The Male Brain, by Dr. Louann Brizendine, has been on my To Be Read pile for years. When I was a younger father or my then toddler boys, a friend-of-a-friend who was also a father of boys recommended it.
“It will help you understand their world,” he said, “and yours.”
I admit, there were many things I disliked about the book, mostly because its tone felt stereotypical. As though all men have the same things on our mind all the time: sex, cars, beer, sports.
But the author repeatedly makes the point that men have these kinds of things on the brain because of socialization and a certain mixture of hormones on board that, when combined with said socialization, programs us to, well, think about sex, cars, beer, and sports.
Brizendine isn’t asking readers to sympathize with men and our ways, she’s asking readers to have some understanding. To give men a deeper look.
I appreciated this aspect of the book. From the time we’re in utero, we’re marinated in testosterone, which sets us on a course for masculine things: rough play, aggression, sexual pursuit, hierarchical tendencies, and many other “men things.”
Of course, not all men follow all of these pursuits. Brizendine’s book was in fact entirely through a heteronormative perspective.
But the bottom line is that if you’re a person with XY chromosomes, you’re likely to experience the world with this certain mindset.
And your hormones do fluctuate over time. This was the most eye-opening for me. It’s obvious that an adolescent male brain would be very different from a daddy brain, but to understand that the 40 to 50 year-old man’s testosterone and vasopressin are naturally waning and thus causing him to calm in some instances, but still be programmed for aggression and competition due to well-worn neural patterns made me feel…normal.
It also made me feel normal to know that as my wife’s hormones go on their own journey as she ages, combined with mine doing their own thing, there are definitely going to be days when it feels like the honeymoon is never coming back.
Or at work, where the new way is an egalitarian, equitable, matrixed management model in which no one and everyone is in charge, I felt vindicated that our male brains simply don’t do well where there’s no clear alpha.
Again, this book isn’t a how-to manual, plus, times have changed. They continue to change. We’re evolving as humans, and so is masculinity itself.
If anything, we should give ourselves some grace—some really manly grace—and realize that our actions and behaviors are often all in our heads and bodies, awash in chemicals and pathways that come stock, much like the one part of our bodies that makes us men.
This Post is republished on Medium.
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