Monday, October 15, 2007

The Male Psyche

It is hard to critique the male psyche when one happens to be a male. It would be like a fish trying to come up with a critique of wetness. It is, after all, all he's ever known and can possibly hope to know. So the statements that follow aren't so much critiques but sort of an observation on what it means to be male, or at least, a tendency I have noticed that predominately goes with maleness. And frankly, we are weird.

It begins at birth I suppose, but it is easily identifiable by 3 years of age. There is something self-destructive built into the male brain. I'm not talking about the natural tendency toward risk-taking, I'm talking about the natural tendency toward stupid.

I have a clear recollection of a particular day in kindergarten when myself and two other boys thought it would be fun to ride the tricycle into a brick wall over and over again to "see how good we could crash." What brought this memory back to my brain was observing my son demonstrate similar behavior on his tricycle this morning. Girls don't do that sort of thing. In fact, I remember one particular girl trying very hard to pull me off of the tricycle to keep me from ramming it into the wall. She was worried, of course, about the trike.

You can pretty much transfer this obsession into anything boys do. Its really why they play football, and frankly, it is the only thing that explains NASCAR. Boys want to hit something and see things demolished. Even when boys play war, they like to pretend like they've been shot and partially blown up.

Just observe schoolyard boys for an hour and you'll see this behavior manifest itself. In Middle School, all the boys thought it was funny to thump one another in a place where one should never be thumped. And if we weren't thumping each other in that most tender spot, we were "frogging" each other on the arm or giving a "charlie horse" on the leg. It was downright paranoia to walk down the hall to class. You had to be on the look-out for thumps (or "scattles"), okay signs, and charlie horses.
We even had this stupid game where if you could make the "okay" sign and get another boy to look at it, then you got to hit him on the arm. Or, if you saw a VW beetle you could yell, "Slug bug!" and then whack your buddy. (This, by the way, is a spontaneous international phenomena, though some call it "Punch bug!" You don't have to teach this game, boys naturally invent it at 7).

I have never observed this behavior in a group of girls. Ever.

I also strongly suspect that this is the real reason why men work-out. The average man really doesn't care about dying of a heart-attack. He just wants to see how far and how fast he can run until he drops or how much weight he can "bench". The fact is that if you are in the gym and can bench more than another guy, it's like getting to frog him on his ego. We like that.

This is also help explain why men join the Marine Corps over the Air Force. The pay scales are identical, only in the Corps you have ten times the physical punishment. Guys who have made it through Marine Corps boot camp sneer at all other military types because, of course, they had it the toughest and so they are naturally the most manly. I joined the National Guard at 18 mainly because I wanted to see if I could go through Army boot camp. While not quite as manly as the Marine Corps, I still get props to this day in the man-world because I did that.

You may get caught in a conversation with a bunch of old guys who like to emphasize about how bad they used to have it. They recite how they used to have to get up and slop the pigs, shovel poop out the stalls, milk the cows, and feed the chickens before they ate breakfast and walked two miles to school. They will also inevitably mention that all they ever got for Christmas was a stick and an orange. What you need to understand is that they aren't complaining; they're pretty much bragging about how much tougher they are than you. When they say, "You ought to be grateful!" What they really mean is, "You ought to be grateful because if it were still like it was back in my day, you'd be dead by now. Son, compared to me, you are one serious weenie."

I wrote all of this so that if I have any women who read this blog, it might shed helpful insight into why your boys act like they do. And if any men happen to read it, I just wanted you to know that I've been through boot camp and that I recently hiked 28 miles over 5 mountains carrying 50lbs on my back.


wana be said...

If I am not mistaken mister army man, you spent 90% of that 28 mile hike staring at somebody elses rear.

Brad Williams said...

See! See! Frog to the ego!

(My pack was heavier than yours.)

Eric said...

Really enjoyed the article... although it was my little sister who taught me the game of Slug Bug and who seemed to get the most enjoyment out it, whether she was playing with me or her girl friends. The exception seems to prove the rule, because it hurts my man ego a little bit to reveal this tidbit from my personal history. :)

Lisa writes... said...

You speak truth. I should know, as I currently reside in a house of five members of the male species. So far living to tell about it, sanity somewhat intact.

sana said...

I think guys just have that natural tendency to mutilate and destroy because after 3 all that youre being told and taught is to "be tough" and not display any other emotion, that god forbid would be associated with 'girliness'- other than anger. So if youre only left with anger what else are you gonna do? I think in that sense guys have it bad, how much are you going to repress before it eats you up?

frnz said...

really insightful article. i also write about the male psyche. i advised readers that it's basically about what makes us (men) tick. and your article is really helpful in making me realize that there is still so much ground to be covered. i've just started my blog about a couple of days ago, and i hope to write more in the coming weeks.