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Jun 28

You bet women can do math

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 in dating, Honesty, Relationships, Self image, Women

The bill for our drinks came, and Sara and Mia simultaneously popped out of their seats and reached for their cell phones.

“What are you gals doing?”

“Trying to figure out what each of us needs to chip in,” Sara said as her fingers wildly pressed her iPhone screen.

“On a calculator? Geez, it’s not that hard. There are only three of us,” I said.

“I’m a girl: I suck at math.”

“I hate to break it to you, honey, but you haven’t been a ‘girl’ in about 45 years. And don’t say that!”

“What?”       

“That girls suck at math.”

“But we do,” Mia chimed in.

“Says?”

“Remember when Harvard’s president said women weren’t cut out for science and math?”

“You’re not listening to that idiot!”

“Yeah, well, didn’t you hear about those new studies saying he may be right?”

Yes, I had heard about them, along with the studies that said girls may get math anxiety from their female teachers and even their moms. Why can’t they ever leave the mothers out of things?

Excuse me, but, isn’t math something that we learn? It may be harder for some and easier for others, and, sure, developmentally boys and girls may experience leaps and bursts at different times. Still, I’m not buying that we women can’t “do math” just because we’re women.

Actually, I think women are exceptionally gifted in math — we just use it differently than men. We use honest-to-goodness practical math:

  • Like when we buy something on sale. If it’s normally, say $100 and it’s now 50 percent off, we suddenly have an extra $50 in our wallet, so we are ahead $50 that we can spend on something else. The true math geeks among is, however, don’t; still, they’ll insist that they “saved money” while spending.
  • When it comes to food, we are always doing the math; do we go for the 380-calorie slice of double-chocolate cake or do we use those 380 calories for a glass of red wine and a Cobb salad?
  • We are naturally inclined to make adjustments in recipes — who hasn’t doubled or halved one, as needed? — and in cocktail mixing. And we often create wonderful new mathematical equations by addition — throwing an extra handful of chips in the chocolate chip cookie batter, say.
  • We grasp the power of three when it comes to finding The One, whether third-date sex, waiting three days for a guy to call or the Third Month Dating Syndrome (as in, are we dating or in a relationship)
  • We are constantly figuring out the best time for a bikini wax, using highly complex computations so we get maximum benefits — aka how many times we’ll be seen naked — for the $60, plus tips. Ditto with leg shaving.
  • We excel at word problems. Here’s one I use all the time: If I have 9 pairs of black shoes and I see a pair of black shoes that I like in a style I don’t have, how many pairs of shoes will I have at the end of the day?
  • We tend to be quite skilled at computing and instantaneously reciting all the times our sweetie did something that just pissed us off (aka keeping score). And we don’t even have to write it down; it’s all in our head!
  • We know that vanity sizing has made a mess of our closets let alone our heads. What size are we if we can wear a size 4, 6 and 8? This is a case where math fails us and we revert to logic; if it fits, wear it.
  • Finally, one of the all-time practical uses for math is when it comes to penis size. As you know, men worry quite a bit about the size of their dick, wondering if it’s “big enough.” But whether it’s 6 inches, 9 inches, 11 inches — we really don’t care. If it feels good and does what it should and provides us with all that we need, then, well, that’s what’s known as a perfect number, and certainly no less beautiful than Euler’s Identity.

Now who can’t do math?

  • Where do you fall on the “women can’t do math” spectrum?
  • And, feel free to add your own creative uses of math.
Jun 23

Want to understand men? Have a son

Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 in Men, Parenting, Relationships, Women

It was one of those rare occurrences in my life as a daughter; when I called home on Sunday, my dad didn’t immediately say, “Hold on, I’ll go get your mother.”

Of course, it was Father’s Day and not to diss my mom, but really, he was the main event. There’s only one other day of the year like that — my dad’s birthday.

Dads are a strange breed, or least the ones of my generation. They talk a lot but rarely about themselves. I’ve learned loads from my dad, but not a lot about him. Who knows what he really knows about me, if anything. So I was blown away by a comment he tossed out as we caught up.

“Well, honey, you made me
a b-tter man.”   

“What did you say, Dad?
The phone cut out.”

But by then he was off on
one of his rants, this time about the Gulf oil spill and the “idiots” running his condo association and the next
thing I knew my mom was
on the phone and he disappeared.

“My Dad said a weird thing
to me yesterday,” I told Sean the next day as we snuggled in his bed.

“Oh, so convoluted thinking runs in your family …”

“Hahaha. Well, he either
told me that I’ve made him a bitter man or a better one. The phone got all static-like, but I’m hoping for the latter.”

“I’m sure that’s what he said,” he said as he kissed the top of my head.

“Don’t patronize me!”

“I’m not. But, as a dad of a daughter, that’s what I say, too.”

“Why?”

“Because having a daughter has taught me so much more about women.”

Which is exactly how I feel, about men, that is. The beauty of having a son is that it’s a petri dish of manhood. I’ve watched — sometimes in bewilderment, sometimes paralyzed in fear, more often than not thinking, WTF?!? — how The Kid has transformed from the quintessential superhero-idolizing, truck-obsessed, gun-loving, nonstop macho Boy into a sensitive, kind, gentle Man.

