Elena Ferrante’s Incidental Inventions is a compilation of her weekly column with the Guardian. “Of all the punctuation marks,” she writes about the exclamation, “it’s the one I like the least. It suggests a commander’s staff, a pretentious obelisk, a phallic display.”

And so I ponder,What’s the yonic grammatical symbol?

Quotation marks.

If ! is the bulging monument, then “ ” is the receptive earth.

One excludes, the other inclusive.

When words are encapsulated in “___”, they feel protected. As though the phrase belongs inside, a safe place giving voice and life to new ideas.  

Whereas the ___! demands attention, like an entitled little boy.  

Perhaps chemically the quotes can be expressed as oxytocin and the exclamation! is equal to vasopressin.

I’m probably wrong about so much that follows, but I like to be wrong because then I can learn how to think right.

Basically, after sex both oxytocin and vasopressin are released. Oxytocin creates kinship for women and vasopressin results in competition for men.

Oxytocin gets all the attention because it’s the known as the "cuddle hormone".  More importantly, we create oxytocin when we establish social bonds. Vasopressin, on the other hand, limits a man’s ability to solve emotional problems.

(*Footnote: To fit in with my grammatical prelude, oxytocin causes uterine contraction and milk letdown, like two quotation marks upon the chest, while vasopressin causes blood vessel contraction, making the arteries and his brain become narrowed and focused like an exclamation mark!)

These two different hormones may be responsible for why after sex, women want to cuddle and men just want to run for the door, a hit it n’ quit it attitude, perhaps a vast over-simplification of the eternal struggle between women and men.

I think the levels of oxytocin increase in men after the age of 40, similar to the levels of an 18-year-old girl.  Ok, what I’m not saying is that 18-year-old teenaged girls and 40-year-old men have similar levels of oxytocin. Instead, I think the craving and the effect of oxytocin is similar. 

This increase leads to monogamy, which is not present at an earlier age in men. We start to crave more oxytocin, hence a man’s desire to finally commit to a partner. 

And here comes the hammer . . . Maybe this is really why older men desire younger women. They both have a similar need for socio-emotional stability.  Forget the cliché reasons abound: he’s drawn in by innocence, firmness and youthful beauty, and she’s a gold-digger.  Perhaps more hormonal reasons exist. 

An older married couple will encounter different reactions to the depleted levels of hormones. With age, women’s sex drive increases while it depletes in men.  Consequently, men become more solitary, afraid, threatened by irrational fears, and have less tendency to create social bonds; whereas women nurture relationships as a way to enhance their lives and thereby create personal happiness. An increase in oxytocin does not affect older women because they already have a supply of socio-emotional connections. Older men, on the other hand, have very little of these social bonds and thus crave an increase, and mating with a younger partner, now that they are ready for a monogamous relationship, can fulfill that craving. 

Just when men are getting interesting and needy, that’s when women no longer want us.  Women have figured out how to sustain their socio-emotional needs within a community rather than depending on a sole individual, i.e. "the One". 

Right when men and women can get along without each other is exactly when we need each other the most. Men need women to encourage those socio-emotional bonds and prevent the fear and anger of solitude, and perhaps women crave men’s company because we’re finally willing to talk about something other than ourselves.

Maybe it all comes down to The Cuddles.  For both of us, the release of oxytocin without The Cuddles can lead to depression and anxiety. So, after sex when not given The Cuddles, women will feel stress instead of enhanced feelings of love.   

At last, some good advice for men:  Give your lover The Cuddles, or else!