I was at a party over the weekend, and a guy said this exact line. The context was that if a woman wanted her boyfriend to drive over and hold her after she’d had a particularly rough day, it wasn’t enough that she’d told him she’d had a really, really bad day. She should also have said, “I need you to come over and hold me.” Men are simple creatures, was party-guy’s response to excuse the unsympathetic boyfriend for not being more intuitive about responding to his girlfriend’s needs. It was not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment expressed — by both men and women — about male behavior. But it sounds to me like an excuse. A dangerous one.
Now, I’m not dissing good communication. The woman did communicate by expressing how awful her day had been, though she did not add a request for her boyfriend to come over. Probably she thought it would be obvious to someone who truly cared about her. But I think maybe it could only have been obvious to someone who truly cared about her, who was also awake enough on the inside to be able to be intuitively sensitive to other people. In other words, while the boyfriend may have demonstrated sympathy (“Sorry you had a rough day”), he lacked empathy. Empathy is when you can put yourself in anther person’s shoes, at least a little bit, but it is a state of mind that only comes when you are more in touch with yourself. So to say, “Oh, but men are simple creatures,” is to excuse men from going through the deeper introspection of learning who they really are.
This clearly isn’t characteristic of all men. I’ve met plenty who are quite in touch with who they are. (And plenty of women who aren’t.) But “simple creatures” seems to be a concept that our society likes to flippantly ascribe to men. It’s a horrible thing to do, though. Not only does it unfairly dumb-down the entire gender and blow off all the hard work already done by those guys who are “awake,” but it also tells the ones who are still asleep that this is how men are supposed to be, so it’s okay if they never learn who they really are. And that is a scary, sad thought.