Sunday, January 15, 2012

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus... So What About Gay Men and Women?

I reckon that this title portends to what most people might consider a "dicey subject." I guess it is... But I'll try to make this "family friendly."

Have you ever read the book, "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus"? I think it might be helpful if you ever want to be in a relationship and make it last (or even have half a clue as to what's happening most of the time). So perhaps it would be nice if you read it. 

I read it after my second divorce and it was like a light going off in my head. You can find an online pdf of the entire book here, but I've also (poorly) encapsulated the entire premise here. Basically, it goes like this:

Men are very results oriented. They consider themselves, "Mister Fix it." Men want to hear short bits of information and then offer solutions. Women are not that way. Women don't need quick answers. Women want someone who will listen to them talk and allow them to flesh out their thoughts as if they are thinking aloud. Women are looking for empathy. They are looking for a friend who will listen and share in their concerns without judgement or solutions. 

Men want to hear a bit of information then offers solutions.

And that's why men are from Mars and women are from Venus; because they don't understand the language the other is speaking. Their communication falters because of language. When the wife wants to complain about work, the husband hears a few sentences and then offers a "Mister Fix It Solution!" 

Wife then gets mad and says, "You're not listening to me!"

Husband retorts, "I am listening to you!"

No, husband. You're not. Not the way she wants you to listen. Seriously, trust me. I'm divorced twice and married three times. I know what I'm talking about (and I've read the book). You're not listening to her in her language; a language that she understands. 

In a nutshell, when she complains, she wants you to shut up and really listen to what she has to say - until she's finished. Don't interrupt her with your dumb solutions. She doesn't need your ideas. When she wants your ideas, she will ask for them...Women are kind of like dominating queen bees that way... (just a little levity, ladies!)

This is why ladies can get together over coffee and talk for hours on end about the problems and questions of the day and nothing gets decided; they need no solutions. The best friends amongst women, I am told, are the good listeners.

Guys? Guys get together and complain and immediately they are offering all sorts of solutions to problems. "Well, if you don't like work, why don't you quit?" Or, "Go tell your boss to go to hell!" Or my most commonly used solution, "If I were you, I'd get a gun and shoot the guy right between the eyes!"

Typical male quick solution: "Punch 'em in the f*cking teeth!"

Guys like to offer quick solutions all the time. Many of the solutions are like taking a sledge hammer to a problem when a pillow feather will do nicely.

So this is what Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is all about.

Which brings me to the dicey part of this post: How about gay people? And, especially, how about gay people in Japan? I'm not being funny or cute here. I am just curious (not that my curiosity matters). Why I ask is that I have two relatives who I am pretty sure are gay (one is a male and the other is female). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), my gay relatives haven't come out. But if you knew my aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws and other relatives, you could understand why... Let me just say that most of my relatives aren't the most "with it,"  understanding or the, er, "coolest" people hanging around the block. 

I can imagine this scene, but I can't imagine what aunt Emma would
 say about "Jennie" bringing "Marsha" to Thanksgiving this year.

I like to think my two dear relatives know I don't care. I just want them to be happy. I actually feel sorry for them in way because of the way my family and society can be so judgemental.. I don't appreciate the fact that they have to be secretive about what they do or that they don't come to our family get togethers because they would bring that "someone else" (and that someone else might make some people uncomfortable! Heavens!) I mean, life is tough enough on everyone as it is without people being concerned what other people are doing in their own homes and bedrooms or who they associate with....

But I digress... 

Here's a story that happened to me with one of these relatives about fifteen years or so ago in Japan. This incident has always bothered me since and, had I read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus I might have reacted a different way (or maybe not....) I've always regretted how I handled the situation and I think it has created a wedge between me and a loved one that lasts until this very day. Here's the story:

One day, this close relative, I'll call him "Sam," called me on the phone. Sam had been working in Tokyo for several years. At the time of this incident, I wasn't sure that Sam was gay, but I highly suspected it. And I didn't care. I figured I had enough problems of my own without worrying about someone else's. 

Why I had known (suspected) that Sam was gay was because I had been in a punk band in Los Angeles years before and we often toured (San Francisco and beyond) and I had many friends who lived the so-called "Alternative lifestyle." So, from that experience, I had met and shared many good times with these friends when they were young and discovering their sexuality. It seems to me that the creative arts and music have a large share of gays in the business. (This might seem sexist but I think gay people often times are quite the excellent creative and sensitive group...) 

