12+ Things I’ve Learned About Men

<July 19/11.>

I’ve compiled the following list of some major things I think a lot of women have learned (the hard way) about men. Gonna be 100% upfront here though: I compiled this list on my own – just me, myself & I. So I’ll just speak for me, little old me, little old Janet McNeill who has as much potential for being wrong as anyone. This is not The Gospel, only the gospel according to Janet. (For now...)

So, if the list sounds like so much B.S. to you, so be it! Create your own list – & have fun doing it!!

2 qualifiers right off the top:

  • I suspect the “younger generation” of men (I’ll leave that definition up to the reader) may be somewhat less inclined to exhibit some of these tendencies. Or maybe not. What do I know??
  • Women can be a right pain in the behind sometimes; don’t think for a moment I don’t know this! We can be petty, mean, gossipy, whiney, vindictive – vicious, even. Definitely, far too many of us are control freaks. I do not celebrate women’s unpleasant habits/tendencies/faults in any way, shape or form, trust me! (Nor do I enjoy those women I encounter occasionally who seem to have some kind of princess complex. Yech!)


Now, to the list!

1. Men prefer DOING, or action, to talking. Women know down to our bones (most of us, anyway) that conversation is not just valuable but essential for ironing out knots & gaining insights – about ourselves & each other – & for cutting problems off at the pass. (I know I’ve had many a very wonderful conversation with the men I’ve loved, when they seemed to forget themselves & just talk openly & freely & passionately about something they really, really care(d) about. Those conversations were the best!!!)

2. Men have simply GOT to look. They cannot let a woman walk by without checking her out. Some of them do this in an awful, unsubtle & quite degrading way, while others know how to do it without being the slightest bit obvious. We women know how this subtle form of checking people out works; we do it all the time!

3. Men love, love, love big breasts. Duh. Actually, though, I think men love BIG, period. Big breasts, big projects, big houses, big cars, big decks, big paycheques… big nuclear plants, even. Men just love big stuff. Not gonna try & psychoanalyze this, OK? It just is. (Regarding the big breast thing – I can understand the fascination. Breasts are attractive, arresting objects. But see # 2. Leering is not pretty. Nor is talking to a woman’s chest.)

4. Men don’t apologize. Or explain. Most of them, anyway. Margaret Lee Runbeck said “Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” There is a stupid old expression, “Never apologize, never explain.” Look at the world around us. Does this advice seem to have led us anywhere we really wanted to go?? I rest my case.

5. Most or many men have an air of entitlement or superiority that most of them are probably not even remotely aware they have. My take on this is that our experiment with patriarchy is now about 5000 years old, & its tentacles so deeply wired in us, we’re usually not even aware they’re there. I don’t want to ride the patriarchy hobbyhorse too long or too far, though. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

6. Men, in the words of an old friend, are not emotionally “tidy.” I’ve read some interesting commentary on this (e.g., the book Brain Sex(1) & it seems well understood now that truthfully, due to brain wiring/physiology, men do not always easily grasp their own emotions, which (as some writers have pointed out) frequently default straight to anger. It occurs to me now to once again give a plug for the book Becoming the Kind Father – A Son’s Journey, by Calvin Sandborn. A book right at the top of my list of must-reads, for people of both sexes, since it grapples so insightfully with all this stuff I’ve just touched on. Review here.

7. Following on # 6, it seems to be the case that, for many men, they need a woman to be their emotional translator, more or less. (One can only assume that women & men are mutually attracted for a variety of reasons, not all of them immediately obvious. Some things just are, aren’t they??)

8. Men aren’t always thinking. When we ask them “What are you thinking?” & they say “Nothing,” they may actually be telling the truth. I know it’s very seldom that I am not thinking, & women friends tell me they are the same. There is no suggestion here that either sex is “right” or “wrong.” Just more of that “Some things just are the way they are.”

9. There seems to be kind of a lot of  “Mine is bigger than yours” thinking among the male of the species. A lot of pissing contests…you know? Competition. War. Women seem to be more wired for cooperation & collaboration. Maybe this is only in my imagination – but I really don’t think so. I’ve worked with women a lot, & our abilities around cooperation & collaboration really stand out. (The talking piece, of course, is HUGE.)

10. There seems to be a tendency toward a fair bit of  “Ready, FIRE!!...Aim among men. Again, perhaps I am just biased toward a bit more talking & putting off the doing until a little more thinking & talking have taken place. Dunno. What do you think??

11. I suspect men are a little more inclined to hold grudges than women are, though I could be wrong about this.

12. Finally, I think men are in general more resistant to change than women are. (& I don’t think most recognize this tendency in themselves.)

I once came up with a little equation about men that goes like this:

  • A – Action
  • B – Bigness
  • C – Conservatism (or resistance to change).


Such challenges we human beings face these days, hmmm???? They seem insurmountable – & the frequent inability of women & men to really understand one another, or the other sex’s strengths & weaknesses, sure doesn’t help matters much.

Ah well. Such is life.

Onward ho!


p.s. Almost forgot! I also believe that men need/want to be heroes. I wrote about that a few months ago, here

p.p.s. For a very funny take on men – written by a man – do pick up the book Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys. It’s absolutely side-splitting!! His essay about men, women & horses is also pretty darn amusing!

p.p.p.s. Just came across this old post that also has some (pretty irreverent) comments about the male of the species…

p.s. # 4 on Feb. 16/14. I believe many men have lost their moral compass. & that it is usually women who locate/cement/promote the moral compass. Broad strokes here; always exceptions to every rule, of course.

‘Quote of the day’: “Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men – bring them softness, teach them how to cry.” – Joan Baez, b. 1941, American singer & songwriter

Some other quotations that spring to mind:

  • “Change is a prerequisite for improvement.” – Thomas Guskey
  • “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner
  • “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” – Audre Lourde
  • “I consider it a privilege to be at the side of an incredible, powerful woman who’s changing the world, while doing the same – without the need to compete, dominate, or submit.” – Avi Lewis, partner of Naomi Klein
  • “The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.” – Carl Jung
  • “When one does not see what one does not see, one does not even see that one is blind.” – Paul Veyne
  • “Sometimes, power is letting go. We must reclaim feminism as that which makes women stronger in ways that each woman is entitled to define for herself. Ironically, this “letting go” of the rigorous litmus tests of feminism will not make us lose the power of consensus that we have, the common insider fear; it will expand and enrich what we have and draw in millions more. A feminism worthy of its name will fit every woman, and every man who cares about women, comfortably.” – Naomi Wolf in ‘Fire with Fire’
  • “There is an almost gravitational pull toward putting out of mind unpleasant facts. And our collective ability to face painful facts is no greater than our personal one. We tune out, we turn away, we avoid. Finally we forget, and forget we have forgotten.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.


(1) Brain Sex – The Real Difference Between Men & Women, by Anne Moir & David Jessel, Mandarin, 1989.