Why boys will be boys

Max is off to Gozo, to get away from the Siggiewi Festa and try and find some head space. In the absence of anything worthy of note, here is a piece that Max wrote a couple of months ago for a magazine edited by his brother.

“The gender gap isn’t just cultural brainwashing. Men and women have different hardwired psychologies, so it’s normal for them to want to do different things and to do the same things in different ways”.

Prof. Nigel Nicholson, London Business School

Last week, I had one of my regular panic attacks about my two and a half year-old son being an only child and destined to a lifetime of boredom with ageing, neurotic adults at home. Lost in conversation as we paid homage to our Saturday croissant, I informed Jacob that his cousin Scarlett, aged six months, would soon be old enough to play with.

Jacob frowned, and then said ‘Will she become a boy?’

My first life memory, aged three, on my sister’s arrival, was one of sheer terror. When my mother introduced me to my ‘new beautiful baby sister’ at the back of our white Fiat 600, I kept on thinking: Why did it have to be a girl?

My friend’s son Oliver, aged 4, once famously pronounced: ‘I don’t like girls. They wear hair-bands.’

This is not a treatise about the gender gap, though there is plenty of available material to keep you happy, from the ghastly ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ to PhD dissertations.

This is simply an observation that, try as we like to bridge the sexual divide, we are still falling short in the 21st Century. Testimony to this is the feverish exchange of Internet jokes on the behavioural and cultural differences between the sexes. This week one email actually encouraged the recipient to be forwarded to ‘a few good men who need a laugh and to the select few women who can handle the truth’.

Here are some truths from this week’s selection:

Scientists have discovered a food that diminishes a woman’s sex drive by 90%. It’s called a Wedding Cake.

The statistic may be hard to prove but there can be no argument about the Cake.

Women have the ‘Oh dear, the toilet paper is on its last sheet: must replace it immediately’ gene. This is entirely absent in men who have the ‘Oh shit! Can you pass me a toilet roll, love?’ gene.

The toilet is the one place where all men, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds, find peace, repose and occasionally poetry and literature. Toilet-paper is always a coda, and is totally bereft of poetry.

Men drive to a party, women drive back.

On one New Year’s Eve, I was carried over a wobbly bridge by a woman-driver wearing a small black dress and heels. Women generally have a better sense of balance and style and no fear of heights

Women prefer 30 – 45 minutes of foreplay. Men prefer 30 – 45 seconds of foreplay. Men consider driving back to her place as part of the foreplay.

Men have always excelled at time-management.

Women have two weapons: cosmetics and tears.

The most power-crazy person I have ever come across is an overweight ‘professional’ woman who regularly burst into tears, powdered her nose in public and once left a meeting threatening to jump out of a balcony. She spent her spare time weaving an intricate web of plots and back-stabbing that led to further career-development.

Men have no opinions about curtains.

It’s all about priorities. The curtains can wait.

Men appreciate the importance of a 42 inch plasma screen. Women do not.

The plasma screen cannot wait. A plasma screen hides blemishes in Maltese plastering and comes with a large manual.

Women can use sex to get what they want. Men cannot, as sex is what they want.

Men always know what they want, even if they have no control over it.

Single-tasking men do one thing well at a time: e.g. drink a cup of coffee. In the same time a multi-tasking women can make breakfast, make the children’s sandwiches, organise the window cleaner, phone the office, dress the children, write a shopping list, iron a shirt and de-flea the cat. Women have not yet realised this is an evolutionary disadvantage.

In the end, it all seems to boil down to evolution and multi-tasking. Scientists decoding the human genome have recently discovered that just 78 genes separate men from women. There is a whole world of mystery nesting in those genes.

Our physical differences extend to our brains. Women have four times as many brain cells (neurons) connecting the right and left side of their brain. Men rely easily and more heavily on their left brain to solve one problem one step at a time. Women have more efficient access to both sides of their brain and therefore greater use of their right brain.

What this translates into is that no amount of logic and social development can quite enable us to get away from the stereotype of our differences. And that when the old stereotypes do rear their head, we go back to our respective caves, sheds, garages, kitchens or wherever it is we go to and live our parallel lives.

Take football. I tried to explain to my wife, who found me lying prostrate on the floor one Sunday afternoon, that Inzaghi had just hit the post on his comeback match and I was not feeling well and that my heart palpitations meant that middle-age had finally crept into my cardio-vascular system and that my child would soon become fatherless. “Why don’t you just stop watching football?” she said. “Or just support another team?”

How do you explain to a woman that the love for your team is an indelible tattoo, that it is the only common bond between male members of a family, that marriages have been wrecked because one partner could not understand the sheer brotherhood of shouting, burping, swearing, head-banging, flinging of objects at inanimate TV’s… that football allows you not to grow up.

We are destined to live a life of contradictions.

We are obsessed with what makes us different, yet we cannot do without each other.

But the world would be infinitely less interesting if we were all the same.

I leave the final word to my 75 year-old father-in-law, a former pilot and keen blogger, on reaching the milestone of his golden wedding anniversary:

“The secret to a successful marriage is that one of the partners should spend considerable periods of time away from home; and the other partner should ideally be slightly deaf”.

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