Date: Thu, 8 Jun 1995 14:40:01 -0400
Subject: *cultural debris 2.4* VENUS AND MARS(1)

cultural debris
vol. 2:4 * VENUS AND MARS * june 1995

All material is copyrighted. Please ask for permission before reprinting. Free subscriptions are available by request. Send me the e-mail addresses of your friends and I'll add them to the mailing list. Apologies to those who have received duplicate or unwanted issues of *debris*. Let me know if you would like to have an address deleted from the mailing list. Comments are welcomed by Dahven White at

From Dahven:

I used to think that men and women were basically the same product in different packaging. I thought that sex roles were primarily a result of socialization. Ha! How naive. I am increasingly convinced that fundamentally different ways of thinking and perceiving have evolved out of our distinct biological imperatives. I asked my new roommate what he thought about the issue. Pascal is from France (where sex is a national pastime) and I thought he might have special insights. "Pascal, what do you think about the difference between men and women? Is it nature or nurture? Do people learn to conform to sexual stereotypes or do they continue to manifest them despite the rhetoric of equality? Is there any point to giving boys dolls and girls baseball gloves or are we simply contradicting nature? Is individual determination a tiny anomalous blip in the spectrum of human history? Is a career woman less feminine for suppressing her nesting instinct? Will men ever learn to catch the crumbs when they wipe the table? Can we ever *really* understand each other?"

"Bwoif," he said. "We have an expression in French: 'That is like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.'"

I like the expression but I'm not sure what he meant. Did he mean that my questions are silly and not worthy of discussion; or did he mean that the questions are of such enormous proportions that we cannot begin to answer them? "Men are men and women are women," he concluded. How very French. How very male. How very frustrating.

Apologies for the long delay since the last *debris*. My publishing schedule has been disturbed by my recent move but I'm back.



But Why Do Men Love Brown?


A recent Newsweek article proudly announced that science has discovered that there are differences between the male and female brain. This is not a big surprise to most of us but then, neither was gravity and scientists have been celebrating that discovery for centuries. Gender-specific neurological traits have finally been documented by charting the synaptic activity of male and female brains as they perform various mental tasks. For example, one study found that the male brain expends much more energy than the female brain in trying to interpret facial expressions. This, presumably, explains why men have difficulty recognizing emotional sub-text. In common parlance, this phenomenon is expressed by women as, "Men are so insensitive." Another study found many more connections between the right and left hemisphere of the female brain than the male brain. This may explain why women commonly integrate fact with feeling, leading men to declare, "Women are so illogical."

Not included in the study, or at least the Newsweek article, were explanations for why men love brown, why women need dedicated scissors for each cutting task, why men can't be trained to catch the crumbs in their hands when wiping off the kitchen table, and why women make everyone in the check-out line at the grocery store wait while they fish exact change out of their purses. Scientists did not even touch upon the ability to accessorize, though it is widely believed to be what distinguishes man from ape. They did, however, try to find the part of the brain that women use to pick out neckties that don't clash with the rest of an outfit. The results were, unfortunately, inconclusive and male scientists must continue to consult with their wives before leaving for the lab in the morning.

I have done some research on gender and colour coordination myself. I have suspected for some time that the inability of the average man to choose a suitable tie may be more complex than an insufficiently developed cortex. "Why," I have asked myself, "if it's a simple physiological shortcoming, do so many men resist the fashion ministrations of their long-suffering wives and girlfriends? Why do they always say, 'What? There's nothing wrong with this,' instead of, 'Thank you, darling, for compensating my weakness with your strength,'?"

I think part of the problem may be Geranimals. Younger men, raised on Geranimals, persist in the belief that they have learned colour coordination by matching kangaroo shirts with kangaroo pants. "Honey, you can't wear an orange tie with a purple shirt," Jane Doe is forced to point out to her misguided husband for the hundredth time. "What? There's nothing wrong with this," he answers, ignoring his optical fibrillations as he looks down at his psychedelic chest. "No," she says. "Not if you're visiting an institute for the blind." "Well, I like it," he says obstinately. She shakes her head patiently and tries to explain in terms he will understand. "The shirt is tiger and the tie is antelope. Tiger eats antelope. That's bad. Now, that nice blue tie is antelope like the shirt. The antelope tie and the antelope shirt will play nicely together. See?" Sometimes this works. But sometimes, the man inexplicably digs in his heels despite any argument which is put to him.

