First, let's deal with that word "why" in the title of this post.
I haven't bothered to research what other people have to say about my subject -- the phenomenon of men and women gravitating into separate groups at parties, where male and female conversations often head off in drastically different directions.
Hey, I'm a man.
So I'm going to act in accord with what I told a woman last night who wanted to join five guys (of whom I was one) having an interesting talk about world affairs. She sidled up next to me and said, "It looks like this is a male club. Can I fit in?" I told her...
Absolutely. Just make sure that you pretend you know everything about any subject, even if you don't.
I could tell she wasn't sure whether she should take me seriously. But I meant what I said. Sort of. Unless I was joking.
This is one reason men like to talk with each other at parties. They know what the rules of the conversation game are when they're bullshitting with other guys. When women are part of the group, it's sort of like if one team was on a field with a football playing by one set of rules, and another team was trying to compete in accord with soccer rules.
When men talk, most of the time they aren't trying to either reveal, or gain access to, inner feelings. My wife and I used to get another with another couple. The other guy and I would converse in one corner of our living room, while the wives huddled on the couch.
Our male conversation always focused on Grand Cosmic Subjects, like whether the laws of nature are actually "out there," or whether they're a manifestation of the human mind. We'd learn a lot about each other in this fashion.
Just not the same things the women would learn about.
After the other couple left, my wife would say something like, "How is Michael handling the death of his father?" I'd say, "He never mentioned anything about it. I didn't even know his father died."
This would astound Laurel. It seemed perfectly natural to me.
I used to play competitive doubles tennis several times a week with three other guys. It took until about six months after one of them was divorced before I learned the news. And then the full extent of the conversation about this major life event was along the lines of "Hey, hope you're doing OK. Now whose serve is it?"
Men like games. Men like sports.
I'm not saying that manly conversations always are like a game, or a sport, but much or most of the time they are. This can confound women who have the weird idea that people are supposed to share intimate emotions truthfully when they get together.
Last night, shortly after the aforementioned woman pulled up a chair close to the male conversational circle, the other guys got up and headed for the snack table. I was the last to get up. The woman looked at me and said, "Hey, it looks like I broke up the man-party."
I told her, "Guess you should head into the kitchen and do some woman-stuff."
When I later told my wife about this conversation, she was shocked. "You didn't actually say that, did you?" "Sure I did," I told her. "The woman should have known that I was kidding."
Should have. Hopefully she did.
This is another problem with men and women talking together. Guys are used to playing games with each other. They'll tease each other. They'll throw obscenities at each other. They'll insult each other. Usually they don't take this seriously. They know how the game is played.
I think a man finds it easier to chat with a group of women, than the reverse, because men are better at game-playing. Guys can act like they really care about a woman's deep, sensitive, inner feelings more easily than a woman can act like she's having fun in a profanity-filled, joking male bullshitting group.
The reason? To a man, acting all sensitive and caring can be just another game. To a woman, usually it is serious stuff.
Here's the way I generally feel when I'm talking with some other guys: we're throwing out conversation nuggets onto a playing surface, where they can be toyed with, accepted, rejected, thrown back into someone's face, bashed into another form, assembled into interesting shapes.
It's mostly got an external tone to it. Getting into another guy's head is frowned upon. That's his space. If he wants to open himself up, fine. But it's not my business to do that.
When I'm with a group of women, I feel a different vibe. They may seem to be just as crude, comedic, or crass, but there's an undertone (or overtone) of concern and commitment to how the conversation is affecting each woman's feelings.
Recently I was standing next to three women and overheard part of what they were saying. One of them related a lighthearted story. Another said, "I can't handle what you're saying. It's too close to what I've been going through."
My male mind expected her companions to respond with something like, "Well, fuck, dude! Deal with it!" Instead, the woman who told the story said, "Sorry, let's talk about something else."
I'm not saying that men and women can't have great conversations in mixed company. Just that there's good reasons why the sexes often gravitate to different corners of a party space.