shopping – especially on a weekend or in the summer.
Men, when they are allowed to, dress for comfort and ease of use. Low maintenance and convenience are the key characteristics of choice. Slip-ons and pull-overs are the preferred modes. Hoodies and crumpled clothes (and perhaps untied shoes) are the standard guy uniform on weekends.
A guy might (without thinking about it) be cultivating the look of sleeping in his clothes – accompanied of course – by stringy and dirty hair.
A female might also cultivate the “just woke up” look, but is far more deliberate about it. If there is a prevailing theme (a topic sentence, if you will) for how a female presents herself it is that she will look good.
As a guy prepares his wardrobe for the day, his organizing theme is likely to be is it “clean enough”.
A female will go through excruciating layers of matching of colors and textures, rituals of time and event measurement asking questions like “What did I wear last time?” “What did those people wear?” and of course the eternal question of “How do I look in this?”
Could any of us imagine a guy asking these questions?
“Is it clean enough?” is a vexing enough problem for the typical guy.
There are exceptions, of course. One fascinating forum for gender, class, culture and fashion research is the ever intriguing people of Walmart website .
In my classes and discussion on this topic, I bring up the question, “Why isn’t there a ’people of Safeway’(Target, Sears, etc.) website?”
So perhaps there are, ahem, forums, where women and men feel freer to express and expose themselves. I’m guessing (and hoping) that Walmart is a temporary deviation for both genders – kind of a cultural oasis where standard rules of appearance and decorum are in a state of suspension.
So is Walmart a fulcrum of public male and female expressions at their most basic? Could any of us imagine the thought process of “I’m going to Walmart, what should I wear? What did I wear last time? What was that person next to me in the check-out line wearing?”
These thoughts boggle the mind.
Besides clothing and dress, men and women literally express themselves completely differently. When a man expresses himself with a single word (“Yep”, “Nope”, “OK” or “Uhhh” are typical male utterances) that is almost always the full extent of his ability or interest in communicating.
When a female utters a single word (or syllable) there is unmeasurable danger surging below the surface.
When a guy says “Fine” that means he is generally agreeable with pretty much whatever she suggests. When she says “Fine”, however, she really means “You better not say another word or you will suffer for it for at least a month”.
If a guy says to another guy, “Thanks a lot” he generally means it. If she says it, it is sarcastic, and it is too late, you are already in more trouble than you can imagine.
This final point makes me wonder about one of the many recurring puzzles of male/female dynamics – why is it that guys are almost always in trouble (in the relationship) and women never are?
Perhaps Freud, or enough cocaine, might shed some light on this mystery.