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3 Oct 2014
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Men, Women & Directions

Anne Enright writes...

If men are so good at directions then why can they never find anything around the house? I was pulled over to the computer the other night by the man I seem to have married. He was gloating quietly over something he found on the internet. It was about men, and how good they are with maps.

‘Funny that,’ he said.

It was one of those brain-scan studies where they take nice coloured-y pictures of the brain during various Activities. Now it is well known that a man’s brain remains completely dead and grey when he’s asked to clean the toilet, but it lights up like a christmas tree, apparently, when he is asked to read a map. They took the pictures as people made their way around a 3-D computer maze, and the results show that men navigate with some deep, limbic bit of their brain while women use a shallower, more cortical approach. We just look around us apparently and try to figure things out.

So what does this mean? It means men know the way, while women have to think about it. Does this explain why they never, ever ask for directions? Is this why they refuse - just refuse - I mean stall, balk at, dig their heels in, find themselves incapable of moving in any other direction than the one the have decided, nay intuit, in their deepest, truest self to be the Only Right Way?

They Know, that’s all. Deep down. They can not UnKnow. They can’t help it.

I have no particular man in mind here, you understand, I married a paragon of mildness and good sense, who just has to lift his nose and sniff to know where north is. You can’t argue with that. No, I’m talking about the more mediocre style of man, the kind other girls marry, who are always stubborn but not always right.

Because, even in this computer test, the men were wrong a good percent of the time. They were wrong in a very deep, very lit-up part of their brains. And who’s to say they’re not just better at computer simulations, having wasted more time with stupid games, lets face it, than their female counterparts. Though I am quite partial myself, to the occasional lost weekend of Tomb Raider 3.

Hang on. Does this mean I’m a boy really, deep down? Oh, never mind. I’ve always thought that the differences between men and women are much exaggerated – the only thing that I have found to be true, and absolutely true, is that men always, but ALWAYS, have more keys on their key rings. The other is that the person who makes the security gate bleep at the airport is ALWAYS a man. If it’s a woman holding the line up when you’re running for a flight, believe me, he’s in drag. It’s their bits that set it off. I’m convinced of it.

But otherwise I am wary of studies and statistics. The scientists have found that women’s brain have a bigger bit for sadness. Is this why we cry at the pictures? They have found the place where we believe in god – it’s in our frontal lobes apparently. And a place for laughter, in the motor cortex.


My favourite scientific statistic is that men who help around the house get more sex. Now that’s what I call a good statistic – it’s true, it makes sense, and it was researched by a woman.
Meanwhile they keep banging on about boy toddlers spatial awareness, how boys learn by running around a lot, how girls learn by doing bloody embroidery. But if men are so spatially aware, if they are so wonderfully 3-D, how come they never know where anything is around the house? Where’s that book? It’s on the third shelf down. Where’s my bag? It’s where you left it. Where’s the saucepan? It’s in my back pocket.

Well yes, says my man, but what about all the time you spend looking for your goddamn keys!! Yeah but that’s just psychological, isn’t it? I don’t want to find my keys. I know where every book in the house is. I know where the plastic cutlery is for going camping! I know where the hairdryer is, if either of us decided to grow our hair, or sweat the fat off a duck. I know where I put my feather boa. I know where the cleaner is, for suede shoes. Do you know where the cleaner is for suede shoes?

Up a bit…left a bit…right a bit…down a bit. Oh, if it was a dog, it would bite you.


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