The stereotype that men don’t ask for directions is a humorous one for me because everyone who knows me knows I have the worst navigation skills on the planet. I use GPS navigation even when going to places I have visited hundreds of times. I get lost in buildings that I have worked in for months, and I once got so lost in Andalusia that I thought I walked into a Paulo Coelho novel (the flock of sheep was what gave me that impression).
You get the picture.
However, I do, in fact, ask for directions. I would have even asked the shepherd (in Andalusia), but I could not understand his heavily accented Spanish. I have conversed with countless homeless people in cities throughout the world because they tend to know their way around downtown, and a couple of dollars goes a long way in getting clear, comprehensive directions. One man in Atlanta who I initially feared was planning to mug me instead got me back on track and even accompanied me to my intended destination: the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park. On the way he explained to me that the only white people he ever saw in his neighborhood were there to buy drugs and pointed to a lurking police car.
I listened and learned.
My favorite story of getting lost, though, would have to be the time I was headed for the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. to get a student visa and realized I had gone to the wrong place. It was the end of the day on a Friday, so if I missed my appointment, I would run the risk of not getting the visa in time for my study abroad program. I ended up arriving just as the agent was closing her door, thanks to the help of a bearded woman who pointed me in the right direction.
Yes, a woman with a beard. You don’t forget details like that when you are in a panic. I am extremely grateful for her help.
My point is I’d much rather get help than lost, especially in a potentially dangerous place or when the consequences of getting lost are severe. I can’t speak for other men, but I would guess that many feel the same way. While it’s conjecture, I would say that heterosexual men, when accompanied by women or male friends they want to impress, are less likely to show uncertainty (often confused with weakness) by asking for directions than if they are alone. Although even when there is no one around to impress, men take pride in succeeding at a task without assistance. I have fallen into this at times, and those with more expertise than I seem to agree.
I think it’s silly, though. Every man gets by with a little help from his friends — to quote The Beatles.
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