Sunday, September 24, 2006


Boythink vs. Girlthink

This is a concept I've had hanging around in my head for a couple of years. And no, this isn't going to be a boy-bashing or girl-praising sort of post. Bear with me. I love both men and women but I really think we approach things differently.

We all know that men and women, in general, speak differently, right? I mean, it used to drive me NUTS ... I'd be in the car with Ben and I'd say "do you want to pull over at the next store and get a Coke?" Now what I SAID was "do YOU want to pull over and get a Coke?" Simple, right?

Not at all.

What I MEANT was ... "I'm thirsty, pull over, I'd like to get a Coke."

What he would hear me say is what I said: "Would YOU like to stop and get something to drink?" And he would answer the question that I had asked, which was, was HE thirsty. His response would be "No, I'm fine, let's keep going."

So what I was saying was that I was thirsty and wanted a drink. What he heard me doing was asking kindly after his welfare and he answered the question I'd asked. What I HEARD him responding was "No way bitch, you can die of thirst for all I care, I'm going to keep driving until I'm damned well ready to stop and I don't care if your EYEBALLS turn to dust, I'm not delaying this trip."

This, clearly, led to some difficulties. I've had to learn to be more literal and express my needs. The man cares for me and if I tell him I'm thirsty and want to pull over and get something, for sure he'll pull off at the next store and even go in and get it for me.

So now I say "I'm thirsty, pull over so I can get something. Do you want a drink too?" And he will say, "Oh sure, I'm not really thirsty but I'll pull over here and if you're going in you might as well get me something as well."

I must say that having learned to express my needs directly, while being foreign to my upbringing, has certainly led to fewer instances of us driving down the highway with him thinking all is fine and the birds are singing and the world couldn't be lovelier, while I'm sitting there fuming, trying to swallow the dust in my mouth while also trying to remember my lawyer's phone number.

Took me a long time to learn that one.

But this post isn't just about that. It's about an idea I've had fermenting in my noggin for a while; that perhaps we approach most things differently. In my experience men in general look at the big picture, single out one task, and have to do ALL of it before they move on to the next thing. Women do bits of everything and think that if they get 10% of 10 tasks done, that they're moving ahead.

One of the women I used to work with said that there had been a study done which proved that the ability to multitask was genetic (and she was a great big important PhD so she must have been right even though she was also a giant screaming unwashed bitch not that I had issues with her or anything) and that in general women could do it and, in general, that men could not.

I know that in my case if I have to get the laundry done, get the dishes done, and do eight other things at the same time, I have no problem with walking into the kitchen and washing four glasses, three plates, a frying pan and six pieces of cutlery and then putting them in the rack to dry while I go off and do something else, be it laundry, picking up the kid's toys, dyeing wool, or filing the taxes.

If I ask Ben why he won't do the dishes, the response is that he'd be glad to do them if I would take Eleanor out for three hours so he would have time to clean the kitchen.

He has to empty the sinks (yes we have a dish problem in case anyone was wondering) and clean them out. Put all of the cutlery in a large bowl with hot water and soap so it can soak. Then he has to rinse out both sinks, fill one with hot soapy water, fill one with hot clear water. And then he has to put towels on the counters and maybe haul in a couple of straight-back chairs and put towels on them, too. And then he has to wash every single dish in the kitchen, first in the soapy water, then in the rinse water, and lay them all out on the towels to dry. He has to do it all or none at all. (I will digress briefly here to say that in deference to my eczema he has washed dishes and filled just one rack of dishes twice this week, so it's not impossible it just goes against the grain.)

Me, I think if I happen to wash three or four cups and a couple of plates on my way through the room, well, that's a few more things that are clean that I can then bung in the cupboards when I pass through the room next when I interrupt whatever other thing I'm doing at the time.

And if I want a clean cup, well then there's four of them sitting right there!

I think this idea started burbling in my head when I worked at a certain community college. We had a need to generate large amounts of money so that we could offer scholarships to the top musicians coming out of high schools in BC, who we were losing to a certain well-funded college in the East which was able to offer them full scholarships for the year.

