How to think like a man (when you’re a woman) – Susan Kietzman

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By Susan Kietzman

Because I grew up with two brothers and have three sons, I once had the ability to slip into the male mindset with some ease – mostly through conversation. When my brothers and I were wriggling our way through adolescence, we sometimes talked about our problems or whispered our confessions. I didn’t understand their refusal to keep their bedrooms free from dirty laundry, dust balls, and other detritus, but I did understand their frustrations, fears, and occasional sadness because their feelings were not unlike my own. ♥

We may not have been willing or able to admit our shortcomings to our teenaged friends, but we could safely utter them in the house. Like most siblings, we teased and put one another down. But the really personal stuff relayed in moments of emotional turmoil was in the vault.

My sons, too, were willing to share their feelings when they were young. They would burst through the front door at the end of their elementary school day, barely able to wait for the milk to be poured to tell me about a particularly delightful moment at recess. They would also, on other days, tell me about troubling occurrences, the existence of which I had already detected by the look on their faces. They were more circumspect about their feelings in high school, but I suspect, like my brothers and me, they turned to one another for support.

Fast forward some forty years from my childhood days with my brothers, and a good decade since my boys were all at home, and I find that my close association with the male psyche has faded considerably. I’m not completely in the dark, as I’ve been married to my husband for more than thirty years, and because my brothers and my boys occasionally do talk about what’s going on in their heads – but I am rusty. So when I decided to make one of the protagonists in my latest book, It Started in June, a thirty-year-old male, I had some homework to do.

Observation is an effective and fun research tool. While waiting in line at the coffee shop, I could not only see what various young men were up to – whether it was something requiring a laptop, a business meeting, or a relaxed social encounter – I could also listen to their conversations. And because men sometimes have a broken volume control switch, it’s not difficult to eavesdrop. I was interested in the content of their conversations, certainly; but I was more focused on how they were talking and the words they were using. Would my character sound like the guy with the computer; the kid recounting his hits at football practice; or the reserved dude with his mother, whose presence he was tolerating solely for her purchasing power?

I also paid closer attention to articles and books written in young male voices. A book about dating in the modern world informed me about the employment of various social media platforms when searching for romance, as well as what this thirty-year-old male was thinking about during his pursuit of the perfect partner. Radio and television also proved to be fertile ground for exploring the masculine mind. And because mothers talk about their sons, I was also able to tap into some illuminating information about young men out of the mouths of women.

My memories, too, shaped Bradley Hanover, Grace Trumbull’s twelve-years-younger colleague and lover in It Started in June. I’ve dated men this age. I’ve been in their apartments. I’ve hung out with their friends. Of course, technology breakthroughs have reshaped how we see and interact in the world. But the gears controlling societal expectations and motivations turn slowly. And messy bedrooms never go out of fashion.

Susan Kietzman writes contemporary American fiction. Her protagonists face every day challenges and issues, and make decisions that affect the direction and quality of their lives. Before dedicating all her writing time to fiction, she wrote in several other capacities – as newspaper reporter, corporate client wordsmith, and museum fundraiser. She also taught English and public speaking at two community colleges. It Started in June is her fifth novel. Her previous novels are Every Other Wednesday, The Summer Cottage, A Changing Marriage, and The Good Life.

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