I once read an article about the differences in men and women’s brains. The article was written by a man and described the male brain as a series of boxes. Different compartments for different things. Work related thoughts, ideas and feelings were all neatly stacked in one box and at work that box was open, and after leaving work everything work related went back into the box and was sealed shut. Women’s brains were described as a long string weaving around and around and filling up their headspace. Instead of boxes that open and close, everything is connected. I felt jealous. How unfair that we have this string of anguish to deal with while they just get to open and close boxes and go about their day. Now, when my significant other and I argue, I frequently become silent, watching as he struggles to understand where I’m coming from because I’m talking about something in a box that’s been closed and locked away for at least three days.
When everything is connected, nothing is forgotten, and this is the root of all problems. Something that happened years ago will be attached to what is happening now. I thought about cutting the string into pieces, but disconnecting them only means random fragments of thought will be floating around aimlessly, adding the ingredients of randomness and surprise into the siring pan of crazy. Since reading this article, I have been trying to organize everything into boxes and only open one at a time. But all it does is slow me down. Instead of being able to build a case with rapid fire, I find myself searching for the correct box, resulting in twenty boxes being open at one time. My mother once told me men need time to “process” things, and this is what she must have been talking about. They need time to go search through the closed boxes. Too many open boxes creates chaos, and chaos is both uncomfortable and scary. To a woman, “what’s wrong?” is complicated because it’s usually never whatever just happened, but what just happened linked to a similar occurance that happened a year, three months and eight days ago. Chaos.
Having a string connecting everything in your brain can be a gift though. For instance, if you were a homicide detective (or any kind of detective, it doesn’t have to just be the specific police department dealing with murders). I went through a phase where I watched all the movies available on Netflix involving lady homicide detectives. After watching Murder by Numbers, I was convinced I possessed all the important traits required for such a daunting and unique job. Sandra Bullock was anti-social, neurotic, ruthless, and enjoyed drinking whiskey alone. She was basically me, only she was putting killers in jail, and when people ask me what I contribute to society, I have to respond, “Right now I’m working at an animal hospital!” There is no need for ruthless conviction at the Keauhou Veterinary Hospital- it is actually a trait highly out of place there.
My friend once told me that men are completely selfish, useless, and weak. My friend is also a lesbian, but I think that only adds incredible chutzpah to her argument. I have known some men who I consider to be very strong, honorable and good men, but I also know a butt load of man boys who quite possibly only have three boxes in their brain that they open and close. “Men are helpful when moving furniture,” she told me. “Otherwise they are worthless.” “What about short, skinny men?” I said, imagining a large overstuffed sofa and reflecting on how often I find myself towering over a man when wearing heels. She raised her eyebrows, “See? Useless.” Should I date girls? I thought, envisioning two times the amount of string, every single moment connected and fueled by intense emotion, my eyes full of fear, perspiration glistening on my forehead.
No matter how your brain is wired, if you can’t listen and understand someone else, or are quick to give up and run at the first sign of chaos, your relationship will fail. To combat chaos you only need one thing, and that is the ability to understand someone else. Understanding is a skill I have always considered to be something you are naturally given as part of your humanness- like a pulse. You are born with a pulse and along with that comes the ability to feel what another being who also has a pulse feels. It shocks me when people are unable to relate to another person, but most people cannot. Most people let other things block them from being able to understand someone else. You can never reach a place of understanding if you enter a battle shielded by any one of these things: ego, ignorance, pride, shame, or fear. All those things must be surrendered in order to shake hands and carry on. And that is when you can determine how strong someone is, or how weak they are.
