“It was a Thursday morning…
You were wearing that ratty little “Dartmouth” T-shirt you look so good in, the one with the hole in the back of the neck.
You’d just washed your hair and you smelled like some kind of… flower. I was running late for surgery.
You said you were going to see me later, and you leaned to me, you put your hand on my chest and you kissed me. Soft. It was quick. Kind of like a habit. You know, like we’d do it every day for the rest of our lives. And you went back to reading the newspaper and I went to work.
That was the last time we kissed.”
Dr Derek Shepard, Grey’s Anatomy
So…depending on the subject matter my wife will often breathe a short, sharp mix of frustration and exasperation; as conflicting opinions tend to end with the phrase…
“You don’t understand”
With a quiet confidence I reply…
“No, I don’t.”
But before I continue to roll towards the cliffs edge, I must pause and take a step back.
Last week I had gloriously cool, thirst quenching conversations with my eighteen and fourteen -year-old sons, respectively. These conversations were as remarkable as Halle Berry’s Instagram feed, and more satisfying than eating a Snickers bar at lunchtime after you’ve skipped breakfast. When a weary, battle scarred man can sit and converse with his male offspring; there is a universal familiarity and depth of commonality that is broken, shared and easily digested.
There is an intuitive understanding of why men are instinctively attracted to the visual splendour of the female form without first requiring elements of her personality to come into play and an inherent understanding of why an ever-growing testosterone fuelled physical strength makes you feel as invincible as Mark Grayson.
Listening to my sons, bought me back to my own awkward adolescence; as much of their life experiences (thus far) I innately feel. I relate, because once upon a time I too hesitantly walked through the gateway of adolescence into early manhood, but with my wife the rules of the game are a little different.
She is of a more socially advanced gender known as “female” therefore I have no real frame of reference for the epic journey of womanhood. My body didn’t award me the XX chromosome, therefore with the best intentions, empathy is the only real credible resource I have. I will never know what it is like to have a menstrual cycle. I’ll never have the potential or the power to use my body to incubate, nurture and bring forth life and although I qualify in age, I’ll never know menopause.
So, in desperation my wife can say (for example) “Oh Ty, you don’t know how hard it is to constantly have to feed our new-born son.”
And she’d be exactly right!
I’ll never know.
Despite being an established paternal conductor, guiding the pace, tempo and harmony of a quartet of children; I’ll still never know the nuance of what womanhood feels like. Not because I’m not as curious as George, but I’m not Optimus Prime. I simply can’t externally or internally transform into something that I’m not….and I don’t speak as the manliest man on the planet either. Despite being hijacked by the flamboyant joy of gay culture, the 1983, Weather Girls hit “It’s raining men” is still one of my favourite disco hits of all time. I don’t support a football team; I don’t like the taste of beer and I have no shame making sure I moisturise regularly…
But it would be foolish to assume because there are some experiences, I can’t inherently relate to, this somehow means I’m dismissive of what I don’t understand, especially when the opposite holds true. It’s because there are internal perspectives out of my reach, I want to access understanding, which is why it is even more important to really listen and fall into the nuance (both verbal and silent) of spoken dialogue and communication.
People tend to get into relationships with other…err…people. That is to say, embarking on a journey of discovery, growth, negotiation and ultimately acceptance of another while embracing common interests; but acknowledging the clear and present differences. Men are just not women our brains are literally wired in such a way it is easier for us to recognise and understand aggression over compassion.
It’s okay if the male brain just isn’t equipped with the necessary tools to decipher how many meanings and interpretations the statement “I’m fine” has. It’s okay not to quite understand a range of feelings, just by tone of voice alone. It’s even okay if you can’t decipher conflicting messages and figure out that maybe a hug is required even when your beloved states, they need personal space.
It’s a freedom like no other, when you realise you don’t have to sing the male version of Chaka Khan’s 1978 classic ode to empower her gender (I’m every woman, in case you were wondering) It’s liberating to get to a point when you know it makes no sense to try and reach unattainable standards set by Hollywood, social media or episodes of Greys Anatomy. Overly detailed, romantic monologues are not said by Dr Shepard types, as his character is a work of fiction that doesn’t exist in the real physical world…
But I do.
Until next time
Illustration by Alena Aenami No copyright infringement intended.