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Men vs. Women

An impressive cast throws their combined actorly muscle behind this exploration of the war of the sexes. Michael (Joe Mantegna) doesn't understand why the new car he bought for his wife Dana (Christine Lahti) has sent her into an emotional tailspin; frustrated and confused, he and his friend Bruce (Paul Reiser) decide to blow off steam by going to a strip club--unfortunately, Dana returns home just as the men are setting off. She follows and is appalled by what she finds, setting off a far more serious marital crisis for both couples. What starts out as a middle-aged version of American Pie turns into an honest attempt to grapple with the troubles of a long marriage. The conclusion is dubious, but Women vs. Men has some thoughtful moments along the way and the cast keeps the scenes lively--Lahti and Glenne Headly (as Bruce's wife) are particularly good.

A man and a woman, traveling by car down the road, enjoy a comfortable silence. The man is driving, the woman sits beside him, a husk dried by the incessant flow of air conditioning. She turns to her husband and asks brightly, "Are you thirsty?" The man, staring straight ahead, says, "Nope." The silence is suddenly uncomfortable.

Now comes this feeling, a nagging notion, a dread. It's hard to pin down; perhaps someone is tailgating. A prickly aura fills the car. By now he's waiting, waiting for ... something inevitable. A meteor, a tornado, another credit card application? He looks over at his wife, whose body language is screaming, "Hey, stupid!"

Then comes the slow-witted realization. She's thirsty. That's when he realizes he has fallen, without a net, into the yawning chasm between men and women. Everyone assumes that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. Actually, after extensive research, it has been determined that women are from the Crab Nebula and, men are from Uranus — to continue the heavenly body thing.

In a blinding glimpse of the obvious, this pricey research has also shown that there are very real physiological and psychological differences between men and women. The following are vague generalizations supported by stuff told to some guy by some other guy's cousin's friend, who's a therapist. In other words: solid evidence.

Women may see every side to an issue, agonize over them, temporize. Men usually sledgehammer ahead, oblivious to the approach of catastrophe. The main expression of this difference is choosing a restaurant. Men will blurt a name, somewhere smoky and featuring bar food; women will put the kibosh on each subsequent choice until the discussion ends in petulant silence. The romantic dinner for two ends up as a trip through the drive-through at Stan's Burger Bonanza. Other differences: naming children, getting drunk at parties, attending family functions.

Men dress differently after every major conflict

The look of the modern man was actually invented in the trenches of Europe. American men dress differently after every major conflict. After the Revolutionary War, Americans embraced the navy jacket. After the Civil War, mass production allowed for off-the-rack shirting. After the Spanish-American War, the first durable jeans hit the market. But no war changed men's style as much as WWI.

Clothes got tougher, bulkier, and better fit. Patterns were tweaked and accessories were streamlined. Men went from looking civilized to looking efficient. We still do - largely because we're wearing garments built for war.

During the Spanish-American war, U.S. troops were kitted out with Russet Marching Shoes, streamlined calfskin boots with a delicate, elongated profile and a single sole. Soldiers spent nearly as much time cursing their footwear as Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Habsburgo-Lorena, the king of Spain. The soles fell off and the brogue-like bodies crumpled. The boots looked glamorous - some even had circular metal heels to help soldiers pivot while marching on the drill field - but weren't a practical choice for combat on the fields of Flanders, where trenches filled with water. To combat trench foot, a condition caused by prolonged dampness that leads to gangrene, the army introduced the "Pershing Boot," which had a thicker sole, Chrome Vegetable retained cowhide sides, and an enlarged, waterproofed toe box. Soldiers called their boots “Little Tanks” because they were so much larger than their predecessors.

At the end of the war, factories continued to produce the trench boots. Today, men refer to the ancestors of the hobnail boot perfected by General John Pershing as “work boots” and wear them with jeans. Wolverine and Red Wing, the popular Minnesota brands known for footwear that wouldn't have warranted a second glance at the First Battle of the Marne, have been ubiquitous over the last few years. The bulkier, un-breakable men's boot is an American classic. We go to work in shoes design to go to war.

