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Him and Her

"It's because you're from Mars". My spouse sensors were on high but I could detect no waiver in confidence as she spoke. "And I'm from Venus. You need to read the book."

On the contrary I know all about the planets. Mars is solid, once supported life and everyone is interested in it. Venus is shrouded by clouds of sulfuric acid and nobody is talking about going there. But it didn't seem like a good time to mention that.

Our "discussion" was about some relationship-critical matter like why one of us put the wire whisk in the knife drawer. We had moved from the infraction to its deeper meaning to the whole planetary challenge thing.

It’s an interesting topic, but every time I'm drug by the remote control into discussing it I end up feeling it’s me that has a LOT of work to do, starting with wanting to dance (despite the humiliation of looking like a wounded chicken when I do).

I don't need the book. I'm so clear on the Mars-Venus thing I once commented, in a room full of Methow-strength married women, that I didn't think men and women were meant to live together, except for the biology part. The deafening howls of protest were followed by muted talk of “what we have to put up with”. I think I even heard “get him fixed” in the muttering.

Okay. All right. Males and females are from two drastically different places about a hundred million miles apart but I’m a cretin for suggesting they aren’t meant to be together? (except for the biology part - I want to be clear about that exception).

I have been pondering this ever since. I even turned to greater minds like the esteemed Dr. Dave Barry who confirmed my theory then ruined the moment by revealing how guys think - mostly they don’t.

Strangely enough the turning point came when I saw one of those one-word motivational posters that are in the same genus as Elvis velvet paintings. It said “Teamwork" (or maybe “Housework”?). Regardless, it made me think—briefly—and I realized that Mars and Venus are actually much closer than they appear. For example:

  • My wife goes all weak . . . let me start again: My strong, smart, capable wife goes all noodle-weak and dreamy for vanilla musk candles, particularly if they are burning alongside an excruciatingly hot bath. Put a new 20-volt lithium cordless impact driver in my hands and you get pretty much the same response.
  • I love to watch TV. So does my Mrs., provided the program is about relationships, or people talking about relationships. It just so happens that I, too, am a total sucker for on-screen intertwinings like, for instance, the fascinating and complex connection between Ellen Ripley and the chest-exploding extraterrestrial in Aliens 3.
  • I once watched a woman pay close to $100 for 1.7 fluid ounces of face cream (granted, it did promise to reverse aging). That could be definitive proof men and women are 100 million miles apart but, truth is, I have spent at least half that much on hand cream . . . de-greaser hand cream . . . in the 324 ounce economy size . . . WITH moisturizers (.01%).
  • Women are notoriously supportive and encouraging, quick with a “good job” or “I’m so proud of you”. Men are tagged as hopelessly competitive and brutish. Au contraire. Watch guys on a playing field or job site and what look like occasional nervous neck twitches are actually nods - nods that condense a hug, a smile and warm words of praise into one efficient gesture. And the guttural communication often mistaken for gas are entire paragraphs of encouragement squeezed into one or two syllables.

Mars and Venus? I’ll go you one better - hims and hers are no further apart than Winthrop and Twisp, two towns that live in cooperative harmony. Being wrong was good—for one thing I didn’t have to think about it anymore and could move on to more fulfilling mental quests like researching subwoofers. I wore the revelation like new glasses: You really can’t have too many vases. Lavender soap doesn’t make me less of a man. How could I not see that $24.50 per ounce is a great deal for good chocolate? And how dumb of me to think the printed diamond plate bedspread was a better choice than floral pastel.

A while into my new phase my wife—my talented, secure, accomplished wife—approached me carrying a new jar of pickles, looking at the well-secured lid with the same impatient disgust she reserves for computer error messages. She shoved the vessel toward me and said, “Here. Open this.” Not knowing she had been trying for five minutes, I gave the lid a twist and it popped free. “Thanks”, she said bluntly. “Now I’m going to hit you.”

Okay. What planet is that from?


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Feeling safe writing all of this since Venus is in Sri Lanka?

Dawn Woodruff


Dawn Woodruff said it for me.

Bob Spiwak