Ten Things Men Keep Quiet
He’s Keeping Secrets From Us—But Not Necessarily What We Think (Or Fear)! One Man Braves His Peers To Give Us The Lowdown.
By Ron S. Doyle
I was kicked out of the Man Club three days ago, via anonymous email, because I announced that I’m revealing secrets men keep to a popular women’s magazine. The man who wrote the email got right to the point: “You’re an effing traitor, man.” Needless to say, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for me.
While I fit some stereotypical “man” traits (I pee standing up and think monkeys are hilarious) I’m also a writer—it’s in my blood to blab. Therefore, I don’t fully understand why some men keep so quiet.
Since I possess the wrong set of genitals to be a mind reader, I turned to men I’ve known since college, prodding them over several days while we wrenched on bikes, drank homemade beer, and played shirtless volleyball in the park like a much-less-oily version of that scene from Top Gun. I‘d ask, “So, what do you keep secret from women?” They’d shrug and occasionally grunt.
I even interrogated inebriated strangers in a crowded bar during last call, hoping a dose of liquid courage would get them to share. I received plenty of threatening glances from my neighbors at the urinals, but very little information.
Finally, using the magical powers of the 21st century, I started bugging men on the internet. Stories slowly trickled in—and at the last moment, a few of my buddies gave up the goods. Frank, a 36-year-old network administrator in Fullerton, Calif. said, “When it comes to women, what you say can and will be held against you, so I reserve my right to be silent.” Most men, however, really opened up.
So, without further ado, here are ten things that men keep quiet. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent, embarrassed, and moderately cowardly.
1. When we’re feeling fat. Men avoid words like “bloated,“ but we worry as much as any woman about the width of our posterior (or the size of our chest). Dr. Douglas Steinbrech, a plastic surgeon in Manhattan, says men visit him for Botox, chin implants, and liposuction—but hide it from colleagues, wives and girlfriends. “Sometimes they hide it because of the cost, but usually they are just a little shy about it,” says Steinbrech. Men are taught that displays of insecurity or weakness, in any form, will hurt our image. The end result? We not only keep quiet when we‘ve had a manicure, but also when we have a miserable case of Montezuma’s Revenge or dislocated our shoulder ice skating on a date with you.
2. When we’re lost. Scientific research has knocked men off their smarty-pants pedestal—intellectually speaking, men and women are undeniable equals. In the Brain Olympics, however, science still awards men the gold medal for spatial reasoning. Yes, in map reading and assembling IKEA furniture, men are slightly better. Since we’re supposed to be good at navigation (and we’re viciously proud of it), many men stay quiet when they‘re lost. My buddy Jon, a 30-year-old auditor in Denver, says men keep quiet because, “We’re never lost. We’re just learning a new route. We’re studying street signs, landmarks, and minding the cardinal direction we’re heading. Keeping all this together is a strenuous exercise—engaging in a conversation would distract from the task.”
3. When we’re broke. Ken Solin, author of The Key to the Men’s Room: What Men Talk About When Women Aren’t Around, says men often connect their self worth to their net worth. Solin shared the story of one man who (despite being a good husband, father, and all-around nice guy), felt like a complete failure in life when he lost his job to an outsourced employee. After generations of being judged by their wealth and status, some men still feel the need to buy flashy cars, drink expensive Scotch, and hide negative balances on their bank statements.
4. When we’re dating someone else. Truthfully, men don’t talk about current or past relationships because we don’t want to make you feel insecure. George, a marketing executive in Toronto, says, “I hate it when my wife asks me about my previous girlfriends, especially about what they were like in bed—and who was the best? That’s private between me and them, and I’m very uncomfortable talking about it. When I do say anything, she immediately becomes defensive and starts to trash-talk my previous girlfriends. The lesson? Keep my silence about previous women, and keep the peace.”