Recently, I gained further insight into the problem. I lucked out one evening when Allan accidentally chose a tie which complemented his plaid shirt perfectly. His pants were a pleasant neutral and he had decided to forego his favourite cow print socks for the evening. I held my breath tensely as his eyes rested on his clogs, of which he is bafflingly fond, but happily, he passed them over in favour of a pair of tasteful suede desert boots. He looked great. I said nothing. We were almost out the door when he became suspicious. "Wait a second! How come you haven't tried to get me to change my clothes?" he asked.

"What? Your clothing? Oh, never mind. It's too late now," I replied nonchalantly. He didn't buy it. He ran back upstairs to the mirror and in a moment, I heard bellowing. "I can't wear this. It matches. Jesus Christ. I can't believe you were going to let me go out like this. People will think I'm a... a PANTYWAIST!"

I chased after him, afraid of what he might don in retribution. I'm not familiar with the sartorial preferences of pantywaists but clearly it is highly undesirable to be mistaken for one. A threat like this to Allan's masculinity could drive him into the cache of brown shirts that I have buried at the back of his closet. I feared that he would reemerge swaddled in taupe from head to toe. What is it about men and brown? "Please don't change. You look nice," I said, straightening the knot in his tie. He groaned. "Not *nice*," I said, backpedaling. "I didn't mean that. You look, um, effortlessly composed. And the teal in your tie brings out your beautiful blue eyes." This is the worst possible thing I could have said.

"TEAL?!!! I'm not going out in anything that's teal. That's it. Where's that triathlon tank top? You know, the ripped one with the grease stains on it."

"Did I say teal? I meant blue. Hunter blue. Polo mallet blue. Socket wrench blue. And look at the way it clashes with the olive weave in the plaid. Ghastly."

"It does *not* clash. This outfit is only one step away from wearing silk boxers. You might as well just put a sign on my forehead that says 'I like Bronsky Beat'."

I silently admired his outfit again and contemplated asking him if he had ever considered a career in interior decoration but decided against it. I tried a different approach. "Listen, no one has to know that you picked out this outfit yourself. People will think I chose it. They'll understand. If a woman doesn't start fixing her man a month or two into the relationship, people wonder what's wrong. It's a law of nature."

This didn't work. Apparently being "pussy-whipped" is no more acceptable than being a "pantywaist". In the end, I had to resort to threats. Allan has a deep-seated fear of his-and-hers clothing. Other people worry about inheriting a genetic predisposition to cancer or insanity. Allan worries that he may have inherited the gene which will send him into malls in search of matching leisure suits when he turns 50. I threatened to coordinate my own outfit with anything he chose. "Oh, that tie is perfect," I said, as he fingered an alternative. "I have a blouse in almost exactly the same print. Hold on, let me see if I can find the matching cow print socks you gave me for Valentine's Day too." He gave up on the idea of changing his clothes but he rumpled his shirt and skipped one of the belt loops on his pants in mock dishabille.

At the soiree, I overheard one of Allan's buddies querying him while I was composing a plate of canapes. "Hey, Allan, what's with your clothes?" he said, arching one eyebrow nervously. Allan glared at me across the stuffed mushrooms and tugged his tie knot out of shape. I wondered if he would explain about tigers and antelopes. "Uhhh... everything else was dirty. All my other shirts had, uh, grass stains and, um, blood on them. A lot of blood. Other people's blood." Biff was not entirely reassured.

Later, I pointed out that no *real* man would have recognized that Allan's clothes were coordinated. "You're right," he said, somewhat mollified. "Do you think Biff is...?" "A pantywaist? Probably," I answered solemnly.

When scientists were questioned about their inability to isolate the part of the brain which selects neckties, they talked vaguely about anomalies in the data. The results were muddied, they said, by the fact that certain men demonstrated neurological firing sequences similar to women when selecting ties. They added that future studies would exclude pantywaists and Italians from the study sample in hopes of clarifying the data. In the meantime, they recommend that most men continue to consult their wives and girlfriends before tying the knot.



