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Men and Women Think Differently

by George Thomas, MD, PhD

My wife says that I tend to overgeneralize, so in all fairness, when I write "men" or "boys" or "women" or "girls" please mentally insert the phrase "the majority of________in my experience". But it is true that men and women view and react to the world in a very different manner, because society trains them differently and imposes different standards and expectations on them. Basically, women think both "micro" as well as "family group", and feel selfish if they think of themselves first. Women usually feel guilty when they leave a drunken, abusive husband. Men, on the other hand, think "macro", and never think they are being selfish if they satisfy their own needs before they think of others. Women buy into the education system and therefore are much more diligent about school and homework than are boys.

We men know we will never understand half of what women are thinking and feeling, but women are determined to try to teach us. I don't think it can be done. As a simple example, girls walk around puddles and boys jump into them. Girls have neat handwriting in school and color within the lines, while boys have extremely sloppy handwriting and don't color within the lines. (And boys never dot their "i's" with circles, let alone little hearts.) Few if any men have said "it's time to redecorate the living room".

It is true that the men "decide" the major issues: should we a-bomb Iraq, should we put a man on Mars, should we trade with Cuba, while women decide the "minor" issues: where should the family live, which school should the children attend, do they need an after-school tutor.

A fundamental problem is that if a girl means to signify thought (A) by action (B), the boy generally means to signal thought (C) by the same action, so the girl misinterprets the boy's action. A simple process that creates a lot of emotional stress in women when dating is the man's ending the evening with the phrase "I'll call you". When a man tells that to another man, it means he will call his friend sometime between today and his deathbed. Since men usually use the telephone to convey information rather than to visit, most men can't remember the last time they spoke on the telephone to a particular friend, or that they promised to call anyone, let alone within a definite time period. Men also talk to other men in a way that would cause instant enmity between two women if one talked to the other in the same fashion.

Men consider errors of omission a minor sin. I have three male friends with whom I grew up and still see regularly. Sometimes one of us will send the other a birthday card or, more rarely, a birthday present, but we don't keep score, and it doesn't matter, and we won't stop being best friends because of a forgotten birthday. In fact, boys may have a "best pal", but never a "best friend" as girls do. Men also always split the dinner bill evenly, without checking who ate what.

On the other hand, society seems to hold wives responsible (or wives think it does, and accept the responsibility) for how their husbands dress when they go out. Every man has heard the phrase "you're wearing THAT???" Men also wish that our wives and girlfriends never ask us if they look different, or if a dress makes them look heavy. We love the way you look most of the time, and usually don't notice details. And we rarely, if ever, look heavy to ourselves: looking face on in a mirror, a woman sees her hips, but a man does not see his protruding stomach that hangs over his belt.

BTL, or tubal ligation for sterilization is abdominal surgery, and a vasectomy is easier surgery, external to the abdomen, and is an office procedure. But somehow, in the majority of marriages, the wife gets the BTL when the couple wants to make birth control permanent. Men shudder at the thought of a knife in that vicinity.

It never occurs to men that we can be physically hurt. So when the plane lands, we don't call home to our girlfriend or mother to say we arrived safely. (Calling the wife comes under the heading of keeping the peace.) On the other hand, most women fax a copy of their itinerary to at least two people, one friend and one relative, a concept that is foreign to most men.

It never occurs to men that they won't be able to get married when they want to.

Married men will never "get it" that they cannot excuse an affair with the statement "but I didn't love her".

BTW, everyone is on his/her best behavior when they are dating, so if there are things you don't like about the other person, they will not improve with time. Albert Einstein (yes, that one) once said: "The tragedy of marriage is that each husband expects his wife never to change, and each wife expects to change her husband, and both are doomed to be disappointed".

Men prefer laws, and women prefer justice. So men will "cheat" within the laws of baseball (remember Alvin Dark of the NY Giants and his running start to tag up?) and think it legal if they win without breaking the letter of the laws of the game. Since women are trained by society to fit in and make no waves, they seem to take some part of all professional criticism personally, and thereby fail to get the maximum benefit from it. In the same vein, I doubt that a man would "throw" a baseball game to let his brother's team win, as Geena Davis did for her sister in "A Game of Their Own".

You will never convince a school-age boy that school is anything but jail (and I was a straight-A student with SP classes in JHS, and valedictorian and all of that). He will never understand why there is any value in writing a book report after he has read it. "But I read it, didn't I?" When, however, he discovers what he wants to do with his life, he will buckle down and study intensively, and society says "he found himself".

It was extremely clever of the men who passed laws against abortion to penalize the doctor heavily, but never indict the pregnant woman as an accessory before or after the fact, because they know that unless you are in a dictatorship such as Romania was, you can't get such a law passed or the women punished. The reverse happens in prostitution. In the the case of the Mayflower Madam, the prosecutor went after the madam and not the important government employees who utilized her services. Why didn't the grand jury expose their names? Society gives much more sexual slack to men than it does to women, because men make the laws. BTW, did Wilt Chamberlain, who confessed (or bragged?) about having slept with over 13,500 women have no problem with "sex addiction" because he wasn't married, unlike Tiger Woods and Spitzer? Which leads to a separate philosophical-social-moral question: why is it legal for a woman to sleep with a stranger for free, but illegal to charge him money for the same service?

At least pregnant high school seniors no longer have to leave school for home schooling, but they are still being dropped from Arista after they become pregnant, as if pregnancy diminishes and taints their academic accomplishments. The father, of course, is not forced to drop out of any school extra-curricular activity.

And after marriage, the wife is suddenly and magically given social responsibility for remembering all dates. If the husband forgets his mother's birthday, somehow the wife gets blamed. And when women talk to their daughters and daughters-in-law, they are much more conscious of the effect of their words on the listener than men are (cf. the book "Walking on Eggshells"). I always know by the tone in her voice when my wife is talking to our daughter.

Mothers also get more tired than do fathers, because most mothers sleep with one eye and one ear open to hear the children crying, because they are concerned that their husband will not hear them.

Unlike women, men NEVER make eye contact with or talk to another man in a bathroom, especially if he is at the next urinal. But we are allowed to greet a friend in the street with just a small nod of the head, rather than stopping to talk. And if he has his fly open, it is a rare man who will mention it to him.

Men can let a phone ring without answering it, but women at home usually cannot. I have difficulty convincing my female patients to take an hour's vacation by turning their cell phone off for one hour/day.

But remember that without women to civilize us, we would all be living in the society depicted in "Lord of the Flies".

About the Author George Thomas, M.D., Ph.D.

George Thomas has a Ph.D. in physics as well as M.D.

Dr. Thomas has written publications in both physics and medical journals, is a reviewer for both physics and medical journals, a member of science and medical honor societies, a former physics professor and then medical professor at a medical school. He has been on the editorial board for both physics and medical journals, been an encyclopedia author, worked on government-sponsored research and has acted as a contract reviewer for a number of years, as well as has performed volunteer work with a chronic disease group.

Dr. Thomas has been in private practice of family medicine for over 25 years. His practice is located in the New York City region.

Dr. George Thomas can be reached at ghthomas3@aol.com.

This blog is also published by George Thomas, M.D., Ph.D. (Physics) at http://ghthomas.blogspot.com/.

Dr. Thomas can be reached by e-mail at ghthomas3@aol.com, or by snail mail at P.O. Box 247, Hillsdale, N.Y., 12529

The concepts discussed here are based upon the author's personal professional experiences with patients, or upon his review of the pertinent medical and/or physics literature. Before acting on anything written here, you should discuss it with your personal physician as well as your personal physicist.

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