Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Incapable of Multi-Tasking

My friend emailed me today in a dead panic because the guy she’s dating hadn’t replied to a text message she sent last night at 9:30. They’ve only been seeing each other for about six weeks, so things are still in that sticky, undefined phase. She was certain she had become the victim of a blow-off.

I told her to take a breath and explain the circumstances to me.

Apparently the guy had a very important project to finish up. Aha! That simply meant he was toiling away—not ignoring her. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk to her, he was just incapable of doing so. Why? Because he’s a man. And men can’t multi-task.

A different friend proposed this theory to me last fall and I loved it.

Men are hunters—they have to focus on one thing at a time. Women are gatherers—they have to carry around their crying kid, while boiling water, collecting berries and picking up the dry cleaning. We are evolutionarily predisposed to juggle. Men are not.

Those sweet little man brains aren't built to think about us as much as we think about them. They have to focus on other things, or they’ll never get anything done. We, on the other hand, can keep our new crushes in the back of our minds all day while we draw up business plans, listen to our ipods, chew gum and shoe shop (all at the same time).

I told my panicked friend to distract herself. He’d text back eventually. In the meantime, read a book (or a blog), chat with a girlfriend, go to a movie.

Now that I think of it, maybe that’s the real reason we’re good at multi-tasking—because we have to occupy our overactive imaginations and keep ourselves distracted so we’re not devoting every joule of our energy to wondering whyohwhy he hasn’t returned our text message (it’s been 16 hours!).

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