The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Man

A biker was riding along a California beach when suddenly the sky clouded above his head. In a booming voice, the Lord said, “Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish.”

The biker pulled over and said, “Thank you for your recognition of my Faith, my Lord. Please build a bridge to Hawaii so I can drive over anytime I want.”

The Lord replied, “Your request is materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges of that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific. The concrete and steel it would take. It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for Me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that would honor and glorify Me.”

The biker thought about it for a long time. Finally, he said, “Lord, I wish I could understand my wife. I want to know how she feels inside, what she’s thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says, ‘Nothing’s wrong,’ or ‘I’m fine,’ and how I can make this woman truly happy.”

After a long silence, the Lord replied, “You want two lanes or four on that bridge?”

The Sort-Of Plight of Being a Man

For 100 years or so, there’s been a fight in this country for women’s rights. I’m all for it. Women should have the same opportunities and pay as men. And we’ve seen a lot of positive change in that area. Now women can be CEOs, information technology gurus, well-paid professional athletes, Vice Presidents and Supreme Court justices. Sure, a woman’s life is still far from a breeze; sexism still runs rampant in our society. But alas, we’ve seen much progress.

But something’s been lost in this ongoing societal debate: it’s not so easy being a man, either.

Let’s start with some good traits. We’ve got a few. Though I concede that we fellows can stumble around and need semi-constant direction, our intentions and reliability grade out moderately well. We show up. We really are doing our best, despite still being tinged with a sprinkle of laziness. Eventually, with enough nudging, we complete our tasks and honey-do lists.

We’re generally low-maintenance. We have repeatedly proven that multitasking is overrated — tackle one task, do it right, and then move on (but take a break first). We believe that it’s perfectly okay to go through life with one good pair of shoes for every occasion.

Our honesty is well-intentioned, albeit often restrained while we think about the consequences of … being honest. We tend to spill out as many potential solutions as possible to whatever “the issue” is, which is often a problem because our better halves don’t want us to actually do anything about the concern. Just listen.

We’re appealing when we behave like gentlemen; sometimes, we’re even borderline cute. We are capable of cleaning up reasonably well. We hate to fail, especially when it involves womenfolk and our family. We glow when getting a genuine compliment here and there. We’re more than happy to list our accomplishments to our significant other, yet we often zone out when our roomie lists her tallies, as we do with the presentation of lengthy honey-do lists or multiple suggestions on how to do something.

We have difficulty accepting ironclad proof that we’re emotionally evolved. Perhaps that’s because we use sports as a reference point for much in life. There are measurable successes and outcomes in our games, but emotional stuff is vague. See, strong men don’t have attitudes — we have standards.

While there is an expectation of a certain stoicism — i.e., a will to repress emotions and “act manly” — some of us brutes reflexively tear up at an extraordinary rendition of the National Anthem, a plot twist that finally brings the lovers together, when the hero or the dog breathes their last, or even when we see a reclusive Norwegian ice princess learning to love herself in an ice castle.

While men are now encouraged to cry and express their emotions, we are still expected to be the strong ones when there’s adversity in the family. We’re supposed to be born as handymen, able to hang large pieces of art, fix dangerous electrical problems, plaster and paint, make the dump run, scoop the poop, keep the vehicles in tip-top shape, and put together IKEA furniture without a hitch.

Whew! That ain’t a half-bad dude, eh? Seriously, what’s not to like?

But being a man means a chaotic existence because it consists principally of dealing with women. While that may sound like a cruel and insensitive indictment of the female gender, it’s simply an objective fact.

Men seem to do just enough to get the job done, but not to the level preferred by women. A man’s vision extends to, maximum, the weekend; a woman’s extends to infinity. Men have selective hearing and memory while women hear all and never forget anything. Men’s accomplishments are quickly and proudly announced (in the manner of a proclamation) as having been completed. In contrast, women have already doubled their original honey-do list entries. Men like to tell our stories and recount our know-how, philosophies and proficiencies. Women roll their eyes.

Very often, our guy-way to accomplish pretty much any task is profoundly different than the paths suggested by our mate to get the job done. Generally speaking, we haven’t perfected the concept that if at first you don’t succeed, shouldn’t you try it like your wife told you to do it?

As much as a couple can support and love each other, there’s simply an inherent conflict in how we operate.

It’s In The Genes

Here’s an example: Women seem to have a hyperactive gene for buying multiples of things. Like pillows. Lots of pillows. Umpteen pillows. Especially decorative pillows that only serve an aesthetic purpose.

For whatever reason, it doesn’t make a hoot of difference to women that most of those pillows are uncomfortable. As the guy, you’re forced to move them out of the way just to sit on the darn couch. I don’t get it. Comfort should always trump decorative.

Another … When a woman tells a man about her feelings, she doesn’t want him to fix anything. She wants him to shut up and listen. This is a tough one for us to comprehend.

The art of communication involves transmitting information from one source to another to convey a specific message in order to elicit a desired reaction or result. Communication strategies, therefore, focus on delivering messages to obtain specific results. But not so much with the female side of the ledger. That’s why men are baffled when the desired specific result is “Shhhh” and “Be quiet.”

