Why? Because it’s an awfully catchy title.
The screaming titles in the window of Barnes & Noble caught my eye: “Why Do Men Have Nipples?” and its sequel, “Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?” by humorist Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg. Sure, “Dr. Billy” sounds like he should be playing with a plastic stethoscope, but I could forgive him his name if the books actually delivered the answers to these mysterious questions. After all, the obstetrician that delivered my son was Dr. Howie Mandel, and I’ve almost gotten over that one.
Did these books really have the answers to these long-pondered questions that had been taking up my valuable brain space for almost as long as, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” I decided to investigate.
Since the books are subtitled, respectively, “Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini” (nipples) and “More Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour” (sleep), I decided to pour myself a glass of wine and ponder the imponderable in my quest for factoid fun.
The merlot seemed like a good choice, given my history of falling asleep after my third glass of just about anything resembling a martini and the fact that we had no whiskey in the house. Does anyone actually know how to make a whiskey sour anymore? It sounds like something Dudley Moore drank in “10.”
Like most college graduates, I had already spent countless drunken hours contemplating the mystery of why men have nipples, and unless I had missed a memo, knew that that answer was an unsatisfying, “nobody really knows.”
Just to be sure, I double-checked. According to the authors, while only females have mammary glands, we all start out in a similar way in the embryo. The embryo follows a female template until about six weeks, when the male sex chromosome kicks in. At that point males have already developed nipples.
It takes men six weeks to develop nipples, but at 40 years old, my husband still has to be reminded how to wipe the sink down properly after shaving and put the seat down after peeing? I’ve got a few ideas for Dr. Billy’s next title, like “Why Are Men Such Babies When They Get Sick?” and “Why Can’t Men Write Down a Phone Message When There are Notepads All Over the House?” and “Why Did You Say You Were Listening to Me When Clearly You Weren’t?”
Actually, Dr. Billy has an answer for that last one. He says it’s not that men listen less than women. Get this, it’s that they listen “differently.” This sounds suspiciously like not keeping score in T- Ball and pretending the kids won’t know the difference. However, according to Dr. Billy, “Men use one side of their brain whereas women use both sides. And when men hear women’s voices they hear those voices in different areas of the brain than women — they hear women’s voices in the same area of the brain they use to process complex musical sounds — so you can extrapolate the women’s voices are more complex. … And more difficult for us to listen to.”
So women use our whole brain to listen and men only use half a brain when they listen to women. And why did that chicken cross the road? Maybe he wasn’t listening when his wife asked for directions.
When she’s not pondering life’s eternal questions, Leslie can be reached at email
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 18, 2006.