I'm something of an amateur student of gender differences. Most of my studies are done in the home. I have been known to present such logical, objective theses as holding the entire male gender responsible for leaving the toilet seat up in our private bathroom, and postulating that there must be something intrinsic in the design of a brassiere that allows its wearer to read and change the settings on the washing machine, because no one else seems to be able to.
These gender studies have led me to conclude that it is impossible for a man, once he starts watching a football game, to pull himself away from it. It's not that football is a gender specific sport; I enjoy a good game of football more than some guys. I like talking about coaching strategies and watching the college rosters for up and coming draft hopefuls. I have a fantasy football team, and I share Dan Reeves' woe, because I, too, built my team around the Atlanta Falcons' QB, Michael Vick, who broke his leg, and with it, my husband's dreams that he might actually be able to say he's a Falcons fan without drawing the usual sniggers. I like football so much that most nights you can find me cruising the internet looking for scantily clad pictures of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, which puts me in the die hard football fan league along with the Washington Redskins Hoggettes and Cincinnati Bengals season ticket holders. But here's where the gender difference comes in. If there's a crummy game on -- I don't watch it. My husband? He's trapped.
If there is a lousy game being televised, I am free to roam the house at will, picking up any activity I choose. But if my husband catches sight of the game, he is stuck to the screen, complaining bitterly and in detail why neither of the teams playing has a chance at the Playoffs, while at least three other games are being played by better teams, the outcome of which will determine whether or not I have any hope of the Buccs winning the Superbowl this year -- or, more importantly to me, whether or not I have any hope of Gruden making good on his promise to perform a Superbowl victory dance in his unmentionables in downtown Tampa. (At this point in the season, while not strictly speaking impossible, a Tampa Bay Superbowl win would require an act of God, and I have it on fairly good authority He doesn't want to have to see that much skin.) No matter how boring or pointless the game, no matter how much he reviles the teams on the screen and the executives who chose that game to televise, my husband's eyes are glued to that score box. I would like to say that it is proof that women are biologically superior, except that the same thing happens to me with, of all things, romance novels.
I hate romance novels. With rare exception, they are pointless, repetitive and without literary merit. I have never actually purchased a romance novel. And yet, once I pick one up, I cannot put it down.
I may hate the main characters. I may loathe the dialogue. I have been banished to the far corners of the house to finish reading because I cannot refrain from shouting out loud at the book. I can tell you the entire plot as soon as the cast of characters is introduced, because the Guy always gets the Girl and her two best friends always get hooked up with his buddies. There is no reason on the face of the planet to read these books. With the vast majority of them, I can tell you the nature of the conflict between the two main characters and which chapter they'll get together in (one more fight before they live happily ever after, don't forget). But once I start... um, I gotta see if, like, he's gonna notice her dewy lips and glistening hair.
It doesn't matter how stupid the romance novel is. And let me tell you, I've come across some pretty stupid romance novels. I'm convinced the editors don't bother to read them, because I've seen novels where the heroine dresses in green so the deer won't be able to see her. (Deer are believed to be color blind by universities, Fish and Game officials, and my grandpa. Hence safety orange hunting vests.) I've also seen novels where the author makes up fictitious countries near England to avoid needing to sully the tale with facts, at least one of which featured a clan of natives who were -- I only wish I was making this up -- able to carry many times their body weight. "Like ants". At the top of my list of stupid romance novels is the latest one I've read, the title and author of which I shall not mention. This is because I suspect she spends more time making nice gifts for her lawyer than she does proofing her own manuscripts. In this book, I was treated to a paragraph wherein the pregnant heroine does not slaughter the billygoat -- possessing a male name (we'll call him "Greg") and referred to in the masculine form throughout the book -- because she might need milk for her infant. Maybe I misread that, I thought, but no, several pages later, there she was, drinking a glass of "Greg the goat's milk".
Stupid? Yes. But consider this: I finished every single one of those books. Who's stupid now?
Next time someone tries to lend me one of those books again, I'm just going to put it down. Maybe I can catch a Cincinnati Bengals game on TV instead.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
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