Who do men think they're fooling when they submit personal ads that say: "I dream of finding that special woman who enjoys holding hands and taking long walks on the beach at sunset"? Yeah, right. Women are probably not more honest when they write: "I like hiking, camping, and rooting for the Sox on Sunday afternoons." Uh-huh. In order to perpetuate our species, we are obligated to say things like this in the early stages of courtship. If not, the discrepancy between what men and women hope to get out of their encounters with members of the opposite sex would be insurmountable. For example:

A Typical Male Fantasy

You're in the livingroom watching porn on your new 30 inch high resolution television. A couple of friends are coming over later with beers and pizza; it's going to be an excellent night because Green Bay is actually in the playoffs and they might just win the goddamn thing. But there's plenty of time to watch The Ass That Got Away and so, as the girl in the video pushes her ass up to the camera, you start whacking away. Suddenly you hear footsteps outside the door, the footsteps of a woman in high heeled shoes. There's a knock. You stop midstroke and say, "Who is it?" A sexy voice answers, "It's a secret, but if you open the door you won't be disappointed." "Come in," you say, hurriedly pulling up your pants. In saunters the knock-out, drop-dead, stop-the-clock looker you saw at the laundromat last night. She smiles a little and stands at the door with her hand running up and down the top part of her leg. You try to make light conversation but she's obviously not interested in that. She smiles again and runs her hand over her breasts, watching you the whole time. After a minute you just sit back and watch her. She's gorgeous. Then she leans forward and the first (and only) thing she says is, "I just want to suck your cock." She walks over to you, kneels down, swishes her long blonde hair and undoes your jeans all in the same fluid motion, sends you a quick look that promises the world from under her eyelashes, and then without further ado applies her fuck-me-red lipsticked lips to your erect member, expertly and lengthily. She's in no rush. Occasionally she moans a little, to let you know how much she likes it. She tongues your balls, rims your asshole, and has the staying power of a bionic woman. You come like you've never come, with one of her fingers in your ass, and she swallows greedily. After, she gets up, smiles at you again, secretively but slightly sadly (and can you blame her? you both know it's too perfect to last), and walks back out the door. Two minutes later your friends walk in and want to know who the fucking fox was who just walked out your door and you say, "Just a girl I met on her way out of town." And you know you'll never see her again.

A Typical Female Fantasy

You walk into the convenience store in the middle of a chocolate frenzy, wild-eyed, ovulating, and dressed in nothing but boxers, mules, and a tee shirt, leftover makeup from the night before still on your face, thankful that the 7-11 is right around the corner from your apartment so you can scramble there and back without seeing anyone you know. As you head back to the yoghurt section you overhear some guy telling his buddy that what he'd really like, after the set tonight, is to meet a woman with legs to her neck who likes nothing better than coffee shops on Sunday mornings, who can put two and two together at least as well as he does, and who doesn't mind that he plays sax for a blues band but isn't exactly one of those batshit crazy rocknrollers who parties nonstop. You sneak peeks at him and it turns out he has long hair, is naturally slim but muscular, and looks like a guy with a decent-sized dick, sort of flat through the pelvis and a good high ass. "Preferably," he says, "she wouldn't be too high maintenance and - oh, hi," as he turns and sees you and then freezes, completely, for a split second. Long enough to make you blush. He's the spitting image of the sax player for Morphine but with laugh lines around his eyes, and he can't stop staring at you (thank God you still have your contact lenses in). You say, faintly, your face burning, "Um, is there any Dannon Plain?" and he wordlessly hands you his. You pay the guy in the front and then walk out to the parking lot together. He drives a jacked-up king-cab Pathfinder with a Pro-Choice bumper sticker and he's got mountain climbing gear fighting for space with his guitar and sax cases in the back. "Coming?" he asks, and you just get in. No further words are necessary, but when you do talk, days later, it turns out that Jesus of Montreal and True Romance are his two all-time favorite movies. And he loves children.

It's Not a Pant Suit


When things started to get serious between us, Allan wanted me to meet his parents. He booked two tickets to Florida. My first thought was, of course, "Oh my God! Only two weeks away and I have absolutely nothing to wear."

