Leveling expectations between the sexes on Valentine's Day
To save many couples who are just beginning this journey of romance which could experience one of its peaks during Valentine's, I offer unsolicited advice to have some sort of scientific briefing to level your expectations. Let us begin with a joke I received about a text exchange between an elderly couple. This is how their messaging went:
Grandma: If you are sleeping, send me your dreams. If you are laughing, send me your smile. If you are eating, send me a bite. If you are drinking, send me a sip. If you are crying, send me your tears. I love you.
Grandpa: I'm on the toilet. Please advise.
"Romance" in female brains generally takes on the form of language, while in male brains, it largely, so to speak, rises and falls as an "act."
But we all know and experience that the differences between the male and female brains are not confined to romance. It goes on and on in our lives. Scientists have long known that there are these differences. For a while, they thought it was largely because of the socialization process we experience the minute we are born and then after, as we go through life shaped by culture which has its own gender do's and don'ts.
But even if it is a scientifically established fact that experience shapes the brain, it does not demolish the fact that there are fundamental biological differences between how the male and female brains are structured and how they work. The big mistake is concluding that one is overall better than the other.
For instance, in verbal ability, men and women do not significantly differ in their comprehension but they do differ in the ways they land in understanding materials. Women employ more of a strategy of capturing the details and relationships of what they have read, while the average male relies more on coding the words and what they mean. This, I think, is related to why women seem to have some sort of their own "Netflix" in their head, with on-demand livestreaming of memories that will descend on a conversation that unfailingly befuddles men, making them wonder what witchery gives women these kinds of retrieval powers.
But men, on the average, rely on actual physical dimensions of a memory with the 3 dimensions. Not only that, but they can reenact the movement of these dimensions in their heads more faithfully than the average female. This also explains why when navigating, females use objects that stand out in the space (monuments and sari-sari stores), while men feel most at home figuring out where they are in terms of the direction (where the sun is) and distance they are traveling.
This was so evident when my husband and I just got married and we just started living in Washington D.C. He had to go to work right away, and I had to do so many errands by myself. When I expressed to him that I was quite worried about finding my way driving around the looped beltways and getting lost by myself, he just looked at me as he was hurrying toward the door to walk to work and said: "Oh don't worry at all about that. Just remember where the sun is, and even if you get lost, remember that the world is round so eventually…" His voice trailed off as he closed the door.
This was the man who just expressed his eternal love for my welfare the day before. This is why I suggest that those wedding vows have an actual translation based on scientific evidence during the reception or any other time after the wedding – a translation on what those vows actually mean from the male and female point of view. That would be a very interesting session for newly minted lovers and probably worth a reality show. (At the end of the day, over dinner, he did ask me how my day of driving "around the world" went and said he never doubted I would circle back to our place. See, I told you, "eternal love" has very different operational meanings for a man and a woman.)
The differences in male and female brains are not just seen in the day-to-day experiences and exchanges of our lives. They are also glaring in the more serious domain of disorders. Dyslexia rate for boys is about 10 times that of girls, and boys are also about 5 times more likely to be diagnosed within the autism spectrum than girls. Women are twice more likely to be clinically depressed or experience post-traumatic disorder in their lifetime than men. But men are 40% more likely to fall into addiction.
A very recent study just revealed that women's brains are more or less 4 years younger than men's. The study concluded this when they saw how "youthful" the brains of the females were among their 200 male and female subjects with ages ranging from 20 to 82. To see "youthful," they looked for actual measures in the way the brain uses up energy.
The human brain uses up about 20% of the total energy the body gets. This is a very large proportion, considering how small our brains are compared to the other parts of our body. How it uses this up reveals how much our brains are aging. The study found that the female brain retains its youthful aspects (about 4 years) relative to the male brain in the way it uses up energy. This was consistent across the wide age range they investigated. This is important because it, among other things, could explain the role of the brain's metabolism in the imbalances between the sexes with regards to aging-related conditions. Brain metabolism indeed may play a significant part in why aging females, in general, have less memory decline than aging males and the hippocampus (the brain part mainly associated with long-term memory) of aging females show less "weariness" ("atrophy" is the scientific term used) than that of aging males.
So whether it is romance, how we read and understand, mental disorders, or brain metabolic age, there are differences in how the female and male brains negotiate with them. Both sexes hold up the sky – probably taking turns in some parts, depending on what state the sky is in that needs propping up. Understanding those differences between the sexes could spell the stability for our skies. – Rappler.com
Maria Isabel Garcia is a science writer. She has written two books, "Science Solitaire" and "Twenty One Grams of Spirit and Seven Ounces of Desire." You can reach her at email@example.com.