…and the battle of two male egos.
I went to a garden party. There were people I knew and people I didn’t know. I sat at a table with strangers
–a man, his attractive wife and also a man I’ve seen in passing. Daniel was there too. He made a beeline to my table…not because I was sitting there but because he noticed the attractive married woman sitting across from me. The men were in conversation. Daniel, wanting to impress the woman with his intelligence and wit, anchored himself into the conversation. Pretty quickly, the conversation turned into a battle of egos between Daniel and the one other man, not the husband. If I had a recorder, it would have been a great record of runaway egos.
Later in the week when Daniel and I had our weekly conversation, the topic of the party came up. Daniel brought up the battle of the egos. After the fact, he was aware of his behavior at the party. However, in the moment, it seemed to me he was caught by a primal male instinct. To be the smartest male…the one that a woman might want to go home with.
Daniel: “I wasn’t hitting on her. I wouldn’t go there, but at the same time, in all honesty, I found the woman attractive and I didn’t walk away. In fact, I stayed at the table and one of the reasons that I stayed was because of her–apart from the fact that I like the sound of my own voice…” (he laughs)
Daniel admitted to feeling more comfortable talking to women.
“If there’s a woman around, you kind of focus on her, the better looking, the…you know what I’m saying?” he semi-queried me.
Reflecting on this incident later, he recognized himself and the other man as two battling egos trying to impress an attractive woman.
Daniel: “I didn’t feel for one moment that he was listening to me and I sure as hell wasn’t listening to him.”
Me: “I had some opinions that I wanted to express–there wasn’t a bit of room between the two of you for me to get a word in.” (I don’t think the wife made a single comment either.) At one point, the husband said something. The only way that I got to say one thing was to interrupt the husband, to throw my voice into the mix.”
Daniel: “Ironically, him.”
Me: “He was the easiest one to interrupt before the two of you started up again. And I thought this is not good because men need to learn to listen! Women need to be included in the counsel of opinions, otherwise nothing will change! Everyone really needs to practice deep listening and hear the other.”
Daniel: “Yes, that was all ego. It was nothing about listening, honoring, nothing about acknowledging. And it wasn’t giving service and respect to what was being said.”
About the man who was engaging this battle of wits with him, Daniel said sarcastically “He’s the teacher…we’re all supposed to listen. Screw that. And I did the same thing. I’ve got a powerful intellect. Listen. I’ve done it my whole life.”
I remember too well those occasions when my ex-husband, as we were being served by an attractive waitress, would carry on a flirtation right in front of me. I used to say that he had one of those swiveling necks–whenever an attractive woman walked by his head would swivel to blatantly follow her while I was present. Once, we were talking to an attractive woman and he actually scooted in front of me to screen me out.
As I listened to this recording and recalled the party experience, I realized how entrenched and primal certain behaviors are. I wondered if Daniel would do this any differently today. Same circumstances–an attractive woman, a man of equal intellect to engage in a conversation. I think he would have to be super conscious to change this pattern of behavior…or perhaps too old and/or too tired to rise to the intellectual battle of egos. I can only wonder. While Daniel and I were hoping to focus on new ways of relating, we decided it was necessary to bring to light some of these unconscious patterns of how men and women relate. We can’t change anything if we aren’t aware or conscious of it. So, it seems that’s the first step. Awareness or naming it.