Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why won't they tell us?

I've been doing politics for a while now, and I haven't said anything truly offensive about personal topics in a long time.

Remember when I did that thing where I compared the idea of "paying women less because they might get pregnant and quit" with "men paying higher auto insurance"? Remember all those inflammatory emails I got? Then, right after that, I talked about the stats that showed that, back in 1994, someone did a study of accidents-per-mile-driven and found that women were just as bad, if not worse, than men?

Ah, those were the days. Biggest response to a DTK ever. I think seven people wrote in.

So I started thinking that if that's what you all get excited about, maybe I should toss a little more of that music out there.

Why don't we like to carry your purses? Because it makes us feel gay. Not that there's anything wrong with being gay. But since we aren't, we don't like feeling gay. I'll carry the diaper bag. It's very utilitarian looking: no pink; no baby-blue; lots of square-shaped pockets.

Onward: Why won't women tell us what they want?

I hate to make sweeping generalizations, but a good sweeping generalization is more likely to upset someone and, let's be honest, we all enjoy getting angry about something now and then. I think Plato asked Socrates the self same question: "Forsooth - " (that's how they spoke back then) "- wherefore dost my wife expect things of me but is unwilling to name the things she expecteth?"

(Disclaimer: let's not pretend that I understand women. I understand one of them, whose behaviour makes sense, in hindsight, a little more than half the time. And that's good enough to be getting on with.)

It may come down to conditioning. Unavoidably, we are the products of our environments. If your environment involves gushy romance novels, 90210 and Hollywood fare, you're going to have some pretty unrealistic influences. We men, of course, have our influences as well, but ours are so obviously unrealistic that we never transpose them over real life. You're not getting laid when you deliver a pizza and you won't meet the woman of your dreams by saving her life during an alien invasion, sudden ice age or recovery of the Ark of the Covenant.

The influences that women are hit with on a daily basis, however, seem much more firmly grounded in reality, even while they involve complex scripts. We, as men, have no clue about these scripts because we consciously avoid Cosmopolitan magazine, soap operas and chick flicks (same reason we won't carry your purse).

So, for example, she says something mysterious to him and expects a specific response. Clueless, he says something like, "Did you punch her in the nose?" or "Quit that job already" or, perhaps realizing the love of his life has said something out of character, he uses the old "Hmph" with a concerned grimace, hoping to pull off "strong and silent". None of these fits the bill, and the whole thing collapses.

I knew a girl once who told me, as we walked through a flea market full of used books, that every man should read at least one Harlequin romance novel so he can understand what it is that women are expecting. Passing by a newstand with a wide array of glossy magazines, I felt wise when I didn't offer the obvious corollary.

Seven Habits guy wrote that we all come loaded with scripts. Our parents, our siblings and society at large give us these scripts, slipping them quietly in to our brains. We must not allow ourselves to expect other people to fall in to our scripts so neatly. And really, would it be satisfying to have a conversation full of such artificial dialogue? Why not simply state the things that are desired? It might seem less magical, perhaps, but boy wouldn't everybody be happy if they got what they wanted?

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