Yesterday I had a puzzle to solve. A problem. At 12:05am, with the crowd-sourcing help of fellow male gaggers, I figured it out. I'd love to say that after that celebratory moment I fell into a heavy and blissful sleep that only the self-satisfied ever truly experience, and it was without chemical aid, but a little blue pill was involved. Was it the blue pill of blissful ignorance ala 'The Matrix'? No way. I've always been a red, truth, harsh realities of life, kind of girl, even as a child, I now think that is clear. And it wasn't the 'Mother's Little Helper' that the Rolling Stones referred to. And it wasn't the one that rhymes with jolly. It was just boring old diphenhydramine. Anyhoo, I did eventually fall asleep around 2:30am, got my stupid six hours, waking up at 8:30am. I didn't feel good, must have been caught up in REM sleep again, and tried to squint the way-too-much-sunlight coming through the bedroom window (I'm a blackout sleeper so this situation just won't do)... and where did my mind first go - to the accomplishment of last night. I'll link it down below. It was a lock/mechanical problem; no point getting into the details here again now.
No, what really jarred me awake was this thought - that men are problem solvers. Women are too, of course, but they don't have this reputation in the same way, do they? (That's rhetorical.) Women have the distinction of being the complainers that men are too much problem solvers, damn it. "Why can't they just listen?!" (insert exasperated tone here.) Now, I don't know if I, personally, have ever really complained about this. If I did, it was many, many years ago and I have no memory of that at all. But there are lots of ways that I'm different, an outlier, so whatever. What I have said, more times than you can probably count, is 'Men do not have the same level of patience that women do when it comes to the intricacies of the emotional world.' (I like inversions.) I always notice, and therefore approach it, from this angle. As the immutable Edna Mode of The Incredibles says, "Gabagabagaba. It's too much, Darling!" This is a words vs. pictures issues preference; and a somebody's spouting off 20,000 wpd on average vs. the other's 7,000 wpd difference; and a problem solving issue vs. finding a way through the complex maze of social harmony framework. Get it? There's no fight here then, see? These are just differences. Not inadequacies.
I am tenacious. At least, about certain things. Ooooh I don't like riddles or mysteries or puzzles unsolved. It gives me the itches so bad, I'm discombobulated. I am a hard 'J' in the MBTI (thanks to the mother-daughter team, Myers and Briggs - did you know they were female?), and I like closure. Who doesn't, in a way. But some people are the 'P's of life - they much prefer open-ended situations. Their homes are not clutter-free, they don't know where their keys always are (by the door in a leather valet tray, of course!), and if you're in a restaurant you'd better go ahead and order that drink, and appetizers, because they're going to be a while. I am not all 'J'. I don't like so many rules, or have unwavering respect for authority figures (orange pumpkin men don't deserve any just because there were some kings before him), but I do follow a certain order, for the sake of social harmony. At least, a semblance of it. That is an over-arching goal. But I digress.
And I am not mechanically inclined. And I can't easily or quickly do those damn IQ rotate-the-box-and-add-a-dot visual puzzles. But I'm good with jigsaw puzzles, word puzzles (especially unscrambling letters), and I can fit a piece of furniture through a door like a mother******. Ha za (ala Sheldon Cooper of 'The Big Bang Theory.') I've got to tell you this one: I was moving. Movers came. Big, strong, lots of moxie, you know how they are. The foreman may or may not be the best guy. Sometimes he's just the bossiest. Or can crack the jokes and add levity with the clients. But sometimes the foreman is the most sexist one of all. I have a large, heavy, top-grain (that means genuine leather - do not fall for 'bonded leather' which is almost no leather at all) leather 3-piece sofa, and it needed to be moved into the truck, out of a small den (my gorgeous navy blue, low-ceiling, media/entertainment room cave - because caves aren't just for men - I was a former rabbit you know. We are specialists in this.) It's an L-shaped sofa and the largest piece is the corner. Two out of three moved out quite efficiently, bing, bang, boom. The corner, not so much. Four guys struggled, and sweat, and muttered, and there was some definite hierarchical stuff going on there too. Much time went by. They pushed so hard, white paint from the not-freshly-painted baseboards was mashed into the espresso brown leather, and after I don't know how long, Foreman declares "It won't come out." "Yes it will. The delivery guys got it in here fine. I was here. I saw it." "Look, we've tried everything. It must have been before some renovations or something. Maybe the door was changed." "The door wasn't changed. This 'den' used to be the car port and the rest of the house was built in 1924, and I assure you, this sofa came in here after we moved in. It's got to come out. We've sold this house and this is it." He flat out refused to try and get it out. Well it went back and forth like this, with my husband and all other three non-in-charge guys standing by, watching me and Foreman verbally duking it out. My entire life I have been dancing on this knife. I know this choreography well.
Anyway, they go to lunch, sit on the porch having their sandwiches. I recruit my husband to help me. It was heavy, that is always more the problem for me than anything else, but I directed us, and... ta da. Of course I got it out. What was impressive was how quickly. And guess where the den was - right across from the porch where they all were sitting or standing, with the perfect view to the show. Foreman: One sentence: "How did you do that?" Seeing he is not congratulating me (that is loudly absent), I am one step away from gloating, but hold it back. Though I am visually pumped. My husband and I high-five. "I told you it was possible!" What was the trick? I don't know exactly - I think facing the soft cushions down, towards the floor, and the more rigid backside up, so that we could finesse it in plain sight. I just tipped it here and there, with a subtle (woman's?) touch. This was not about (male?) brute force. I was 'one' with it, not against it. My coercion is subtle. Like how you 'ask' your car, when 'she's' dying... "Come on, Baby, stay with me." Or your boat, I presume. Certainly Scotty's ship, "Cap'n, I can' hold her anymore. She's goona' blow." But then later, "Ah, she's a good girl."
