Read an Excerpt
More Different Than Alike
YOU STILL CAN’T FIGURE OUT WOMEN? Well, guess what: They still can’t fathom you. Of all of the differences between the sexes, there are three that annoy most women, most days of the week. They have to do with talking and feeling and, well, talking about feelings.
Most women like men. Really. Despite the Bobbitt jokes, and despite the fact that they read books with titles like How to Dump a Guy, No Good Men, and Why It’s Always the Guy’s Fault.
They want us, and they want to get along with us. Just as we want them. Despite the fact that they like to watch Ally McBeal once a week.
But how? On that point, they’re stuck. They’re as clueless as we are.
They are stumped by the Great Divide, and most of them have come to the sorry conclusion that men and women are more different than alike.
Take “Vanessa,” for instance. She’s a 42-year-old interior designer from California. For her, the Great Divide is as clear as Rocky Mountain air.
My last husband was a doctor. We liked to ski. We were skiing in Aspen one Christmas, and we had just gotten on the hill when I blew my knee on a mogul field. I fell, and all of a sudden I hear this big “pow!” I try to stand on it and I can’t. And I’m looking at the bottom of the mogul field, and he’s there waving me down. “C’mon! Hurry up! We just got here!”
So I slid all the way down on my good knee and said, “I think I blew my knee. I mean, I can’t stand on it or anything.”
And he says, “Lay down. Take off your ski.” He’s rotating my whole leg 360 degrees, then he says, “Yeah! You tore your ACL.”
I say, “What are we gonna do?”
He says, “Ski down to the next chairlift.” So I skiied down on one leg while he was waiting very impatiently for me to catch up with him. “Okay,” he says, “take the chairlift up to the top so they can put you on the gondola—and I’ll see you later.”
And I said, “Wait a minute: If you leave me here, when I get down to the bottom, I’m not seeing a doctor—I’m seeing a lawyer.”
He finally helped her down the hill, but the incident was the beginning of the end of that marriage. “There was no sympathy there at all,” Vanessa said, looking back on it. “If that had been a woman I was skiing with, she’d have said, ‘Oh my God, your arm is hurt too! Let’s get the ski patrol.’ She would have been sympathetic. Women talk to each other. They’re caring. They’re listeners. They discuss each other’s problems. Men talk about sports. That’s it. Sports or their jobs.”
And she has come to a conclusion that goes straight to the heart of this book: “Men are totally different from women—and the only way we can deal with each other is by trying to communicate as much as possible.”
Women don’t understand us. Now you know why she always wants you to talk to her. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll come away a teeny bit less flabbergasted.
We mystify women. We all do. And at times, we seem so alike in our differences from them that they invent crazy theories for why this is so. Here’s Vanessa’s.
From day one, fathers give their little boys a book to read. It’s called The Book of Dicks. It teaches you how to be a guy. That book is given to every little boy in the world. Now, I’ve never read it. But you can tell when a kid finally has. He changes over from a cute little boy to a guy—a guy who has read The Book of Dicks.
Now that we’ve suffered through 30 years of feminism, are relations any better? Hardly. Now we have a new generation of women who grew up playing soccer and basketball, who wear men’s boxers and Gap T-shirts and CK One cologne. And they ponder the age-old question: What makes men tick? As Cristin in Baltimore told us, “Men are foreigners to us sometimes.”
How swell if everyone could smile and say, “Vive la différence.” As a rule, people don’t. Instead, someone starts sleeping on the sofa. Someone like you.
Sorry, but you cannot ignore the Great Divide.
Ignoring the Great Divide doesn’t work. If it did, you wouldn’t be reading this book.
So we’re going to tackle it right here, right now. You’re about to learn that—surprise—it isn’t as big or as awful as some women make it out to be. Women, as we know all too well, can generalize and “awfulize” about men like nobody’s business. We’ll spare you all that and just break down this dilemma into some approachable pieces.
