October 16, 2012
“The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’" -- Sigmund Freud
He should have asked Patricia Barnes-Svarney. Her newest book (of more than 30) may not plunge as profoundly into the soul and psyche as Dr. Freud attempted, but it does address everyday bewilderments about the human female. “Why Do Women Crave More Sex in the Summer?: 112 Questions that Women Keep Asking – and that Keep Everyone Else Guessing” covers the subject from head (“Do all women ‘get gray’ as they age?”) to toe (“I look good in heels, but what do my feet think of them?”) There are straightforward responses to queries about the nature of women’s voices and hearing, whether women have more resilient bones and skin than men, and “Does my brain ‘trick’ me as I get older?” (Reaction time slows, but we get shrewder).
Trained as a geologist and astronomer, science-fiction and science writer Pat Barnes-Svarney of Owego has written about weather and mathematics, magic, asteroids and dinosaurs, and she edited “The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference”. Patty is an author as well of romance fiction, several Star Trek books, many magazine articles and she also grows garlic. Her new book does not offer medical diagnoses for staying well, but it does analyze in clear and lively language such common complaints as:
Hot flashes “Estrogen declines, we stop enjoying monthly visits from our ‘friend’, and we (mostly) no longer worry about having to send yet another kid through college. We have reached menopause, or as many women call it, payback time.”
Sleeplessness “…thirty-five percent of men snore loudly at night, whereas women snore much less and, in most cases, more quietly. When his or her partner snores, the awake person loses close to fifty minutes of sleep a night.”
Weight loss “According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s an easier way of losing weight than melting off your skin – just try standing up. Don’t sit down to type in your computer or attend that meeting. Remain standing and you’ll burn more calories than if you were sitting down.”
The lead roles in this book go to “your hormones and evolution – two things we have no control over.” Hormones like estrogen, progesterone and oxytoncin are components of the body’s internal communication system and determinants of how we function as female or male. Processes of evolution have determined that men and women will grow and function differently, sometimes obviously but often in subtle ways.
As for the provocative question in the title, Barnes-Svarney draws on both physical and social science plus keen observation of everyday life. Summer lust is partially the residual feeling of being free from the school year even if our school days are far behind us, partly due to the length of days and the lushness of summer itself. But there are also those hormones at work again. The whole book blends purely scientific observation from one of the nation’s best science writers with a good-natured personal and social context.