Tuesday 20 August 2019

Liz Kearney: 'Men better at reading maps? Oh, get lost...'


'Most of the men of my acquaintance are no better at map-reading than I am – they’re just utterly unable to admit they don’t know where they’re going.' Stock photo
'Most of the men of my acquaintance are no better at map-reading than I am – they’re just utterly unable to admit they don’t know where they’re going.' Stock photo
Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney

I can think of few things guaranteed to disrupt marital harmony as quickly as one party's inability to read a map, a trait which usually manifests itself as you're whizzing down a European motorway at 130kmh trying to find your holiday destination with two screaming children in the back seat.

So I was interested to read neuroscientist Gina Rippon's take on men, women and our respective map-reading abilities this week.

Gina works as a professor of cognitive neuro-imaging - fancy! - and delivered a lecture at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales where she said the accepted wisdom men are better map readers holds water. But, she says, this is mainly because they play with lots of Lego growing up, not Barbies, so have spent years honing spatial awareness skills.

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I'm left wondering how thoroughly she tested the abilities of any of these so-called superior map-readers, or did she rely on their own versions of events? Because I may not know much about cognitive neuro-imaging, but I'm pretty familiar with the art of male self-deception.

Most of the men of my acquaintance are no better at map-reading than I am - they're just utterly unable to admit they don't know where they're going.

I once asked an exceptionally directionally-challenged friend, a man capable of going missing in his own back garden, why he never, ever asked for help. "Because," he replied smugly, "I never get lost in the first place."

When I first met my husband, he displayed similar confidence in his abilities, and it took me a little while to realise this too was misplaced.

On our first holiday abroad, I trusted him when, guidebook in hand, he confidently announced the restaurant we were looking for was just down the end of a particular sidestreet.

Two hours later, as we traipsed through the dodgiest part of Florence in the pitch dark, horribly lost, he was still insisting the restaurant was "just another block away". He kept this up right until the moment we turned a corner to find a dead end and the river blocking our way.

More than a decade later, I have a treasure trove of heartwarming holiday memories of getting lost all over Europe, including a 30-mile detour through empty vineyards after a missed turn in the south of France, and the spectacular moment we got our hire car wedged between the ancient church and town hall at the top of a tiny medieval mountaintop village in Spain, unable to move backwards or forwards.

It's not just holidays: I can't even think about the time we went to the maze at Russborough House without breaking out into a cold sweat. Of course, he insists we were never really lost. We were just taking the scenic route...

New job, new baby on way - what do you do?

I SUSPECT there are many women out there who can empathise with Marie Sherlock, the councillor who has revealed she hid her pregnancy during canvassing.

Marie, who's just won her seat on Dublin City Council, said she didn't want anyone thinking there would be no work done in the constituency for six months, so she wore baggy clothes while campaigning.

Anyone who has ever applied for a new job while either pregnant or considering getting pregnant will know what a headache it all is.

Do you tell the interviewers, even if you're only a few months along? Is it ethically OK to apply in the first place if you even think you might be?

I've lost count of the number of women who've told me they are delaying starting a family because they want to apply for a job or have just taken up a new post. It's high risk, particularly for older women.

So well done to Marie for bringing the conversation out in the open. It's something we need to talk about.

Irish Independent

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