April 29, 2011
One night when I called to order a pizza the young woman who was taking my order said something about her boss yelling a lot. I said, "Is he having a bad day?" As soon as the word "he" came out of my mouth I regretted it, and I regretted it even more when she said, with a rather brusque tone, "My boss is a she." I really just wanted to get my pizza and go on so I didn’t stop to apologize and explain that my boss is also a she. And her boss is a she, and her boss’s boss is a she, and so on, up to a pretty high level. I feel pretty lucky to work in a place without a glass ceiling, especially since it’s really hard to stick pencils in a glass ceiling. And if you’ve ever worked in an office building you know that most peoples’ ceilings are someone else’s floor, so executives who work in places with glass ceilings should tread carefully because it can be a long way down, but that’s another story. And I didn’t explain that, before I decided to cut my long, lanky locks, strangers would often call me "ma’am". Some people thought I should be insulted by that, but I never saw being mistaken for a woman as an insult. Women are, I think, fifty percent of the population, although I’ve seen figures at times that say women are at least fifty-one percent of the population, which would give them a little bit of an upper hand. And I don’t just believe women can do anything men can do–I’ve seen proof time and again. It baffles me that certain sports such as billiards, ping pong, or synchronized swimming are divided by gender. These are sports where women could at least hold their own against their male counterparts and I think their male counterparts should welcome the challenge of a wider playing field. And since women can do any job men can do in an ideal world women would have at least fifty, or fifty-one, percent of all jobs. I know we don’t live in an ideal world but that shouldn’t be an excuse. At the very least maybe we need a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun to avoid embarrassing situations when ordering pizza.
What got me thinking about all this was a list a friend sent me of advantages men supposedly enjoy. Here it is–although I couldn’t help adding my own responses.
Your last name stays put.
-I’ve never asked any woman to change her last name. In many cases it would be easier if women’s names didn’t change. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to e-mail a woman only to have it bounced back twenty times. And then I find out the woman I’m trying to e-mail got married last month and her e-mail (along with her last name) has changed.
The garage is all yours.
-I don’t have a garage. There’s a basement under the house. Basements are different from garages in that you can’t park a car in a basement. And the basement isn’t all mine. Actually there’s a lot of stuff–old batteries, old paint cans, the body of Jimmy Hoffa–that neither my wife nor I will claim either of us owns. I think most of it came with the house.
Wedding plans take care of themselves.
-As if asking a man to take care of the wedding plans were an option.
Chocolate is just another snack.
-And for women it’s, what, chemotherapy?
You can be President.
-In the last round of United States presidential elections numerous people voted for women–if not in the main election then at least in the primaries. The women running didn’t win, but no one prevented them from running. I realize the U.S. lags behind countries like Britain, Germany, and Turkey on this, but I suspect we’ll have a woman president eventually.
You can never be pregnant.
-Yes, well…you gonna blame me for biology?
You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park.
-And women can’t?
You can wear NO shirt to a water park.
-Yes, if I want to make everyone else nauseous. Seriously, though, how many men do you know who could breastfeed in public?
Car mechanics tell you the truth.
-Not too long ago a car mechanic tried to sell me a $600 repair job that I didn’t really need.
The world is your urinal.
-Until you get arrested for indecent exposure.
You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky.
-And women never have to worry about prostate problems.
You don’t have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt.
-It was my wife who taught me "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey." And I still occasionally get it wrong and end up breaking off the bolt.
Wrinkles add character.
-Or they just make us look really old. Look at a picture of an older W.H. Auden. He wasn’t described as having a face with character. He was described as having a face that looked like an unmade bed.
Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100.
-And yet some women pass down their wedding dresses to their daughters. Men could do this as well, but ruffles, bell bottoms, and powder blue are no longer fashionable.
People never stare at your chest when you’re talking to them.
-It depends on the person.
New shoes don’t cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
-It depends on the shoe.
Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
-That’s because the phone conversations consist of, "Hey, you wanna go do something?" Long conversations are best conducted in person. Besides most of the time I answer the phone the caller doesn’t want to speak to me.
You know stuff about tanks.
-I know tanks have really big guns and will kill you if they run over you. Stop any woman on the street and I bet her knowledge will be exactly the same.
A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
-Excuse me for not wanting to pay the airline any more than I have to.
If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.
-It depends on why they "forgot" to invite me. And what the event was.
Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.
-This is because of the law of supply and demand. I still own pairs of underwear that I was wearing in high school. Lack of demand keeps prices down.
You almost never have strap problems in public.
-No, but let’s talk about underwear problems. On second thoughts let’s not. I suspect this is a shared problem, and I doubt any of us really wants to go there.
Everything on your face stays its original color.
-Except when I still–at my age–get acne. I suspect this is also a shared problem.
The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.
-I wouldn’t say it lasts, exactly. Some of us are still ashamed of having had mullets.
You only have to shave your face and neck.
-You gonna blame me for biology?
You can play with toys all your life.
-Except our toys become increasingly expensive, driving us to work harder to make more money, leading to heart attacks and early deaths. We play with our toys while we can.
One wallet and one pair of shoes — one color for all seasons.
-Yes, but we don’t have the space advantage of a purse, so we’re limited in what we can carry.
You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look.
-It’s not so much a matter of being able to as it is not caring how our legs look, even though, in many cases, we should–out of a sense of respect for others around us–never wear shorts.
You can ‘do’ your nails with a pocket knife.
-Yes, and end up with ‘hang’ nails.
You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.
-No, technically I don’t. I could stop shaving for three months and my upper lip would still look like it was covered with a thin layer of reddish brown dryer lint. But, hey, you gonna blame me for biology?