I’ve had the happy occasion to re-read some Ernest Hemingway lately, a pleasure I first discovered when I was sixteen. His short, declarative sentences, with as much unsaid as said, stirred my writing genes, reading the Nick Adams stories helped me know I would be a writer someday. Hemingway was a bit of a fool, a drunkard, a diva and chauvinist. He also experienced a full, sensual life and all the pain and despair that goes along with it. He was a man of his times. One thing he knew, he knew how to write about men. His stories grow hair, they are so masculine.

With all of the modern talk about self help, open communications and “shutting down,” it’s good to remember that there is a difference between men and women. I’m not talking about Meyers Briggs tests, sexual preference or excusing bad behavior. I simply want to state, once and for the record, that men are wired differently than women. It’s possible, I believe, to acknowledge this difference without denigrating women, acting boorish or being a creep.

Hemingway captures the essence of men and reminds me that my generation was raised with concepts like dignity, quiet strength and minding one’s own business. For all the self help nonsense that tells us to open up and share our feelings, we say “Why?” What is the benefit of crying, whining or sharing? Strong and silent shows that you are resolute, stronger than mere emotion and not easily manipulated.

Yes, we open doors for women, we take our hats off indoors, and, like Hemingway, we’d rather commit suicide than confide in a friend about our despair. Feelings may be the window to our soul, we’d just as  soon keep that particular shade drawn.

“What are you thinking?” “NOTHING.” That’s it. We are thinking, if we wanted to share it, that would be called “talking.”  Men only ask each other “What are you thinking?” if we are trying to figure out how to move a piano up 2 flights of stairs. Even then, the answer is likely to be, “Beer, got any?”

Hemingway’s writing showed plenty of emotion and it can’t be argued that he wasn’t creative or artistic. There is something, history proves, for both a feminine and masculine point of view. Thank God. Yin and yang are everywhere, for us to pretend that we are all the same is denying nature itself. There is a certain despair that goes with being a man, as there is with being a woman. Finding our way, making our mark is different for all of us. Here’s what Hemingway had to say about his own work,  he could have been talking about his own emotions:

“You see it’s awfully hard to talk or write about your own stuff because if it is any good you yourself know about how good it is—but if you say so yourself you feel like a shit.”

So no, most men I know would rather not talk about our own “stuff.”

 

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