By Chandrama Anderson
Premarital and Couples: "Self-Made Man" by Norah VincentUploaded: Nov 13, 2020
This is an interesting read for couples. It was an uncomfortable read for me as a woman at times, and yet I am not surprised based on my own experience with men and especially from listening to the men in my office. I found myself hoping and wishing that what Ned found about men and emotional connection is not really true, not in this day and age. Especially as the mom of a male teenager.
Norah Vincent, a journalist, goes undercover as a man, Ned, for 18 months to explore the gender gap. She explores friendship, sex, love, life, work and self as Ned. From a bowling league, through dating, "titty bars," a monastery, sales job, a men's group and retreat, Ned finds out what it's like to be a man among men, at least so far as he can be with the biology and brain of a woman.
I am so thankful for the brain research that we now have, and the continued study, to understand the biology and psychology of the evolutionary need for emotional connection -- in both men and women -- and what happens when those longings are not met (fight, flight, or freeze).
When the men in my office say, "I am learning a foreign language [in counseling" they are not kidding. Many women also comment that they are not as good at communication as they had thought (and hoped).
Norah, as Ned, found that for many men, emotional communication, if they were taught any growing up, gets knocked out of them by other men and older boys; they are shown with vigor that it is not how a man is, and most men learn to deeply bury their needs.
Then women come along; she wants her man to be manly, yet sensitive, to "take charge . . . [and also be vulnerable . . . expressive, intuitive, attuned." Ned also found that "women didn't understand or didn't appear to care what a lot of the men in their lives wanted, either."
As for men and sex, the wired in, biological drive is powerful. And yet for women, it is still mentally driven: "Are you there and do you get me?" I see this conundrum in my office, and it is one of few gender-based observations I make: for men, having sex helps them connect and feel connected; for women, connection is needed in order to want to have sex.
Another topic that was quite striking in the book is power in relation to sex. Women think men have the power, and men think women do. Ned found that women had the "entitlement to choose me or to dash me with a fingertip . . . so effortlessly . . . [it was unbearably humiliating."
I think it is critical to try to deeply understand the shoes in which both men and women walk today. I do not think the walk is easy for either gender; the challenges may be different, but no less important.
I urge you to be very curious about your partner's everyday experience of life, relationship, work, friends, family, pleasure, and challenges. Do not take anything for granted. He or she does not see the world through your [gendered eyes. Yet you can try to find out.