The Bitter Old Gen X’er’s Guide to Life

The Care and Feeding of North American Women

For Men Only: Ladies, Please Skip to the next Chapter. Please?

Now, wait, before you throw this aside and denounce me as a troglodyte chauvinist, I want to stress that this chapter is in no way intended to demean women. It is more of a field guide for helping the guys. In my many years of, uh, observing the female of the species, I have had opportunity to make numerous observations on their psychology. I now have decided to come to the service of my younger male comrades who are understandably bewildered by the seemingly irrational behaviour of women. Thus this is a set of the most important rules for dealing with social and romantic interactions with females. My comments will be restricted to North American women because those are the ones I had the, uh, fortune of growing up with.

Part one: Understanding the objective-subjective means of communication.

Women tend to be more strategic than men in their social interactions. For example, two men who do not like each other will generally react either by beating each other senseless and then letting the issue die, or by just avoiding each other. Women who do not get along with each other within a social group will engage in a long-term war involving secret alliances, accusations, and power-games in order to establish supremacy. And it only gets worse after elementary school. For this reason, words tend to carry more political significance than physical actions do. Because women tend to interpret every communication on a subjective basis, it is helpful to remember that women perceive actions entirely differently than males do; common statements may be perceived incorrectly, as in the following examples.

1. Greeting a woman with a smile.
  Possible female interpretations: a. I have on too much rouge. b. What I am wearing is silly. c. He knows something! d. He’s up to something!

2. “Wow, you look really nice this morning!"
  Possible interpretations: a. I’m a mess and this is sarcasm! b. He’s making a pass at me. c. Men! Doesn’t he know I have a mind too? d. Why is he complimenting me... guilt?

3. “Would you like to dance?"
  Possible interpretations: a. I can’t dance well and he wants to rub it in! b. He’s making a pass at me. c. Oh sure! Is he trying to get back at someone else? d. Is he only asking because no one else would dance with him?

4. “Are you in a bad mood today?"
  Possible interpretations: a. Is he finding this out for someone else? b. Bad mood! Do I look like I’m in a bad mood? c. Does he think I look bad? d. Does he know I’m in a bad mood and he’s rubbing it in?

The above examples are merely intended to illustrate my point that women seldom take statements made by men at face value. One should be careful in uttering phrases which are vague or unspecific to women; easily clarified statements such as “The weather is nice today” or “I hope the weather is nice tomorrow,” which do not involve social alliances or relationships, leave one less open to being misunderstood.

Part two: Translating from Womanese to Manese

Because women tend to interpret language from a subjective basis, they also tend to speak English in their own peculiar mode. Simply, women assume that men understand them when this is often not the case. Men comprehend language on a direct basis; there is no need to translate what is said because it is unnecessary to consider the source and background of the information; how many ways can “That’s a bitchin’ new bike, buddy” be interpreted? However, a statement made by a woman is basically unintelligible to a man unless he can account for who is saying it, the audience, what that person was wearing, who was listening, what the mood of the speaker is, and what the relationship of all present is to the speaker.

This is all highly confusing to males, and thus we present some typical interrogatory statements made by women with specific advice on the proper answer to such statements which will allow you (to use a psychological term) to avoid getting into big fat trouble.

1. “I’m really getting fat."
Translation and advice: This is a statement made to allay guilt over whatever is being eaten. The key to answering this is, obviously, never to agree, by answering “Don’t worry, you look great!” If you are not specifically being addressed, it is best to pretend not to have heard; begin distracting yourself by comparing the crouton / lettuce ratios in your salad.

2. “Does this look good on me?"
Translation and advice: This is a question that must be answered with caution. If the clothing does actually look good, it is fine to say so. However, the poor soul who tells a woman she looks good when she obviously doesn’t is in danger; she may buy the clothing, only to have her friends criticize her looks (girls can say these things). A more tactful reply would be a duck such as “the color’s not right", or “it looks good, but it’s just not you".

3. “Do you think she is pretty?"
Translation and advice: This is an invitation to comparison; i.e. “do you think she is prettier than me?” Danger. Never say ‘yes’, even if Miss Brazil is sitting there in a two-piece bikini, for you will get an icy glare thrown at you. The correct response is “She’s nice.” If the girl is a obvious knockout, an offhand “yessss” voiced with a hint of disinterest would be safer. Don’t overdo it by calling the girl ugly, because it will be taken as a personal insult to the sisterhood and she will rally to the woman’s defense (i.e. “well, looks aren’t everything! I know lots of nice girls...") and you will look like a cro-magnon.