Yes. It’s an unwritten rule that a man has to bend to a woman’s illogical logic when it comes to communication. And speaking of rules, that’s another major difference. Women obey regulations much more than men. I once had a female friend who would never cross the street at a red light, even in an empty city at 2:53am with the nearest car (or police car) 30 miles away. Women take fewer chances. Maybe that’s why prisons are mainly filled with men.

But women have their own set of rules — arbitrary rules. For example, she’s allowed to raise her voice during a conflict, but if the dude’s vocal cords emit the tiniest increase in volume, he’ll get “the look” and know that he’d best not go there. And fellows learn early on that telling a woman to calm down works about as well as baptizing a cat.

Blame It On Evolution

There’s a theory that humans used to be able to communicate via extra-sensory perception or ESPN … er, ESP. As we gradually became more civilized over the millennia, we slowly lost that ability until it disappeared from our cognitive toolbelt. But women think that men still possess that ancient mind-reading skill.

To illustrate my point: Betty tells her husband, Archie, about an argument she had with a friend, but in her mind she doesn’t want advice for patching things up. Betty just wants Archie to listen. That’s all well and good. The problem is, how is he supposed to know what she doesn’t want him to do?

I get it. Sometimes women just need to say the words. But it’s not always so simple. The speed at which a woman says “Nothing” when asked, “What’s wrong?” is inversely proportional to the severity of the coming storm. “Why didn’t you try to console me?!? You should’ve known!”

We could eliminate gripe sessions if the woman would only say what’s on her mind. Like, “I had a little spat with Veronica today. Don’t give me any guidance. I just need to get this off my chest, okay, sweetie?” Or, “You know what’s wrong? I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t finish the yard work. I appreciate that you mowed the lawn, but can you please finish “xyz” before mom and dad arrive?”

Another thing: Women often continue the conversation as they physically move away from their men. They walk upstairs while we’re still downstairs, moving farther away from earshot but expecting that we’ll still get the message. Somehow, they think they can project thoughts through walls from 18 feet away. I believe that they are practicing their evolving ability to project thoughts, strengthening their already dominant communication chops.

Of course, men have been saying stuff under their breaths from “safe” distances for centuries when we are alone in rooms following dialogue with our loving lasses. (Note: Such utterances are very definitely not for public consumption.) Women are evolving. Men are still tinkering with Maxwell Smart’s Cone of Silence.

Patience is a Virtue

Fortunately, men are more patient than our counterparts. Though that tilt is situational, it’s generally true. If the Good Lord gave women the edge in being more dependent on intelligence and emotional balance, His counterbalance for we blokes was working the heavier dose of patience into our genetic code, which was a good thing. Otherwise, we lads would explode.

Doubt this hypothesis? Think about the relationships you are familiar with in your life — parents, siblings with spouses, couples who are besties. Who amongst the pairs is the most patient? Of course, gals have the gene, principally so that they can learn to be tolerant of us doofuses, but guys generally score higher in this capacity. Whether you believe that patience is inherited or an acquired trait, men understand that patience makes mamma happy, keeps us out of the doghouse, and doesn’t really negatively impact our lives. I think, too, that we recognize that patience is the refined art of concealing our impatience, which gives us the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting … on you know who.

Differences Aren’t So Bad

Straight talk — or the absence of straight talk — is often the crux of disputes between men and women. Consider how the sexes handle situations where a friend is going through turmoil.

If Veronica’s bestie is, say, wondering if she should break up with her lazy, unemployed, smelly, and mean boyfriend, Veronica will dance around the elephant in the room. She’ll be supportive. She’ll reinforce her friend’s woes: “Oh my goodness, I’m sure that’s so hard to deal with.” Whereas if a guy’s counseling a buddy in a similar situation, he’ll pull no punches: “You gotta break up with her man, like, tomorrow.” Pow. Bam. Done. Crack a brew and move on.

I realize I might be simplifying too much. All human relations involve nuance. But give me a break. I’m a guy. My wise wife of four-plus decades just rolls her eyes since she’s seen that movie many times. I once told her that I would have to give her a credit in my upcoming novel (to be started waaayyy down the road) because I will include in the plot a male character with the nickname GU (pronounced Goo). That stands for “Gently Used,” which she often feels is the best description of my brain, and which has become, on occasion, a nickname for moi. To steal one of a southern gal’s all-time best, multi-purpose lines, bless her heart.

Despite my opinions, I have the hypocrite gene like any human being. I understand that relationships would be more tranquil if we celebrated our differences rather than trying to make us more like each other.  If we played all of our cards face up.

Let’s halt the attempt to make our partners like us, and vice versa. Accept that a line of demarcation exists. Albert Einstein, of all people, put it best: “Men marry women with the hope that they will never change. Women marry men with the hope that they will change. Invariably, they are both disappointed.”

So let’s bring to the game of relationships more smiles and giggles, more actual listening and open communication, more compassion and forgiveness, more mutual respect. I’ll bet good money that we’ll be a lot happier.


Addendum from LSomerbyCooke … Check out the other side of the coin — The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Woman.

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