“All women become like their mothers. That is
their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
There’s a scene from the movie “The Fly” that nicely captures one of the most striking differences between men and women. The main character (a scientist) is turning into a fly and he looks really gross (super-icky gross to be exact). His girlfriend (a journalist) comes to check on him. After she arrives, he throws up on himself, then his ear falls off. What does his girlfriend do? Does she run away? Does she avoid him? No – she runs over and gives him a hug. I think we can all agree that if the woman had been the fly and she had just thrown up on herself, and her ear fell off, most guys would run to the door and say something like, “you probably want to be alone right now, I’ll call you sometime.”
I’m not saying that most guys morph into insects and puke on themselves (although I am sure that many do). I’m saying that women are generally better about meeting the emotional needs of other people. Carol Gilligan, a researcher at Harvard, believes this is because most of our early childhood nurturers are women. As young children, we learn that women clean up our messes and kiss our boo-boos (and hug us when our ears fall off).
What do we do with this information? I don’t know, but “The Fly” is a pretty cool movie.
I’ll be honest, I hate vomit. I hate my own vomit and I really hate other people’s vomit. I might hug my girlfriend if she puked on herself, but I would definitely give her a towel first. I really don’t know what I’d do if her ear fell off.
In any case, there must be a way to be more supportive that isn’t as gross as hugging someone covered in their own hurl, and I think I know what that is – I can be a better listener.
Being a really good listener is like letting someone throw up on you.
The way I see it, adults are just like kids, only they don’t yell out “look at me, watch me”. Still, that’s what everyone wants: to be seen and heard, to be witnessed by someone. If you want to be a good lover or a good friend, first be a good witness. That’s one of the things guys like most about women, the willingness to be a witness, to pay attention to someone else.
Healthy people are very careful with children. Careful of their feelings and of their vulnerabilities. We also try to pay attention to their accomplishments and to the changes through which they pass. Moreover, we are more tolerant when they throw up on themselves, or on us.
So how does someone become more attentive to other adults? I don’t know – I’m asking you. A friend recently told me that I’m the most self-absorbed person he knows, and I think he was being nice. So, if you have any advice, please send it to me care of this paper.
Now, as far as I can remember, I’ve never actually thrown up on a girlfriend. I have, however, emotionally vomited on a number of women, and I’d like to publicly apologize for that now. At the same time, I think we all need to puke emotionally every now and then – and if you love someone, you’ll hug them when they do.