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Two boys, overheard at Pottruck:

“You know how when you write on people’s walls, it shows up on your news feed?”


“So she wrote on my wall, right, but when I looked on her wall, she’d deleted it. That she’d written on mine.”

“That’s so weird. I don’t know what that means.”

Sounds like a conversation girls would have, doesn’t it? Girls get stuck with the reputation for over-analyzing Facebook posts, text messages and casual conversations.

That generalization has plenty of justifications: women are hard-wired to get more invested in relationships. Even in 2010, guys are still basically glorified Neanderthals.

I think all those excuses are just that: excuses. Boys think about girls just as obsessively as girls think about boys.

Because we aren’t comfortable with that truth, we compensate with narratives on TV and in movies that play up stereotypes, and we use biology as evidence even though we’re past the point of being solely influenced by our DNA.

Anthropology professor Claudia Valeggia, who teaches Sex and Human Nature, weighed in by e-mail: “No behavior can be said to be either purely innate or purely learned. Behavior is a result of an intricate dialogue back and forth, between our genetic make-up and the environment in which we grow and live.”

She added that women are usually more selective than men “when it comes to mate choice. As for other aspects of life (besides mating and reproducing), I am not sure there is evidence showing that women are, on average, more analytical than men.”

Okay, even the sluttiest of girls is pickier than the average boy. Valid. Proper baby-daddy selection is vital: you want your kid to have a good father, two present parents and attractive hair. When it comes to communication and interpretation, though, there’s no definitive proof of any biological difference between the genders.

Instead, there’s social pressure at work when we (unconsciously) act like our peers. A girl sees her friends poring over a text and she’ll devote that same attention to her own correspondence; a guy’s friends act like they could care less about wall posts, and he’s not going to reveal any concern. People are pretty simple: we do what we see.

“You do hear about other people and their experiences, so there’s a certain pressure,” said College junior Andrew Schlossberg.

The differences aren’t merely cognitive; they’re cultural. In entertainment, men and women are portrayed with deliberate, divisive iconography. The coolest guys in film, frankly, don’t give a damn. And boys in pop culture who think analytically about girls are generally boys who think too hard about everything.

It’s High Fidelity’s nerdy record-shop owner who compulsively catalogs his worst break-ups of all time. And when popular guys attempt to understand women, they’re typically clueless and have to seek advice from dorkier boys (see: Jordan Catalano having Brian write love letters to Angela in My So-Called Life). To any observant guy in the audience, the message is clear: the cooler he wants to be, the less interested he has to seem.

Maybe the male-dominated movie industry feels insecure about the “feminine” characteristics men have, so it overcompensates by perpetuating stereotypes. It’s like they think we’ll be fooled into believing art is imitating life and not the other way around. But I’m not buying it.

Girls don’t actually waste hours contemplating the hidden significance of text-message punctuation, and guys do invest a surprising amount of energy in thinking about Facebook posts. We’re not the extremes we see in film or what we pretend to be; we’re both somewhere in the middle.

Jessica Goldstein is a College junior from Berkeley Heights, N.J. Her e-mail address is Say Anything appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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