Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Last night I watched Dr. Phil's Primetime Live Special, featuring his attempts to help Paula Abdul make a love match. One of Paula's problems, she said, is that she's emotional, quick to burst into tears, and most guys can't handle it. They don't understand it, and it freaks them out. No kidding!

I attended a seminar once about the differences between men and women in the workplace, and it was very enlightening. The crying issue came up early on. It seems that one of the differences is brain chemistry, and the level of one particular chemical (I forget which one and I'm too lazy to look it up right now) in women's brains causes us not to be more stressed, but to cry at a lower level of stress than men do. On an upset scale of 1-10, for example, women might start crying at 4-5, while men might go all the way up to 8 or 9 before they would get teary eyed. Doesn't that just suck?

Because men don't understand that there's a chemical difference, when they see a woman begin to cry, they assume that she is as upset as they would be if they were crying like that--and their natural leap is that she is much more upset than the situation demands, ergo, she's irrational.

In fact, the crying woman could conceivably be even less upset than the man under the same circumstances. If stress were to take the shape of a fire, let's say, a man and woman looking at it would probably have very similar perceptions about the size of the fire and the danger it presents. But because of brain chemistry, the woman's "sprinkler system" would automatically turn on earlier.

Usual scenario: The guy thinks the woman is overreacting and starts looking to make a graceful exit, which makes the woman think the guy is overreacting, because it's only tears, after all, no big deal, so what kind of insensitive jerk is he?

Maybe we need to teach this stuff to our kids early, so they can grow up with it. "Son, don't pick your nose in public, always put the toilet seat down when you finish, and if your girl starts to cry, just pat her on the back and give her a few minutes."

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