A landfill is a dumping ground for random objects and things. I figure that this blog is going to serve as a dumping ground for my random thoughts - therefore, it's a mindfill.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

After All, Freud Was a Man

Ok, so I figured it'd probably be a good idea to actually post something worth reading in this thing. But, since I don't really have anything on my mind at the moment that's pushing any of the creative buttons in my head, I thought I'd post one of my older writings. By the way, all of my future postings won't be this long - I promise. Anyway, enjoy...

For years, men have been inundated with information as to how we are to act and be. Granted, women deal with the same problem (probably even to a greater extent.) But that is not the focus of this piece. No, this piece is centered on something that I actually know about – being a man. What problems could possibly be involved in this? That’s what I’m going to attempt to make known.

Back in the Stone Age, men were far simpler creatures. They were loud and dirty and went around hitting women over the head with clubs. (Ok, except for the last part, maybe not that much has changed.) Their lives revolved around hunting and gathering. They would leave in the morning and not return home until they had hunted or gathered something for the family to eat. Basically their main concerns were which animal skin to wear and the direction of the wind. Well, that and whether they could outrun their friends in case dinner decided it didn’t want to be dinner. That was one benefit of the hunting and gathering lifestyle – one didn’t spend a lot of time sitting around the cave. Our primitive ancestors weren’t asked to do much housework.

As time progressed, men progressed as well. I know in some cases this is debatable, but for the most part it is true. Suddenly, hunting and gathering was no longer the only concern of the species. For most of the formative years of maledom, hunting and gathering was actually replaced with fighting and thus the golden age of military history was born. For centuries, brave men went off to war and fought valiantly for whatever the cause. Some of these men had a deep desire to fight and possibly die for the underlying principle for which that particular war was being fought. Still others simply wanted to get out of the house for awhile. Whatever the reason, men had advanced societally.

While there still are wars being fought, for the most part they are now left to those who make fighting and the military their job, once again shifting the burden away from men-at-large to provide the necessary manpower, for lack of a better word. This has led men to further progress away from their hunting and gathering background and more towards a sitting and watching existence. Personally, I think had cable existed in the Stone Age, there would have been a whole lot less hunting and gathering.

So what was the purpose of this historical backstory? To be honest, I have no idea. I really just wanted to use the phrase hunting and gathering a lot. That’s not a phrase that comes up in daily conversation very much at all outside of an anthropology classroom. I just thought a little branching out was in order. Oh well.

The crux of this discussion revolves more around the attitudinal shift guys have had to deal with in recent years and the sometimes fine line we walk on a daily basis in trying to balance the expectations placed upon us. Men are expected to be strong, confident, and display leadership. They are also expected to be nurturing, supportive, and understanding. While these things are not mutually exclusive, they can often tug in opposite directions. They end result is often a feeling more usually reserved for those taffy stores you see in every beachfront town on the East coast.

Before I go any further I think it is critical to point out that this is intended in no way to promote male chauvinism or any other attitude that would demean women or undervalue them in any way. For my entire life, I have been brought up with the belief that women should be on equal footing with men and I have tried to make sure I never do anything to go against that. So please do not take this in that way. I am merely trying to point out some of the things that I deal with on a daily basis as a man and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Getting back to the task at hand (by the way, have you figured out yet, that I really have no clue where I am going with this – and that’s why we have taken a meandering path to this point?) I hope to make light of some things using personal experiences.

Men, for the most part, are called upon to perform a difficult balancing act on a daily basis. We are asked to maintain a certain level of manliness, hearkening back to our prehistorical, hunting and gathering (there’s that phrase again) days. We are also expected to balance that with the more enlightened man of the modern era. This is the man that is expected to be sensitive and share interests other than hunting and gathering. (I’m not going to say it.) In a way, this is very similar to the Freudian theory of personality. Freud espoused the idea that we have three distinct stages of development that we must go through and that we have to deal with even after having gone through them. Freud, of course, called these the “Id”, “Ego”, and “Superego”. For the purposes of this piece, think of the “Id” as the hunter and gatherer (…never mind…), the more primitive, base instinct. There is a beer commercial where a guy talks about eating ketchup packets as a meal - that would be this side. The other two represent a more highly developed stage of personality. This is the stage that is more civilized. I think the “Superego” is the side that can pick out a good wine to go with fish or something like that. Either way you look at it, Freudian theory stated that we wrestle with these stages throughout our development. And it is this struggle that forms our personalities.

