Generally Speaking

As is my wont two or three times a week, I was headed over to the Veloway for a little cardiovascular maintenance the other morning. The preferred route is almost all highway:  up South First to 290 westbound; switch to Mopac southbound; exit la Crosse. Quick and easy. But it was a little later than usual and the customary pathways were clogged with rush hour traffic going nowhere fast. Fortunately, there is not much east-west flow at that time, so you can go by way of surface streets and get there eventually.

So there I was wanting to turn, but stuck in the inside lane just back of the point where the median narrows to accommodate a dedicated left-turn lane. I would gladly have moved over into that lane but for the late-model Toyota FourRunner that was blocking the way, sticking just far enough over the opening that I could not squeeze by.

This minor blockage would have evaporated if only the driver had closed, by even a little, the yawning gap of more than a car length between her vehicle and the one immediately ahead. I stared at the back of her head, willing her to roll forward just a couple of feet. But judging from her silhouetted movements, she was preoccupied with some kind of adornment ritual, applying eyeliner or rouge or some such, and so she did not detect my telepathic command.

It was almost certain that if I waited for the inside lane to clear, the left turn light would expire about a half-second before I could get to it. Already running late and feeling it acutely, this possibility did not appeal. So being a practical sort, compelled by the urgency that comes of being in a hurry, I simply bypassed the blockage. Inching leftward, I maneuvered the driver-side wheels up onto the median, and with at least three feet to spare, slid past the stubbornly immobile Toyota. This action caught its driver off-guard, and she turned abruptly to glare, her expression a wordless mixture of astonishment, indignation, and stern reproach. Just what the hell do you think you’re doing!?

Which seemed rather like an overreaction because it wasn’t really that big a deal, at least from my point of view. It was low curb with a gentle slope, and I was driving one of my vans, which are large rugged beasts with high clearance. I came nowhere near to hitting her. And she bore some responsibility, too. Lost in her own world, she had neglected to keep a tight formation with the car ahead, thus causing an avoidable delay for anyone behind her hoping to turn left.

It was basically a no-brainer. Up, over, and away. Identify, adapt, overcome. Thanks to this routine improvisation, I made the light with seconds to spare, and breezed through the intersection flush with the momentary satisfaction of minor victory.

But then it hit me: That was the sort of thing a woman would never do. Hence the disapproving look. Not an absolute never, mind you; here and there it happens all the time. Just not often enough not to really matter.

Whereas most males wouldn’t have even thought twice about it, to the vast majority of females, what I had just done was something that You Just Don’t Do. It’s a violation of the rules; it’s coloring outside the lines; it’s going up the down staircase; you could break something; someone could get hurt; what if you get a ticket? I suspect that most women could come up with a dozen or more reasons “why not” without even breaking a sweat.

It struck me as yet another example of the many benchmark differences that define our respective genders, with their highly contrasting natures. Males, by and large, are pragmatic and task-oriented, do not like to be impeded, enjoy solving problems, are improvisational, are comfortable with risk, and view rules as guidelines, not absolutes. But females, by and large, are the inverse of this pattern.

This is not a bad thing. Viewed from an evolutionary context, it makes perfect sense. A well-adapted species has a flexible set of behavioral tools. Yes, there is a time and a place for aggression and boundary-pushing, but there is also a time to hang back be domestic. And certainly, there is a time to wing it, but also a time for careful deliberation. A time to fight; a time to heal.

Viewed from a social perspective, this powerful bimodality represents a crucial form of balance. Pure audacity, unchecked by prudent counsel, eventually results in disaster. Raw impatience, if not tempered by calm restraint, inevitably triggers avoidable conflict. Yes, rules do in fact get in the way, but they are also pretty useful on occasion, and exist for a reason. Yin. Yang.

I related this story and the insight that flowed from it to my girlfriend, Carolyn, who immediately shot it down. Baiting me, or perhaps being sincere–I could not tell– she said “Not all women are that way.” To which I replied, somewhat testily, of course not, we’re talking generalities here, annoyed at her invocation of the obvious. Central tendencies. Probabilistic distributions. In. General.

The stubborn resistance to this seemingly reasonable hypothesis was both puzzling and ironic, especially considering that she who was resistant happened to personify the concept almost perfectly. In more than a decade, I cannot recall ever seeing her so much as bend a rule or take even the mildest of risks. And I can say, with near-perfect confidence, that she would never, ever intentionally jump a curb absent a national emergency or a presidential order. Methought she doth protest too much.

Over the years I have had similar conversations with many others, and have frequently witnessed this curious reluctance to acknowledge the obvious, which almost always comes from women. This reluctance is simultaneously surprising and not. Surprising because, well, it IS obvious that we males and females are very different. Arguing against this proposition–and by arguing I mean making a case using facts and logic–seems a losing game.

But not surprising because of the strange times in which we live. Militant, unreasoning Political Correctness, that prohibition against noticing, has through stealth and sheer persistence gained nearly complete control of the conversation. This topsy-turvy worldview, supported by zero evidence, demands of its adherents that they maintain the fiction of Equalism, which holds that we are all alike and absolutely equal in all ways large and small. To achieve this level of delusion is not an easy thing, and requires a hefty course of indoctrination, not to mention the cultivation of a robust affinity for ignoring that which is right in front of you.

Females seem to take to this regimen more naturally than males. Perhaps because it is essentially female nature to want to be part of the group, to willingly accept direction from authority, to wish to please, to abhor conflict, to go along and get along. At the margins this veers off into severely conformist, totalitarian thinking. By contrast, it is essentially male nature to rebel, to question, to chafe at restrictions, and to resist regimentation.

Again, generally speaking. As always, individual results may vary.

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One Comment

  1. Scott, I really enjoy reading your insightful and honest epistles! Thank you and keep them coming.

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