Just one of the gals

My wife and I recently returned from a long-delayed week’s vacation south of the border staying at what was the first “health and fitness” retreat, Rancho La Puerta, founded in 1940. The founders of the ranch were a Transylvanian professor named Edward Szekely and his young wife Deborah who believed that regular exercise, organically grown food and daily sunshine were essential ingredients to good health. Needless to say, time caught up with the wisdom of Professor Szekely, but in each guest room is a reprint of a 1949 San Diego newspaper article implying he was a cultish crank surrounded by wackos!

After 70 years and still family owned, the 3,000-acre ranch is a lush valley oasis in the high Mexican desert, a peaceful garden of unusual plants and meandering pathways – quiet, car-less and comfortable. I spent my days taking yoga classes, swimming, reading, eating and hanging around women; of the 120 guests, I was but one of five men.

Women in groups behave differently than men. I’ve spent enough time in the men’s locker room amid silent, sweaty, brooding guys watching ESPN to know that when not boasting or talking sports, most men in groups don’t have much to say. Women, on the other hand, are chatty; they ask questions and actually seem interested in each other. At times a room full of women sounds much like the happy chattering of birds.

Initially I felt like the odd man out, which of course I was. I did not feel unwelcome, rather I felt ignored. In male society the instinctive process of evaluating rivalry and sizing up male competition is biologically hard-wired, and a variety of not-so-subtle behaviors emerge. Size, weight, age, body posture, and gait are immediately evaluated; loudness of voice, clothing and associated female companions are inventoried. None of this is a conscious process, but an automatic and nearly instantaneous one. Thus men never ignore one another; eye contact is made and various non-verbal cues are sent and received. For a man, to be ignored is akin to non-existence.

I’m not naïve enough to believe nothing but sweetness and light was going on with the ladies, but I was, after all, spending time hand-in-hand with my wife. We were one of the only man-woman couples in attendance, a bit of a curiosity I expect, which also explains why I received a 20 percent discount and four free massages for my week’s stay. After 37 years of marriage, I’m a bit clueless when it comes to female seduction, though I did notice one evening as we waited to be seated for dinner and struck up some conversation with a single woman also waiting in line that she asked my wife if she could “borrow” me. It flew over my head initially, but I turned five shades of red as my wife and all the other women laughed.

In time, I became more accustomed to the pace and tempo of women in a group. Far more interested in each other than in me, I felt increasingly relaxed and with almost no male “competitors” my limbic system of autonomic emotional/physical/fight/flight responses flattened. I became increasingly happy and comfortable; between the absence of male aggression, taking yoga classes and enjoying the surroundings, I was completely content.

And thus I discovered male paradise by simply being one of the gals.

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