Let’s begin by recognizing that men and women are different in some ways more than others. This is exactly what THE FACTS OF LIFE THE STRANGER IN HER BEDROOM
In our Magellan Poll of nearly 1,200 women, we asked a point-blank, no-wiggle-room question about gender difference. The question: “In your opinion, men and women are . . .”
More different than they are alike Í 70%
More alike than they are different Í 30%
Women in their thirties and women who are dissatisfied with their relationships and sex lives answered “more different” in even higher percentages. But no matter how we sliced it, our numbers showed that the vast majority of women remain mystified by men. one anonymous respondent wrote in the blank space at the end of her form.
In terms of basic needs, personalities, habits, etcetera, I think men and women are more alike than different. However, when it comes to dating, sex, and some marital expectations, men and women are more different than alike.
Good point. Such a good point, in fact, that you’ll see this book zero in on those very subjects that produce the most friction. We talked to women about dating; we talked to them about sex; and we examined the major roles in a married man’s life: husband, father, and breadwinner.
We probed for ways in which men could make little adjustments and get big results. After all, you can no sooner change your ways than the leopard can change his spots.
But you’re more apt to make a few changes if you understand why you’re making them and if you’re pretty sure it won’t kill you.
In our New Woman magazine poll, our first questions read “What is it that men just don’t get about women? What is it that women just don’t get about men?”
Several hundred women took the time to reply. Their gripes—and, oh, can they gripe—pretty much come down to a few big concerns. Think of these as the daily sore spots. And let’s be thankful that the battle of the sexes can be broken down, at least for starters, into these three approachable problems.
1. Talking. Or, to use her favorite word for it, communication. In essence, women talk and men don’t. Or if you do, you interrupt her with some solution to the problem that she has placed before you. As we’ll say again in chapter 14, don’t do that. Let go of the burden of fixing it, because that’s not why she’s telling you all of this stuff anyway. She’s telling you as a way to think out loud and to feel closer to you. Women talk to create intimacy. When you simply listen, she feels that you’re taking her seriously.
Here are some representative remarks on the subject from the women we surveyed.
• “Women need to talk. It’s that simple.”
• “When women talk, they aren’t bitching; they just need to vent or discuss.”
• “Listen and let me vent.”
• “Our need to talk . . . it makes us feel connected.”
• “We think out loud and we just want you to listen.”
It’s definitely true that some men don’t talk enough. (That used to be a good thing—the strong, silent type.) It’s also true that some women, and we all know who they are, talk too much. They will not shut up. So when we read so many women commenting, “Listen to my problems without being judgmental and without giving advice unless asked,” we have to wonder. . . . If you’re enduring a steady stream, maybe she needs five little words of advice: Say less. Be heard more.
2. Feelings. Women show emotions; men hide emotions. At least, that’s the way they see it. Her emotions are more complicated. And she’s more sensitive to the feelings of others. Whereas you’re not as sensitive, especially when it comes to her feelings. You blurt and you hurt. You tease her about her feelings; you even tease her about expressing her feelings to her girlfriends.
Again, some representative commentary:
• “Women are more emotional. Men are more practical.”
• “Men don’t get how emotional women are about things. Women don’t get how men aren’t.”
• “Women are emotionally connected to everything.”
• “A lot of men tend to not want to discuss emotions and feelings, and that’s what most women thrive on.”
• “They expect us to just ‘suck it up,’ like they do.”
“Men really are different in many respects. We shouldn’t try to fit them into a mold that we have in our heads.” —Lynn, Texas
One anonymous respondent makes an excellent point: “Men are notoriously quiet when something is bothering them, until they finally blow up, run away, or look for an escape.” So when she talks vaguely about “good communication,” maybe all she means is, tell her what’s really bugging you before you go postal on her. Of course, she’d much rather hear nice feelings. Feelings like, you sure missed her when she went away last weekend. You can’t read her mind; don’t expect her to read yours.
3. Romance and intimacy and relationships. She wants to be wooed. She wants to be that special someone. She wants attention. She wants time together. She wants affection, both physical and verbal. She needs the emotional security that comes of your constant reassurances. She needs to feel close to you—and you seem to have a spiteful determination not to fulfill her need.