Tackling the Testosterone Theory
Yesterday I appeared on ABC Adelaide Radio with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan, because they wanted me to respond to some comments made by the 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' author, John Gray, a couple of days earlier. There were vague hints from the producer that my book, 'Work/Life Balance for Dummies' might also get mentioned, but I got the distinct impression that they were more after a very non-serious female perspective about blokes, work and home.
Listening to the podcast was hilarious, informative and infuriating - quite a winner in terms of entertaining listening. Mr Gray contends that men need to rest on the sofa like lazy lumps after a hard day at work because their testosterone levels have dipped far too low. He says they need to recuperate and, even when their testosterone reaches optimum level, they should stay resting so that they have the energy to immediately deal with 'emergency situations'.
Emergency situations, eh? What constitutes an emergency? Not being able to reach the remote? Being the one-in-a-million unlucky bugger to be invaded by an angry mob with pitchforks and murder on their minds? Matt and Dave thought I was being a tad too harsh on their fellow men and reminded me that Gray's research has led him to conclude that if men get sex more often, their testosterone levels are higher and they will, as a result, be more active and helpful around the house.
Nodding whilst listening, I shot back with something like, "Well that's all very nice for you blokes, but let me tell you this: Men are more likely to get sex IF and WHEN they help out at home. Strangely enough, most women are not turned on by a semi-conscious slug snoring on the sofa when she's busy with the kids' homework, cooking dinner, feeding the dog, hanging out washing, sorting through the mail and bills, answering the phone and cleaning up only to fall into bed several hours later and get a hopeful 'tap on the shoulder' by her man."
He's infinitely more sexy if he wears an apron; a teatowel slung over his shoulder; a concerned expression over the kids' homework; and an ability to simultaneously notice the crumbs and wipe down the counter than if he has an imprint of the tv-guide on his face.
Gray also likes to go on about the differences in white matter and grey matter in men and women's brains. Men can apparently use their more analytical 'left side' at work all day and then switch off when they get home, whereas women keep the left side on permanently whilst also using their right sides. I can believe this particular theory as I can his idea that women are therefore more emotional, get more stressed and need to vent to their partners when they get home. Agreed: Love Chunks can pretty well list all of my work colleagues' names, job titles, skills and irritating office habits - even for those people he hasn't met at end-of-year BBQs. I, on the other hand, vaguely know that he works in the most hilarious looking building in Adelaide (unless you're a staunch fan on 1976 architecture that is) with a bunch of other guys who have trouble finding a decent car parking spot in Kent Town and they make the best calendars ever.
As such, Gray suggests to the male listeners that finding ten minutes each day to sit and really listen to their womenfolk downloading their days' concerns after work isn't much of a sacrifice. As Sapphire's school teacher has told me in the past, kids have a concentration span of roughly ten minutes, so surely a grown professional can manage it. After all, it's about the time it takes to slurp down a full carton of Farmers' Union Iced Coffee or successfully open a beer bottle with an eye socket.
The last thing I wanted, however, was to appear as a strident man-hater. I'm not a bloke-bigot; some of my best friends are blokes. Love Chunks is a bloke and we've withstood nearly fifteen years of relatively happy togetherness. I therefore thought it was appropriate to mention that it is in fact Love Chunks who cooks all of the (incredibly delicious and creative) meals in our house. Matt and Dave looked impressed.
Unfortunately, I had to add the fateful word 'but'.
"But when a man cooks, he gets a great deal more positive attention for doing so. We all say 'Oh wow, did you make this; it's fantastic, you're great, this is delicious...' etcetera but there are other, less glamorous tasks that are never noticed. My job is to do the washing---"
Dave interjected with, "Yeah but the washing's easy and doesn't take that much effort----"
"No no no Dave. It's a constant, dreary process of washing, hanging up, bringing in, sorting, folding, ironing, putting away only to have to do another load. We all go nuts when a delicious plate of pasta is put in front of us, but how many blokes have opened up their jock drawer and gone, 'Wow! I've got clean jocks- this is great, thanks!' "
In my nervousness, exhilaration and utter terror, things got a bit murky from then on. I do remember saying that if Gray wants us women to accept that men need to do sweet FA so that they can replenish their love pumps, then we gals should be able to come home, take a long, peaceful nap and allow our ovaries to realign themselves with the sun. Caveman needs and analogies can only go so far. If he wants us to accept that fellas need to hunt all day and then rest and shag all night, then he must also accept that men will have their life expectancies reduced to the same experienced by their stone age buddies - 27 years. They may not die whilst battling a mammoth like their forebears, but they'll have some pretty angry females to deal with bearing nose hair clippers, salad tongs and sharply manicured nails....
Back at home, Love Chunks and I resumed the discussion. I opined that if men can come home and do nothing, so can us women, but it will be at the risk of the human race dying out because no-one will be there to look after and protect the children or the home. Love Chunks wasn't in agreement. He thought that if guys could do what they liked, there would, in fact, be many more children in the world as an outcome of men's increased access to - and participation in - horizontal hobbies.
Not a chance. In reality, there would be a load of bonked-out blokes and one very unusual and very busy woman for each postcode. The rest of us would be napping or shopping for chocolate.