A man who was in charge of fundraising was coming up with fantastic ideas for getting large corporate sponsors to give us $50-100K with which we could set up big scholarship funds of $1500-$3000 a year, covering a student's entire tuition and book expenses. There was a woman who had been with the department for about 15 years or more who had a lot of good, small, fundraising ideas. Fundraisers that would have gotten us about a thousand dollars a term. Her ideas kept getting shot down and she was truly feeling frustrated about it.

I spoke to him about it one day, and said that I had been in the department for ten terms, and that if L had been allowed to run with her ideas, we would now have ten thousand dollars in the scholarship fund. He said "hell, you can't do anything with ten thousand dollars!" (please note here that the capital of the scholarship funds remain intact while the awards are given from the interest generated by those accounts). I said "well perhaps you can't offer a full scholarship from ten thousand dollars, but you could certainly give a current student who is living on bread and bananas a $300 cheque to buy groceries." He just looked at me and walked away. He had no response. I don't think he realized how much of a difference $75 more a month in grocery money could make to someone living on bread and bananas (we actually did have a student eat almost nothing but that for a full term).

I've been gone from the department for a year now, and I don't know if he's gotten his $100k donor yet, but I do know that if she had been allowed to run with her ideas, there would be another $2k in the account right now.

I'm betting that neither has happened.

Another example is the charity work I do. The Vancouver chapter of Blankets for Canada generates only about 100 blankets a year 'cause I do most of the running around and I don't have time to find enough people to help me. (Please note that the average knitted blanket takes 110 hours to make and the crocheted ones come in at about 60 hours, so this is no small accomplishment -- the people who knit and crochet for us are fantastic). I think that what we're doing has a real impact. Sure, we have 1300 people who are homeless and living on the streets. Because of what we do, 100 of them at least have a blanket to wrap in on cold nights.

So, um, I had a point here, but I've been up for 48 hours interspersed with brief naps and head-punching so I may not be expressing myself as clearly as I'd like.

I guess I keep hearing about our homeless problem and hearing about how we have to do these huge projects and I think ... ok, so there are about two million people in Vancouver. Let's say half of them are too poor or too uninterested to pitch in. And let's say half of the remaining million are kids. That's still half a million people. So instead of looking at how they can raise six million dollars to get a housing project going ... if every one of those remaining half a million folks tossed in one dollar a month, at the end of the year there'd be six million dollars.

It's a matter of increments. Percentages. Looking at the cumulative effect of small amounts rather than looking for the one grand gesture.

I think it might be a girl thing. And I think that maybe until I run the world (or at least the city) that nobody's going to do it.

Feel free to bash me for this, it's just a worm that was in my head for a while and I had to get it out. In fact if everyone starts fighting about it I might just delete the post.

Or, hell, I might just take my copious free time and start a fund and see if I can't raise the damned six million dollars to get some of our good people off the streets ...

Maybe after I sleep.

You're absolutely right.
At a time when I had about $28/month to buy groceries, that much little extra money would have made a huge difference. As in, a hot meal for the first time in months. It was winter in Chicago and I was cold.
Please run for Prime Minister. I'm sure you could take on the Harpie.
Let us know when you get that fund set up, so we can contribute, too!
Sometimes I think it's that whole diffusion of responsibility thing. If there are a bunch of people (ie a whole city), then the individual feels they don't have to worry about it. Someone else will, or at least that's what they hope.

There were numbers released last year about what percentages of Canada's population did the giving. 13% of the population gave something like 85% of the $'s that charities received. Heaven help us if that 13% stop or die all at once.
I am a multitasker. My husband is what I call a "unitasker." I love the way he can tackle a problem or situation and see it through to the finish, unlike me who has a finger in too many pies all the time. On the other hand, I hate the way if he is talking on the phone he can be looking right at the stove and not notice that it's on fire.

This is, as your friend says, a true genetic difference between men and women. I saw a documentary on it and cameras were placed in a real home to demonstrate all kinds of sociological things. One of them was on a Sunday morning in a busy household. There is food on the table and cleaning going on and kids talking and dogs barking and radio playing and the mother is doing 10 things at once, perfectly at ease. The husband very quietly takes the paper and goes out alone on the deck. Because he can't READ when there are other things going on around him.

