As a kid, many of my friends were of the male persuasion and I found them more like me than most of the budding girlie tweens I was surrounded by. They certainly shared my disinterest in makeup, kissing and hair flicking.
Our time was more productively spent – building shit and then knocking it down. Dams, bonfires, cairns, forts (blanket and tree based), me and the fellas were practicing our future ‘masters of the universe’ skills while the girls giggled in corners and practiced putting on mascara.
Hmmm. And we wonder about the source of power imbalance between men and women? I guess when woman get rewarded for make up application and accessorizing, then we’ll rule the world. But I digress.
Over time I recognized that neither men or women were ‘better’ and that while we had different approaches to many things (professional sports, shoes, salary negotiation), we remained essentially of the same species.
We all want love. We all need to be engaged in something where we contribute and feel successful. We need connection, even if that means a text message to one person or an 6 hour chat to another, and we all feel a degree of stewardship for something – whether its our kids, our houses, the planet or just plain being nice to each other.
But lately I’m noticing that while men and women aren’t really that different, where we really diverge is on the small things. The tiny little everyday acts that go relatively unnoticed. These are the thing we don’t think about, but which lately has me questioning whether we really are the same species. Or maybe we’re all just a little wackadoo.
Evidence #1: My relationship to canned tuna.
I never used to like tuna. It smelled like cat food and to be honest, didn’t look much different. Yewch. But right around 3 years ago when I realized that pasta + can of tuna + pesto = yummy 10 minute dinner, my attitude did a 180. Add in spinach and -wha-hey- you’ve practically made a gourmet meal. Where had tuna been all my life?
So I stocked up on tuna. Way up.
I think I ate that meal for around 6 weeks in a row by which time the checkout assistants at my local Whole Foods were starting to raise their eyebrows at my singular shopping cart.
- 12 cans on tuna
- 3 bags GF pasta
- 1 jar pesto
- 3 bags frozen spinach
Not quite crazy cat lady, but I was easy to spot amongst the piled high carts of my yuppy mummy counterparts. Why 12 cans? Well… that way I knew I would always have a meal ready to go.. you know.. when I couldn’t be bothered to think. And apparently that summer I couldn’t be bothered to think AT ALL.
Sometime around fall, my palate woke up and said ‘No-more-fucking-tuna-goddammit’ and I moved onto a new obsession with broccoli and chicken sausage. Thank god.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stop the ‘got-to-have-a-few-cans-of-tuna-in-the-cupboard’ urge every time I hit the store, with the result that when I downsized from my house to a 770 sq foot apartment, I took enough tuna with me to feed a small Asian nation (and completely fill my kitchen).
These days I’m ‘safe’ if I have about 6 cans.. but its taken a lot of mindfulness to ‘let it go'(and my therapist just bought a Lexus).
Other women I talk to have similar experiences.. whether its toothpaste or TP, clean underwear or mascara, we all seem to have our ‘blanky’ items that we just need to have ‘enough’ of in order to feel ‘ok’.
Men on the other hand. Men seem to lack this gene entirely. Evidence?
1. Toilet paper
No self respecting women, single or mother to 24 kids, buys her TP in anything less than a 12 pack. Most of us suck it up and lump around the grocery store with the 24 wedge (why can’t they put a shoulder strap on that fucker?) figuring its one less thing we need to buy this fiscal quarter. Men on the other hand.. men consider it good if there’s a box of tissues in the house. Stand in the paper aisle looking for the 2 pack before reluctantly picking up the 4 roll minimum.
I’ve witnessed guys teasing out the final 2 sheets to last a few days, who, when asked about lack of TP in the guest bathropom, will actively relocate a roll from another bathroom (after all, why have TP in every bathroom?). Guys seem to have no urgency or concern about having zero TP in the house, and yet..they too still have some of the same needs? (I’ve heard). I don’t know about you, but spying only 2 rolls in the house makes me nervous, but a guy, he’s set until June.
A guy will look at his wardrobe, empty hangers connected by spider webs and a single pair of pants he hasn’t fit into since 1989 and turn to his second closet for his outfit – the laundry hamper. In fact he’ll do this until it rains or snows (he draws the line at wet jeans, c’mon he’s not a heathen). No clean underwear? Turn it inside out. Still no clean underwear? Go commando. Never mind that the laundry mountain has taken over an entire quarter of a room..he’s good as long as he takes a shower. After all.. as long as he’s clean.. his clothes? Optional.
Now ladies. Have you ever met a woman who turns her underwear inside out to ‘double dip’? How about picking a top out of the laundry not once, but 3 or 4 times? not so much?
See guys, when we say ‘we have nothing to wear’ we don’t actually mean ‘there are no clothes which have not already lain on the floor for a week or two, and may or may not be cultivating a new species of staph’. We just mean we’ve only got 12 pairs of black boots to choose from and non.of.them.are.right.
I grew up in a house without a dishwasher so that role was filled by my father. In fact, it was his sole household chore for the 18 years I lived at home. So my belief that women and men had similar opinions about things such as dishes was clearly built on a skewed perspective of one household.
I now know better.
Women. We hate dishes. Loathe them. Hate loading and unloading them. But we do it. Hell, we even pre soak or pre rinse. Because – you know – god forbid that we’d have to wash them twice or *gasp* by hand. And if you’re feeding yourself, or other people, nothing sucks more than having to quickly scrub dishes or forks to make it work.
Men on the other hand…. Dishes are an optional activity, only stimulated by the usage of every plate, fork, bowl and knife in the kitchen AND the curbing of take out due to ‘end of the month syndrome’. Generally men can coordinate these two acts so they never occur at the same time, rendering the need to clean dishes more of a quarterly activity. I’ve known men who will buy more dishes rather than wash the dishes they have. And by wash, I do mean ‘put in the dishwasher and press and button’.
Even if they get that far, unloading? That’s for OCD people. The dishwasher is just a different form of storage for most guys I know. I remember visiting one guys house where the dishes were lined up for washing, and when I asked why he didn’t put them in the dishwasher was told ‘oh, there are some clean forks in there’.
I’m grinding my teeth even thinking about it and I haven’t seen him or his dishes in years.
4. Tidy vs. Clean
Women… even the slobbiest of us, keep a pretty clean house. And even the dirtiest of us… those who only clean the bath when they know they’ve having visitors (who me?).. we’re still pretty tidy. Some of us hardworking, saintly selves manage both (who are you and what is your secret?).. after all, there’s only so much crap you can endure before you lose your mind (and your car keys).
Men? Well I will not deny that there are men out there who are both tidy and clean. Their houses sparkle with Windex, no dust speck mars their LCD tv and you could eat off their floors should you so wish. I dream of these men and I’ve even met some. I realized no woman wouldn’t ever match up to this guys standards as I was blinded by my reflection in their toaster (after all, when would do all the other important stuff like reading gossip online?). But most of the men I know…
Lets just say, they’re one or the other. Rarely both. And largely neither.
I thank the lord for those who can afford cleaners, for those who know that a tumbleweed in the living room isn’t going to get him laid, and who hire, cajole or force themselves to moderate the chaos. But largely, if you’re a dude, married or single, I know you’re putting stuff in piles, swiffering the dust underneath the sofa and washing your shavings out of the basin with your hand and calling it good.
How men and women ever live together I will never know. I can only assume he comes with 12 cans of tuna or something.