By Michael Seabaugh
“Why is thinking something women never do? And why is logic
never even tried? Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?” These much
beloved lyrics are from Alan Jay Lerner’s My Fair Lady, which poses
the immortal question: “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Two
weeks ago I penned a column on the male mind, wondering if it ever
really changes from its halcyon days of adolescence.
Always striving to be fair, I have decided to tackle a parallel
exploration of the female mind. Although I am a professional in the
venue of the mind, I know from prior experience that whenever I
venture into the mysterious realm of the female psyche, I am
treading on very thin ice.
I decided not to rely on my own experience about this subject
and to ask my female “advisers” insight on the workings of the
female mind and how it evolves with age. Mostly I received positive
responses. Many echoed Ann, who wrote: “I think more and more
kindly of myself, warts and all. I enjoy being able to be more open
and loving to everyone, without worrying about their reactions to
Rose got a bit more down and dirty about the subject. She had
one word to capture the evolution of her female mind: vibrator.
“Didn’t discover this little wonder ’til a few years ago when it
seemed like my husband and I somehow switched places — he’s the one
who’s too tired or has a headache. I’m even beginning to learn the
male skill of fantasizing about taboo other men. There is an
unleashed quality to aging that is very pleasant.
Carolyn would agree, but her tool of choice is not a vibrator
but a chainsaw. She is challenging herself by developing a
homestead in the wildness of the Canadian north, and intends to
chop up the 1,500-foot-tall birch trees herself for firewood. “I
could hire to get that done, but hell no, I want to do it myself.
It contributes to a wonderful, renewed sense of
independence — something, by the way, that is not at the expense of
my sense of myself as feminine or my relationship with my adorable
husband.” My female correspondents consistently reported this sense
of greater freedom to assert themselves, to “be impatient with
phony people with agendas and eliminate finally toxic people from
my life” (said Margo) or to rediscover the “buried crazy,
irreverent, nutso bits of me I used to love” (said Kathy). What
many women see as a greater mental freedom to be their own person,
men have reported to me as “demanding,” more confrontational, and
generally less appealing.
I asked Dr. Barry Miller, training analyst at the Los Angeles
Jung Institute, about this. He pointed out that women’s minds,
after midlife, often can become seized by the “masculine,” just as
the male mind can be overtaken by the feminine. He said: “For both,
this psychological condition is one where their inferior aspects
take over and dominate the personality … Men can become maudlin and
sentimental while women can become oppressive and controlling.”
As you can imagine, this scenario rarely results in harmony
between the sexes. What needs to happen is for both men and women
to integrate their “opposite-sex mind” into an internal harmony. It
is an essential psychological task of the second half of life.
But I can’t let a couple of male psychologists have the last
word on this subject. I will give that to Pam Taveggia, one of the
first female minds that captured my attention back in the day,
during moonlit nights on the banks of the mighty Mississippi.
According to Pam, who contacted me by email, many things have
changed for her since then. For one, she has had to adjust to the
fact that she no longer stops traffic whenever she has a flat tire
(she now calls AAA). But she reports that three things have never
changed for her: “Do I want sex? Yes. Do I want chocolate? Yes! Do
I want love? YES!”
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical psychologist
with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at
email@example.com and visit his Web site/blog at www.HealthspanWeb.com for more
information on the topics covered in this column.