BTWEEN THE LINES - That male stuff

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

A friend writes today to lament the loss of her husband and brother who have abandoned her for the weekend to do "man stuff."

She defines this as, "Shopping at Bomgaars, talking about car crap and whatever else it is men do when they get together."

This otherwise liberal-minded, highly educated and insightful female newspaper editor has thus reduced the whole male population to the level of "Tim the Tool Man Taylor."

Outraged? Indignant? Not I.

It merely means that The Brotherhood is working as it was designed to.

We want it to appear that we have no thoughts beyond saber saws and fuel injectors. It is a very clever ruse developed over countless generations. That is in fact the reason that Bomgaars and automobiles were invented.

Until then, men mostly talked about rocks and sticks, and the females were starting to see through that scheme.

You see, men who appear so outwardly single-minded can hardly be expected to do much in terms of interpersonal relations, or for that matter, dish washing. This is what we count on.

Just in case too much is still expected, we have invented even more male behavior designed to illustrate our apparent shallowness - like toilet seats left up (hey, do we ever complain about them being DOWN?) We will scratch, spit, belch and worse, until a jurassic period slug would appear highly evolved in comparison.

It's hard work driving down expectations, but someone has to do it.

That's where The Brotherhood comes in. At age 6, it begins secreting boys off for classes in these manly arts and strategies. Refresher courses are held regularly. If your husband came home late Friday night, don't worry - that's where he was.

The Brotherhood's top-secret textbooks are filled with "man stuff." Like how to claim to be too busy for any assigned task or romantic evening on the town, even while watching pro wrestling on TV.

It's not that we enjoy that stuff, it's just our duty. Cars, nachos, pin-up calendars, endless days of watching football, puttering in garages and drinking beer. It's all the doing of The Brotherhood.

So here is the secret that no man has ever revealed, my dear ms. editor.

"Man Stuff: Shopping at Bomgaars, talking about

car crap and whatever else it is men do when they get together."

It is the "whatever else" that is the unrevealed essence.

When men get together, they carefully look around for spies from the female party, and when the coast is clear, they talk about...


Not tools. Not cars. Women.

It does not matter if those two males are 14 years old or 94. It's women.

They could come from any two different nations on earth (with the possible exception of Afghanistan) and they would still be completely able to relate to one another about women.

And I'm not talking Miss Mikita Tools from the calendar here, even though that is what we would have you think. It's part of the swerve.

It's a specific woman.

It's their girlfriend, their wife, their daughter. Might be their ex, a special friend, the one they haven't yet gotten the nerve to approach, their love - even if she's been gone 30 years.

Am I lying, men? The jig is up, might as well come clean.

They talk about what they love about the women they love; what they wished they understood about them; what they wanted to have to give them by now, because God knows they deserve better.

Playboy bunnies? Forget about it. Never even comes up. Those aren't the women men really think about.

We talk about the way that a little odd snatch of music heard during the day makes us think of her. How the sun looks bouncing around in her hair. Why she still seems to like a guy even if he keeps on disappointing her.

No, we don't talk modern dance, or art, or politics, or fashion, or philosophy. It isn't that we couldn't, but that when she is in there, there's no room left in our limited cranial glove compartments for that civilized stuff.

It's all about women. Honest.

For all the effort we go to appearing to be detached, we could, under torture, describe her eye color down to the most subtle tint and hue. We could describe what her perfume smells like and makes us think of, what she was wearing the first time we saw her, and the funny way she wrinkles up her nose sometimes. We are aware, you might say sensitive, even.

It is only The Brotherhood that keeps us from saying it, ladies. The grunts we use instead are mandated by male law. But don't interpret them to mean we don't care.

I suppose this means that I will be drummed out of The Brotherhood. Nobody's ever told the secret and lived to tell about it.

In the meantime, if anybody needs me, I'm going to run over to Bomgaars... hey, nice hood scoops, bro!