Last week at a dinner party, a friend asked what jobs we had when we were in high school and college. One woman, a psychotherapist, related that she was a sales girl in a department store.

“I loved that job,” she said, a smile lighting up her pretty features. “I’ve always had an interest in fashion; so when I was assigned to the clothing department it was a treat.” She laughed. “But in my experience, waiting on women was a lot different from waiting on men.”

“How?” One of the men at the table asked.

Interestingly, all the women at the table smiled, like they all ready knew what to expect.

“Well, let’s say a woman came in looking for a sweater. She had dozens of questions regarding color, weight, texture, type of wool, design features… Finally, after a major discussion on changing styles, that might challenge Yves St. Laurent, she’d sigh and say, ‘I’ll think about it’.

“Men on the other hand were a riot. One nice looking guy, maybe forty, came in and said, ‘I’d like a sweater’.

“What kind?”

“A sweater.”

“Wool? Cotton? Ribbed? Cashmere? Light? Heavy? Color? What’s it for? A special event?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

“Let me show you some sweaters,” I said, and led him to a table filled with dozens of winter sweaters. He looked at the first pile, picked up a sweater, unfolded it, held it up to his chest and nodded. “This will be great. Thanks. I appreciate your help.”

“As I was writing up the sale, he said, ‘What do ya think about the Eagles chances against the Forty-Niners?’

“Huh”, I said.

“You know, the Eagles?”

“The baseball team?”

“He stared at me for a few moments and then with a smile said, ‘The sweater is really nice, thanks’.”

“Thank you!” I said, and waved goodbye.

If you enjoy being Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, and Skin Dance, a mystery. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

5 thoughts on “OTHER THAN ANATOMY, ARE MEN AND WOMEN REALLY DIFFERENT? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. It is impossible to disengage genetic predilection. The cascade of biochemical events largely a function of chromosomal structure modulate, stimulate, or sedate–outside of disease–all human behavior. Man and women ARE fundamentally different. From one MD to another, seriously?


  2. There must be something wrong with me, because I like shopping for clothes about as much as I like being caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella.

    I do almost all of my clothes shopping online. I have one website, in particular, that is my favorite, because I know their clothes will fit and look good. Well, okay … it’s a pretty comprehensive website (http://www.onestopplus.com), and a person could easily spend hours looking through it. My habit is to comb through all the possibilities, find some that catch my eye, check out everything, including size, fabric, color choices, etc., think about them, then decide to pass on everything. I might go back a few days later, especially if something I looked at has been eating at my brain until I feel I absolutely have to have it, or I might never look at any of the items again.

    I guess I’m a pretty typical female, after all.


  3. I am a woman who, despite being otherwise typically “feminine,” hates shopping for clothes. Rather than follow fashion trends, I tend to buy classic styles that are comfortable and made of easy-to-care-for fabrics. I rarely try clothes on in the store, although this can be problematic because, depending on the label, I might take a size 8, 10, or even 12 in pants. Why can’t they just stick to small, medium, and large?

    I worked in a women’s retail clothing store for a few years, so I know how picky women can be. We had one customer who would try on every size 12 we had of the same pair of pants because, depending on where in the stack the fabric is when cut, the same size can vary infinitesimally. I thus appreciated the male customers who would come in to purchase a gift. They would point to a display and say, “I’d like to buy that.” The display would, of course, be a complete outfit with an array of accessories. When I would ask, “What item is it that you want?” the male customer would most often reply, “All of them.” When questioned about the size of the intended recipient, male customers, almost without exception, would reply, “Well, she’s about your size, but…” and then add a few qualifications such as shorter, bustier, etc. This was their response regardless of which salesperson was serving them. Most often the female recipient would later return to exchange sizes or even the entire outfit. Usually she would have to exchange for a larger size, and she would be pleased that the man had underestimated her size. If, however, he had chosen a size larger than hers, she would be very upset. (This was rare, thankfully.)

    Currently I work in a bookstore, and the difference between what men read and what women read is vast. Women tend to buy more books overall, and will read both fiction and nonfiction, with a tendency to read fiction more often. Men buy fewer books in general, and although they like certain genres such as sci-fi and action/adventure, they tend to be eschew more general fiction. Their nonfiction choices tend toward history, business, and science, whereas women are more drawn to biography. I have yet to meet a male customer who tells me he is reading a particular book for a book club, although women often belong to such groups. This is not to say that there is not a great deal of overlap between the genders when it comes to individuals, but rather that there do seem to exist general tendencies between male and female reader tastes in reading.

    I’d also like to mention fMRI studies comparing the male and female brain while performing the same task. Generally speaking, it seems that a woman performing a task will have more areas of the brain light up in an fMRI than a man performing the same task. It would appear that for men, function is more localized. This may be why women tend to recover skills lost via stroke more quickly than do men.

    Finally, what about transgendered individuals? The men I know who have undergone gender reassignment surgery certainly seem to think more like my female friends than my male friends. On the other hand, I once met a young man who showed me some poetry he had written. The poems were quite good, but I told him that if I hadn’t met the author, I would have thought they had been written by a woman. To my chagrin, he told me that he was born a woman. How do we make such judgments about gender when it comes to “voice?” Tragically, I later heard that he had committed suicide, feeling that the gender reassignment had not rendered him any happier. I have read that gender reassignment is more common and generally more successful (inasmuch as the individual is happier with the change) for men who become women than for women who become men. Is the screening process more rigorous, or is it because women are more likely to accept a transgendered male as a female friend than men are to accept a transgendered female as a male friend? If anybody can throw some light on this, I’d be happy to know.


  4. To find out if men and women are really different we must go beyond our species for an unbiased opinion.
    OK, that wasn’t as easy as I thought.
    Apparently if the government is to be believed, aliens have not yet discovered Earth.
    So I tried the local pet store, and checked in with some cute puppies and a few interesting kittens. They seemed pretty neutral by their body language. They apparently love everyone which in a way makes them aliens of a sort.

    “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings” ….I said to myself, why not ask a few kids as they’re not men and women yet. That was an exercise in futility. They looked at me like I was an alien because I wasn’t intensely focused on anything electronic at the time.

    I then had a brilliant “AHA” moment. I should seek a opinion from a Resident Alien. If the government is correct in their description of a non-citizen living here, I would have a multiple opportunities to bring you accurate data.

    I’m working feverishly on this every time I get a day release pass from the clinic!

    P.S. It is a serious question, so please forgive my light hearted approach.
    My best to you Art.


  5. Art,

    I don’t know if I’m typical or different from most guys, but I’ve always hated to waste time shopping for clothes. If I need something, I have a general idea in mind ahead of time and get something “acceptable” to get it over with. Now if I’m shopping for electronics, that’s a different story. I’ll go down a list of specs I’m looking for with the salesperson to make sure it meets or almost meets the specs. Regarding football, I always have time to talk football. If it’s basketball, my wife loves the Lakers.


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