For many years, I have questioned why men are in charge. I mean, this is a gender that will pay extra for chicken wings if they’re served by a woman in a tight t-shirt. They can’t touch the woman. She’s not going to date them. She is only nice enough to them to get them to order chicken wings and throw some extra money in for a tip. But the men think this is a perfectly fine arrangement and cough up the cold hard cash for the chicken wings.
Now that I’m the mother of a boy, I’m getting a front row seat to the development of this sort of innately male behavior. I picked C up at daycare the other day and asked what he’d done that day. He very cheerfully informed me that he’d pushed P into the dirt. When questioned, he acknowledged that pushing isn’t nice and P had not wanted to be pushed. He was silent when asked why he’d pushed P at all. I don’t understand.
The mom of C’s friend T was expressing concern about their relationship because she knows T is a shover and she worries that he’s in sort of a love/hate cycle with C. I had recently watched the two of them shove each other on the playground and could not detect any emotion or motivation at all. They had been riding trikes but they had stopped and were just standing next to each other. T reached over and shoved C. C recovered and pushed T back. Neither got upset. Their facial expressions didn’t even change. It was like they were at a loss for what to do now that they were done riding trikes and settled on shoving as the next logical activity. I told T’s mom about the episode and we both shook our heads and agreed to keep reminding them that shoving isn’t allowed.
In the interest of science I started surveying men about their friendships. I asked my husband about all the pushing and shoving and whether or not it was a guy thing. He smirked a bit and said “Not all guys”, clearly mentally exonerating himself from such childish behaviors. I nodded and silently mulled over a memory of a conversation he and several college buddies had wherein they rehashed a dispute about the outcome of a video game they had played over 10 years before. I decided to broaden my definition of “shoving” to include Nintendo.
My next subjects for my study were two guys I work with. They are both fathers and basically gentle, intelligent men. When I asked if guys ever just shove each other for fun, they got visibly excited and regaled me stories of games they had invented in high school. One had been part of “Grill Shot Thursdays” where on Thursdays it was permissible to punch your buddy in the ribs without fear of retaliation. The other said he and his friends engaged in “cup checks”. I blinked at him and asked if that meant they had just walked up to their friends in the hall and kicked them in the nuts. He confirmed. Then he said “Yeah, it sounds kind of stupid when I explain it now.”
I gave up on getting solid intelligence on this from men because they’re all too busy laughing about their past antics to shed any light on them. Instead, I told the whole story to a mom friend who has a PhD in early childhood development. She told me about studies that demonstrated that boys who aren’t allowed to engage in rough play sometimes have trouble relating to other men as adults. Awesome. So C needs to push P into the dirt so that he can become a well adjusted adult. Meanwhile, the girls in his class are making leaps and bounds in writing their ABCs, constructing elaborate cities with Legos, and verbal and problem solving skills.
Seriously? Why are men in charge?