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| Tony Kornheiser

No Detail Is Too Small for Girls Answering a Simple Question

August 02, 2000|Tony Kornheiser | Tony Kornheiser is on vacation this week. The following is a previously published column

The last time I ventured into my favorite column area--differences between men and women--was when the infamous Teen Talk Barbie doll came out. Barbie was given 270 things to say, and one of them was "Math class is tough!" This, of course, is infuriating, because it plays into the damaging sexual stereotype that girls are stupid in math.

Well, I got cute and wrote how everyone knows girls are stupid in math. I gave an example of my own daughter, whom I love dearly, and who is a sensitive and caring soul, and how when I ask her, "If a bus leaves Cleveland at 7 p.m. heading for Pittsburgh, 200 miles away, and traveling 50 miles per hour, when will it arrive?" she answers, "Do all the children have seat belts, Daddy?"

I thought it was a pretty good line. But I received all kinds of nasty mail, much of it--so help me--from female mathematicians, and female actuaries and female physicists specializing in subatomic particle acceleration. In that same column, I wrote that boys are stupid in English, yet I didn't get a single letter of protest from boys. Obviously, they couldn't read the column.

Anyway . . . here we go again.

My daughter recently came home from sleep-away camp, where she'd spent five weeks. She looked great. And I was so proud of her, going away by herself.

The first question I asked her was "How was camp?"

She began by saying, "Well, the day I left, I got on the bus, and I sat next to Ashley, and she brought Goldfish, which was good because I forgot my Now and Laters, and then Shannon came over, and she's from Baltimore, and she gets her clothes at the Gap, and she had a Game Boy, but all she had was Tetris, which I have, so we asked Jenny, who was the counselor, if anybody had Sonic the Hedgehog, but . . . ."

She went on like this for a few minutes, still talking about the bus ride up to camp five weeks ago, and I came to the horrifying realization that she was actually going to tell me how camp was, minute by minute. Because this is what girls do (and when they grow up and become women, they do it, too, as any man can vouch for). They gather information and dispense it without discrimination. Everything counts the same! It is not that women lack the ability to prioritize information, it is that they don't think life is as simple as men do, and so they are fascinated by the multiplicity of choices that they see.

This is why you have to be very specific with what you ask women. If, for example, you missed a Rams game, and you know a woman who saw it, never, ever ask, "What happened?" Unless you have nowhere to go until Thursday.

Ask:

1. Who won?

2. What was the score?

3. Was anyone carried out on a stretcher?

You must get them to fast-forward.

Left to their own devices, girls go through life volubly answering essay questions. And boys? Multiple choice is way too complicated. Boys restrict themselves to true/false.

Boys do not gather and retain information, they focus on results.

My son went to camp for six weeks--one week longer than my daughter. As I had with my daughter, I asked him, "How was camp?"

He said, "Good. I busted Jason's nose." Short and to the point.

This was followed by, "Can we go to McDonald's?"

Did I mention the cheers? My daughter came back with cheers. About 187,640 musical cheers, all of which are accompanied by an intricate series of hand, feet and hip movements. She went to camp a 10-year-old, she came back a Vandella.

It's amazing, the affinity of girls and cheers. If you've ever been to camp, you know that girls have a special gene for cheers and that even girls who have never been to camp before--or, for that matter, been to America or spoken English before--automatically know all the cheers the moment they step off the bus. As a boy at camp, I used to look at girls in amazement, wondering why they would waste their time like that, when they could be doing useful things like me--memorizing Willie Mays' doubles and sacrifice flies during an entire decade.

Boys don't do musical cheers.

Even during "color war," that traditional camp competition when cheering is supposed to result in points, here's how boys cheer on the way to the dining hall: They look at the other team and say, "Yo, Green Team, drop dead."

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