I called an emergency meeting of my girlfriends at Rebecca's Cafe. The problem was complex. I would need something that was not too short, not too long, not too sexy, not too frumpy, not too formal, not not formal enough. It had to say, "I'm amiable without being unctious, I'm stylish without being fatuous, I'm assertive without being confrontational." All agreed: I had absolutely nothing to wear. A task force was mobilized. The city was scoured. We reconvened at Rebecca's a week later. All agreed: There was absolutely nothing to wear in THE ENTIRE CITY; I would have to cancel the trip. The romance was over.

Jane called before I broke the news to Allan. She had found the dress for The Meeting, a perfectly tailored size 4 grey pinstripe, flattering but not revealing, tasteful without being aloof, and -- wrinkle-free! It was perfect BUT... it was too expensive. "I can't afford it," I said plaintively. Clothes make the man, clothes break the woman. "You've got to. There's nothing else in the entire city or we would have found it," Jane said. "But I can't," I moaned. "Then you've got to get Allan to buy it." "I CAN'T do that." "Why not?" "I'm a grown woman. I will not ask a man to clothe me. Economic independence is the first step to equality." Jane was unmoved by my rhetoric. "You don't have to ask, you ninny. Just hint." "Hint? Allan doesn't notice that I've rearranged the furniture until he reaches for socks and finds himself trying to put books on his feet. Hinting won't work." "Then you've got to cry," said Jane, matter-of-factly.

"Allan, I can't go to Florida to meet your parents," I announced sadly that evening. "I have absolutely nothing to wear." He did not appreciate the magnitude of the problem. "Whatever you wear will be fine. You always look beautiful." This was a good answer but it did not alter the essential fact that I had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to wear. "My parents don't care what you wear. They just want to get to know *you*," Allan said, displaying his characteristic naivete. "A woman makes up her mind about someone within the first minute of meeting," I said. "You don't understand the politics of pantyhose. Your mother might hate me just because my collar is cut the wrong way." "Y'know, I think you're displacing your angst about meeting my family onto your clothing," he observed thoughtfully, as though he had just discovered sublimation or something. Another penetrating psychological insight from Dr. Freud. Who says that there can be no real understanding between the sexes?

With three days to go, I shopped with increasing desparation. Fifteen minutes before closing time, Maura found a viable outfit. I was wringing my hands in the dressing room when she appeared with a casual suit, a long fitted vest over wide flowing pants, not exactly me but not entirely not. It fit. It was appropriate. It was in my price range. I made the purchase.

When I got home, I tried on the outfit for Allan. He looked impassively at me. "What do you think?" I asked. No answer. "Allan?" He averted his eyes. "Well?" I prompted again. He took a deep breath and announced that his father had given him only one piece of advice on relationships, the cardinal rule of domestic harmony, distilled out of 30 years of marriage: "Say nothing about clothing. The woman is always right." Allan said that only the utmost distress would impel him to break his father's rule... and he was about to do it. "I think your friends are wonderful," he said. "I love your friends BUT... I can only assume that they broke down your will by forcing you to try even more ugly clothes."

"So you don't like it?" I asked.

"Well, it's awfully... goy. It's a, you know... pantsuit." He spit the word out distastefully.

Well, first of all, it's not a pantsuit. And secondly, it's one thing to criticize my clothing but it's another to slander my entire cultural heritage. If he was suggesting that pantsuits were my heritage then I would wear pantsuits with pride. I became more convinced than ever that this was the perfect ensemble for The Meeting.

Having loosened his reserve, Allan would not be checked. He *hated* the suit. He said it was more than unflattering; it was utterly devoid of personality and taste. He said that the problem with it could basically be summed up by pointing out that it's a *pantsuit*, for crissakes. An hour later, he was still trying to extract my promise to return it.

It's not a pantsuit but his obloquy finally brought tears to my eyes. He persisted. "The only thing that could make the pantsuit any worse is if it had TASTELESS spelled out in rhinestones across the chest." I sniffled a couple of times. He missed it. "It looks like something you bought at Tony Orlando and Dawn's yard sale." The tears began to creep down my cheeks.

Crying is a strange thing to do when you think about it. No one really knows why tears fall from our eyes when we are sad. But even more mysterious is why men, who gladly place themselves in the front of all sorts of dangerous projectiles, like footballs, hockey pucks, fists and bullets, are terrified by tiny droplets of water, especially when they are attached to the cheeks of a woman. "What is it, honey? What's wrong?" Allan said, nervously.

