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A Blind Spot in the Gender Debate
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A Blind Spot in the Gender Debate

Commentary

A Blind Spot in the Gender Debate

A Blind Spot in the Gender Debate
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Everyone from university presidents to scientists have courted controversy with remarks about innate genetic differences between men and women. Commentator Lori Gottlieb points out that one area seems immune from the debate: communication.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

If you're looking for a way to stir up some controversy, here's an idea: Bring up the innate genetic differences between men and women. It's gotten some pretty high-profile people in trouble lately. Well, our brave commentator Lori Gottlieb would like to weigh in on the debate. Specifically, she wants to challenge the idea that women are better communicators than men.

LORI GOTTLIEB:

I don't get it. What makes everyone think women have a natural ability to communicate? I mean, if women are supposed to be better communicators than men, why don't we ever communicate? Take this conversation played out in bedrooms nationwide.

Unidentified Man: Honey, what's wrong?

Unidentified Woman: Aren't you going to apologize?

Unidentified Man: I'm sorry.

Unidentified Woman: For what?

Unidentified Man: For upsetting you.

Unidentified Woman: And why did you upset me?

Unidentified Man: I don't know.

GOTTLIEB: Well, there's a reason the poor guy doesn't know. His girlfriend didn't tell him. Oh, she thinks she did. In fact, she'll insist that not only is she a good communicator, but that her boyfriend is a bad listener. Actually, though, he's just a bad mind-reader because when he asks for clarification, he'll be listening intently as she declares, `If I have to explain it, never mind.' It's a double-whammy. First, she'll withhold conversation. Then she'll withhold sex. And if she has to explain it, never mind.

You see, women feel that the best relationships are those that require the least amount of communication. A man should be able to tell what we mean, not by just what we say, but by our tone alone. Like if I say, `I'm so upset,' that means I've chipped a fingernail. But if I say, `I'm so upset,' obviously, my mother just called. I mean, who can't tell the difference. And if I have to explain it, never mind.

Sometime merely having a thought counts as communication. Like if I'm thinking, `Steve better get me that iPod for my birthday,' but Steve gets me flowers instead, it's proof that, boy, he can't communicate at all. Oh, he may try to communicate in his limited male way. He may ask, `What would you like for your birthday?' And I may say, `I don't need a gift.' And when I'm disappointed with the flowers, he may even ask, `Honey, what's wrong?' What's wrong is that I wanted an iPod. But if I have to explain it, never mind.

Luckily books, magazines and relationship seminars offer ways to cope with this gender disparity. The best-seller `He's Just Not That Into You" told women that men who don't communicate just aren't that into us. But since there's no companion book for men called "She's Just Not That Into You Unless You have ESP," the innately challenged male can get into trouble.

Let's say that your girlfriend yells at you for something trivial, like getting her a chai tea instead of boba. You may think she's upset about a beverage, but, really, she's upset about the fact that you had lunch with an attractive female co-worker. How would you know this? If she has to explain it, never mind.

A boyfriend once asked me, `Since when do you believe in telepathy? You don't even believe in horoscopes.' I gave him a stare-down bolstered by the strength of my double-X chromosomes. `I'd like to explain it to you,' I said impatiently, `but, really, you should just know.'

BLOCK: Lori Gottlieb lives in Los Angeles. She's the author of the book "Stick Figure."

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