Recently, I met an old man named Joe who read my palm. I met Joe outside of a men’s restroom in Hilo. There was a line out the door to the ladies restroom and I was lurking outside of the men’s which looked pretty vacant, waiting for a moment to dart in. Joe came out of the men’s room and noticed me peering in. “Line too long?” he asked. “When I was a bus driver I would stand guard outside the men’s restroom so the women on the bus wouldn’t have to wait,” he told me. I smiled at him. “I can read palms, can I read yours?” To some people, this zero to one hundred behavior would seem imposing, but I appreciate skipping all the mindless chit chat and getting straight down to the nitty gritty. “How thoughtful of you to look out for all your female bus riders like that. Of course you can read my palm, what do you need, my left or right hand?” He took my left, carefully inspecting all the lines in my skin, holding each finger and squinting his eyes. He stood back, his eyes dark. “You are super, super independent,” he told me, in such a way that I thought he said, “This hand, this hand has shed blood, the blood of many in fact.” I stood there with my hand up, all my fingers spaced out like a kindergarden teacher showing her students how to count to five. “If you ever forget, use your fingers, fan them out, see? Five. Always. Unless you lose one. I’m kidding, you won’t lose a finger. If you are careful.”
“What’s wrong with being independent?” I asked him, suddenly defensive. “Nothing, but you are..” he paused, adding drama to his next statement. “Super independent. Like, you are happiest when alone, and are able to be alone,” he explained, and then added “and you would probably thrive with no other people around.” “Thrive?” I repeated, half as a question and half as a spoken epiphany. I thought of all my heartache, all my confusion and doubt- all caused by other people, all gone. All I had to do was drop off the grid of society once and for all, and never speak to anyone ever again. Travel deep into the abyss, with nothing but myself. Sadly, I probably would thrive in an environment like that, me and Sylvia Plath. Just thinking about it made me feel relaxed and calm. Never speaking to anyone ever again. Everlasting tranquility.
“You, oh my goodness, you are a risk taker! You taaaaake chances!” He said this gleefully like he was about to make me a balloon animal or I had won the carnival game I was playing. “Eh, is that such an upbeat thing though? That sounds…not so good,” I questioned him. He shook his head, “No, this one is good!” he reaffirmed me, his eyes saying not like the last sociopathy love to be alone thingy. It is true that I do take risks if you are talking about never making any calculated, planned, intentional choices. Usually, they leave me unprepared in a foreign environment, treading unfamiliar territory with the grace of a bull in a china shop, leaving a trail of mistakes behind me that linger like horrible coffee breath. “Would you mind elaborating?” I asked him, waving my pinky finger in the air, like maybe he had missed a finger and therefore was missing important pieces of my past, present and future.
“You have a hobby that you love. Something you have always done, even as a little girl, and you will always do. It involves being quiet and watching. You are an observer. Is this true?” I looked at him, annoyed that he was right. “Well yeah, but doesn’t everyone have a hobby they love. And being quiet and watching? That’s rather vague..and creepy,” I pointed out. He shook his head, “No, most people don’t watch or listen at all, but they should.” I had no rebuttal to that one. My mind wandered back to the dark abyss void of all people. Peace.
“In arguments, and with others, you are always the one who bends,” he carried on. “You back down, you let the other person win.” Ugh. I had no rebuttal to that one either and I suddenly remembered that I still had to pee, and was reminded that instead of avoiding the twenty women with weighty bladders like I had originally planned, I was now being confronted with all my personal demons by a retired bus driver named Joe. “Does anyone truly win arguments though Joe? I mean I have one friend who is a lawyer who gets paid to, but other than that no one is winning anything,” I trailed off. He shrugged. Now that Joe had pointed out, on the fly, and outside of a public restroom, that I am an antisocial-risk-taking-push-over-who- watches-people-quietly I was in no mood to find out what the rest of my palm told him. “Have you heard about string theory?” I asked him. “Not the one that explains all types of observed elementary particles using quantum states of strings, but the one that explains the wiring of the female brain,” I said snottily. There was no way he was getting a read on my right hand.
I parted ways with Joe, but his palm reading stuck. Not only because I delved into the vagueness of his reading and took it all extremely personal, but because his palm reading coupled with string theories and boxes is now making me worried that I am destined to be a wandering kooky vagabond, traveling around and taking risks, lengthening the string in my brain until there is no more room in my head. If you are lucky enough to find someone who you value, who makes life exciting and who believes in you, it’s worth taking the time to understand them. It’s worth it to keep fighting for them, and it’s worth it to keep believing in them. It’s worth it to untangle the strings and open and close the boxes, together.