Don’t get me wrong — there are still a lot of mysteries about him, mostly about his logic, or lack of it. He has a male brain, I have a female one and that is a huge difference right there.

But I’ve seen the vulnerabilities behind the “suck it up” facade, how he was just as devastated as any woman I’ve ever known by his first heartbreak, but didn’t have quite the same safe place to express it. How finding his place in the high school pecking order, how looking cool in the eyes of his peers and girls he might like to date, meant he had to have status — like wheels.

You just can’t have a child of the opposite gender and not see that gender — and the world — differently.

How could a father not want anything but the best for his daughter, whether in the workplace, the home or in men’s eyes?

And for moms of sons? It’s why I freak out when I read that men don’t count; that some gal might consider him nothing more than a sperm donor, thank you very much; that he might be fodder for a male-bashing gals’ night out.

Sorry, but not my kid!

I know that if I had a daughter, I’d feel just as passionately about things but with a different perspective. I’d know exactly what she’s feeling because I was that girl once. We’d be speaking the same language.

But I don’t have that language with men; I have to learn it. And that’s why I love having a son — I don’t know what it’s like to be a man, but I know for sure that there’s a lot more going on than what’s on the surface.

Studies indicate that fathers of daughters tend to be more supportive of women’s issues. That makes sense.

No such luck for moms of sons, however; seems all they do is mess up our health. See, men really do make us suffer!

  • Has having a child of the opposite sex helped you understand that gender more?
  • If you have children of both genders, which has been easier or harder to raise?

Photo © the saint – Fotolia.com

Jun 21

Girl talk: It isn’t all about feelings

Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010 in Honesty, Men, Relationships, Women

The dinner party was shaping up to be like so many others —  eventually, the women gathered on the couch and the overstuffed chairs around the coffee table and the men hung by the counter with the booze and food.

I have no idea what the men were talking about, but I was in very familiar if often boring and exhausting territory — kids, homework, teachers, grades, chores, SATs, men, clothes, diets, work-life balance, juggling, Botox, yoga. Aka, the world of women. 

I looked over at the men. They were animated
and laughing, while the gals mostly had furrowed brows — well, except
the Botoxed among us, whose brows had their perma-poker faces on.

What the hell are they talking about, I wondered.

But, really, what the hell were we talking about?

“Why are women always talking about men and kids?” my friend Dan asked me weeks after the party as we sat at Sam’s, soaking in the sun and a few beers.

“That’s not all we talk about!” I said a bit defensively, holding back from throwing out some snarky line about what guys talk about.

Not to betray the sisterhood, but he wasn’t totally off the mark. Sure, science has debunked the myth that women talk more than guys, even though we do use a few more words than they do: 16,215  a day to their 15,669. But those 546 words — as well as a good part of the rest of them — couldn’t be more Mars-Venus.

Honestly, when was the last time you heard a man say the word “empowering”?

Exactly.

As any guy will tell you, women spend way too much time as a “Sex and the City” episode, talking about relationships, feelings and shopping. And, as any woman will tell you, men talk way too much about sports and techie things like weighing the pros and cons of the iPad versus the iPhone.

Not to say that we’re all like that — we’re not. But, if we are, is that so bad?

I don’t think so … unless, of course, we’re trying to talk about those things with members of the opposite sex. Honestly, I don’t think guys really want to hear us obsess about our kids and school. I’m absolutely positive they don’t want to hear us obsess about our weight and our feelings — especially if it comes off as insecurities. And, as much as I can get excited about New Zealand’s tie with Italy in the World Cup and Freddy Sanchez’s first homer of the season, it’s not that big a deal to me; I’m not going to remember it much past this week. But I can accept that Sean, The Kid and a lot of other men in my life will.

Women tend to be people people and men tend to be things people, and you know, I’m totally cool with that.

I’m just not cool when we get judged for that, or when someone thinks that’s all we’re about. Because it’s not.

Even when it seems like it is.

Like this weekend, when Sara, Mia and I had worked up a good sweat on the trail, not only because it had some kick-ass elevation, but we’d gotten into a pretty intense discussion about the BP debacle — which somehow morphed into analyzing Mia and Rex’s recently fight. A logical thought progression …

And that’s just when a guy sprinted by.

I know exactly what he heard — and thought. It was totally incriminating girl talk. We must have sounded like a bunch of middle-aged women freaking out about a small thing that a decent guy no doubt wanted to fix while some insecure woman wanted to turn into an “issue.”

“Humpf!” I heard him mumble under his breath as he passed by, shaking his head.

No, no, no! I thought. You should have passed by a few minutes ago!

I always feel a bit embarrassed when we gals are busted for being so emo.

“Why are you looking so pained?” Sara asked me.

“That guy. He passed by just as we were obsessing about Mia and Rex.”

“So what? His wife’s probably somewhere right now talking about him.”

Probably.

But if she’s smart, when he gets home, she’ll shut up.

  • Does girl talk bother you?
  • Are man and women fundamentally interested in very different things?
  • Can men and women communicate well?

Photo © A_nik – Fotolia.com