4. “How old do you think I am?"
Translation and advice: Women generally want to be seen as mature and sophisticated, yet young and playful at the same time—somehow. This question is an effort to affirm that. However, underguessing will give the impression that you see the female as immature, and overshooting will give her the impression that she looks past her expiry date. When you answer, remember the ‘9’ rule: the age of a young girl is always 19, and the age of an older woman is always 29. If you’re not sure, a dodge is the safest answer: “you’re as old as you feel!"
5. “What do you think of my new hairdo?"
Translation and advice: Women are being unusually honest when this is asked. However, do not reply with honesty unless you really do find it pleasing. This is a sensitive area; women can sniff out insincerity better than an Israeli airport bomb detector. Generally, try to ascertain how she feels about it and then agree with whatever she says unless she dislikes it, in which case you would disagree and remind her she always looks good to you!

6. “Do you think I’m silly?"
Translation and advice: “Do you take me seriously?” She’s obviously trying to determine your attitude towards her. There are so many possible secondary motives that the safest response is to avoid the question outright: “no, you’re just goofy". Imply that her bubbly personality makes her fun to be with (’bubbly’ is more vague than, say, ‘childlike’ and thus safer. ‘Charming’ may imply old age and should be used cautiously.)

7. “We spend way too much time together."
Translation and advice: This belongs in the territory of boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. Disagree—this is no joking matter. If you agree and send her home, she is likely to pretend you are made of marble the next sixty times she sees you. The best answer is “it doesn’t seem like that much time because I’m totally absorbed in you every moment that we’re together,” or an equally flowery response. Sometimes it’s good to have a poetry book handy.

Part three: Preventing getting yourself in deep doo-doo

The previous section merely illustrated some strategies for male—female conversation. Now it’s time for the big leagues where we examine entire scenarios and some standardized rules of conduct for men in social interactions or boyfriend—girlfriend relationships. The following practical guidelines are intended to assist you in dealing with general situations of potential disaster, whether with one or many women.

1. Situation: You are sitting with several females in a room with few or no other males. The girls are somehow in a rowdy and vulgar mood and begin making jokes about their monthly functions.

Response: Never, ever, for the love of all that’s bright and beautiful, never join in the banter because after even the most coarsest remarks, any joke you make, however innocuous, will be greeted with stony silence and you will descend to the popularity level of, say, Hitler. Women are extremely protective of their reproductive periods and will attack any male comment with “that’s gross!” or “you have no idea what it’s like!” The same applies to situations where women are joking about their breast sizes. Do not offer an opinion even if asked as you will be shot for it. Thus you should try to attract as little attention as possible until the topic changes, by either laughing quietly or pretending to be distracted by another activity in the room, i.e. television commercials (write down the order number for that Magic Cheez Grater deal!) or the careful retying of shoelaces.

2. Situation: You are sitting, again, with several females in a room with few or no other males. While watching television, Brad Pitt or a similar heartthrob appears on the screen. The women bill and coo over his attributes.

Response: Do not denounce their actions as purely sexual or feign disgust with their superficial attitudes. You will be dealt with a tirade along the general lines of “We don’t like Brad Pitt because he’s attractive but because he’s sensitive and vulnerable and cries while he reads poetry,” or with “You’re just jealous!", which is an instant reputation destroyer. The safest response is to, again, ignore the situation by suddenly paying attention to winding or resetting your watch or adjusting your sock levels.

3. Situation: A girl in your social group decides to play matchmaker; she coyly asks you which girls in the group you are attracted to.

Response: Girls will often ask this in order to find out ‘what sells’ in their group in order to establish hierarchy; this may also be asked to determine your availability for an interested party. If you tell her this information you will be dead meat and the subject of gossip within a radius of twelve city blocks; the safest answer is a vague answer, i.e. identifying yourself as a confirmed bachelor or priesthood candidate. (Think twice about identifying yourself as not liking girls at all if avoiding gossip is your objective.) Persistent questions may be dealt with by “that’s a guy thing” or “I find all the girls attractive!"

4. Situation: Your girlfriend has begun to hint upon the subject of marriage by stopping in front of jewellery and bridal stores and leaving wedding magazines strewn about her room. Somehow, whether the topic is gene therapy or Icelandic trade, marriage comes into it. She might come right out and ask you what you think a happy marriage is—as much an oxymoron as ‘military intelligence’ and ‘country music’, remind yourself.

Response: To avoid a fate worse than death, you must try as much as possible to change the subject; (i.e. Nice weather we’re having! How ‘bout those Oilers!) if you are clearly trapped, you might try changing the subject to a known area of female explosion which could distract her (i.e. religion: ‘Ah, yes, but what would Augustine have thought of modern marriage?’ or, in worst case scenarios, politics: ‘Did you know that sales tax is charged on wedding apparel?’)

5. Situation: You are sitting in a room with numerous females and few or no other males. After one of the females in the group leaves, one or more of the remaining females begin attacking her. The mood steadily grows tense.

