Mona Charen | Men are at war with civilization
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Men are at war with civilization

Today is my first wedding anniversary, and in keeping with the spirit of the age, which requires that we all reveal publicly our personal traumas for the good of others who may find themselves in similar circumstances, I would like to review what I’ve discovered about men in the year just past. Feminist propaganda notwithstanding, there are certain fundamental and probably immutable differences between the sexes. It is a fact, universally understood by married women (or significant others who live with men in marriage-type arrangements), that men cannot see beyond the front row of the refrigerator. It must have something to do with the masculine configuration of rods and cones, but if something· isn’t smack in front of their noses, they can’t see it. If I had valuable jewels I wanted to hide from burglars, I’d slip them behind the mayonnaise and next to the relish, (which my husband Bob brought to this marriage and is still languishing in our refrigerator 12 months later).

THIS SIDE EFFECT OF testosterone has yet to be studied by biologists, but I can provide reams of anecdotal evidence. My husband will stand for three to four minutes at the open refrigerator, sigh, shut the door and announce,”We need more mustard.” I will bite my cheeks to keep a straight face, and ask, “Have you looked at the back of the middle shelf?” A great rustling sound will next emanate from the kitchen, as if he’s unloading the entire contents of the refrigerator, or perhaps picking the whole thing up and shaking it. Crashing sounds will reach my ears, and then a simple “Oh, here it is.” Refrigerator blindness also affects other household chores, like grocery shopping. Recently, after a trip to the supermarket, Bob assured me with twinkling eyes that we wouldn’t have to worry about running but of broccoli for a while. “Did you buy more? We already had too much!” I wailed .. His honest reply, “How was I supposed to know that?” In some ways, men are always at war with civilization as we know it. What a man will call “comfortable” clothes, and what he will insist is perfectly acceptable weekend wear is something out of the movie De­liverance – blue jeans so battered they’re almost white, with air conditioning vents around the pockets, and a nice, newly laundered T-shirt.

IF YOU MENTION that comfortable clothes can also be attractive, you are inviting a disquisition on the agonies of  the suit and … the hated necktie. The male of the species regards the necktie not as a fashion item, but as an implement of torture. They will grumble and moan about having to wear a tie out to dinner, for instance, claiming with all seriousness that they are “dying.” If a full suit with leather shoes is also required, they feel absolutely martyred.

And yet, these fragile creatures so easily conquered by a bit of silk around the neck can suffer gaping, bleeding, ugly wounds without even noticing. More than once, the first inkling my husband has had of an injury was his wife pointing at the drops of blood on the floor. All of these male traits need much more research. But then, research doesn’t always clear things up. There’s lots of data out there to suggest, for example, that men far surpass women in spacial relations. I’ll vouch for this, as it’s reinforced every time we play chess. But while men may score better on spacial relations tests in the classroom, there remains the mystery of why this talent abandons them as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car. When I sense this car amnesia, and remind Bob, for the fifth time, to turn left on Route 50 on the way home from the movies, he jerks into the proper lane, claiming airily, “Just wanted to be sure you were paying attention.”

AND EVERYBODY KNOWS that men are constitutionally incapable of ask­ing for directions. But despite refrigerator blindness, car amnesia, tie phobia and the rest, my over­whelming lesson of the first year is won­derment that I ever called myself happy when I found my way home alone.

First Published September 17, 1990

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