Men, talk among yourselves

One woman asks the question: Are men boring? (Well, are they?)

Published June 13, 2008 1:30PM (EDT)

Are men boring? Think before you answer that question.

According to Sabine Durrant, writing amusingly for Intelligent Life magazine: "A straw poll among friends and relations would suggest the contention is so irrefutable that evidence is barely necessary." She goes on to quote one Esme, 38, who just had a long-awaited date night with her husband, scarce since the birth of their child, and could barely engage him in conversation. Says Esme: "If I'd been with you or another girlfriend, we'd have been gabbling away 19 to the dozen." (Whatever that means -- something British for talking a lot, I guess.)

Various other women are quoted in the piece (which is definitely worth a read), and the general consensus seems to be that men are less adept at small talk or conversing in social settings, a theory confirmed by none other than Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at Cambridge (and, incidentally, cousin of the presumably not boring Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Borat), who has argued that "the female brain is primarily wired for empathy and the male brain for understanding and building systems." Which would seem to point to the idea that men in general are not inherently boring but perhaps less apt to notice when they are boring others.

I'm inclined, as always, to go with my favorite philosopher, Morrissey, on this one, who sang memorably: "The world is full of crashing bores." Truly fascinating people, male or female, are few and far between, and everyone has the capacity to be soul-crushingly boring on occasion. Perhaps everyday life is more boring than it used to be. People constantly on their BlackBerries and e-mail accounts, texting furiously back and forth about bits of meaningless minutiae not even important enough to warrant a spoken conversation hardly make for scintillating company; we sit all day at our computers with a world of information at our fingertips and we retain none of it. Everyone could stand to make a little more effort, which seems to be the conclusion Durrant reaches here:

"'The most boring thing,' I airily said to the psychotherapist Jock Encombe, 'is arrogance, isn't it?'

"'And what,' he replied, 'could be more arrogant than accusing other people of being boring?'"

That, I believe, is a solid touché. As for me, I'm coming armed to my next dinner party with a variety of topics, sure to fascinate men and women alike: literature, time travel, the socioeconomic effects of the Russian Revolution, peak oil. With just a little bit of effort, I can bore the pants off everyone.

By Rachel Shukert

Rachel Shukert is the author of Everything is Going To Be Great and Have You No Shame. Her YA series Starstruck is forthcoming from Random House in the spring of 2013. She lives in New York City.

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