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COMMITMENTS : The Best Man for the Job Is a Woman's Ingenuity


My friend Nancy recently had minor foot surgery and was advised to stay off her feet for a while. After a few days, her household food supply dwindled, until one night she had only a can of soup for dinner. The next day, she phoned her husband at work and mentioned that there was nothing in the house to eat.

No problem, her husband said. I'll eat out.

This provoked one of the most common fights between men and women--the fight about women never coming out and saying what they want. (Or, if you're a woman, the fight about how men are totally insensitive louts.)

Her husband reacted like any man would, with selflessness and sympathy. He heard her say there's no food in the house. He saw she was laid up with a bad foot. He didn't want her to go to any trouble. So he said, "Honey, I'll eat out." Presumably, if there was anything left over, he'd bring it home for her.

Seems reasonable to me. But I am a man. Women are not brought up to say what they want. They only hint at it. But it's stupid to hint to men. Men don't understand subtlety. That's why they read books by Tom Clancy. Men are like mules. If you want them to move forward, you have to hit them in the behind with a ball-peen hammer.

After all these years, how could women not understand this?

(Women are not only too subtle, but far too demanding; for example, when you're dropping them off at a movie so they can buy tickets while you park the car, most women actually expect you to come to a complete stop to let them out.)


I'm sure most men believe the world would be a better place if everyone thought like a man. I always figured women believed this too. I figured women would actually like to be men. Amazingly, though, it turns out they wouldn't!

I expressed astonishment at this and suggested to my friend Tracee that there are many advantages to being a man, not the least of which is the ability to drink directly out of the milk carton. She said, and I'm quoting here, "You're a dope; you're an idiot." Tracee also worries that her name, spelled that way, is too identifiable, so for the remainder of the column, I shall call her Tracy, to protect her privacy.

Anyway, Tracy's position flabbergasts me, because I can think of only one reason for a man to be a woman: to play from the red tees.

Recently, Tracy, who is five feet tall, bought a 27-inch TV. The store loaded it into the trunk of her car. The box was too big and heavy for her to lift.

So when she got home, she faced a problem getting the set into her house.

Why not call a man? I asked.

You don't call a man for a TV, she explained. You call a man for a refrigerator.

Well, maybe a man could help you set it up, I said.

She laughed. Men can't figure out electronic equipment, she said. Women can program VCRs better than men. Men can't program them at all. Men don't read the instructions. It's just like men don't ask for directions when they're driving. Men don't ponder. Men have no patience. The instruction manual that comes with an electronic device is the least-read item by men in the history of paper products.

To get the TV out of her car, Tracy propped two wooden boards against the fence in her driveway, backed her car to the 2-by-4s--thus building a small platform--and without really lifting the TV, she rocked the carton onto the boards. Then she got a carpet cutter and cut holes in the TV carton.

So the TV could breathe? I asked smugly.

No, so I could use them like handles and lift the box, you dork, she said.

Then she got a luggage cart she uses to wheel her suitcase to the airport, slid the TV carton onto the luggage cart, and rolled it from the driveway, across the back yard, to her house. She didn't have the strength or leverage to lift the carton more than eight inches. Still, she wrestled it up the steps, and slid it through the house on a towel so she wouldn't scratch the floor.

(Can you imagine a man thinking to put a towel down? A man wouldn't care about a few scratches in the floor. A man might draw the line at letting a friend drive a snowmobile into his living room, but maybe not. Tough call.)

But Tracy couldn't lift it onto the TV stand.

So then you called a man, right? I asked.

No, she said.

She built small scaffolds. She lifted the TV six inches onto a box that held a VCR. She lifted the TV six inches again, onto an ottoman. She rolled the ottoman to the TV stand and lifted the TV the final six inches to the stand.

A man would have done it differently, I said.

And I described how a man would have picked the TV out of the trunk, by himself, danced around frantically for a second, gotten a hernia, dropped the TV on his foot, breaking the TV and the foot. Then, because men can't handle pain nearly as well as women, a man would have gone home and stayed in bed for a month.

He would not run out of food.

Nancy would know to get it for him.

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