Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. This is not news to anyone. However, I recently spent 10-days traveling abroad with male coworkers, and what I found fascinating was how much I learned from intensive time spent with several members of the opposite sex. Here, the five lessons I learned from going on an all-boys (plus me) business trip.
I’ll Be Ready in 5 Actually Means 5, not 10
You know how often when a girlfriend says she’ll be “right back,” or “just five minutes,” there is an unspoken mutual understanding that those words translate into 30 minutes? It is not that way with men. I learned this one of the first nights on the trip, when, after an excruciatingly long drive after an excruciatingly long redeye, we finally made it to the hotel and the guys said they would be “right down” to the restaurant for a drink and bite after dropping their bags in the rooms. I, naturally, took that to mean I had time to unpack, freshen up a little, check email for a second and generally procrastinate while I imagined them doing the same in their rooms. By the time I came downstairs, they were on their second drinks, politely waiting for me to order food despite the fact they were all starving. I was horrified and apologized profusely. Lesson no. 1 learned early and fast: Men’s references to time are exact, not buffered by a grace period of 10 minutes or more. Revolutionary.
Oversensitivity Is Not Welcome
Most women can be oversensitive at times, and I’m no exception. That fact can be tough in everyday life, let alone when on a business trip with several guys, all trying to balance the requirements of work while traveling abroad and generally being “on” 24/7. What I discovered is that there is no room for taking things personally, especially when they likely weren’t meant to be taken that way in the first place. What woman among us has not been on a girls’ trip in which—in the midst of all the fun—feelings were hurt, misunderstandings happened and perhaps even a tear or two were shed. This is not all to paint women as hysterical human beings, which I certainly don’t think we are, but there’s no denying women tend to take things to heart more than men do. Several days of being surrounded by only men, men’s senses of humor and men’s way of speaking to each other and me, made my skin a little tougher. My skin already has a pretty impressive armor around it as a result of being raised in a house of brothers, but still, 10 days with several dudes? I’m like Teflon now. I found that when I was feeling oversensitive and a casually made comment hit close to home, it was best to just take a five-minute breather and remind myself that men are often far less careful with their words than women. And therefore I should care far less about what those words were. Men’s way of communicating lacks subtext, which—after you get used to it—is kind of refreshing.
Throw Your Gluten-, Sugar-, Whatever-Free Diet Out the Window
I went on the trip with the best intentions of eating well and carefully. I even stayed gluten free for the first few days (a new way of eating for me that I was already finding difficult even before I boarded the flight). By approximately day three, maybe four, I realized I was slowly losing the battle to stay healthy and cognizant of every bite of food that passed my lips. Partly because we drove several hours at a time, and road-trip pit stops at gas stations—especially in the remote foreign country we were in—are extraordinarily difficult to make healthy. Partly because I didn’t want to be the high maintenance one always asking to amend dishes, have sauces on the side or looking for something “better” and “ healthier.” But mostly it was because when a man kindly offers you gummy bears, popcorn, cookies, a French fry or any other delicious treat, it is extraordinarily difficult to say no over and over for 10 straight days. If you can, you’re a better woman than I.
Costume Changes Not Welcome; Getting Ready In a Jiffy Is
After long workdays all I wanted to do each night was change before dinner, but men, as we all know, barely need to freshen up to look good. Sometimes we had five minutes in our rooms before we had to head off to dinner, and I swear each night at least half the guys used that time to shower and come downstairs looking impossibly fresh. After piling on makeup to make myself look human again and generally twisting, pulling and arranging my hair in any form possible to make it acceptable for the public, I would emerge from my room looking like something the cat wouldn’t even bother to drag in. No time to change. No time to shower. No time to care about it. Spending 10 days with men is like an exercise in abandoning vanity. It’s good for the soul. Less good for your Instagram feed.
Conflict Can Be Healthy, As Long As You Learn to Let Go—Fast
It is difficult to spend all your meals and days with anyone and not have a tiff or two, give a snippy response here and there or even have a full-blown fight. What I found to be both refreshing and disarming was if I had any of the above with the guys, it was over as quickly as it began. I was tempted to hold on to my hurt feelings, annoyance or whatever it was. Not them. They were past it almost instantly and expected me to be too. By day four or so, I learned that letting things go was the only way I was going to make it through the trip, and I quickly realized how nice it was to be able to disagree and then promptly let it go and move on. We argued because— more often than not—it was a subject we were both passionate about (remember we were on a business trip, so we were actually working throughout all of this). Most of the time, we were laughing about whatever the argument was by the next day. It gave me a new, healthy way to approach conflict that has extended to my everyday life now that I’m back home, with all the time in the world to get ready as I contemplate my next gluten-free meal.