Recently I had an interesting experience. I was out running some errands – ok, I was buying bread – and I started friendly conversation with the girl behind the counter. I had no purpose in this conversation other than to make the few minutes I was there buying bread a little more pleasant. After a couple of minutes of nothing more than friendly banter about some of the items in the bakery, my friendly sales clerk proceeded to offer me a bagel – on the house. Now, this gesture amounted to little more than a free $.75 gift. But it did present an interesting question in the mind of this guy. When a female in such a situation is as friendly to you as this, should you bite and ask her out?

Now, the male brain – and yes, there is such a thing – is wired with two distinctly different poles. One part is an evolutionary throwback to our hunter and gatherer, animal skin wearing, pre-enlightenment, days. That part of the brain revels in the thrill of the chase and believes that men as a right should take every opportunity like this and instigate such a hunt. Granted, this is also the same part of the brain that created the pickup line. So, it doesn’t exactly have a history of being very intelligent.The other part is that of the modern realist. This is the part that usually controls the finances and other mundane daily items. When this side kicks in, you are faced with the realization that the bakery girl is in the service industry and her job is to be friendly to customers. I remember a couple of years ago when I was eating dinner with a couple of buddies of mine at a restaurant. We had a really friendly, attractive, waitress, who my friend thought was paying special attention to him. After he contemplated out loud to me about whether or not he should ask her out, he was reminded by my other friend that “She is a waitress, she is going for a bigger tip, you idiot.” In the end, he didn’t ask, so we’ll never know. But this is the fine line we walk on a regular basis. I have encountered this several times. Being the overly cautious person that I am in this area, I tend to listen more to the realist side of my brain in such circumstances. My rule of thumb is this: “If she is in the service industry, and especially if there is a tip involved, SHE IS JUST BEING FRIENDLY!” While I have no idea if this is indeed true, it has saved me from some potentially very embarrassing moments – or so I would think.

Then again, we are guys, sometimes this practical, logical side has a tendency to be overpowered by the other more testosterony side. (That is a word, I looked it up. It’s a type of pasta eaten by really hairy Italian guys with unbuttoned shirts and large medallions hanging around their necks and wearing pinky rings…ok, maybe not) This is the side that often leads guys – and not necessarily single ones either – to leave very large tips to very attractive waitresses. I know this. I was a waiter for two summers while in college. I witnessed this many times and always got a hearty laugh out of it, especially when the waitresses would come back to the server area and talk about it. They always joked around about the guy who thought they she was flirting with him and left her a huge tip. Another thing, this doesn’t work both ways. I NEVER got a large tip for flirting with a woman at one of my tables. The only time I got a really large tip was when a kid spilled his drink all over me and the family felt sorry for me. Even with this first-hand knowledge, I still have fallen into this trap before as a restaurant patron. Let’s just say that a buddy and I left a 60% tip once for a waitress we thought was particularly attractive and particularly flirty. It would have been a little smaller but we kept upping each other in some bizarre attempt to curry more favor with her. I think at one point, he attempted to throw his watch into the pot. At the end of the night, neither one of us left with her – of course. We were a little bit lighter in the wallets and she had a nice story to tell to the other waitresses.

So that is the mental balancing act that all guys wrestle with on a daily basis. This is the Freudian progression we undergo regularly. We try to listen to both sides. A lot of times, this isn’t a problem. Every-once-in-awhile though, the cave man on the one shoulder has a tendency to scream a little louder and we revert to our more primitive selves. It’s these times that we leave a little lighter in the wallets or a little red-faced from some really cheesy pickup attempt gone awry. But it is also these times that leave everyone with a good story to tell. So instead of getting upset at how stupid we can be sometimes, be thankful for these moments. If it weren’t for these, things would be a lot more boring.


  • At 10:40 AM, Blogger sarah cool said…

    What a funny story!!

    This is so true. Every guy I have ever been to dinner with will tip more if the waitress is flirty.

    But yeah, from personal experience, a lot of times when I was being "friendly" in my jobs, sometimes I felt uncomfortable b/c I thought the customer thought I was flirting with him. I was just doing my job in being friendly!


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