Anyway, I remember in 1979 or so, riding in a car with my best friend Jeff (a bassist in a punk band) when we came to the realization that our two best friends (men) were sleeping together and that almost all of our friends (musicians and others) except us two were gay and/or lesbians!!! This girl I used to date was a lesbian too! Wow! That realization blew my mind!

As he drove the car, I slyly reached over and rested my hand on Jeff's right thigh. He slapped my hand away and we laughed.... 

Circa 1979 poster for my band, "The Rotters. I was vocalist back then. Incredibly, those guys are still playing! The Rotters are one of those bands who forgot to break up.


Long before Sam called me that day, we worked at the same company. Sometimes Sam got himself in trouble at work and had a few problems adjusting to life in Japan. A few months before, Sam's mother had died in an freak accident and that pretty much broke him up for a long time. He had been drinking heavily and often called into work sick. He was falling apart. I tried to help but I was, in hindsight, conceited and judgemental. When I spoke to Sam on the phone he was quite agitated.

Sam told me that he had gone to work and, while talking to a client, gotten angry and punched the client. Very bad indeed. Extremely bad in Japan because punching someone in the face is a crime and might land you in jail. Well, Sam seemed like he was headed for jail as the guy he punched was considering filing a complaint with the police. Had he done so, all hell would have broken loose for Sam. Not only would he be in jail, he'd be out of a job and most probably deported when he got out of jail.

Sam was going through the litany of problems he had created for himself. Me, not wanting to listen, I put on my "Mister Fix It" cap immediately and said, "What do you want me to do?"

Sam got really mad. He said,

"I don't want you to do anything, Mike! I just want you to listen!"

"I am listening!" I countered. This went back and forth. Our voices grew louder with each word.  "I'm listening and trying to figure out why you are telling me this. What do you want me to do about it?" We began arguing. Arguing was the worst outcome. Here I was trying to help but we were beginning to argue.

Soon it was a big fight. I realize now that we weren't speaking the same language. When I said, "What do you want me to do?" I didn't mean it in a snotty, nasty and condescending, "Well, what do you want me to do about it, jerk?" I meant it as, "How can I help you to rectify this situation?" I meant to say, "I will help you in any way you wish for me to help you. Please give me instructions as to what is the best way to do so."

Had I been a better communicator, I could have gotten that message across. Had Sam understood my "Mars" way of thinking, then he would have calmly said, "I just need someone to listen to me so I can confide my worries and fears. I need a friend."

Yes. Sam needed a friend. Instead I sent him an entire fire engine brigade. Any wonder that a 4 alarm fire broke out?

That was years ago. I still talk to Sam sometimes, but not often. Not as often as I used to or would like to. Funnily enough, I am the only one in our entire family who stays in contact with Sam at all anymore. I wish he'd come to visit. I wish I could tell him that I'm sorry and that everything is okay. 

The reason why I am now pretty much sure of Sam's sexual preferences is that I know some of his friends from back then who are still here in Japan. Nice folks. They enjoy their privacy. I say let them, and Sam, have it. That's why I don't force the issue.

What is the purpose of this post? I'm not too sure. Is the thinking of men and women different like stated in Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus true? From reading and my own experiences, I believe so. I have also had a nagging concern and regret over the incident with Sam that I relate to you above. 

Is the thinking of gay people the same or different from heterosexuals? And does it matter whether or not we are in Japanese society or western society? I don't know.... But now, come to think of it, frankly speaking, I don't care. No matter whether a gay male thinks the same as a heterosexual male or not (as a "solutions based" gender) it shouldn't make any difference to me. Why? Because everyone deserves more empathy and understanding. 

I should have given Sam more of that too. For that I will always regret.

I was going to ask dear reader to read this post and offer solutions and their opinions to me, but now, on second thought. No thanks. That you sat there, quietly, and listened to me was enough... I guess that satisfies the Venus in me. 

Now, I feel better. Thanks for listening and thanks for the empathy. 

Spread it around.


Marc Sheffner said...

"When I say I'm thirsty, I don't mean for you to bring me a glass of water!".

Vive la difference! Now I'm thinking, did that book solve a communication problem between men and women?


I listened... truly listened :-)

Sonia Mehra said...

Good work..!!!

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Anonymous said...

I listened, too =)
I'll just say I've had similar miscommunications with my wife, and continue to do so to this day. Partly from Mars/Venus and partly from Lost in Translation. Bad combo, let me tell you X_x

Sherry said...

I discovered your blog today as I arrived in Osaka two weeks ago and plan to stay here for three months, but found myself "listening" to your blogs all day today! Thank you for the insight on Japan!

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