Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Webby Goodness

In college I heard a speaker talk about the differences in how males and females communicate. While I tend to shy away from generalizations, this one struck me so deeply as gospel truth that it's stuck with me all these post college years.

The speaker said that men tend to think linearly. That B follows A and C comes after that. Their points line up in a logical succession. If a man is explaining how to fix a bike tire, he will tell you, from beginning to end, how to fix that tire.

She then said that women tend to think and communicate in a way that resembles a spider web. A spider web takes time to construct and follows a pattern that is decidedly not linear. A rough outline forms and then the web gets structure from supporting strands. In other words, if a woman were to explain how to fix a bike tire, she might start with the bike tire, but may branch off to tell you about her first bike, what color it was. You might hear why the bike was that color and how that color was her favorite from the ages six to twelve but not after that. You will, in the end, hear about how to fix the tire, but you might learn more than that.

Which is why I love running with my friend Ellen. (See what I did there? A spider web moment). We run together once a week; a highlight of the week for me. It's not about the run. It's about the talking. Our conversations have a flow to them that resembles the spider web pattern above. An issue we discussed last week weaves itself into this week's talk. There's no need for explanation. I can say, "And you know what else?" And Ellen will know exactly where it's coming from and often where it's going.

Sometimes, we might not even finish the discussion about how fifth grade math is going for our kids when we've moved on to the new restaurant or car repairs or why we like shoes that have white laces. It's okay. We'll get back to it. Eventually.

I find this true at Thursday coffees, though I haven't been in a while. A group of super cool, hip moms gathers at a local cafe every Thursday. The group is fluid, open and friendly. Depending on when I arrive, there might be three or fifteen women huddled around three or four tables, bubbling over with coffee and food and sometimes projects. If I sit still and watch, I see the same thing happening here. Smaller groups discuss a topic, someone from across the table jumps in to add a relevant bit and soon the entire table is discussing exchange students. Then a side issue arises and the smaller groups huddle off again. It tumbles along like a girl in a long dress rolling down a hillside. Pure joy.

Our minds and voices cause a stir in the air, create an aura of intellectual activity. We are seeking the right words to explain our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and giving the space to think out loud, challenge assumptions, arrive at new conclusions. Sometimes I don't know I'm worried or angry about something until it comes up in a free-flowing, thought-and-speech -for-all.

Working from home as I do, I tend to isolate myself. I get comfortable writing and sewing in my little spaces. But when I do venture out for these visits, I find myself renewed, excited, full. I don't know if all women are like this, and I don't know if all women need this kind of interaction.

But I need my spider web moments.


  1. Those Thursday mornings are indeed priceless! It's important to have girlfriends who understand you!