Last week there was this loud, shirtless man at the bus stop. He was pacing back and forth and he was shouting the f-bomb every so often. A bus came. When I didn’t get on, he got in my face and asked, “Is that your bus?” I said, “No” and he walked toward a different person and asked her the same question.
The whole encounter gave me the willies. To make myself look less approachable, I pulled out my phone and pretended to be very engrossed with the screen. To keep up the illusion of having very important phone business to conduct, I went on Facebook and wrote a status update about the shirtless, cursing man. Four female Facebook friends commented, “Run!” Two male Facebook friends left the following comment, “I’m sorry. I’ll put my shirt back on.”
The stark differences in their comments made me think about the differences between men and women.
I’m not necessarily a Mars/Venus or a Waffles/Spaghetti person. But I do think that there is one fundamental difference between men and women and it’s this: women are more fearful than men. We’re a lot more likely to see peril and danger than men are.
I don’t necessarily think that this is a genetic difference. I think it stems from the fact that women are physically weaker than men and, therefore, more likely to be preyed upon. You know the stats: one in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in a lifetime. Compare that to 1 in 33 men.
My husband—who is 6 foot 1 and 180 pounds—might see a shirtless F-bomb shouting guy at the bus stop and think, “A-hole.” I see the same guy and think, “Please don’t hurt me. I don’t want my daughter to grow up without a mother.”
And I think, “don’t hurt me” even though I’ve taken years of martial arts classes. My husband has never once taken a martial arts class, yet he rarely, if ever, worries about someone hurting him.
I’ve made it my business to learn a few different ways to kill or seriously maim someone with my bare hands (squash the trachea, rip off the ear, break the nose and shove it into the brain, dislocate the knee, scoop out the eyeball, cut off the air or blood supply to the head…) My husband does not know how to kill or maim someone with his bare hands. In fact, I doubt it has occurred to him that this knowledge might come in handy.
Yet, I’m the one who, despite what I know about human anatomy, wanted to drive just a few blocks to book club a few months ago because I worried about what might happen if I walked back home in the dark. My husband was the one who said, “Oh just walk. It’s safe here. No one has ever been murdered here.”
I was the one who thought, “I could be the first person who gets murdered here.”
It’s this difference between men and women, I think, that leads to marital disharmony when it comes to child raising. Many parents tell me that dad is the Mr. Party and mom is Mrs. Bodyguard. Dad sees a tree and thinks, “The kids will have so much fun climbing that.” Mom sees a tree and thinks, “I don’t want my kids to fall out of that.”
Dad complains about mom always worrying. Mom complains about Dad never worrying.
We see the world differently and, as a result, we parent differently.
Perhaps just in knowing and understanding this basic difference, dads and moms can come to an understanding about how to raise children without fighting about it.
What do you think?
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.