"What's wrong? WHAT'S WRONG? I don't have anything to wear. I've been trying to tell you that for two weeks."

"Don't be silly. You have a closet full of clothes. You don't have to wear the pantsuit."

"It's not a pantsuit and there's nothing in my closet. You don't understand anything. You're... you're... you're a guy." The tears were really flowing by this time. Jane would have been proud.

Allan began to panic. "Well... well... Have you been shopping? Have you tried Filene's?" HAVE I BEEN SHOPPING? What did he think I'd been doing for two weeks? I bit my tongue. I knew I was only one sniffle away from the gray dress. A lone tear squeezed over my lower eyelid and slipped silently down my cheek. "Don't cry, sweetheart," he said. "We'll go shopping together. I'm sure we can find something. Don't worry..."

One small step for woman, one giant step backward for womankind. Women's liberation has been set back 40 years but the dress was a success. The Meeting went smoothly. By the way, I kept the pantsuit. Allan is pressuring me to go as his s.o. to a stodgy dinner this month with a bunch of mucky-mucks from the hospital. Ha-ha-ha.

The Inner Pig


Isn't it just my luck that while the rest of the men on the continent are getting in touch with the suppressed "feminine" aspects of their nature, Ted is getting in touch with his inner pig? When I first met Ted, back in the Eighties, he was dying to prove how sensitive and nurturing he could be. "Let me do your laundry for you. Should these panties be put through the delicate cycle? Speaking of cycles, aren't you about to ovulate? Do you want to discuss it? I don't want you to feel like you have to ovulate in silence."

Things have changed since then. Ted stopped wanting to discuss his feelings. Then he developed an uncharacteristic interest in televised sports. Then he began urging me to fetch his coffee. He saw nothing ironic about spending half an hour trying to convince me to do something that would have taken five minutes to do himself. It was a matter of principle. Not long after, he started having buddies instead of friends. These guys use terms like 'pussy-whipped' and 'fudgepacker'. No, they are not arguing the etymological derivations of these expressions; they actually find them useful vehicles for conveying their thoughts (an exalted term for the activities which transpire in their heads). I keep expecting Ted to explain to his buddies that domestic responsibilities should be shared and sexual orientation is not a valid basis for discrimination. It doesn't happen.

Ted has taken up drinking with his buddies. This is a pastime I myself enjoyed in college, back when I wanted to be "one of the boys". But now I find little charm in admiring toilet bowls at close range. Ted, however, is rediscovering his lost adolescence. He talks about buying a hog, overturning the fucking helmet laws, and letting his hair grow. What's left of it. Like most women, I have come to dread "boys night out". What men don't understand is that it's not the drinking we mind; it's the attitude that accompanies it. If a man could have a couple of shots and then propose a rousing game of charades, it would be different. But the further into the bottle he gets, the more convinced he becomes that he is the best punster, best arm wrestler, best driver, best spitter of watermelon seeds, best farter, best crusher of beer bottles on his forehead, and of course, best lover. By the time Ted has reached the maggot at the bottom of the tequila, he is certain that he is irresistable.

It is very difficult to disabuse him of this notion.

Ted comes home from the bar in the middle of the night, wakes me out of a deep sleep by draping his smelly body over mine, and says something original like, "Hi, honey. D'ja miss me?" I employ the same line of defense that women have used since time began: "Let's imagine that there's a line down the center of the bed. The space to the left of the line is yours and the space to the right is mine. Right now, you're on MY side of the bed." I pause to let this sink in. "GET OFF!" Ted is not fooled by my coyness. "Playing hard to get, are you? I know you want me." I reply with something like, "You should get your nose hairs trimmed. I think they're draining the energy from your brain." Ted chucks me under the chin. "Somebody here's a bit of a grumble bunny. I think she needs a hug from her big old boo bear." Oddly, Ted seems to use baby talk more since he got in touch with his guyhood. Perhaps it's just because "boo bear" is easier to say than "inamorata".

"If I conceive a sudden interest in foul-breathed bleary-eyed incoherent lummoxes with delusions of grandeur, I'll let you know," I reply. "Right now I'm going to sleep." Ted crushes me to his chest where I gag on the putrescent smell of his body trying to rid itself of toxins. "There, there. D'you feel better now?" Spitting out chest hairs, I say, "I feel kind of like blowing mucus all over your chest." He finds this arousing. "Let your love snot flow, baby," he growls.

