Thursday, April 21, 2016

Crazy Women and Simple Men

“Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”
― George Carlin

            We are living in a world that is becoming increasingly hipster – I mean, increasingly accepting of the emotions and gender transition of males and females. Women can be tough as nails and men can be expressive and passive. It may not be completely okay to everyone, but it’s a growing trend. Regardless of this, I think that what I’ve been taught growing up (listening to mostly males) is still what most people believe: women are emotional, and men are not. Women don't know how to control their emotions, and men do. Women are crazy and irrational. Men are logical. Women live by how they feel. Men live by what they think.

            Quite honestly, as a woman, I feel insane half of the time. When I get emotional, I hardly understand why or what the heck is going on. I don’t even both understanding other women, because it’s really not worth the effort. And I do pity men for putting up with us. Though, we definitely put up with them too. Women are perplexed by how simple and oblivious guys can be, and wonder if they actually use their brain to think or is it just empty all of the time?

            Because I am just a curious person, I put way too much time and effort to answer such an important life question: are women crazy, and are men simple? I thought I’d answer this question by describing the thing we blame most for our differences – hormones.

“A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction.”
― Oscar Wilde


“See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.”
― Robin Williams

            Men are so much easier to describe hormonally, so I’ll start with them first. Men have ten times more testosterone than women, but they also have estrogen and progesterone in much smaller amounts than women. Testosterone is the main hormone that affects men, and nearly every behavior and mood they have can be attributed to the level of it.


            Psychotherapist Jed Diamond says that a man’s T-level goes up and down four or five times an hour. On a daily cycle, men start with a high T-level in the morning, and it gets lower throughout the day until reaching a low point at night, which isn’t actually that low. Each man has a monthly hormonal cycle that is unique to him, unlike women who all experience more of the same hormonal, mood, and energy changes. Men can figure out their monthly cycle by tracking their moods. There is evidence for seasonal cycles, “with testosterone higher in November and lower in April,” but Popular Science says, “If these rhythms are real, they might have to do with sun exposure, summer workouts, or winter weight-gain.”

How Cycles Affect Men

            On the Hormone Horoscope, Gabrielle Lichterman explains the daily cycle of men. In the morning, when a man’s T-level is at its highest, men are at their “most energetic, talkative, aggressive, focused, competitive, independent, impulsive and confident.” Explains so much to me about why men like working out in the morning, and taking advantage of the beginning of a day a lot more than women do. At this time, men “may be antsy or quick to anger,” and their “virility is at its peak.” In the middle of a man’s daily cycle, “he’s still upbeat, driven and focused, but not as quick to anger,” and “he’s more open to working with others.” By the end of the day, when his T-level is at its lowest, “he’s more passive, agreeable,” and “his libido hits its lowest point.”

            There you have it, men in a nutshell. Morning – high energy, high libido. Then it gradually lowers to night – lower energy and libido. This doesn’t mean they have no energy or libido, because with that much testosterone, they still have a lot. It’s just lower than in the morning. So simple.

            Interesting, Lichterman points out that a man’s T-level is also affected by what he does. She says:
“For instance, his testosterone level rises when he drinks alcohol or caffeine, sees an action movie, plays video games or competes in or anticipates a sports game or game of chess. His testosterone also rises when he simply watches his favorite team compete. While his testosterone stays high if his team wins, it plunges if his team loses, making him feel blue, cranky or lethargic.”

            So, a man can affect his T-level, and thus alter his mood and energy level.

How Varying Testosterone Levels Affect Men

            Men can go through hormonal imbalance just like women. Also, some men have naturally higher T-levels and some have lower T-levels. This affects a lot about their behavior, personality, and mood. In Leon Seltzer’s, Ph. D, two part article, “The Testosterone Curse,” he discusses the side effects of high T-levels. High-T males characteristically have a drive toward dominance, and they are linked with heroism, leadership, self-confidence, and extreme competitiveness.

            Their desire for dominance and competitiveness can be very useful in business and in sports, but it also comes at a great price for other aspects of their lives. High-T males have trouble cooperating with others, which includes cooperation in a relationship. Their need for dominance leads to problematic marriages, and less satisfaction within the marriage. They have difficulty seeing their partner as a true equal, which causes conflict. They are less likely to get married, and if they do, they are more likely to divorce.

            I think the worst quality of high-T males is that their “driving need to compete with others undermines the empathy, understanding, tolerance, and compassion necessary to sustain close, caring relationships.” Their high T levels blunt tender feelings so that they don’t really care about the feelings of others, “And unmoderated feelings such as lust, resentment, or rage can easily preempt the softer feelings of love, compassion, or forgiveness.” With the combination of high-T males being insensitive to a woman’s feelings, and the fact that they have a higher sexual appetite, they tend to objectify, demean, and exploit woman a lot more than lower-T males and with less remorse for it.

