Recently, my son asked me, “why do you girls always get together and talk?” I laughed, for I have been observing over time thay boys really do spend time together much differently than girls. Men tend to do an activity together– watch sports, play a game, get a beer and watch t.v., and that is just fine with them. Meanwhile, women get together and we talk. We might share a meal together, go shopping, head to the spa, go watch a movie or work out together, but the time we spend together is filled with the stories we share with one another– we do not just hang. Having seen this over time and read various theories on this, I had my answer ready for my son: Back in the day, when men were hunters, they had to spend time together, but quietly. It is a skill they learned over time, to just be in each other’s company, know that they can rely on one another, but not have to say much. Meanwhile, women used to stay home taking care of the babies, cleaning and cooking meals together, and as they spent time with one another and helped each other out, they talked. Even though our roles are different now, I think some of these traits continue to be passed down throughout the generations.
So many women complain that their partners don’t talk enough, and many men complain that their female partners want to talk too much. Perhaps as we have come to view each other more than ever as equals over the last 40 years, we have somehow come to expect that we should socialize the same way? The problem is we are not in fact built the same way, and perhaps some distinct personality traits are simply innate. No where is this more apparent to me than within my own family– I laugh when I look at the men in my clan– my uncle, father, brother and son all seem to just sit and take it all in while the women in the room dominate the conversation. Then just when you think they are not listening, they chime in with some of the funniest or most insightful one-liners. I guess the men I love are men of few words, but full of wisdom and patience.
In order to co-exist peacefully, we need to be sensitive to one another’s needs and more tolerant of our differences. I try to respect my son’s need for quiet time, and he has come to accept that when we are with family or friends, there will be a lot of talking. I try not to take it personally that he doesn’t want to talk at times, and he tries his best to share parts about his day during dinner time so I don’t feel totally shut out from his life. He’s teaching me to hang, while I am teaching him how to talk. It is a work in progress to try and balance our very different styles, but I think we are building skills that will serve us both well in life– not just with each other, but with any other relationship either of us may encounter in the future with someone of the opposite sex.