I worry that Ted will come home any day now driving a black Camaro and insisting that I wear press-on nails. I don't want to crush his fledgling machismo. Being a man in the Nineties isn't easy. I know that. But why can't men channel their testosterone into weed-whacking and hunting down obscure plumbing parts, fixing sticky doorknobs and frightening off junk mail deliverers?



"I thought you said that bull was shy,"
My uncle said as he and I,
Pedestrian fools in mid-July,
Stopped at his neighbor's fence.
"He was," the neighbor said. "Ain't now;
Not so's you'd notice, anyhow."
And its appetite for a brindle cow
Was, like the bull, immense.

My uncle asked, "So what'd you do?"
"I wrote to Agricultural U."
The neighbor paused a minute or two.
We watched the bull perform.
Finally, my uncle: "What'd they say?"
"Asked for a sample." I thought the way
These two were going it'd take all day
To agree July was warm.

"They sent some serum. I gave him a shot,"
He finally said. "You see what I got."
We watched the scene the neighbor'd wrought
Like bovine sex was new.
The bull seemed willing to give his all,
To young or old, to short or tall,
Their udders big, mid-size, or small,
An indiscriminate view.

I thought the calves would long be dead
Of boredom before my uncle said
"What was in it?" and shook his head
And gave my arm a shake
Because while bored and under-awed
I'd found an anthill to maraud
And restlessly had kicked a clod
Just to see it break.

He answered before the thought of sweat
And how it splashed on dust could get
Its grip on me, to my regret.
"Well, I don' rightly know."
We watched the scene the serum caused
Through air the heat had lightly gauzed,
And sweated and waited. He spit, and paused.
"It tasted like licorice, though."



We don't have traveling freak shows any more but fortunately, we still have movies by David Lynch. "Crumb" (produced by David Lynch) is a documentary about the cartoonist R. Crumb, popular in the Seventies for his underground comics. He is most famous as the originator of the "Keep on Truckin'" logo and the creator of the ever-horny Fritz the Cat. If you saw Zap comics as a child, like I did, your budding sexuality was probably damaged by R.Crumb. If you saw them as an adult, you probably thought, "R.Crumb is a perv." If you got off on them, you probably said, "Crumb continues the honourable tradition of graphic art as social protest. He is exposing the hypocrisy of America. He bares the truth of the id in all its ugliness."

The debate continues: Is Crumb creating art or pornography? Is he exposing existing hostilities or encouraging negative stereotypes? The filmmaker traces R.'s creative development back to his childhood through interviews with his family. The story goes like this: Mr. and Mrs. Crumb had five little Crumbs, 3 boys and 2 girls. Something was *very* wrong with this family. The Crumb boys retreated into a world of fantasy. They began drawing comic books. When they grew into teenagers, things got worse. They were social outcasts. Girls wouldn't go out with them. Boys beat them up. They grew even stranger. The oldest Crumb lived as a recluse with his mother until he committed suicide. The youngest Crumb has mostly broken his nasty habit of pulling the pants off girls in public by sitting on a bed of nails and feeding a continuous loop of string through his digestive system. The middle Crumb became an underground cartoonist and draws pictures of horny homunculi fucking headless women and little boys humping their aunts legs. Things got better for R. after he became rich and famous: women were willing to let him hump their legs.

It is rare to get an intimate glimpse into this sort of real-life weirdness. People are usually reluctant to parade their mental illness in front of a camera but the filmmaker has the advantage of being a personal friend. The film, however, raises more questions than it answers: What's wrong with this prim suburban family? Sure, the father was a tyrant and the mother was an amphetamine addict and the boys slept in the same bed till they were 16, but still... What happened to sisters? Are they leading happy and productive lives as far away from the rest of the family as possible or are they just as screwed up as the boys? (They declined to be interviewed and who can blame them?) How did R. manage to semi-successfully integrate himself into society while his brothers failed? Was it the praise and acceptance garnered by his comics? Is he effectively purging his demons through his art? Where did the artistic talent , manifest in all three boys, come from? Is it a by-product of the fear and angst of their childhood? Or was it genetically transmitted (along with a persistent strain of mental illness)? What would have happened to the artistic impulse if the children had grown up in a happier setting? Would their creativity have found a different outlet or would they have lived ordinary lives as insurance salesmen in Indiana? And what sort of woman would sleep with this deviant, unattractive, misogynistic man, even if he is rich and famous?

