Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ask Tom Tuesday: Are You Listening to Me?

Our question today comes from Elise over at ECWrites. Not only is her blog hilarious, but if it doesn't touch you once in a while, you should try out for the leading role in the next Grinch movie.

Elise asks:

Dear Tom,

Why do men only remember the last 30 seconds of what a woman says? Why isn't it 15 seconds or 60 seconds? What's so magical about 30?

Dear Elise,

Once again, we need look no further than evolution for this answer.

Deep down in the male brain, there is the “reptilian brain.” This area does important things, like reminding us to breathe, and also governs the “fight or flight” response. The “fight or flight” mechanism tells the rest of the body what to do and sends a surge of adrenaline that allows the man to perform to his maximum potential for a short time. All animals have this and it allows the specimen to survive potentially dangerous situations.

One level up from the reptilian part of the brain in men is what I like to call the “male buffer memory.” If you are familiar with computers, you know that buffer memory is easily and speedily accessed on a constant basis. Nothing stays there for long, however. For men, that buffer is thirty seconds. No one knows exactly why that time frame is so important, but it probably has something to do with the length of commercials. Not only can a man recall the last thirty seconds of what a woman has said without actually paying attention, we can also flip away from a football game when the commercial starts and go back to it just in the nick of time so as not to miss any action. This only becomes problematic when there is a series of commercials, but most of us can multiply single digits in our heads when concentrating.

If the male buffer memory becomes corrupted (by a nude scene on cable, for example), the fight or flight mechanisms kicks in. Because, as we all know, ignoring a woman (even if she is talking to us during the last two minutes of the SuperBowl) WILL lead to a fight IF the man cannot flee. Honestly, we would rather run than have a surprise argument.

Women have a similar ability, but it involves long term memory. I call it the “I still remember that time you were a jerk mechanism.” I have tried to come up with a shorter name, but women are complicated. In computer terms, this would be like like those old tape drives you see in 1960's movies. Get caught not paying attention to a woman and you WILL see lights flickering in her eyes and hear the hum of the spindles turning. She is accessing those files that show, in no uncertain terms, how the man was an idiot when she met him ten years ago and has not changed. He will not remember the incident, but she will...and in complete detail. It is important to note that a woman's ability to recall files stored deep in her memory is ONLY connected to the the fight response in her version of the reptilian brain.

We see from this that men are good at short term recall and women are good at long term recall. This, in turn, is exemplified by men forgetting birthdays and anniversaries while women forget that the football game we are watching is probably more important than anything they choose to say at that moment.

How should a woman communicate with a man? Have food handy (works with dogs too!). Entice us with a hot Italian cold cut sub. Brownies work, too. Remember to check your local listings to make sure nothing is on TV that might distract us. Like landing an airplane, it's all in the approach.

How should men communicate with women? Jewelry helps. Washing the dishes helps more. But you are never going to erase that tape in her head of the time you walked into a telephone pole while holding her hand because you were looking at a short skirt across the street. All you can hope to do is avoid giving her cause to access that memory.

“Yes, Dear.” used to diffuse “are you listening to me?” but women got wise to it thanks to Cosmopolitan. Nowadays, the phrase will only buy a few seconds to let the male buffer memory kick in because the next sentence out of her mouth WILL be: “Then what did I just say?”

Screw that one up, fellas, and get ready for a real reptilian fight that Godzilla would run from.

I hope that helps,

Disclaimer:  The views expressed above DO represent those of the owners of this site.  Wait....what did he say?


  1. LOL I have yet to run into a telephone pole and remember everything, sadly, so I'm good. The disclaimer was great too..haha

  2. This is sooo epic! Made me laugh out loud. Great answer :0)

  3. Oh, so that's why!!

    (Repeated--in case you forgot.)

  4. Very funny! In total agreement about;
    “Yes, Dear.” used to diffuse “are you listening to me?” I never use that anymore.

    My go to answer is now, "I understand." Throw this one out there, interspersed with some; "go on,"'s and "really?"'s and you have AT LEAST 10 min of pure not listening delight before she catches you.By that time the commercial is back on and you can really listen.

  5. Wow! Thanks for clearing that 30 sec thing right up, in a very funny way! Sheesh! My husband now employes the no response reply. Exasperatingly, I'll say "Did you hear anything I just said?" And, dang it, he'll repeat it back to me, word for word (the last 30 seconds worth anyway!) He's lucky, 'cause now I'm getting to the age where I forget what I just said.

    At least now I know the term "male buffer memory" and I'm going to use it!