I like to think that these divergent thinking styles help men and women work together. It's a primal thing, right? Man hunt mammoth. Then kill mammoth. Then drag mammoth home. One job, linear steps. Woman tend fire, skin animals, prepare food, nurse baby, clean cave, bring water, and all that other crap, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Together, they manage. It just tends to make the men look a bit dumb. (Not so. Right?)

Of course, we no longer live in caves, so there's really no reason this is all hanging on. But it still pertains, at least in my house! (We don't eat mammoth, however.)
The roles are reversed in my house. I, the female, do things one at a time, all the way through. My husband, the male, is a multitasker who isn't bothered by the teenager's constant interuptions (said teenager having *forgotten* to take his ADD meds) and the phone ringing and, and, and so on. btw, I am an accountant and he is a psychiatric nurse. So the linear vs. multitasking thing fits right in with our chosen careers. He is also ADD; our older son is like me, only more so. He can do that thing with the stove on fire, no problem.

Ain't life grand? There's a place for all of us.
Your drink story sounds like something I did the other day. The husband had originally stressed the fact that I should eat as I had not eaten yet that day. We both went into the knitting store, I got settled, then turned to him and said "Do you want to get something to eat?" Of course, what I meant was something like "You're right, I am hungry, go get me lunch so I can sit here, socialize and knit." I asked this question 3 times before I whipped out "Here's a translation for you, I'm hungry, go get me food." I think I shocked a couple of the women in the knitting store.

And for the record, I think you've got it right about a little here a little there and it all adds up is a woman's thought process, where men go for the big goal all at once. There's an argument that comes up at my university every now and again over our transit fee. Every semester each student pays $26 and receives a sticker that goes on our student id which allows us to ride on the county's transportation system by just showing the sticker. Sweet deal with you know that a 6 month pass for a normal person costs hundreds of dollars. But there are students who complain about paying this little bit because they don't use it. However, because we all go in on it, those students who do have a huge savings in their transportation costs.

And the thing is you never know when you're going to need it. If your car is stolen tomorrow, having that sticker means you can most likely still get to work and school. There was even a semester when I ended up using the lightrail to save on gas; it was great.

It's just sad that so many people only worry about what they're getting out of it instead of how they may be helping others.

Wow, didn't mean to go off like that in your comments. :)
Another thing is guys don't tend to connect one task with another.
I ask my hub to do the dishes. He does. (he's wonderful like that) I go into the kitchen, and the sink is still scummy and the counters are covered in crumbs. In my family, doing the dishes involved cleaning the sink and counter they were sitting on.
I've explained this to him, he understands the concept, but he still doesn't clean the sink or counter unless I say please do the dishes, and wipe down the sink and counter.
I've had to adjust.
When I was in college I took a sociology elective and the professor took us all to a nearby construction site one day to demonstrate the different ways in which guys and gals approached tasks.

He brought us to a pallet of bricks and divided us into guys and gals. The only instructions were for the boys not to look while the girls moved the bricks from the full pallet to the empty one, and then stacked the bricks neatly on the empty one, which was about 50 yards from the first pallet. The girls were not to look while the boys moved the bricks in the same way. The professor videotaped
the whole thing and showed it to us later.

The boys moved the bricks like this: each boy rushed to the pile and stacked up a great, huge, armload, as many as he could possibly carry, and staggered over to the other pile, dumping them near the pallet, then ran off for another load. Many bricks fell, of course, and had to be picked up. Two boys scurried to arrange bricks neatly on the pallet while the remaining boys ran back and forth for more huge armloads of bricks.

The girls quietly walked back and forth in a row like ants, each carrying two to four bricks at a time. Few bricks were dropped, as the girls who carried were also stacking bricks neatly when they arrived at the empty pallet. Back and forth went the girls, efficiently building a neat, square pile on the empty pallet.

Neither group discussed how to approach the task. They just started doing it. The girls did observe HOW the bricks were stacked on the first pallet before beginning to work.

It took both groups almost exactly the same amount of time to do the job, but the girls accomplished the task without getting dirty, breaking into a sweat, or making a mess.

To me this has always been the clearest illustration between the way men and women approach things.

I totally get what your saying. Why couldn't the university, or more specifically the dick, um I mean that guy realize they could do *both* approaches, that the woman's had no impact on him but would impact the dang students! Sheesh.

Dez - love the brick tale.
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