My wife has taken to reading those books. The ones written for for women who can’t understand men. Well, men don’t understand women either, but when faced with womanly chaos, rather than reading, we retreat into our dens for mindless manual labor. I know that as she watches me lumber down the stairs to rebuild a bilge pump, she’s thinking that me and my kind are one evolutionary step away from hibernating animals. I’d tell her she’s right, but the best I can do is grunt and scratch myself inappropriately.
The truth is, women are better suited for the modern world. While we are best left to crossing oceans, killing large fish, and building arks. Which is a revelation I came to yesterday when, not having a West Marine catalog handy, I picked up her copy of Women Are From California, Men Are From New Jersey on my way to the head. There in my tiled reading room I discovered that there are things that they, by genetic programming, are naturally better at than we are. Men can do them, but it takes some dedicated re-educating. What follows is some of what I found. I’d tell you more, but she’s probably wondering why I’ve been in the bathroom for so long.
1. To start, as defenders of the nest, women’s brains receive a wider arc of vision; our brains are wired for long-distance tunnel vision, enabling us to spot prey without being distracted. Peripheral vision is important for finding objects at sea, especially in low light. When scanning the horizon, faint lights are first noticed when not looking directly at them. You can improve your peripheral vision with practice. As a matter of survival, fighter pilots are taught, and maximum security inmates soon learn, to see out of the corners of their eyes.
2. Women hear differently, too. They’re able to categorize and make decisions about multiple sounds. A woman can be involved in one conversation while listening in on another. Before talking on the VHF, we yell at everyone to shut up. Men use one side of their brains at a time and are better at pinpointing where a sound comes from. Women use both sides of their brains at once, which is why some can’t immediately tell right from left. Training can combine both abilities so you can hear a faint bell buoy over the engine noise and know the buoy’s bearing.
3. Women’s minds can juggle so many things that they aren’t happy being focused. Going shopping doesn’t necessarily mean an intent to purchase. They’re happy being out and about in an unstructured way. We just want to get the job done. If we could take cruises as a woman approaches shopping-being a little less goal oriented-the time aboard might be more enjoyable.
4. We are, however, willing to wander aimlessly when our innate sense of time and distance, which if not refined by use, leaves us never feeling lost or needing to ask for directions. Women, on the other hand, navigate by observation, noticing details and the order in which they appear. Navy Seals are taught that learning to stop and see-taking in their surroundings-is critical to not getting lost.
5. Another thing they can teach us is how to learn. We grasp ideas by doing. Give us a new chartplotter, we wire it in, start pressing buttons, and then call about the warranty. Women want to understand things before diving in. So stifle that urge, guys, and read the instruction book first.
I know it sounds like we got the short end of Darwin’s stick. But we’re not complete evolutionary zeros. Men are better at spatial judgment, analytical skills, abstract reasoning, and growing mustaches. We’re also more likely to have the need to head offshore. Which is why, my brother, I’ll see you outside the inlet and not at the mall.