Mind Matters: Men and their refrigerator woes

The inspiration for this week’s topic comes from a casual conversation about one of the difficulties of being a man; and for the women who live with them. A rather common male affliction shows up when the refrigerator door is opened. Lest I offend and alienate all masculine readers, I apologize in advance, as my observations are offered in good humor.

When a man looks into the refrigerator he apparently goes into a complete panic. He cannot see or find anything. The eggs might be 180-degrees in front of him but he just can’t see them. He might be endowed with a 200 IQ, be responsible for millions of dollars but the insides of a refrigerator paralyze him. We women get so annoyed!

I’m trying to put myself in his shoes because I believe that we lack understanding and compassion for the complete helplessness that wells up when men are faced with the confusing array of edibles in a refrigerator. My hypothesis is peppered with generalities but may have merit nevertheless.

Most of the women I know are not sufficiently afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder to have neat, well-organized refrigerators. For the most part, items either land on or are squeezed into whatever space will accommodate them. This does not make for orderliness. Women are accustomed to the probing, pushing and pulling that goes with child care so finding items among the cooling chaos is not a problem.

Most men on the other hand are left-brained and function best with diagrams, lists and order; not what one finds in an average refrigerator, especially after the holidays. They are squeamish about moving unlabeled foodstuffs around. Also leftover chicken, roast beef and veggies look different on a plate than they do in plastic baggies and containers. We women seldom stop to consider such details; we take our unique skills of recognition for granted. We shouldn’t belittle men just because they’re intimidated by refrigerators.

On a more serious note, the important issue is that men and women are different. We are not wired in the same ways so it makes sense that in some aspects of life we will not agree. Our strengths, weaknesses and talents are dissimilar. What this means is that for the sake of love we should learn to honor, even respect our incompatibilities. The refrigerator offers an excellent practice site. A sense of humor is tremendously helpful, as long as it is not used maliciously.

Parental differences provide our children with a more balanced view of the world. They witness and learn from the various ways mothers and fathers view situations and handle them. Imagine growing up in a family where both parents always agreed and could see the world in exactly the same way. The poor kids would be bored to death and wouldn’t know how to deal with the real world. They would have no experience on how to manage differing views or deal with conflict. How moms and dads address their refrigerator woes might just set a healthy positive example for the little ones.


Elinor Stanton is a psychiatric nurse practitioner on Marco Island. She has 30 years of experience as a therapist, in private practice and with a large health maintenance organization in Boston. She graduated from Boston College and University of Rochester, and is certified as a clinical specialist by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Elinor is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and is a certified Imago Relationship Therapist. She welcomes requests for professional assistance with a variety of troubling issues, including mood disorders, trauma, anxiety, panic and phobias as well as marital problems. Comments and questions are welcome and may be submitted by e-mail to: etseven@aol.com or telephone 394-2861.

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