5. When we fantasize about celebs or flirt with other women. While I would have amputated my left arm for three minutes with Cindy Crawford in high school, the celebrity fantasy game played by many men doesn’t interest me. I flirt, however, with anything that moves. Why? Many men in relationships don’t consider friendly co-ed interaction as official flirting because there’s no intent (nor pressure) to convert the conversation into something more serious. Therefore, we keep quiet for two main reasons: 1) we didn’t recognize our behavior as flirting or 2) we know it hurts your feelings.
6. When we’re Googling you. Sorry ladies, not one man would admit to going online for info about a woman, unless they met the woman online. Mauricio, a real estate entrepreneur in Miami, admitted to snooping, but wouldn’t confess more. My buddy Fred (who sends emails from Europe like “Went paint balling in Slovenia today” or “The girls in the photos picked us up. Dutch women love Americans.”) says men only Google women because we’re “looking for naked pictures of you.” For men, however, Googling a woman is the Web 2.0 equivalent of looking in your medicine cabinet—or reading your diary—so believe me, it’s happening.
7. When women hurt our feelings. Boys do cry, but society tells us that it’s not okay, so many of us compensate by avoiding emotional situations altogether. When we can’t avoid being hurt, we cover our wounds quickly. Brandon, 34, says “My feelings don’t get hurt often, but when they do, it really hurts. I’d just as soon avoid that experience again. If I’m hurt and I don’t say anything, (women) can’t bring it up in the future to hurt me again. I’ve learned from that mistake.”
8. When we’re afraid you won’t commit. Some men are convinced that great women (who are actually interested in them) are a rare, endangered species. Any sudden moves and you’ll dart off into the rainforest, never to be seen again. Other times, men maintain a silent façade because they’re paralyzed by a past painful rejection. Solin told me about another man who was “unceremoniously dumped by a woman just before he asked her to marry.” The man shoved the pain deep into his psyche and swore he’d never get hurt again. Ironically, women see men in this holding pattern, and assume it’s because they don’t want to commit. Both sexes end up standing, staring, and going nowhere.
9. When we’re feeling really kinky. Men don’t think about sex every seven seconds—that’s a myth—except perhaps during a few terrifying weeks of puberty. But, when a man’s imagination does wander into the bedroom, it sometimes moves promptly back out of the bedroom, into the kitchen, inexplicably holds up a jar of mayonnaise and tells us to love you like a sandwich, whatever that means. Fred insists that the limits of his erotic imagination are “only confined by the law”—and that’s because he’s a law student—in Amsterdam. As Jon says, “I don’t share really kinky fantasies because I think she’ll think I’m weird. Not weird like vanilla flavoring in cola, but weird like she’ll get a 100-yard restraining order put on me.”
10. When we’re just not feeling it at all. A professional ballroom dancer (who asked to be called X) says “Every woman wants to feel like the royal shizzle in bed, but in reality one woman, the same one, will never complete a man’s hunger for great sex.“ While X’s sentiments may resonate with some men, many revealed that male libidos are far more complicated—we worry frequently that we can’t satisfy you, that we aren’t, ahem, “big” enough, or that you‘ll notice the cobwebs on our bedroom ceiling. The most common answer? Men keep quiet when we’re not in the mood because we know women do the same for us—believe it or not, we’re returning the favor.
So, why do we keep quiet? For the record, not all men keep quiet: my college buddy Justin, for example, is really terrible at keeping his mouth shut. His wife says she wishes he would keep quiet more often—especially regarding #1, #5, and #8.
In fact, most men told me that they keep quiet out of respect for women. Whether they’re hunting for your birthday on Facebook, daydreaming about Scarlet Johansson (or you in a tub of butterscotch pudding with Scarlet Johansson), dealing with painful memories of an ex, or measuring their manhood against Johnny Depp and Donald Trump, men shut their traps partially out of pride, but mostly to keep their relationships running smoothly.
Moreover, many women confirm that they keep quiet on these topics too, proving that we’re not so different after all. And that’s a good thing—since I’ve been kicked out of the Man Club, I’m wondering if the Woman’s Club is accepting applications.