Prior to the Great War, well-made coats had tails, profoundly cinched waists, narrow shoulders, and tight sleeves. Rather than accentuating the natural triangular shape of a broad-shouldered man's body, jackets gave men a soft, almost hourglass form. The look worked for men of leisure, but it was a disaster in the field, where men need to be able to move their arms. That's why the British Army adopted the 1902 Service Dress Tunic, a boxier jacket with rifle-pad shoulders, large chest pockets, and a barrel chest. The new uniform was such a success that the American military basically copied it with the Wool Uniform Coat. The new coats looked sharp and masculine - so much so that veterans continued wearing square-bottom blazers with expanded chests when they returned home.

Though the current trend is toward more tailored suits, modern jackets are still designed for action, not leisure. The right fit allows men to move.

Pocketwatches dominated the market in 1910. The vast majority of timepieces sold spent their working lives on the ends of chains connected to belt loops and buttons. A decade later, the hand-held time piece was disappearing and the wristwatch was on the rise. Two models were largely responsible for the change. The Hamilton watch, worn by flying aces who couldn't reach into their pockets during dog fights, was the first truly mass-produced wristwatch. The Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, made over a million “Khaki” watches for the military before the war was out. For decades after, fighting men wore their Hamiltons as a reminder of what they accomplished and who they left behind in Europe.

The second important watch of the era was designed by Louis Cartier, who was impressed by the Renault take he saw while fighting on the Western Front. In 1917, his family jewelry business released its first “Tank” watch, a rectangular stainless steel timepiece with prominent roman numerals. If Hamilton popularized the American field watch with the “Khaki,” Cartier created the modern European luxury wristwatch business with the “Tank.” The prototype was gifted to General Pershing, re-inventor of the boot.

British infantryman weren't allowed to wear trench coats, the long rain jackets made of Thomas Burberry's miraculous gabardine fabric. Only officers were allowed to have the coats and - even then - they had to purchase them at their own expense. Many well-heeled and well-bred leaders bought the greatcoats as statement pieces. They were a classic British affectation, class statements disguised as clothing.

Modern trench coats look a great deal like their WWI antecedents, though most feature fewer pockets and less pronounced collars. To this day, most high-end trenches have d-rings on their belts, a call back to the days when officers had to clip on map cases and scopes.

In 1917, the U.S. Army mobilized to make sure that servicemen could see by hiring American Optical, a then-91-year-old firm out of Southbridge, Massachusetts, to build eight mobile optical units capable of supplying troops on both fronts. The contract was all-important for America's fighting myopics, but it also militarized AO, which had a patent on an early tinted lens designed by British chemist William Crookes that was quickly incorporated into flight goggles. The goggles were deep, rounded, and well received by pilots, who kept asking for bigger lenses.

Over the years after the end of the war, AO evolved those goggles, creating both next-gen anti-flak goggles used in WWII and the first aviator sunglasses. The company would eventually make the glasses worn by Neil Armstrong during the first moon landing, but that was a ways off. What WWI forced eyewear designers to do was create eyewear that could thrive in almost any condition. American men have been reluctant to take off their sunglasses ever since.

Mmmm, eating. Men literally eat like dogs, quickly, swallowing whole whatever is in front of them, unaware of the disgusted look from the woman sitting across the table. Several men eating together, forks issuing sparks, can generate enough energy to power the average home for two months. As the old saying goes: Don't get your hands near their mouths.

Women eat leisurely. They call it "enjoying" food. They pick through theft food delicately, like a hummingbird darting around a feeder. This takes a long time, leaving men bored, forcing them to swallow sugar packets, suck the ketchup from a squeeze bottle, or play paper football.

These sorts of things extend to the home. Men, when making dinner, usually mix up three boxes of macaroni and cheese, then "fancy it up" by adding three slices of American cheese. Women make some sort of odd dish seen on the Food Network, involving smelts and sea salt. Other bones of contention: five-second-floor rule, capers, preserving freshness.

Another major difference involves clothing and clothing choice. Some women literally have enough clothes, in enough colors and styles, to outfit one of America's smaller cities. Many of these items, however, make their butts look fat. These clothes are never worn, but never thrown away, on the oft chance of miraculous butt shrinkage.