            If this all sounds a little scary, then an assumption would be that lower-T males are probably better people and would make better partners. But, low T levels comes with its own set of problems. Peak Testosterone states that instead of making men more passive and friendly, it makes them more prone to fight because they are experiencing more fear and irritation. The site infers that low-T males are like women with PMS. Their mood drops and they become more emotionally charged, which means they are quick to overreact to things. Low T levels also affect concentration, libido, confidence, and energy.

            Irritable Male Syndrome is also associated with low T levels. Diamond, who has researched IMS for forty years describes it “as a state of hypersensitivity, frustration, anxiety, and anger that occurs in males and is associated with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and loss of male identity.” With IMS, a man’s hormones are “out of whack,” which can happen in many ways. One is weight gain, because fat cells convert testosterone to estrogen, which is a normal process in the body, but with too many fat cells, there is an overabundance of estrogen. With more estrogen and less testosterone, men become more irritable and lose a sense of manly identity. IMS can be caused by a wide range of things, and manifests itself in many different ways, and low T levels are just one factor.

            Now, on to a more complicated subject.

“What would men be without women? Scarce, sir...mighty scarce.”
― Mark Twain


"Women give us solace, but if it were not for women we would never need solace."
- Don Herold

            You want to know why women are so complicated and emotional? You’re about to find out, and life will change in the way you view this wonderful, yet horribly complicated species – I mean, sex/gender. First, like men, women have three hormones, but they are most affected by estrogen, and then progesterone, and lastly testosterone. Women have a monthly cycle, in which the three hormones fluctuate in order to prepare the body for a pregnancy, and rid itself of its egg if no pregnancy occurs. I’m pretty sure the body gets mad whenever no pregnancy happens, which is why it reacts so violently and brutally. There are different phases of this monthly menstruation cycle, and a woman’s brain chemistry changes with each phase.

Cycles and How They Affect Women

            There are four phases of the menstrual cycle, which are affected by different levels of the three hormones. A typical cycle is 24-35 days, but averages as 28 for most women. It starts on the first day of one period and ends on the first day of the next one. On Hormone Horoscope, Lichterman examines the typical hormone fluctuation for a 28 day period. Not every woman will have these hormones fluctuating in this same exact way and on the same days, but it will be very similar for any woman who is not on birth control or experiencing hormone imbalance.

            At the start of the cycle, all three hormones are at their lowest point. During the first seven days, estrogen begins to rise. After the achy and fatigued part of the period, “this rise in estrogen will be boosting your energy, mood, optimism and brain skills.” It also pushes women to want to connect more socially and romantically.

            On days 8-14, estrogen and testosterone rise until they peak on the 14th day. The continued rise in estrogen will enhance all the positive effects experienced in the first week. Lichterman says, “you’re likely to be more upbeat, optimistic, chattier and confident, plus have a sharper memory, be thinking faster on your feet and pondering romance far more frequently.” High E levels not only boost a woman’s attractiveness, but also make them more self-assured about their appearance. It also “triggers a greater output of pain-masking endorphins in the brain.” The downside to a high E level is that it raises anxiety, and makes women more prone to stress. Testosterone starts rising during the last part of the week, and makes women “more impulsive, daring and competitive,” with a “sharp spike in your libido.” The spike in libido happens on the day of ovulation, which is day 14.

            After ovulation, on days 15-22 the most craziness happens with the hormones, “Progesterone rises; estrogen and testosterone drop for half the week, then estrogen rises again.” Lichterman calls the first half of this week “pre-PMS,” because the symptoms are similar, but less intense. Due to a plunge in estrogen, women tend to become irritable, fatigued, and sad. Mood levels out in the second half of the week when estrogen starts rising again. During this week, progesterone plays a key role, because as it rises, it can make women “sleepy, quiet, less interested in socializing and more cautious,” which makes sense since this hormone has a big role in pregnancy. A rise in this hormone lowers libido, and increases the desire for comfort food.

            The dreaded last week of the cycle, as every woman knows, is when PMS symptoms can get triggered due to plunging estrogen (progesterone is plunging too). “Moodiness, the blues, muscle aches, insomnia, headaches, fatigue,” and many other symptoms can pop up. It’s such an emotional time. I’m not alone when I say that this is the time I start crying over sad animal commercials and dropped chocolate, and then understand why I’ve been so emotional once my period begins very shortly after. Lichterman explains, “As estrogen plunges, it depletes your brain of mood-boosting chemicals, leading to irritability and negativity.” It’s just all an emotional mess during this week. Not every woman suffers from PMS symptoms, and mildness and severity of them can change from month to month “due to diet, stress, medications, exercise habits or your body’s personal sensitivity to hormones.” Libido returns this week, but interestingly researchers believe it isn’t because of hormones, but instead “because nerve endings down below get stimulated as your body prepares for menstruation.”

