My son asked me the other day how grown ups know, when they are having ‘grown up time’ that it feels good. He wanted to know specifically which part of the brain told the heart that ‘this is the one.’ Not a question I had been planning to answer as we ran down the street about to miss the bus, but at least his brain was working.
So, thinking on my feet, as I tend to do a fair bit since my son was born, I tell my son, that there are lots of parts of us that are involved in the ‘feeling good’ process. We get to know people with our ‘normal brains’ like our ‘ordinary’ friends.
Like a girl we will call ‘Emily’. Emily is a little friend he plays computer games with. When I asked him what she was like he said, ‘She is almost like, um, not a girlfriend like a… umm…’ He then floundered a little. ‘Darling, do you mean she is like a normal person? Like a friend?’ I asked.
‘YES’ he replied emphatically. ‘Just like that. I don’t know why my friend’s want to date. You can be friends normally.’
Then I explained there is hormones. These can tell us if we find someone attractive or not (again, thinking on my feet and trying not to say ‘Shh…. no girls, EVER.’) Attraction is important, but it has to match up with compatibility.
My son then asks what the difference is… Knowing that he has seen far too many film clips depicting men and women falling for each other for no other reason than their shared location and physical compatibility, I delved deep into my memory box to find my last romantic encounter to answer.
Physical attraction is your body telling you that it likes what another person looks like. This is important for relationships. We all have different things that we find attractive for different reasons – some of the reasons we don’t understand – so maybe you would be attracted physically to someone but your friends might not get it. That is okay.
Connection however, is about the person’s personality, whether you can talk to each other, and share dreams and laugh together. Like my Dad says, ‘Love is a Verb – a doing word. You don’t need to have everything in common, you need to share a journey.’
For a long marriage or relationship – you need both of these things…. and patience, and perhaps a favourite meal or movie to share when things get rough and you want to be together without talking.
My son then asked why it was that people would want to have one night stands or casual hook ups where there was no love or connection just ‘grown up stuff you know…’
Now, explaining this to a 12 year old was fun. Well, I thought, it is like this. People (men, your mates at school) will sometimes say they have primal urges to do particular things (and they do) that they can’t control (THAT IS A LIE THEY CAN – AND YOU CAN MY CHILD!). We have urges that we want met, sometimes they don’t match our connections. But the thinking part of our brain – the one that is in charge of our personality, and making life plans with people is in charge… the cave man part that your friends are talking about is like a foot soldier in the army. Sure he has a gun and stuff, but if he acts against the orders of the army boss, someone gonna shoot him down.
I told him that there is a cave man part of me – buried somewhere in the back less socially acceptable part of my brain which kicks in about every four weeks when my body decides that it wants to make babies. At this time I literally look at men thinking, ‘Mmmm, yes, he is good stock. He could provide, he is strong, he can protect me….’ etc….
But – I emphasised – this is a primal part of my brain dating back to evolutionary times when it was important that women of a certain age made strong babies, with good providers to ensure the survival of the cave village. This part of my brain isn’t smart enough to know that the village doesn’t need me to contribute with babies, or that I don’t especially want a baby right now. All this part of my brain knows is that I think Idris Elba and I should make babies.
Men and women are the same in this regard, I explain. It is okay to think other people are attractive. Problems only emerge however when people (men) take these caveman thoughts and inflict them on other people, sure my caveman brain wants to seduce Idris, make babies to ensure the survival of the village and cling as tightly as possible to him as the provider of meat, fire and safety for the baby and I – but that doesn’t mean I am hopping a plane to Atlanta to propose a thruple type relationship to Mrs Elba does it?
The caveman part of my brain is not in charge of the rational decision making evolved part of my brain. The rational part of my brain is very aware that my role in village survival need not be as a baby maker (although yes, I do love babies – call me Idris). Rather, it may be as a nurse or teacher or dimsum cook…. The caveman part of my brain doesn’t get to be in charge. As it is unaware that I don’t need to find a mate to help me protect my non-existent newborns whilst we ensure the caves survival.
So, in real terms what does this mean? For me it means that every month, about 2 weeks before my period, I get needier and have the urge to find a mate and make babies. I also tend to google a lot more uni courses, and clubs and basically ANYTHING I can join – I have a primal need to connect with a group at this time (please, do not call me and ask me to join a cult… I am vulnerable while ovulating).
What this does not mean however, is that I actually act out these things… In addition to hormones and natural instincts I also have a rational brain which says things like, ‘Hang on, you don’t want to have a baby right now. and you don’t have to. You want to travel/work/write/tango/fly/eat soft cheeses/open a winery…. all of the things.’ So instead I say, ‘Hello ovulation period, lets go have a toasted salmon and brie wrap, a nice coffee and plan the next few weeks of your life out rather than getting on tinder and attempting some form of match making.’
Now , being that I have a caveman section in my brain – I cannot blame a man for thinking similarly caveman things with that part of his brain. F three days per month, (that’s how long I am a caveman thinker for).
I can, however, become angry if he refuses to cordon off these thoughts and instead acts them out. I can become angry when he refuses to use the rational part of his brain to override his caveman urge to chase down the disinterested lady he finds pretty.
I am disenchanted and furious when communities do not hold men accountable should they fail to use their rational brains. Before excusing the behaviour saying that men have caveman, or uncontrollable urges.
Men. Can. Control. Their. Urges. Yes. They. Can. In fact – lots of them actually do this. But for some reason they also often defend those who don’t.
Mate, when I am at school, if i do my homework. I am not defending the person who doesn’t.
I control my caveman. You do the same.
I may or may not have lost my son somewhere in my long lecture… He effectively asked me what time it is only to have me explain how to build a clock. I maintain it all needed saying however – I planted some idea seeds. Hopefully these will grow.
Next time he asks I can just direct him to my blog!