Urban men own a wadded-up ball of khaki pants and blue shirts; rural men own similar wads of blue jeans and T-shirts. These pants and shirts vary only by age, quantity and location of food stains. Indeed, most men, given a choice, would walk around in their underwear if they could get away with it, perhaps adding black socks for formal occasions.

The Rosetta Stone of the male/female wardrobe is the purse. To woman it's a vital component in the ensemble, to men, it's arcane storage. Men feel a purse is best handled with tongs or one of those bomb-disarming robots. Males will, rather than invade the sanctity of a purse, daintily carry it to an authorized woman. A comedian once observed that men handle purses as if they're filled with manure.

Men, of course, don't carry purses, or if they do, call them something else. There was an experiment, that went horribly wrong, whereby men carried small pouches around their waists. Most men carry things in "pockets," those structures located on the front and rear of their pants. Women's pants often have no pockets at all; or, worse, fake pockets. Other things: shoe choice, length of shopping trips, color blindness.

As for male storage solutions, men carry cool-looking rocks, receipts, lint collections and money in their pockets. And if they don't have a cool rock, they want one. Often they store cash in wallets, large pillow-size slabs of overstuffed leather, which creak and groan alarmingly and sometimes explode. Men also carry a greasy gray wad of cash that, tossed casually onto store counters, cause clerks to visibly recoil.

Which brings us to the only object men search for in women's purses: the checkbook. Because many women don't carry cash. Women have been observed inserting neatly folded fifty-cent checks into vending machines. They write checks for individual pieces of gum. Differences in money handling which lead to simultaneous whining and, later, trial separations: making payments, making payments on time, tipping.

Hairstyle and upkeep: the final frontier. Women change hairstyles and colors every few days. Men don't change styles at all. The sheer incongruity of men changing their hairstyle is staggering. Men settle on a hairstyle during puberty (or earlier) and after that nothing changes. Imagine a man showing up for work with a stylish layered cut or suddenly having a part in his hair. And then eagerly waiting for coworkers to notice. No, men will shorten length, perhaps wash their hair or comb it periodically. That is all.

An embarrassing exception to the male hair policy is the bald-man comb over. This painful departure from the "I don't give a dang about my hair" philosophy pains men. And women. Women have almost equally problematic styles. "Big" hair. Overly dramatic style changes, i.e., long, straight hair to Mohawk. A tasteful Mohawk. Overly plucked eyebrows. Pixie cuts.

Question: How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper? Answer: No one knows, it has never been done. This tends to reinforce the theory that many women hold: Men are lazy. Evidence for this assertion: men observed lying on couches for days at a time or staring blankly into space when asked to perform some vital task. These vital tasks include moving furniture around randomly or holding curtains up for extended study.

A corollary to this laziness is the inability to find things. As the saying goes, men couldn't find their rear ends with both hands. Looking for stuff usually ends with men whining and women immediately finding the lost object. On the other hand, sometimes when men ask women where something is, the answer is, "It's in there." Or "over there" or "in the den." This vague answer results in more male whining: "Where?" Or, "where in the den?" The women sigh dramatically, the men wave their arms, arguments begin, the world turns, summer turns to fall.

If one is observant, one may notice that one's wife is sometimes shorter than one's self. One may also notice one is using the word "one" too much. This "shortness" means that objects easily accessible to women may not be visible or even accessible to most men, unless they crawled on their bellies like a reptile. Extra dichotomies: asking directions, asking for help in stores, wanting to "talk."

A cursory scan of a woman’s apartment

According to Sam Gosling, author of The Secret Language of Stuff, a cursory scan of a woman’s apartment speaks volumes about her world.

