Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Women and Symbols

I was trying to explain female psychology this morning, so there will be a lot of bold generalization appearing on this post. Explaining female psychology without a degree in the subject is also a dangerous thing to do. When a man begins a sentence, "Any red-blooded man would---", I always assume he is mostly talking about himself. And therefore, if I begin a sentence with the word "Women feel," would it not be reasonable to assume that I am talking mostly about myself?

But I am saved by the cardinal rule of this blog, which is that just because men behave/think/speak a certain way doesn't mean women do, too, and vice versa.

Anyway, my thought this morning is that women think in terms of symbols. My principal example is the frivolous, pretty, high heeled shoe. Why do so many women buy so many shoes? Why did the shoe obsession of Sex and the City (not that any of us ever saw a single episode) ring so true with legions of girls. Why do I and my girly-girl friends unwrap our shoe-purchases for each other's gazes with such shoe-venerating anticipation? Can it really be the shoes, or do the shoes point to some other reality, like Femininity, Attractiveness and Disposable Income?

I think crushes operate the same way. Women get crushes on men we don't know, and whom we even, with another part of our brains, dislike. We fixate like mad, daydream and then, after having an actual conversation with the man, go away feeling angry and disappointed but still fixated. What is with that?

Could it be that the crush has nothing to do with the man but something the man symbolically represents? Could it be a displacement for feelings of attraction to a place or time you are currently in? For example, if you are loving your holiday on the Dalmatian coast, perhaps the Croatian waiter who makes your heart race does so simply because he has become a symbol of your lovely holiday.

I think this works for other emotions, too. For example, I was once in a terrible state when B.A. and I returned from an outwardly pleasant evening out with a very nice former classmate of mine from my not very nice Ph.D. department and a much younger friend. I seemed to have plunged into an ocean of grief and loss. But when I sorted it out, I realized that on one level I had spent an evening with my husband, a friend and a former colleague, but on another level I had spent it with my husband, My Lost Youth and the Implosion of my Academic Theological Career.

I think this is also why women get so upset if we get a very lame present for Valentine's Day or if our husbands forget our birthdays or wedding anniversaries. It has nothing to do with "stuff"; it has to do with what the "stuff" represents.

Symbols can point in good directions, of course. I once turned down a marriage proposal from a Mr Almost (but not quite) Right, who was not a Catholic. One very strong influence on this decision was, quite unbeknownst to either of them, a classmate who was a male religious. Now, I knew that I did not want to run away with a male religious. However, I did know that I would really prefer to marry someone a lot like him--which is to say, a funny, good-humoured, devoutly Catholic guy. At the time, it seemed unlikely that this might happen, as I was already in my thirties and tick tick tick and blah blah blah. However, I decided that this was the kind of man I would hold out for, and I did. The male religious, bless his heart, was a symbol of the Good Catholic Husband, and B.A. is the reality.


healthily sanguine said...

+1 -- bold, but TRUE. My friend and I were just discussing flowers, why women want to receive them, but really: why the boyfriends/fiancees of our friends haven't sent them?! Yeah, it's just a bouquet, but it symbolizes so much more.

Also, I just got a message from a guy who misspelled my (first) name; this was not the first message, but more like the sixth or seventh he had sent me. It bothered me, a lot, and I decided to let it be ok that it bothered me and not try to rationalize it. Maybe it's because if you can't even remember or take the trouble to spell my name correctly, that's symbolic of the lack of care/interest you have towards me overall? I don't know. :)

berenike said...

People spell my name wrong all the time - and that's when they're not calling me something else (Yvonne? I still haven't worked out how they got to that). And they're people whose care for me and interest in me I do not doubt at all. Given the normal spelling possibilities of even very non-exotic names like Katherine/Catherine/Kathryn/...

healthily sanguine said...

I suppose it depends. If it's just anyone, I don't particularly care. But if someone wants to be my friend, they should spell my name correctly, every time. It is not a difficult name to spell. :)