Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Games Men Play

Now, before any women reading this lick your chops, prepared to witness a roast of certain male traits, take a breath and open your minds. What I am about to reveal about men may come as a surprise to most women: It will not be surprising to most men, who are born with the urge to challenge themselves on a daily basis.

A really strong characteristic of male energy [yang], is the desire to win, the need to win. This is not pathological, merely an attribute of yang energy. In order to be ready to respond with speed and power, there must be practice drills. Just like the various tests of emergency response teams. "Can I do it?" "Will I meet the challenge?" "Am I worthy?" "Will I be ready?"

I happened to mention this phenomenon to my car mechanic, a tough-minded guy who likes to keep his life simple. He nodded and didn't say much. But a few days later, when I went to pick up my car, he said, "Hey, you know that thing you were talking about -- you know, the games guys play?"

It seems he was in the habit of driving his car until for 400 miles on each tank of gas, sometimes pushing it to 425, before he would submit to pulling into a gas station. [Apparently, gassing up before then would be 'losing.'] "Well, I was driving home that night and I was passing a gas station, and I thought, why don't I just get gas now, instead of taking the chance I'd run out. Because then I'd have to walk. But I never thought about the consequence before. I just was in the habit of making a game out of trying to make it to 400."

When I asked him if he thought most men did not consider the consequences of the games they play 'against' themselves, he said, "Nope, we just want the challenge and we want to win." Then he made a joke about women in the military -- why they wouldn't work in combat, because they'd be saying "Wait a minute -- that's dumb."

I'm not 100 percent sure, but this may be the operating principle behind why a lot of men shop for Christmas on the 24th, and let certain chores go until the last minute. They may be increasing the tension, stacking the odds,
getting themselves 'up' for it, making a 'real game' out of an otherwise boring, unexciting task. One they can then 'win.' How else can they be sure they are 'OK;' all systems intact, and operating at full and potent speed.

Talk to a guy in your life about this. You might find the answer very interesting. Oh, and yes, since women have yang energy, we do things like this, too. Just not to the extent a guy does.


Stewart Dean said...

...a man speaking....
I dunno if it's necessarily so much a gender things as a role thing. Sure I do a lot of that, but I see myslef as having gotten it as a role thing from my father who was an eye surgeon and a proceduralist...you do things right, byt the numbers, with attention. For him, becuase otherwise someone lost their eyesight, for me because a college email depends on my work.
Also, there's the hero thing (women get to be heroines, ever bit as tough). I think, as you get older, yes, even the guys start to say, WAMTD...but then even the guys of any time at the front, are saying that...and if things get bad enough , the officers start getting fragged, :(
For me, my mother has always been my criterion of courage and guts.
he had polio when I was a year old and was almost totally immobilized. She lived another 30 years with a fierce determination of spirit and grace....and a lively participation in life and in an unending love affair with my father. I never heard her complain; she, not the usual testeronic male icons, has forever been my criterion of courage. Like the men and women of Agee and Walker's 'Now Let Us Praise Famous Men', she was uncommon not in some great book or work of art or commerce, but in the work of her life itself, in her guts, love and spirit. Here she is:

Neda said...

I have to agree with the previous poster. A lot of what is reduced to 'male' and 'female' behavior are over inforced gender roles rather than biological differences. In other words, there is nothing that is unique to men and masculinity that forces them to challenge themselves. Indeed, it has been my own anecdotal experience that the men in my life have shied away from serious, life-altering challenge. They have stayed in the city they were raised or went to college or in jobs that they don't enjoy, not because they have to, instead because it is safer. In constrast, the women in my life seem less afraid of changing cities, tackling new skill sets, or life-changing career moves. In other words, I think it is less about 'game' that are played by the sex that amibitiously craves challenge, but rather the person, where they are in their life cycle, their personality, their experiences, and personal expectations.

Stewart Dean said...

Huh. I wouldn't consider myself ambitious (my Fortune500 VP uncle was always upset about my wasting 'the best brains in the family....my parents having had their life challenged by my mother's paralysis seemed to think that love, spirit and happiness were the things to focus on). What I do have is an sad obsession with doing things well (aka control/excellence obssession) that I have gradually tried to train towards grace. I have always been in a race with myself...and it was never enough. My real challenge is to breathe, know that goal orientation often misses the real challenge altogether (and is running after the wrong goal) and pace myself.
There are professional women who suffer from this.
And one of the saddest things I ever saw was an incredibly ambitious professional woman who thought she had to be twice as mean and tough as a man....that was one of her beliefs. Maybe she did, but the end of that means is horrific.
And that's the business culture.