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Monday, May 3, 2010

Icebox, or: Cold Around the Heart

A typical likeness of the human male heart, according to many women.

Women often ask questions like "Why are men so heartless?" or "Why do men act so cold-blooded, so cold-hearted?"  They examine and scrutinize us as remorseless cyborgs, contract hitmen with their happiness squared within our sights.

Well, we can't all be der Fuhrer, so what is it?

In her book The Male Brain, Louann Brizendine writes about a study conducted where a group of men and women were subjected to images such as people dying in the Third World or a wounded animal struggling.  Interestingly, the men actually measured stronger emotional responses to the images than the women did; however, something even more interesting occured 2.5 seconds later: the men suppressed the emotions.  It's unclear how much of this process is conscious or unconscious, but its implications suggest that we are not "cold as ice," to quote the late Rick James.

It's been said that men actually fall more deeply in love than women, that they are more deeply cut by infidelity, more affected by their children's pain or the loss of a parent; but it's the ability to separate, compartmentalize, and if need be banish discomforting emotions-- which may indicate vulnerability-- that enables men to behave heavy-handedly toward women and their feelings.

A man generally knows when he's hurting a woman, but if it gets in the way of what he wants-- sex, his freedom, the affirmation of his peers, continued control of his emotions-- then he can quickly shut off that part of his brain that says, "She doesn't deserve this."  If it's any consolation, many of us do lose sleep over such game-time decisions.

Men are between the ultimate rock and a hard place: we're supposed to show no or little fear, yet we are the most fearful because we are terrified not only by the external forces of the outside world but by the possibility of losing a handle on the one thing we're supposed to be in supreme command of-- ourselves.  Women unsettle us with their sexual and reproductive powers and their knowledge of such, and we are afraid to become slaves to their desires; we'd rather be slaves to our own and be thought monstrous... deranged.

(Not an excuse, just an explanation.)

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