R. Crumb identifies his most disturbing comic strip as the one in which Mr. Natural presents him with a headless concubine. The huge over-endowed woman, deprived of her head and the accompanying problems of personality, dwarfs the nerdy man as he mounts her. Clearly, Crumb has some problems with women. Later, one of R.'s ex-girlfriends talks about how damaged she was by her relationship with Crumb. From behind the camera, the filmmaker says to her something like, "But you saw his comic strips. Why were you surprised to find out that he was a kinky misogynist?" She says, "I always thought he was joking." The audience laughs uproariously. Crumb snickers. The ex-girlfriend is on the verge of tears. Crumb adds that he never loved her, that he has never, in fact, loved any woman, except maybe his daughter. The ex kicks Crumb. The audience laughs some more.

I also was on the verge of tears. In fact, I had a small nervous breakdown after the movie because I started thinking, "Oh fuck, we never escape our past. This is my destiny. I'm going to end up closeted in a living tomb with my father, watching talk shows all day with the drapes drawn, hating him and hating myself." The rest of the audience was comfortable in the distance between themselves and the freaks, but I felt like a bearded lady in an audience of spectators laughing at a bearded lady. I have decided not to cultivate my neuroses anymore. I don't want to be in touch with my dark side. I don't care about channeling it into art. I want to be married to an insurance salesman in Indiana.

The other part of the nervous breakdown was the sudden overpowering conviction that men hate women. If they don't, why are Crumb's comics so popular? I started thinking about some of the things Allan has said to me recently, like how his friend George doesn't know what to do about his girlfriend because, at 30, she's too old to marry. And how Craig's evil wife made Craig cancel his golf plans because he promised to spend some time with their child. And how that sort of thing is never ever going to happen to him. I thought, "Men can't be trusted. They want only one thing from women and that's someone to iron their shirts. I have allowed myself to be fooled by a crust of pleasantries for too long."

I should admit that I was ovulating at the time and my perceptions can be a little skewed when I'm ovulating. So instead of changing my name and moving to a new city, I was sitting on the couch eating strawberries with Allan. I was wondering if I should just come right out and say, "So, Allan, are you really a sexist pig, and do you think I'm too old, and by the way, what would you do if I got pregnant?" But before I could say anything, he turned to me with a sheepish grin and stuttered, "Uh-uh-uh..." and then gave up trying to say whatever he was trying to say. I thought, "Oh shit. It's not just a chemical imbalance. Everything I thought was true and he's trying to tell me something like, 'It's been really fun but you're just too weird for me. Let's still be friends though.'"

I feel more comfortable knowing the worst, so I demanded, "What? Tell me. What? Just tell me!" He fidgeted a bit more and then said, "I was going to say something like, 'I'm really happy to be sitting here eating strawberries with you,' but when I turned to you, I got this surge of emotion and nothing came out. I guess I just wanted to say how much I love you."

JESUS! How can men and women be so *totally* out of touch with each other after all this time? How can Allan be having a moment of coupled bliss while I'm having a nervous breakdown? How can he be totally unaware that I'm sitting here, questioning our entire relationship, ready to pick up and move to another city, while I'm mistaking his feeling of oneness for impending doom? We are two entirely different species. I might as well be in love with a rock or a toaster oven. I can't believe that I've fallen prey to something as trite as a misunderstanding between the sexes.

Our relationship has survived "Crumb" to see another day. But I've got this terrible fear that one day, David Lynch will be making a documentary about Allan, called something like "The New Right", and he'll ask me, "But didn't you know? How could you not know that Allan was the reincarnation of Archie Bunker?" And I'll sob, "I always thought he was joking." And then everyone will laugh.

The *debris* Questionnaire: The difference between men and women

Last weekend, Sally and Bill and Amy and Allan were sitting around the breakfast table while I was mulling over some ideas. "What's the difference between men and women?" I asked. Bill groaned. "I hate that kind of generalization. Gender stereotypes are inevitably untrue and perpetuating them is detrimental to the individual." Allan said, "Let's go play tennis." Sally said, "Men are always putting strange things in their sock drawers, like shaving kits or cans of spiced pecans." Bill said, "There's nothing wrong with keeping pecans in your sock drawer!" Allan said, "Let's go play frisbee." Amy said, "Men always focus on the points of disagreement rather than the points of agreement." Allan said, "They do not! And besides, women are always picking around the edges of things rather than getting to the point."

