Valentine’s Day reflections on the gender gap

Elizabeth Ellis Square“What’s in a man’s mind you will never know.” (Alice Munro)

Ask a woman to go for a walk and she’ll say, “Sure!” Ask a man and he’ll say, “Where’re we going?” Men will go into a library for a Chilton’s car repair manual. Women are omnivores when it comes to reading.

In church, women typically outnumber men. A Chinese proverb says when men join a monastery we call them monks; when women join we say, ‘Broken heart, broken home.’

According to psychologist Martin Seligman, “Women score lower on issues of trust.” An old Russian adage: “Trusting women suffer.”

Women frequent beauty salons, but a barber said men fear baldness equally.

A man is like a cat, the veterinarian said, affectionate as long as he can call the shots and leave whenever he wants and, like men — once pursued no longer interested.

If a woman doesn’t confide her troubles to a woman, if she doesn’t give her the skinny, that woman feels left out because she is. Men talk sports; women talk men.

A coach noticed, “When female students [made mistakes in sports] they’d say, ’Sorry!’” (Source: MN Women’s Press) Male students don’t. According to Deborah Tannen’s research, men compete, women cooperate.

When asked to say, “I’m sorry” to the victim on a domestic call, male police officers refused: “I haven’t done anything wrong!” Female officers understood it as a gesture of compassion, not apology.

Paul Theroux observed in Northern Ireland, “Women had assumed so many domestic and social duties that men had no responsibilities. On the train women talked normal [while] men were either shouting or whispering; women were plain, frank; men were jaunty, evasive; women were duty; men, dereliction. Women were cheaper to employ, more dependable.”

“When a man goes out of the room he leaves everything in it behind. When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.” (Alice Munro) “When something happens a man takes action, a woman thinks.” (Martin Seligman)

Men more often succeed at suicide; women more often attempt it. Author Sue Grafton cites men as more violent and women as averse to guns. There is “the sort of misery that induces people to make sure the cap is on the toothpaste and the faucet is turned off, and then they kill themselves, trying not to make too much of a mess.” (Theroux)

The area surrounding the toilet of the Men’s Room in a local coffeehouse needed constant cleaning; the women’s never did.

According to author Steve Almond, men watch and use football games as an escape hatch from “the emotional and psychological demands of women.”

“Men often desire a woman before they know her, while women are too often obligated to develop sexual desire after the fact… For many men, too many men, sexual attraction precedes any motion of love.” (T.C. Boyle)

“When we asked men what intimacy means,” University of MN researchers reported,they usually said sex. Women never said that.”

“Men liked sex, but didn’t like women. Men like parts — soft, pliant genitalia, inviting,” not what comes after, Jules Feiffer wrote. What next? Relationship? Commitment? Permanence?

Men longed for relief, time off,” Feiffer claims. “Conversation following coitus was an irritant and a bore.” Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) agreed: “It’s what comes afterward that’s such a drag, such a load of nonsense.” Feiffer complained of the “uninhibited yackety-yak men endure in order to bed the woman down.”

“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.” (Billy Crystal) “Men replace, women grieve,” Sharon Kelly told me. “Passion is what women want, intensity of emotion.” (Len Deighton) To paraphrase Bill Russell, women marry a man hoping he’ll change; men marry a woman hoping she never will.

Elizabeth Ellis is a Baby Boomer with a BA, born in Minneapolis and mother of three grown children. She welcomes reader responses to