"Men and women are different." When you hear this pearl of wisdom, the best thing to do is smile really big and in a loud, booming voice say, "Yes. Men have penises!" Then clap like a child who just found the mirror on the Busy Box. People will be delighted by you. Like they're not already.
Of course men and women are different. That's why one is called men and one is called women. (I worked that out for myself, no Spice Channel, nothing.) And just one of the ways they diverge is in how they view what a colleague calls sexual green lights, the cues that invite sexual aggression.
A male colleague revealed that guys might think a woman asking for help with any kind of repair is really asking for something more: It's not just the light bulb she wants screwed in, heyuk, heyuk. Also, he said that if you tell a guy you can't make it Friday but how about another time, all he hears is the rejection. Like if you showed them a picture of a Tahitian paradise and all they noticed was one tiny mosquito. And it was buzzing out the word loser.
Apparently men are just as neurotic as women, and they don't even get periods. That's nice to know. It's not something women should flaunt or dwell on, but it's good to have in reserve, like a spare tire or a frozen pizza.
This sensitivity to rejection is touching, but I'm afraid it's required to balance things out. The guys on the nice end of the spectrum have to make up for the oafs on the other end who wouldn't take it as a rejection if you shot at them.
We came across one of the latter recently at a local boozery on karaoke night, a night that admittedly demands resilience from both the performers and the patrons. Five women were clustered together, not looking for company, just enjoying the show as one naturally would when somebody gets up there so drunk that they stop just short of telling the microphone stand it is one sexy lady and trying to buy it a Crown and Coke. My butt had scarcely connected with the chair before my friend, the gifted, funny and talented singer Amy Steinberg, warned me, "Be careful of the guy in the new sneakers." Then she made giant, terrorized Marty Feldman eyes that said: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
New Sneakers couldn't have been easier to spot. He was one of those guys that a friend describes as Patrick Swayze good-looking, which means that nature granted them good features but they cannot help looking like rednecks. Sometimes they personalize themselves with baseball caps, Billy Ray Cyrus/dyke haircuts, moustaches that look like what well-groomed guys leave in the sink after a shave, at least one gold chain and more attitude than the whole WWF. These outward signs are the equivalent of a biohazard bag: You know you don't want what's in there.
New Sneakers started in within seconds, nudging, tapping, touching, trying to chat, unaware that he was being ignored like a rash you're not supposed to scratch. Nellie Olsen would have been embarrassed to wheedle and nag as much as he did. But he had the worst case of selective hearing since Ronald Reagan missed all those weapons deals.
Here's a big, fat secret: Singing "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" to a woman in a karaoke club isn't going to make chicks hunger for your hot caveman love. A woman who just spent 10 years in solitary, who was drunk, ovulating, at her sexual peak and had no hands would not be attracted to this. New Sneakers didn't know. I thought I'd pass it on, just in case you hadn't heard, either.
The most interesting thing about all this, though, was the way the women strategically defended one another. Ants aren't as precise, silent or choreographed in their work. We never said a word but no one left an empty chair next to another girl lest he sit in it, and no one saw him begin to move in without sweeping forth, as if pushing an unwary walker out of the path of a car. After I broke from the group and saw it take place from across the room, it was like watching a Discovery Channel special: When threatened, the female humans form a living fence and can remain there for hours smoking Merit Ultras and discussing the price of Thermo Forks until the intruder tires and finally retreats.
This breed is everyone's enemy. He makes women feel threatened, which they project onto the next guy they meet. Then good boys suffer for the sins of the bother.
So if you see one of your fellow guys out there playing the jackass, stop him. You're chances will improve with fewer of him out there, and besides, we'll love you for it.
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