Response: Get out! You are walking into a catfight which will consume everyone there like flesh-eating disease. If you remain quiet you may not attract attention, but you will be classified anyway as ‘for’ or ‘against.’ A common mistake is to join in and agree with the accusations. This will result in all women immediately perceiving this as an outside attack, especially if the group is relatively close-knit; you will be denounced as a back-slasher who is criticizing their meek, defenceless sister. Perhaps the safest response if leaving is imprudent is to mildly defend those attacked and appeal to a higher standard, i.e. Christian charity. If you are not criticized for being naïve, you may be able to come off as above it all and will gain mega brownie points. At this point you should remain silent for at least fifteen minutes while you watch television, seemingly absorbed in some amoral soap opera or other suitable female programming.

6. Situation: Your girlfriend has not spoken for several minutes and will not look at you. Realizing that it is unnatural for a woman to refrain from speaking for more than twenty second periods, you ask what is wrong. She replies, “(plaintive, mournful sigh) oh, nothing..."

Response: You are in big trouble. Did you forget her birthday or run over her cat? You are now, unfortunately, faced with two unpleasant alternatives, for the longer you allow her to be silent the angrier she will get. Clue: estimate the length of her sigh. There is a general correlation between this and the length of the explosion you will get in exponential terms. For example, a one second sigh usually indicates a five-to-ten minute lecture, whereas a two-second sigh could culminate in getting bawled out for an hour. The best response is to A. run for it or B. speak softly to her and recite poetry.

Remember, poetry, poetry, poetry! It’s your last-ditch secret weapon. It can get you out of jams. And I’m not talking about the Battle of Maldon. Keats or Shelley will do. Look for Victorian poets with feminine features and lots of silk, and lacy script. You’ll almost never go wrong. Watch Sense & Sensibility for tips, if you can stand to.

Part four: Things to watch for; interpreting group female behaviour.

If the average male knew, for example, the political manoeuvrings that women engage in at mating ceremonies such as dances, they would run screaming into the night. Women have the known habit of leaving for the washroom in small groups; do you see many men doing this? There are reasons for this activity. This may be a means of freeing a woman from a conversation with someone undesirable. Thus, if you are talking to a woman and her friend approaches (usually on a visual cue such as winking or sending up gunpowder flares) and asks for help powdering her nose, you should take the hint while realizing that the woman is at least trying to be tactful.

This may also happen between two women engaged in a catfight (i.e. “I really think you have to go to the washroom” through clenched teeth). Men generally do not have extended conversations in the bathroom; remarks are usually limited to the mundane (i.e. “lend me your comb” or “did you see the [eyes] on that blonde at your table?) In contrast, a ladies’ washroom resembles a military headquarters; strategies are meshed out, men are fought over and evaluated, and organized cosmetics sessions occur. No wonder they take forever in there. Man, how long did it take to plan Normandy?

Males also seldom realize how united women are in communication. Women radiate an aura of being locked in an eternal power struggle and seem to cut each other down at will: “Who does she think she is?"; “Nice dress! Does it come in your size?” However, in matters where cooperation leads to the common good, i.e. romance, women have more group solidarity than the Red Guard.

For example, I warned earlier never to admit romantic interests to a woman. If this information is given, manoeuvres begin taking place that would dwarf a Rommel battle strategy. What happens is that A. this information is relayed throughout the girls in the social group within one hour, or within twenty minutes if it was given ‘in strict secrecy.’ B. The opinion of the intended girl(s) is sought. C. If you are judged to be unsuitable, you will descend to the status of Jack the Ripper and will become an outcast. However, if your prospects are good, you will soon be surrounded by numerous smiling females seeking information, generally with the subtlety of a steam shovel, which will be relayed across the group instantaneously; the concerned female(s) will act in a seclusive and flirtatious manner.

Part five: Summary.

Generally, the information provided thus far applies mainly to high-school age and college women. For unexplainable reasons, the birthing of children seems to wreak numerous psychological processes in women which often makes them easier to comprehend; thus there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of marriage.

I would like to acknowledge those subjects which have provided me with a wealth of practical information in the newly emergent field of Applied Wenchology, whether through observation or direct contribution, and to friends who have suggested ideas for this chapter. Obviously, I have only touched upon the basics of male—female social relationships, and caution that the only effective means of learning is to go out and take your bruises like I did. Despite my obvious expertise, I married very late.


Is Elvis Really Alive?

Going to University

Politics & Government

The Internet: Patience

The Great Authors Contest

Sports & Recreation

The End of Everything

The Care & Feeding of Women

Death: A Lively Discussion

Getting a Job

Canada: The Real Story

My Hair: A Requiem

The Church vs. Wipe-Out

The Language of Attraction

Life Rules

Bitter Gen-X’er Exam