What WOULD it be like if men talked about their feelings
When I have a problem, I know just what to do with it: I take out my trusty bottle, stuff the latest dilemma in with all the others and replace the cork.
Now that everything is safely bottled up, I can do something else and forget it. In other words, I am a typical man.
As a recent study at the University of Missouri confirmed, we men think talking about our problems is a waste of time and prefer to take our minds off it by doing something else.
Women seem to be able to spend hours, days, weeks even, analysing themselves, their colleagues, their friends and their loved ones with their pals. It’s the reason unlimited mobile tariffs were invented!
Man to man: Would men feel better if they stopped bottling up their feelings and shared them with friends
But what, I asked myself, would happen if I spent the next few days going against the instincts of my gender and confronted my innermost emotions head on What if I stopped bottling up my feelings like a man and let them splurge out like women seem to do I decided to find out…
I wake up full of optimism. If Socrates’s conclusion that the unexamined life is not worth living is true, then it’s time to bring out the microscope.
But where to start To whom shall I reveal myself And what am I going to talk about anyway What are my buried fears and problems A desire to sort out my sock drawer suddenly overwhelms me. Maybe I’ll think about this later.
In the evening I meet my pal Pete in the pub. We meet up about once a week and we always have a laugh, although now, when I try and remember what we talk about, nothing comes to mind.
Is this because it’s all trivial I ask Pete, but he looks blank. After a minute or so, he suggests: ‘Football’
He can’t come up with anything more specific. I tell him about my plan. He sighs and asks me: ‘All right, how are you really’ I pause to consider. ‘Fine, thanks.’ We get another drink.
When you’ve operated on one level for so long, it’s hard to break the pattern.
There’s plenty in my mind — worries about money, the nagging feeling that I’ve become so set in my ways that I’ll remain single — but it’s hard to articulate. I’m worried if I try, it’ll come out as an incoherent ramble.
Plus, we’re having a nice time and I don’t want to ruin it. Later in the evening Pete does confide in me. He’s worried his new beard is making him invisible to women. I agree.
My instinctive rule-of-thumb has always been that unless my problem has a strong narrative and, ideally, a punch-line, I’m not going to burden others with it. But now I’m living by different rules.
“You can only know someone if you share experiences. It”s beginning to click why women have so many friends”
I have lunch with a woman from a PR company. I’ve met her a few times before, but lunches like these can be sterile.
I quickly try to steer us away from work-related matters. I tell her I’m worried the book I’m writing will not sell, I’ll lose my looks and die penniless in a flat in Peckham.
‘Peckham I hear it’s very up-and-coming,’ she says, and we fall to discussing house prices.
Must try harder tomorrow . . .
I start the day with a trip to the supermarket. The cashier asks me: ‘How are you today’ So, for once, I try to be honest. ‘I’m basically OK,’ I say.
‘Reasonably happy, but not ecstatic.’ This is clearly more information than she required.
Later, I meet Nick, a friend who I work with sometimes. After discussing a couple of projects, in an attempt to get the ball rolling, I go for broke. ‘What’s the biggest fear you have’ I ask.
‘What do you mean’ he replies.
‘I mean what would you hate to happen, more than anything else.’
Nick looks out of the window. ‘I’m not going to answer,’ he says. ‘Why’ I inquire. ‘Because if I tell you, you won’t tell me yours,’ he replies. ‘I’ll bare my soul and you’ll say you’re frightened of rocks or something stupid like that.’
I can’t believe he thinks this of me. Actually, yes I can. ‘No I won’t,’ I offer.
Bonding: Girls strengthen their friendships by sharing their emotions and experiences
We end up discussing our worries, our disappointments, happiness, our futures. We speak about Nick’s marriage and how much his wife means to him. Usually, he’d just go on about having to take out the bins. I talk about my sisters, and how I wish I had a closer relationship with them.
For once sport, films and beer don’t even come into it. Well, they do a bit, but one step at a time.
Afterwards, I reflect this conversation was challenging. There are parts of me I’m not used to revealing. But, I have to admit, it also felt meaningful.
This is not something I would usually say about talking to Nick. This is what bonding is all about I guess. You can only know someone if you share experiences. It’s beginning to click why women have so many friends.
I wake up worrying I revealed too much about myself. I contemplate ringing Nick, but there’d be no point. I can’t take anything back. Best put it in the bottle.
In the evening, I’m at a party and I’m introduced to a woman (a friend of my host) who I’ve never met before. I offer a handshake and am slightly surprised when, taking my hand, she says: ‘A handshake Well, I suppose you are English.’
She says this with an English accent herself and a mocking tone. This is an ideal opportunity to express my feelings.
‘Shaking hands is a nice thing to do,’ I say. ‘I’m just being polite. You saying that has made me feel self-conscious. And it’s not only the English that shake hands. Other nationalities do it, too. Besides I personally think all these people who slobber over each other and exaggeratedly hug all the time are ridiculously false.’
The female brain has more connections between the left hemisphere (for speech) and the right (for emotion)
There is a silence in our group. This has come out as more of a rant than I intended. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say. But, remembering my challenge, add: ‘But not that sorry.’
A man standing nearby called Stanley laughs. He pats me on the back and tells me: ‘Man, that’s the truth. You just tell her what you feel.’
She apologises and says she was joking. We all laugh again. I contemplate saying: ‘Why are we laughing when it’s not funny’ — but decide I’ve done enough talking for one day.
Later, as I’m leaving, Stanley hugs me.
Thinking about this evening, I realise there’s a fine line between saying what you feel and being impolite. On balance, I guess I stepped over the line.
My friend Harjeet comes round. He’s a bit depressed because his labrador, Sambuca, is suffering from arthritis.
He tells me some of his fond memories of Sam and I reciprocate with some thoughts about my cat, Jonathan, who died ten years ago. For the next hour or so, we chat about our pets and what they meant to us.
Surprisingly, tears prick my eyes as I talk about how much I loved Jonathan, even though he was a cat.
Before starting this experiment I’d have probably nodded sympathetically, made Harjeet a cup of tea and told him it all be OK, but taking the time to hear what he felt and relating it to my own experience was rewarding.
The window-cleaner calls. I’ve met him before and he asks me how I am. This is in an opportunity. ‘I’m OK but . . .’
He hardly pauses to draw breath — he’s not listening, and he goes on to tell me: ‘I nearly died a few months ago. My heart stopped completely three times. My mate saved my life. He gave me first aid.’
I listen intently, asking questions. I don’t get a chance to share anything, but it can’t always be about me. I’m interested in his story, but I sense he’s on auto-pilot. He’s obviously told everyone on his round.
My experiment is drawing to a close. I have tried to share my feelings throughout this week but it’s been a battle. When some people I don’t know well tell me long, involved stories about their emotional state of affairs, I can get bored; but when it’s someone I know, well, it’s different.
I’ve enjoyed my conversations with my friends this week, as I feel I know them a little better. These conversations have made me think and question more deeply.
It’s easier for women — sharing their feeling seems to be instinctive. It doesn’t come easily to a man, and that’s the reason we’re liable to drift through life never questioning our emotions or even our actions, or working out things that really matter to us.
Perhaps evolution has left men unwilling to reveal anything about themselves that may signal weakness.
The one thing this week has taught me is I have a choice: how much you confront, how much you discuss. How much you share doesn’t just depend on what kind of a man you are, but what kind of a man you want to be.
Being in touch with my emotions and being able to express them is something I’ll strive to do. It eases your way through the world. It doesn’t mean from now I’ll wash all my emotional laundry in public, but I can bring out my smalls if required.
Perhaps this is what I should try much harder to do — open the door a little and let in a little light.