"I got to thinking one day about all those women on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to 'cut back.' From then on, I've tried to be a little more flexible."
(Erma Bombeck)

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Are men really brain damaged?

I've had a lot of my mind this week. Heavy things. Like the brevity of life, the meaning of my cancer experience, how to spend my remaining time on earth, what will happen with the economy (and my job), why I'm Orthodox, and on and on. I'd like to make some pithy remarks about those topics, but I'm plumb out.

Which reminds me (the "running out of remarks" thing): I once took a stand-up comedy class at the local college, when my daughter was but a wee babe. The instructor told us that our jokes should come from what we knew best. So I wrote about being a mom, having a baby, and my relationship with my husband.

I made the serious mistake of trying out my half-formed jokes at the dinner table one night. I'll never forget it. As my daughter reclined in an infant carrier on the table and my husband chowed down, I flipped through a selection of index cards with my best nuggets of wit. Sadly, my schtick didn't go over well. My tale ends with hubby trying to engage our daughter in a chant of, "Mom's not funny; Mom's not funny!"

I tried to laugh it off, but the truth is that I was so insecure that I ended up dropping out of the class. I learned a valuable lesson--never share half-baked jokes (at least with my husband). Maybe he took offense at the joke where I compared him to Barney the dinosaur--big and dumb with an annoying laugh. (I tell you, the joke wasn't finished yet.) This little incident has gone down in the annals of our marriage as proof positive that I'm misunderstood.

The title of my blog entry does not refer to my preceding tale of woe or to my husband. Rather, I decided to forgo writing about anything heavy and share a speech that I wrote a few years ago.

At the time I wrote this commentary, I was attending Toastmasters, a club that helps people improve their public speaking skills. My main point was to discuss the right brain/left brain differences between men and women, with a little bit of humor thrown in.

When I delivered the monologue, however, there were several men in the audience of the accountant/engineer/mathematician variety who seemed to think I directed the speech at them. As I proceeded with my discourse, I noted several groans and wincing movements from the men. But, by speech's end, all was well. They were such good sports that I ended up taking home the "Best Speaker Award" that night.

Here is the speech, titled, Are Men Really Brain Damaged?

Did you know that the average man speaks roughly 12,000 words a day, while the average woman speaks over 25,000?

This would explain a recent conversation I had with my husband. I had been sick with a cold, so I asked my husband to attend church without me, satisfied that he would report the more inspiring points of the pastor’s sermon.

When he returned, I casually asked, “So, how was church?” “Fine.”  “Well, what was the sermon about?” “Sin.” This was going to take a little prodding. “Well, what did the pastor say?” “He was against it.”

I’ve often wondered why men and women find it so difficult to communicate and understand one another. One piece of the puzzle may be found in research that shows that it’s because we think differently.

Medical research studies have shown that in the womb, between the 18th and 26th week of gestation, something happens that forever separates the sexes. If the baby is to be a boy, a chemical bath of different sex-related hormones washes over the brain, causing several important changes that never happen to the brain of a baby girl.

Quite simply, the hormones which flood a baby boy’s brain cause the right side of the brain to recede slightly and destroy some of the fibers that connect the two sides. And one result is that, in most cases, a baby boy starts life more left-brain oriented from birth. The left side of the brain houses more of the logical, analytical, factual, and aggressive centers of thought.

What about little girls? From the moment of birth, because they don’t go through this chemical bath, little girls are more global or “two sided” in their thinking. Electrical impulses and messages go back and forth more quickly between both sides of a little girl’s brain. Females spend most of their time camped out on the right side of the brain. Over on that side are the centers for feelings and emotions, as well as the relational, language, and communication skills.

“Now, wait a minute,” you may be saying. “Are you telling me that males are, therefore, brain damaged?” I guess that’s one way to put it.

You might be interested to know about a Stanford study of children. An experimental laboratory was set up where children had opportunities to work at a number of different tasks, according to their choices. The researchers observed children for 20 minutes per child.

The average time a girl worked at one task was 12.5 minutes; the average boy worked 6.5 minutes per task. Boys interrupted what they were doing almost twice as often as girls. Girls finished nearly everything they started; boys completed only half of their starts.

For the boys, a new category had to be added: watching others. They spent 4.5 minutes “watching.” And the boys tackled twice as many three-dimensional tasks as girls attempted.

One-third of the boys took toys apart; none of the girls did. Perhaps most interesting was that girls monitored their entire activity and time with speech, almost continuously. They offered advice and information, and asked for help. It was recorded that, “Boys used more noises, uttered commands and expletives, and used more abrupt phrases, such as, ‘Look at me.’”

I’m trying to understand why the Stanford researchers wasted their time on this study. Any woman on the street could provide the same information about the male of the species, free of charge. After all, we’re married to, work with, give birth to, and bring up males.

Keeping these inherent differences in mind, I confess that I am working at becoming more left-brained so that I may better communicate with the males in my life. I’ve been observing my husband’s behavior and have attempted to adopt some of his left-brained traits.

For example, I’ve asked my husband to purchase all of my clothing from now on, particularly underwear and socks. Ditto for my mother's birthday cards. Of course, occasionally I have to shop for my own clothing. But I try to go more in the spirit of hunting down and bagging that outfit. The other day I got lost inside Alderwood Mall and I refused to ask for directions. It was liberating! I wandered around the place for 10 hours (got a whole, new wardrobe out of that trip).

I’ve been working on my verbalizing, also. I can be heard exclaiming, “Look at me! Look at me!” while standing in front of the television during Monday Night Football. I’ve even learned how to break apart the remote control while uttering expletives.

Whatever the research says, we really should be grateful for the differences between the sexes. I know I am. After 20 years of marriage, my husband and I are finally beginning to figure this thing out. It’s quite simple: two evenings a week, we take time to go out to a restaurant for a quiet dinner, soft music, some candlelight, a slow walk home.

He goes Tuesdays; I go Fridays.


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Reader Comments (3)

Dana, I love the way you write! You know how to express yourself so well. I can relate to feeling brain damaged. Is it from menopause, can I blame it on being almost 49 next month? Life feels like a rollercoaster ride and my thoughts are all over my personal GPS called "a woman's brain". Love your blog and you!
Your Friend always...JC

February 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJChetwood

Are men brain damaged? Yes.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Yes, men are so brain damaged that they will damage yours ;-)

November 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKV

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