11 Things I’ve Learned About Men

Mostly anecdotal. I’m hoping people (especially men) will tell me what I’m right about or what I left out.
Mad Men
Mad Men

1. The Pressures Are Different

Women are pressured to be hot, young, outgoing, easygoing, and promising mother material. Those sound like simple requirements compared to everything men are supposed to do, but either you are these things or you aren’t. And pretty much all of them relate to how we appeal to men. I think the pressure for men is more of how they measure up to each other.

There’s an underlying expectation of intellectual and emotional competence that guys seem to have for one another: like if you don’t make decent money or stop talking about your ex in a reasonable amount of time you’re a loser.

Women can depend on our parents’ money for longer. We’re allowed to rant about how some guy left us for as long as humanly possible (see: Jen Aniston) and at least some of our friends will keep being sympathetic.

I don’t think most people expect all men to be Rambo at all times. Men respect the life advice that only the most sensitive guy in their group can give. However, I do think men are expected to be decisive. Like you’re supposed to reassure women that everything’s all right without questioning that yourself every step of the way. People tend to be turned off by anxious men. Which sucks, because I know there’s plenty of you.

The concept of honor also seems to be applied more to men. I think that’s because women are seen as inherent caretakers. The world doesn’t have to monitor how honorable we’re being. Like a thousand years ago you guys would have to be warriors. Besides nobles, monks, or the occasional craftsman there weren’t many alternatives. You didn’t want to risk your life to kill someone? Too bad, you’re a man.

We aren’t feudal anymore, but the same concept applies to families. You knocked up a girl you hardly know? She can get an abortion, but you have to either let her or pay child support. You don’t agree with her decision? Too bad, you’re a man. Where’s your honor? I’m still pro-woman’s choice here because childbearing is the one thing that’s always been under our control. But I get it.

I’d take men’s pressures over women’s though. Anyday. You’re judged on a wider variety of things. And those things are more under your control. A man can be as ugly and off-putting as possible but still get respect if he makes, say, ground-breaking discoveries in medicine. A woman can too, but she’s less likely to chase a goal like that because she’s internalized that beauty and nurturing are the most important things she should aspire to.

2. Male/Female Emotional Differences Are Inherent

Some people are gonna want science. Okay: look at the amygdala. The amygdala is an almond-shaped region in the temporal lobe that regulates emotional response and memory. <a href=”http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/ldc/llog/Brizendine/Hamann2005.pdf”>Studies</a> <a href=”http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080616-gay-brain.html”>show</a> women are more likely to store emotionally charged memories, leading to a higher incidence of PTSD. We also have better information recall. Meanwhile, the fight-or-flight response is greater in (straight) men than in (straight) women. That makes sense, because your reaction time had to be immediate when fighting a saber-toothed tiger no matter what was happening around you. It’s one reason why men are, on average, less anxious.

3. Smart Men Want Smart Women

Men aren’t as direct about wanting smart partners as we are. But I know you guys get frustrated if you like to seek knowledge and your girlfriend doesn’t. Hipsters date each other, literary types date each other, status-conscious people like bankers and fashion designers date each other. That won’t change. Sex takes about 40 minutes. The rest of the time you have to talk.

4. Girls, You Can Be Chubby

But not fat. I think 10 pounds is the leeway you get before you have an annoyed boyfriend or a significant drop in attention.

People usually date people on their same level of attractiveness. But I see plenty of cool guys with girls who look pretty average to me. 

5. Men Have Long Memories

It seems like men lay low after a breakup then they call you years later. I still hear from guys I went out with in college. I’m 27.

There’s a study about this too, but I forget where I found it.

6. Men Want To Dress Nicely

In Elizabethan times guys wore pantaloons the size of collapsed parachutes. Now they can’t get creative without looking like something out of Magic: The Gathering.

I dig the Beau Brummel look though. Men’s fashion is an exercise in subtlety. There’s a world of difference between a tailored two button seersucker jacket and a relaxed four-button linen jacket. Women have so many options that designers start getting silly.

Constraints give shape to all art. Seriously, when I see my dad taking great pains to decide between a red silk and a blue silk shirt with gray pants I’m jealous. Women are expected to dress well, so the competition is tougher. When men turn up everybody notices.

7. Men’s Looks Don’t Say Anything Else About Them

They say women can be attractive, smart, or sane but not all three. That’s because we’re treated in vastly different ways based on our looks. A hot guy turns heads, but competence is still the main thing he’s judged on.

Some hot guys consider their looks a defining trait, but usually because they’re gymrats or so stunning it shocks you. A male 7.5 doesn’t act much different than a male 4.

8. Empathy Comes Out Differently

If you want to criticize your friends without it being awkward, talk to men. Criticism both keeps you grounded and helps you grow. I have two female friends I can talk to like that and it feels like a small miracle.

But if you’re feeling like shit and you need someone to let you, talk to a woman. I don’t always want advice. Sometimes I already know how to make things better, but it isn’t happening fast enough. I don’t mope to men unless I know they have a similar problem.

Both ways of communication are equally valuable. I need both at different times. I think women are more empathetic while men are better able to distance themselves to see a problem from different angles.

9. Men Make Great Teachers

There’s definitely a difference in teaching styles though. Female teachers tend to look for promising things about everybody, while men immediately hone in on talent. Both recognize it, obviously, but women are more patient. If I wasn’t confident about something I’d want a woman to teach it to me. But nobody’s pushed me harder than men who believed in me.

10. Relationship Pet Peeves Are Different

Not because men and women are annoyed by different things, but because we do different things.

Girls, that sly nitpicking is going to get you dumped. Not right away. He might not be able to put his finger on why he feels like crap around you. But he’ll eventually gravitate towards someone who makes him feel better.

Guys, don’t dismiss our feelings. I was talking to a guy about a problem I had (this was after he brought it up.) I tried to tell him why I was upset and he said that everything I felt was a “condition of being a woman.” That was both a lazy and arrogant response. I didn’t talk to him again.

Women delve deep into emotional details. Listen to us and you’ll understand where we’re coming from. We’re not making things more dramatic than they have to be. We’re just processing things differently than you are. Maybe we can help you better identify your feelings if you have trouble with that. 

11. Men Don’t Have To Be Friendly

Just polite and competent. (Unless they’re artists or politicians.) If you’re not, I envy you. Because “being friendly” often translates to “groupthink.”

I write about fashion, and sometimes I feel like I’m supposed to pander to popular opinions in order to stay in the blogger clique. Men are given more freedom to be the obtuse renegade who can say whatever they want because they’re visionaries. Consider yourselves lucky.

Anyway, I love you, men. I love your raw energy. I love listening to you talk about the widest scope of things, like industrial uses for gold or Chinese war tactics. And I love how many of you are, contrary to stereotype, both good at expressing your feelings and sympathetic to mine. I hope you hear these things often. TC mark

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