            I would like to note, that unlike men’s hormone cycle, women can’t boost, change, or alter their hormone levels naturally the way men can affect their testosterone levels. Women can do things to boost mood, which affects chemicals in the brain, but not the hormones. That’s why women eat a lot of chocolate during this last week, because it releases endorphins which are brain mood boosters. When a woman is moody, just give her chocolate, and then probably back away.

Phases and How They Affect Women

            Oh, but there’s more complexities to a woman’s monthly cycle. Not only do women have fluctuating hormones, they also experience different phases. In Alisa Vitti’s Ted Talk, “Loving your lady parts as a path to success, power & global change,” she briefly discusses how these different phases can be utilized by women. She also says that because of the change in brain chemistry that is happening with each phase, it’s like being a different person every week (which is why men have trouble understanding women, because men are pretty much the same person every day – biologically speaking).

            First, there’s the menstrual phase, which happens on days 1-5 of a typical 28 day period. This is the beginning of the period when the bleeding occurs. Vitti says that during this phase there is the “most conversation between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere of the brain.” It’s a good time for self-evaluation and self-reflection.

            The Follicular phase overlaps the menstrual phase, and occurs days 1-13. During the last five days of this phase, and on ovulation day, are when a woman is most likely to get pregnant. Vitti says that during this time, “you have the most access to creative energy that you will have the entire month.”

            The ovulation phase occurs on the 14th day, and though it may not last long, I personally think it’s the best day of the cycle because of the great energy boost. Vitti says women have “the best communication skills and the most energy that we're going to have all month.”

            Luteal is the last and longest phase, lasting from day 15 to the end of the cycle. Though, WebMD says it can start anywhere from day 7 to day 22 of a normal menstrual cycle. It normally lasts 13 to 15 days. This is also considered the “premenstrual” period, which is when prePMS and actual PMS occur. Though possibly the most emotional time of the cycle, Vitti says that “we become very detail orientated,” which she suggests is a good time to organize things. I would add that women can become borderline obsessive during this phase, which is why we’ll fixate on certain tasks, but if used properly, can probably accomplish a lot.

"Women aren't confusing. They're a Sudoku-Jenga-puzzle surrounded by Rubix cubes strapped to a terrorist screaming at you in another language."
- Mike Vanatta


“Sigmund Freud once said, ‘What do women want?’ The only thing I have learned in fifty-two years is that women want men to stop asking dumb questions like that.” 
- Bill Cosby

            It seems like there is justification and truth to the age-old saying, “Women can’t control their emotions and men can.” A woman’s hormones affect her, and she has to adjust to them. A man is primarily only affected by one hormone, which he has some control over, aside from cases of hormone imbalance. So, yes, women to a degree can’t control their emotions. Our fluctuating hormones make us moody. Our emotions drive us crazy. Feelings just start popping up, and we don’t even understand why we feel the way we do most of the time. And yes, men do have more control over their emotions, because they can affect their testosterone levels by watching sports, drinking, hanging out with other men, etc. Also, at its very simplest, the main way that testosterone affects men on a daily basis is by changing their energy and libido, not their emotions. 

            Biology isn't the only thing that affects us, and the role society plays shouldn’t be ignored. Boys are taught from a young age to suppress their emotions, and hiding emotions isn’t the same as control. Though a man may not burst into tears, feelings come out one way or another, and the most culturally acceptable way men let out their emotions is through aggression and anger. Many studies have revealed that men even experience depression different from women, because instead of letting out their sadness, they tend to become angry and frustrated. Sadly, because they have less of an ability to cope with their emotions than women, depressed men have a higher suicide rate than depressed women.

            As for women, because we are so much more in tune with our emotions, we learn how to exercise a different kind of control, what I call “going with the flow” control. This is something I see in nearly every emotionally mature woman (rarely in teens) – women can know and understand that they want to cry for no reason, or are irritable for no reason, let the feeling out, and then move on when it’s over. Men think controlling emotions means keeping them inside. Emotionally mature women understand that it means letting them out without letting them consume you.

            Well, I have now officially spent way too much time confirming through science and culture what everyone already knows. Women are crazy and men are stupid – I mean, simple.

p.s. Creating those post was more fun that it should’ve been. Hormones are interesting.

"The problem with life is, by the time you can read women like a book, your library card has expired."
- Milton Berle


1 comment:

  1. I knew there was such a thing as a Man-Period. For men, it would also be interesting if they were able to test morning people and night people side by side and see if instead of high-T in the morning, if it would be at night? And that is good that men can manipulate their hormone levels. It must suck to be a women in that respect. You're almost at the mercy of your hormones. But then again, maybe that's why women tend to be more composed than men, they've learned to have self-control in the midst of extreme difficulties.