Why men can't help it

09/20/2009 1:00 AM

09/30/2009 1:36 PM

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Nov. 23, 2003.)

I like to think that I am a modest person. (I also like to think that I look like Brad Pitt naked, but that is not the issue here.)

There comes a time, however, when a person must toot his own personal horn, and for me, that time is now. A new book has confirmed a theory that I first proposed in 1987, in a column explaining why men are physically unqualified to do housework. The problem, I argued, is that men -- because of a tragic genetic flaw -- cannot see dirt until there is enough of it to support agriculture. This puts men at a huge disadvantage against women, who can detect a single dirt molecule 20 feet away. This is why a man and a woman can both be looking at the same bathroom commode, and the man -- hindered by Male Genetic Dirt Blindness (MGDB) -- will perceive the commode surface as being clean enough for heart surgery; whereas the woman can't even ``see'' the commode, only a teeming, commode-shaped swarm of bacteria. A woman can spend two hours cleaning a toothbrush holder and still not be totally satisfied; whereas if you ask a man to clean the entire New York City subway system, he'll go down there with a bottle of Windex and a single paper towel, then emerge 25 minutes later, weary but satisfied with a job well done.

When I wrote about Male Genetic Dirt Blindness, many irate readers complained that I was engaging in sexist stereotyping, as well as making lame excuses for the fact that men are lazy pigs. All of these irate readers belonged to a gender that I will not identify here, other than to say: Guess what, ladies? There is now scientific proof that I was right.

This proof appears in a new book titled ``What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man's Mind Really Works.'' I have not personally read this book, because, as a journalist, I am too busy writing about it. But according to an article by Reuters, the book states that a man's brain ``takes in less sensory detail than a woman's, so he doesn't see or even feel the dust and household mess in the same way.'' Got that? We can't see or feel the mess! We're like: ``What snow tires in the dining room? Oh, those snow tires in the dining room.''

And this is only one of the differences between men's and women's brains. Another difference involves a brain part called the ``cingulate gyrus,'' which is where emotions are located. The Reuters article does not describe the cingulate gyrus, but presumably in women it's the size of a mature cantaloupe, containing a vast quantity of complex, endlessly recalibrated emotional data involving hundreds, perhaps thousands of human relationships; whereas in men it's basically a cashew filled with NFL highlights.

In any event, it turns out that women's brains secrete more of the chemicals ``oxytocin'' and ``serotonin,'' which, according to biologists, cause humans to feel they have an inadequate supply of shoes. No, seriously, these chemicals cause humans to want to bond with other humans, which is why women like to share their feelings.

Some women (and here I'm referring to my wife) can share as many as three days' worth of feelings about an event that took eight seconds to actually happen. We men, on the other hand, are reluctant to share our feelings, in large part because we often don't have any. Really. Ask any guy: A lot of the time, when we look like we're thinking, we just have this low-level humming sound in our brains. That's why, in male-female conversations, the male part often consists entirely of him going, ``Hmmmm.'' This frustrates the woman, who wants to know what he's really thinking. In fact, what he's thinking is, literally, ``Hmmmm.''

So anyway, according to the Reuters article, when a man, instead of sharing feelings with his mate, chooses to lie on the sofa, holding the remote control and monitoring 750 television programs simultaneously by changing the channel every one-half second (pausing slightly longer for programs that feature touchdowns, fighting, shooting, car crashes, or bosoms) his mate should not come to the mistaken conclusion that he's an insensitive jerk. In fact, he's responding to scientific biological brain chemicals that require him to behave this way for scientific reasons, as detailed in the scientific book ``What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man's Mind Really Works,'' which I frankly cannot recommend highly enough.

In conclusion, no way was that pass interference.

(c) 2009, Dave Barry
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About Dave Barry

Dave Barry

@rayadverb

Dave Barry has been at the Herald since 1983. A Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, he writes about everything from the international economy to exploding toilets.

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