1. Entertainment Center
Tech signposts are key, and a flat–screen monster with all the bells and whistles doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a Grey’s Anatomy junkie. “People with the latest and greatest gadgets often crave stimulation,” says Gosling. Translation: You’re in for awkward wine–and–cheese parties galore.
2. Living Room
If she has re–created a Pottery Barn showroom, you’re dealing with a nester. “Lots of pillows indicate an extrovert who wants to craft an inviting environment,” explains Gosling. “She needs constant company.”
3. Bathroom
Peep her toothpaste tube. Does she squeeze or roll? The latter means she’s borderline OCD. Also, look for the cap—if she can’t keep track of that, she may be the type who constantly loses her phone.
4. Library
Does she have a bookshelf? Inspect the selection. If she owns A Million Little Pieces, any Oprah Book Club book, or He’s Just Not That Into You, you’re about to take out a lady who has no idea that she’s (a) annoying, (b) needy, or (c) corpselike in bed.
5. Bedroom
An elevated bed indicates a girl wants to be put on a pedestal, while something low, like a futon, means she’ll be quick to invite you in and even quicker to kick you out. Candles? Check the wax. “Unused means she wants to appear contemplative but really isn’t,” explains Gosling.
6. Kitchen
“The kitchen is a key to her conscientiousness,” explains Gosling. “If there isn’t a crumb in sight, expect a task–oriented person who doesn’t get caught up in the chaos of the moment.” That means she’s cool so long as you’re not a total mess.
7. Stuffed Animals
Do you see dozens or just one, her grandmother’s teddy bear? “The former is a girly girl who doesn’t want to grow up, while the latter is the sentimental type who values her connections to the past.” (She’s grounded.)
8. Breakfast Nook
Scattered bills scream credit card debt, but if they’re neatly stacked and sliced open with a letter opener, she’s nice and punctual. Say hello to 25 minutes of movie previews!

Download a few words of wisdom for the single.

Really, All You Ladies Need To Understand Is:

  1. We don't like to vacuum.
  2. We like to be amuzed
  3. We think Christie Brinkley is prettier than Rosanne Barr.

Most women do not have the ability to live with filth; many will eventually go insane if forced to live in untidy conditions. Their ideal man is Mr. Clean. Men, however, will snuggle into dirt with contented sighs amid a debris field of pizza boxes, cans, paper napkins, coffee cups, popcorn and cereal.

Clothes tossed onto the floor are fashion choices for men: these clothes are now handy for tossing into the dryer for later use. Removing underpants is an opportunity to kick them into the air and catch them. Then drop them on the floor. Women see clothing on the floor as an abomination. More clothing splits: fashion "rules," washing red items with white items, organizing the sock drawer.

Can you hear the music? Men and women march to different drummers. Men usually prefer primal hard rock, heavy metal bands, bands whose audience have the emotional range of a 12-year-old. There are subsets of this: for example, country music men, who rip the sleeves from their shirts and are most comfortable on the blazing hot seat of a metal john-boat. However, many of these men, called department store rednecks, are accountants or financial advisers, hence the sleeveless button-down Oxford shirts.

Women listen to yodeling folk-rock peasant-blouse-wearing singer-songwriter, types or country pop divas whose music is country only in the most tenuous sense: A fiddle lurks deep in the song's mix. Men will watch Shania Twain videos; but never be caught dead listening to her music. Men and women tend to denigrate the other's musical choices. To women most hard rock music is Neanderthal baloney. Men would describe female musical selections as weepy, navel-gazing pabulum. They are both right in most cases.

The most visible difference in musical tastes? Air guitar. While not as popular as it once was, men will spontaneously begin imaginary ax play if properly motivated by drink. Women, with exceptions, cannot play air guitar, at least not without looking like goofballs.

On the other hand, men and women look ridiculous playing air piano. Air guitar's father, the guitar solo, is woefully under-appreciated by women. Or at least it seems that way to some guy screaming along to the screechings of some '80s hair band.

Women refuse to acknowledge obvious (meaning not obvious) influences. This band sounds a little like Interpol, mixed with a strident Gang of Four political sensibility, men might say. Women will nod tiredly as the music grates from the speakers, for them an experience akin to chewing aluminum foil. Then they will blurt, "Your music is blasting in my ears!" Department of differences: singing along, whooping it up, changing radio stations incessantly.

John Sykes Jr. Men vs. Women. Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Oct 7, 2004.

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