A study making the rounds in the media this month reports that becoming a father and spending time with kids reduces a man’s testosterone levels. In an aside, two-thirds down the article in The New York Times, readers were also informed that the plummet begins even before procreation, as soon as a man gets into a relationship with a woman.
One Harvard sociologist was quoted as saying that men would likely take the news hard, because we believe that lower testosterone means “maybe you’re a wimp; that it’s because you’re not really a man.”
But thankfully, the authors of the Northwestern University study countered that the rise in a man’s nurturing qualities once his T-level drops really just means nature intended us to be caring, committed family men.
I have to say, this was a huge relief for me, because I’ve been in a relationship for about a year now and had been undergoing what seemed to be worrying changes to my masculinity. But after reading the newspaper, I know I shouldn’t be alarmed after all.
I can see now that from the very beginning, being involved with a woman hit me deep down in the place where man chemicals are made.
In fact, a few days after meeting my girlfriend, I was out for a drink with a buddy. Usually, I would punch him in the face goodbye, but after beginning a relationship, I found myself giving him – and I’ve been embarrassed to admit this until the researchers told me it was okay – a hug. In fact, I now routinely get this urge to hug people I don’t know and whisper into their ears, “It’s okay.”
After reading the Times article, I looked into further studies that it had linked to, one of which examined coupled men from the Harvard Business School. I was shocked to see that if the raw stats were true, if I was going through the same changes these Harvard kids were, my T-levels had likely dropped 21 per cent since going exclusive. Panicking and in need of emotional support, I called a recently wedded buddy, something that in retrospect I realize I never would have done before.
“Have you felt like four-fifths of a man since you got married?” I asked him. He responded that, indeed, since he began behaving in a more committed manner and engaging in discussions of having children with his wife, he had only been keeping four mistresses instead of five. Furthermore, he had mysteriously been feeling one-fifth more protective toward other men’s families, and had moved exactly 21 per cent of his employees’ retirement accounts into safe mutual funds instead of putting their collective future on the line for profit.
When he said that, I realized that dating a woman had affected my career as well. Prior to the flood of compassion that can obviously only come with a testosterone deficiency, I never hesitated to belittle the public memorials for socialist-leaning political figures in order to slyly undermine their recent party gains. This summer, however, I found I could no longer do that, which I can only assume is a result of my new, hormonally influenced, family-oriented approach to wealth-distribution policies.
The other study the Times linked to examined air force veterans and claimed to show that the married ones had lower testosterone, speculating that this explained “the low criminality found among married men” and the increase in violence toward women around divorce.
It reminded me of what must have been an intensifying hormonal transformation that occurred for me in May, when I went to New York on business. I stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights, but instead of expecting the hotel’s maid to have sex with me, I just assumed that she would be making the bed while I was out and putting some new soap in the bathroom. Before I checked out, I tipped her. And we had not even had sex!
I was worried about this, naturally, until I learned that being a nicer man doesn’t make me less of one. I’m not sure why I didn’t know this before, only that it probably had something to do with testosterone.
After all this perspective shifting, there are still a few things that confuse me. For instance, after moving in with my girlfriend, I promptly purchased a bright red Dodge Viper convertible and have enrolled in a bullfighting course. Would a man with less testosterone do these things?
Also – and this is the most troubling discrepancy – I have noticed that the emergent hair on my upper back, which had been increasing in density before I got involved in the kind of committed relationship that reduces manly thingamajigs in me, is still increasing in density. Could someone at the universities please look into this as soon as possible?
Micah Toub is the author of Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks.