Thursday, December 8, 2011

Men Think They Know Everything

Men think they know everything.

Boys, too.

I read once that a man will think he’s qualified for a job if he has 40% of the required skills.  A woman will think she’s not qualified if she has 90% of the required skills.

I wondered how young this discrepancy started.  Certainly the few boys who still talked to me in junior high and high school didn’t have that attitude.

But that’s the key – most men were boys who wouldn’t talk to me.

A next door neighbor boy had a major case of braggadocio when I was in elementary school. He had blue eyes and he insisted loudly that I was an inferior being because I have brown eyes. Only people like him were worthwhile.  He was better at aiming a snowball than I was, and that was proof. 

Somebody gave him litmus paper.  That’s the pale pink paper that turns pale purple when you touch it to a bar of wet soap or wet baking soda.  And it turns pink again if you pour vinegar on it.  He insisted it was dangerous.  He, the brave superior being, went into a room all by himself and made the paper change color.  I was so disgusted with him that I figured he had some purple paper in that little room and he had just walked in with the pink paper and walked out with the purple one.

I didn’t think of this neighbor boy as a typical boy. I thought of him as an irritating brat.

Then I had a conversation with my 6-year-old grandson.  I’d brought my jump rope to give to him and his sister.  My grandson greeted me, “I know all about jump rope.”

This sounded odd.  I’ve been jumping rope for years, I’ve witnessed jump rope competitions. I can do a few tricks (okay – not with my new hip) – correction, I could do a few tricks when I had my original equipment.  Anyway, I would not say that I know all about jump rope.  And here was a 6-year-old boy claiming that he knows all about jump rope.

I handed him the rope and asked him to show me what he could do.

He didn’t know how to spin it.  He moved his arms from the shoulders, instead of using his wrists and forearms. He couldn’t jump the rope even once.  

He gave his sister a turn. She quietly took the rope, spun it and jumped successfully.  No bragging. No talking.  Just jumping. 

I asked my husband, the alien, what would have happened to him as a child if he’d bragged about something he couldn’t do. He said the other kids would have teased him mercilessly, the coach would have lectured him. His father would have insisted that he speak modestly, rather than brag. But then, my husband is the sort of male who is willing to talk to me.

Something else is going on in our culture. Somehow – very young – boys are getting the idea that they know more than they do, and are more competent than they really are.  While girls are learning to do things, boys are learning to brag.

Now if girls can learn that boys are just bragging, maybe true communication can start.

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