How can you tell?

Think about this: Several years ago, Sinead O’Connor sported the shaved head look and it did take a minute to figure out if you were looking at she or he ( a close-up on those gorgeous eyes made it easy). Plus, obscure fashions can muddy the waters considerably, and the plethora of tattoos can make it worse. So here are a few mannerisms to look for just in case there seems to be a question.

Women never eat a donut by holding on to the entire unit when taking a bite. Instead, they pull off small pieces to be consumed with an interest in feigning delicacy. The small portion is grasped with the thumb and forefinger, while the remaining fingers are allowed to point outward. This may be to avoid picking up crumbs where they clearly do not belong. Men find it difficult to eat dry donuts, preferring to dip it in something or nearly anything. Same thumb/forefinger technique, but number three, four and five fingers are tucked under the palm. Probably has a connection with evolution, but then our ancestors, you’ll recall, lacked the opposing digits.

Women never cross their legs in such a way that one foot is propped on the knee of the other leg — not even when they are wearing pants — unless, occasionally, there is a desire to project a butch-like persona. Hard to tell sometimes. If the attire is a dress, long or short, the practical advantages are obvious. Men prefer the foot-on-knee style, presuming that it’s the way a lumberjack would be seen. Unknown contents on the bottom of the shoe be damned.

Even while sitting, women move a lot. Almost constantly. It’s just the way it is. My guess is that random movement is affected to inform the rest of the world that there is life in progress inside that sweet head. Guys don’t, because often they’ve simply fallen asleep.

I won’t go into nose-blowing techniques. It’s just too disgusting.

Women never spit and I have no idea why. Men do, and it can be positively liberating. There, too, ways and means are better left unsaid.

When women run — or shall we say, pick up the pace — in what we can characterize as a “business context,” the steps are abbreviated, perhaps for improved stability, perhaps in the interest of being discreet. Business attire for women was never designed for a full-out gallop, so care is the order of the day. Men know no such constraints, with the possible exception of when they’re wearing what we used to call a top-coat over a suit. Very confining around the knees. Stability issues there as well.

Courtesy is an unknown commodity in men, unless on the hunt in a meat-market bar, and even then is limited to offering a hapless woman a drink. Women know the skills well, especially voice volume modulation; I’ve known women for much of my life who are physically incapable of a ringing shout. Screeching is generally the province of the babes in the soap operas. I don’t really understand that contrast, unless it’s  true that loudness is equated — by men — to super masculinity. When an event announcer addresses his audience as  “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he’s usually making an assumption on the latter group.

Women typically cover their mouths when laughing; men show the world. I think the former has something to do with modesty, but it could be that business of modulating volume. We saw a woman laughing to the point of practically falling off her bar stool the other night and I was shocked to the point where my jaw nearly hit the bar. Frankly, it was refreshing.

Well,  here’s what it is: When women get totally pissed off, the decibel levels rise appreciably, and for most men, that’s intimidating.

The only adjective that women ever use is “cute.” This is applied to other women, men, clothing, dogs, children, cars and attitudes, and has nothing to do with a limited vocabulary. It is simply a maddening preference. Men, for the most part, avoid the frequent use of adjectives, which can suggest a hesitancy to assign values to the world they encounter: “How about the team’s new first baseman?” “I’ll know better later in the season.”

James Thurber talked about “The war between men and women,” but I don’t really agree. The reality is it’s more of a contest, with mannerisms a way of identifying the players, and it’s where the fun and the appeal begin.

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