That sofa (which still has the white paint marks on it, by the way, which drives me all kinds of crazy, since nothing will get that off - not even paint thinner or the ever-magical lighter fluid) was one of the most satisfying, memorable moments of my life. (Another was getting my mum's boxy red leather club chair into her bedroom, which no other family member could do - my two strapping, tall, seemingly-strong cousins both gave up.) Firstly, who wants two pieces of a three piece sofa, or to disappoint the nice bachelor actor who just bought your home (it does not pair well with the bottle of champagne you left him, saying 'Congratulations and welcome to your new home!'), but of course, it was about men subtlely, and in my case not so subtlely, disparaging women for not being as good problem solvers of the physical world. But, maybe we had that coming, because we (well not really me) have been criticizing men for trying to 'solve the problem instead of just listening.' Listening to a who-knows-how-long 'story' about [you fill in the blank.] Could be a work issue, a girl friend, sister, whatever. It's all about relationships.
Now I'm not going to go so far as to say that women are the superior species when it comes to relationships. I don't think they are, but they do have some definite upgrades to their software on this one. They notice many intricacies. Glances, looks, and word choices, they will remember. They'll remember (dredge up) events and conversations from the past which may or may not be related (they do relate... usually.) "Are you ever going to let that go?" Some will, some won't, depends on the girl. And they are very good both at and after a party, to do a play-by-play of everything that happened, every nuance between the guests. So if you want help with your emotionally-complex relational problem, go to women. They'll help you out whenever you need, and they'll sit with you for however long it takes to help you (see, help you, not solve it for you) figure it out, together, with sympathy, and hopefully with some red pill truth (delusions will get you nowhere.) But if you want help with a mechanical problem, a 'real world' problem, as they call them - something not in the abstract, nebulous, but in-your-face, call the guys. (Or me.) They seem to appreciate the challenge (determination will get you everywhere.) Sometimes guys are confrontational (certainly as compared to girls), and they definitely do enjoy a 'good' debate, but throughout history they have had to figure out a lot of practical problems (fire just being the most famous, early one, but it certainly has never stopped there.)
When I woke up this morning it occurred to me that we, the genders, are who we are. As individuals, we can all improve (you may know how big I am on self-awareness and improvement, a healthy dose of objectivity, and striving to be a better version of oneself over time), but as genders, can we all just cut each other some slack? The rope is getting rather tight, isn't it? Time for some expansion. (Or, to use another analogy, back to the mean, for some retraction.) Evolution can't happen too quickly. Struggling against some knots only makes them tighter, and gives you rope burn. In all of this change, we have lost the appreciation for the other. Equality is not about being the same. It is about having equal value. This is not a problem for me. I am a steadfast egalitarian. I find I am fighting more and more each day for this. And I like contrast. I eat that up, always have. I aim to get rid of [almost] all friction points in my life, whether that be through verbal reconciliation, or in the physical world, with an extra long screwdriver and a rubber mallet. The same desire to [sometimes too quickly] fix the emotional problems of the world, stems from the same innate drive to solve the stuck locks of the world. Maybe we shouldn't try to separate the two. You cannot extract what you like about the opposite sex, like some sort of not-yet-invented brain surgery, and leave only the tasty bits. We are all a package deal.
Yesterday I watched an interview with Esther Perel, whom many refer to as the renowned, preeminent relationship therapist. She's been married to her husband of 36 years, Jack, a psychologist (she, the psychoanalyst - “He deals with pain and I deal with pleasure, and sometimes we meet.") She was asked, "What has changed in your relationship over time?" Her reply: "We have stopped trying to change each other.” She is a wise woman. I consider her almost a virtual mentor to me, though reading her monthly newsletters via email is about the closest I have gotten to speaking with her, so far. When I ask questions like 'Who is a great representations of their gender?"... my answer (absent before, to allow you all to be uninfluenced) is Esther. She's feisty, ("What word best describes you?" "Intense", she boldly answered. My answer, maybe not so coincidentally. My second/or first, being complicated.) I don't agree with every single thing she has to say when she conducts her therapy sessions (I've listened to over a dozen exerpeted recordings via her podcast), but to me, she is a shining example of what I respect, and if she and her husband have come to this conclusion, particularly prophetic when they inhabit a world of constant, driving, psychological change, perhaps we should all take heed. (Although I will add, once you get into your 50s you've put in the work and earned this right. In your 20s, you've no doubt still got a lot of kinks to iron out, or sand off, whichever be your tool of choice.)
So thank you, men of #GAG (and a couple of women too) for all your help yesterday. And for all your comments, and thoughts and musings, throughout my 10 months here (so far - I'm not leaving, just reflecting.) My other question of late, 'How do you think differently?' was also satisfying. Your answers were thoughtful, contemplative, even inspiring. I relish in your introspective excavation, and the uniqueness of your conclusions. But then, that is no surprise, as I always knew that people are as unique as snowflakes (I'm reclaiming back the original meaning of this now-bastardized word), and I have always loved how so many defy cliche characterization, standing resolutely against being distilled down to caricatures, and certainly labels. But I will gladly get out my label-maker (being the 'J' type that I am - and yes, the batteries in it are fresh), and label you, Problem Solvers.
Who doesn't love watching Tom... "I have made fire!"
The question/problem, which was the impetus for this take: