Men Can't Help The Way They Are

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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As a person who has been married for 33 years, I think I have the longevity part all figured out. It's how to do it with the same woman that I don't get.

That's why I asked Phyllis Engelman, a recent Roundup "Payson People" subject, how in the world she had managed to stay married to the same man for 52 years. I expected her to say something like, "You have to respect each other," or, "You have to work things out," or, "You have to tough out the difficult times." You know what I mean.

But Engelman's answer wasn't at all what I expected. How had she managed to stay married for 52 years?

"Ignore 'em."

When she said it, I remember, we both laughed. Then I filed the information away, promising myself I'd look at it again as soon as the football and basketball seasons ended if there was time before the baseball season began.

But then I ran across a new book by Michael Gurian, author of the bestsellers "The Wonder of Boys" and "The Wonder of Girls."

Gurian's latest tome is called "What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man's Mind Really Works" (St. Martin's Press, $24.95, but just $17.47 at Amazon.com.) In it, Gurian answers questions women have asked him about male behavior in the context of what the latest scientific research reveals about the neurological differences between men and women.

Questions like:

1. Why do men have to control the TV remote and channel surf?

2. How can men remember all the pitchers' names and the World Series scores, but not yesterday's conversation? (I ask you, fellow men, did you have any trouble figuring out that a woman asked this one?)

3. Does a man's brain feel as many feelings as a woman's brain feels? (A question that answers a different question: How many times can you use variations of "to feel" in a single question before nauseating your readers? Three.)

4. Is a man really serious when he says, "What do you mean the house is a mess?"

The research showed (and please remember this is absolutely "scientific" research which means its validity is beyond reproach) that men have a smaller brain part called a cingulate gyrus than women, and that women's brains secrete more oxytocin and serotonin than men's. This may all sound like Greek to you and me, but please remember that it is "scientific" Greek.

And to Gurian it makes perfect sense. What it tells him is that a man's brain takes in less emotional data and sensory detail than a woman's and therefore it is not only normal but natural for us guys to be oblivious to many things women find important and to not share our feelings on a regular basis, especially during football, basketball and baseball seasons when we are working very hard to overcome our mental shortcomings by memorizing the names of pitchers, World Series scores, and other sports information that somebody has to remember if civilization is going to continue as we know it.

I realize the above only answers questions 2 and 3, so in the interest of "scientific" accuracy I will use Gurian's insights to answer questions 1 and 4 as well:

1. Men control the remote and channel surf because we must. It is our genetic destiny and we can't help it any more than women can't help it when they ... but we won't go there.

4. What house?

The coolest part of all this I found in the words of an unnamed man who wrote a review of Gurian's book for Amazon.com, a man who claims to be a practicing neurologist. After evaluating the "scientific" accuracy of Gurian's research, this neurologist "ventures out of my field as a scientist ... to speak as a man to women thinking of buying this book"

He writes:

"If you want a healthy relationship, you don't need to read a book to learn how. You need to behave in a rational manner and be a good and loving person. You need to find a partner who is rational, good and loving."

Which, as so often happens, brings us right back to where we started.

Part of being a rational, good and loving person is accepting or at least tolerating the differences between you and your mate. Which means Phyllis Engelman said a mouthful when she said the secret to a long marriage is to "ignore 'em."

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