The difference between male and female patients

It’s never so obvious to me that there’s a big essential difference between men and women as when we take a family trip to Target.

First, when you’re holding a small baby or even an older baby or even a preschooler, you get a lot of attention. People love to look at small babies. And by “people,” I mean “women” only. When I walk around with the baby, women are constantly coming up to me to gaze upon her. On at least three separate occasions, old ladies have stopped me and said, “Can I please look at your baby?” And then I held the baby out so they could marvel over her little face for several minutes.

Has a man of any age ever expressed any desire to look at the baby? No, never.

It’s not that men don’t like babies, I guess, but there’s something innate to men that keeps them from gushing about little babies in the aisles at Target. Something beyond just not wanting to look like a pervert.

And then there’s the other difference.

When we go through the clothing department, I must look at the clothing. Even if I came to the store for something entirely different, even if I don’t need clothes or even really want clothes, I have to look at the clothing. I’m not even really into clothes, but I still feel this compulsion.

And if I see something I like, I have to touch it and maybe check to see if it’s in my size. Sometimes I even have to try it on. And it takes huge amounts of willpower for me to drag myself away from an item of clothing that I really like.

I know it’s not like that for my husband. If he needs shirts, for example, because every shirt he owns is falling apart at the seams, he goes to the store and buys shirts. If he doesn’t need shirts, he doesn’t have any interest in looking at shirts. It’s like they don’t exist. When he sees me eying the women’s clothing department, he always laughs and says, “What’s wrong with you?”

I was recently reading a post by the very articulate Dr. Whoo about the difference between male and female patients. She says that female patients are more complicated (in a good way), whereas with male patients there is “little extraneous conversation, merely exam, diagnosis, suggestion for treatment.” With all due respect to Dr. Whoo, I 100% disagree with this analysis of the male patient. I put in oodles of time at the VA, and I’ve had men that I could not shut up for anything, who pick apart everything I say, or who are very anxious. I can’t honestly say that male patients are in any way simpler than female patients, and I certainly can’t say they’re less talkative.

However, her post got me wondering if there are specific differences between male and female patients (beyond the obvious anatomical differences). Because we are definitely different, as evidenced by my trip to Target. But I’m really having trouble thinking of any consistent differences.

“Fizzy” is a physician who blogs at A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor.

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