Meg Ryan was mimicking a real female orgasm in the booth of a diner, with Billy Crystal watching from behind his deadpan face, his million dollar wry expression in concrete concreted. The humor was layered, her over the top acting, his lack of reacting, the incongruousness of what she was doing and where, topped off with the famous straight man’s (woman) line “I’ll have what she is having”.
What a perfect set up to explain the empathagasm. If Meg had been having an empathagasm, it was possible, no, highly likely that that other women would have had what Meg was having; such is the virulence and efficacy of the female empathagasm. After all, the ingredients were in place, its a diner filled with women talking.
What do I mean?
I was reading one of my favorite junk fiction authors, T. Jefferson Parker, recently and his protagonist was about to eavesdrop on a meeting between some men who have sequestered themselves in a private humidor room at a swanky cigar club in San Diego’s gaslight district. The protagonist is a cop. He was in the attic above the meeting room before the meeting commenced and he was thinking to himself what it would be like to hear he and his cop friends talking, unencumbered, in such a scenario. They often rented this room for boys night. He concluded it wouldn’t be unlike the conversation he was about to hear, men in a secret room discussing X. Men converse in a certain way. But in a show if insight, the author appended his protagonists thinking with something like “however in a room with four women talking, there would be hundreds of individual conversations”.
The uninitiated man will read that and chuckle assigning it to the funny things about women category, and not spend much time thinking about it. That’s what I’m here for, to think about it. I’d been thinking about it long before I read Mr. Parker’s throw away line, so his add on human nature observation resonated with me disproportionate to its word count or its impact on the story, which were respectively minuscule and none.
Why would there be hundreds of conversations among four or five women and not among the men? Was he saying that men are myopic and women conversational multi-taskers? Was it a nod to their innate complexity and man’s simplicity? Or was he suggesting that women are flighty and men focused? If any of these, he would be wrong in my opinion. You need to notice the nature of those hundreds of conversations, their purpose or goal, recognizing it isn’t just random spouting but all designed to establish something, some very specific thing.
Imagine two women who have never met, seated beside one another at a banquet or maybe beside the neighborhood swimming pool or a child’s school function. If you are married, you may have paid attention to these interactions more than if its just two random women who happen to be in proximity. What you will hear is as the author said with a slight modifier; you will hear hundreds of conversation starters, topics about self designed to draw out similar topics from the other women.
“My kids are young, 5 and 8”
“Oh mine are grown and gone”
“Mine go to XYZ elementary”
“Mine are in university”
“Mine will go to XYZ middle school next year”
“Ooohhh, my kids went there don’t you find Mr./Mrs. so and so to be really difficult to deal with?”
What could easily be described as a narcissistic competition of me factoids was actually a fishing expedition for a topic that could then lead to emotional commonality. From there, they can mull and massage that topic for as long as it takes to achieve an empathagasm. The “Oooohhhh” marks a hit on the mental erogenous zone of a common experience, that common experience is rubbed and stroked until the empathagasm happens in a fit of “I know how you feel, I feel the same way” remarks.
Afterwards, sated emotionally, one may then tell her husband how she met a woman with whom she has an incredible amount in common and the two of them intend to have lunch or something. If they never land on a topic that can lead to even some empathy foreplay and the promise of an empathagasm in the future, they may either not even mention the encounter to their husband, or say something snarky about how they met someone they had nothing in common with.
If it was the diner, and Meg Ryan was having an empathagasm with another woman at the table, the outsider’s remark about having what she is having would have legs. That outsider would have overheard the topic the two women had landed on, and had her own strong feelings on that topic, and may even have tried to interject herself into the conversation, if not for full blown empathagasm, at least for some pleasurable mental affection.
There you have it, perhaps oversimplified, but this is my take on empathy as a basic drive in most women, imperfectly analogous to the sex drive in men. Once we recognize this we can take the analogy further, looking for ways this basic drive can go sideways and lead to all sorts of bad decisions and bad behaviors, just as men’s sex drives are prone to do.
Ive spent a very long time wondering, what is the sin equalizer between men and women. We can point to things women are said to be more prone to, gossip, envy, whatever, and try as we might, we cannot honestly assert any equivalence to man’s proclivity to sexual sin. We get around this with pat expressions like all sin is sin, there is no difference. That statement allows women to take on the appearance of taking on accountability, meanwhile knowing full well the feelings evoked by their behaviors are not anywhere near the same level of antipathy as those of men. recognizing the drive for empathy as a root cause is a first step in addressing many/most wrong behaviors among women.