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A Matter of Instinct

  • Posted on August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

As Willy makes his way through adolescence, I can’t help but notice that he’s definitely a guy. I’m not talking about physical attributes here. This has nothing to with his Adam’s apple, body hair, or body size. I’m talking about the behavioral instincts that are surfacing.

Don’t get me wrong. Willy’s always been competitive. In the past, however, Willy’s competitiveness has always come across as an aspect of how he feels about himself: He took the words “winner” and “loser” far too seriously and would do almost anything to be recognized as the “winner.” Over time, we were able to address the root problem and teach him better gamesmanship. Still, there was always a part of Willy that sought out external validation.

Recently, I’ve been witnessing something entirely different. Just short of beating his chest like a gorilla, Willy has been exhibiting very masculine behaviors. I’m talking about the I’m-going-to-keep-pushing-until-I-impress-the-girl kind of behaviors. The only problem is that I’m the only girl here and that Alex and Ben are (usually) not seen as the primary threats. So, yeah, things are getting uncomfortably Freudian.

Last week, after Will kept pushing over something really stupid while Mark was actually trying to teach him something, i.e. not trying to engage in one-upmanship, I just had enough. Without going into anything Freudian (though Mark just had to bring it up), I explained to Willy what he was doing, why he was doing, and why I was definitely not the right person to impress. Then, I explained to him as best as I could that, despite the very male instinct he was displaying, these behaviors rarely really worked.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have never changed my opinion about a guy one iota (at least, not in a positive direction) because he won some sort of machismo contest with another guy. Who can dunk a better basket? I don’t really care, but if I had to guess I’d say Michael Jordan. Who can arm wrestle best? I’d guess the Hulk. Not the Hogan guy, either. I’m going with the green one. Who can beat the video game faster? Um. I’d guess the guys who designed it.

“No, no,” they’d tell me, “between us!”

I never got the point of these episodes until I got to college. It’s not that college boys made this any clearer; it’s just that I studied more human behavior in college. I remember raising my hand—I don’t know if it was my first psych class or the class on human sexuality—and asked, “Does this ever really work?” The professor (who was a guy) smiled, shook his head, and said, “But that doesn’t keep us from trying.” He went on to explain that it was genetically coded precisely because there was (must have been?) a time in human history or human evolution when it really did work.

I understand that, from the points of view of anthropologists and evolutionists, this “must” be the case, but I have to wonder if it isn’t just as plausible that human psychology was just as messed up back then as it is now. Guys did it because they thought it worked, just like guys still do it because, on some level, they’re sure it will.

Now that it’s my own son it’s ceased to be the least bit amusing. And I do NOT want to hear about Freud! After all, the dude thought young women “fantasied” about their fathers molesting them, because he couldn’t acknowledge that the fathers of respectable families could really be sexually abusing their daughters. Um, yeah. That’s credibility for you!

Anticipation

  • Posted on June 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Both my father and my brother came up to Wisconsin to help celebrate my recent graduation from National-Louis University with a M.S. in Written Communications. Knowing the value of foreshadowing, I made sure the boys knew that we had special visitors coming. I wouldn’t say I revved them up to a fever pitch, because that would have been silly of me. But they knew, they anticipated, they were excited.

Then, the moment finally arrived and my brother walked in the door.

“Hi, Uncle Pat!”

…I waited…

…I waited…

But, that was just about it.

Sure, they played with Uncle Pat. They interacted with him. But it was done with such aplomb, I was…well, I was… Hm. Is this a good thing? Should I fight this? Should I…?

I let it be what it was and just… Hm.

Well, told myself, it would be different when Grandpa arrived, because it’d had been longer since Grandpa had come.

Then, my dad arrived. “Hi, Grandpa! You look different.”

…I waited…

And, then I just didn’t bother with that and just sat down and had a great chat with my dad and that was fine.

It was what it is. Good thing? Bad thing? Nope. It just is and I’ll take it.