And the conversation was off. These are the fruits of our conversation, the essential differences between men and women, according to Bill and Sally and Amy and Allan and myself.

1. Men hunt.
2. Men provide.
3. Men protect.
4. Men pee standing up.
5. Men congregate to hit balls, generally with sticks, or to watch other people hit balls.
6. Men pretend they know what they're doing, even when they don't.
7. Men boast about how much they've eaten.
8. Men take out the trash.
9. Men hate Jane Austen.
10. Men think Anita Hill was lying, Mia Farrow is a bitch, and Courtney Love drove her husband to suicide.
11. Men don't believe in PMS.
12. Men are born with the ability to distinguish the year and make of a car by the shape of its tail lights.
13. Men love brown, god knows why.
14. Men hate change.
15. While men hate change, they have embraced sneaker technology which requires them to have 10 different pairs of specialty sneakers, all of which look exactly the same.
16. Men think farting, burping, and noises made with armpits are a lot funnier than women do.
17. Men make their dates wait in -20 degree weather while they admire hubcaps.
18. Men are compelled to go into glacial lakes and say, "It's not that cold once you get used to it," as their legs go numb.
19. Men are secretly pining for the first woman they ever loved. (See 14)
20. Men drink Coke for breakfast.

1. Women gather.
2. Women nest.
3. Women nurture.
4. Women pee sitting down.
5. Women congregate to talk, generally about clothes, sex, and food, in incredibly explicit detail.
6. Women pretend they don't know what they're doing, even when they do.
7. Women confess to how much they've eaten.
8. Women perceive when it's time for the trash to be taken out.
9. Women hate Ernest Hemingway.
10. Women think Clarence Thomas was sleazy, Woody Allen is a sex offender, and Kurt Cobain abandoned his family.
11. Women don't believe in "blue balls".
12. Women are born with the knowledge of how many calories are contained in a tablespoon of butter.
13. While Eskimo may have a hundred words for snow, women have 72,000 names for the colour red when it is applied to their lips.
4. Women embrace change.
15. Women make distinctions between hair scissors, kitchen scissors, paper scissors, fabric scissors... all of which, according to men, are perfectly good for cutting chickenwire.
16. Women think the food on other people's plates looks a lot more interesting than what's on their own.
17. Women make everyone at the check-out line wait while they try to find correct change in their purses.
18. Women are compelled to buy push-up bras and say, "It's not that uncomfortable once you get used to it," as their legs go numb.
19. Women are secretly pining for the swarthy Italian guy at the shoestore.
20. Women make lists of the differences between men and women.

Please send your ideas on the differences between men and women to

Last month's question: "Who are you?"

Thanks for the many responses to the first ever *cultural debris* readers poll. People sent me a lot of interesting information about themselves, including their sexual orientation, personal hygiene habits, preferences in underwear, and plans for the future. It seems that there is little to unite *debris* readers. They range in age from 14 to 65 and are spread out all over the country. The most common characteristic of the *debris* reader, aside from his or her discerning taste in literature, is that s/he does not drive a car. Almost everyone agrees that *debris* is a bunch of solipsistic tripe but they like it anyway. I will not switch to individual stories as most people expressed a preference for the magazine format. Here are a few snippets from the many great letters I received:
Don't EVER ask us our opinions and what we want from *debris*. We all know exactly what we want, and have known all our lives, and look where it's landed us. We expect you to know better and to lead us to enlightenment, a more disgraceful sex life, a greater communal respect, and a richer bank balance. Don't ASK us, honey. TELL us. And be quick about it. We've waited long enough. Just go on being your own whacked-out impossible self and to hell with us Little People who aren't worthy of kissing the hem of your keyboard cover.
In 1995 I have decided to eliminate every possession that is not strictly needed for survival. Me & my two boys (Epicurus & Vespertilian, both feline) are going to seek the purification of the spartan life (sans hoplites). At the end of the year, I shall kneel before God in an empty apartment and b

All rights &c by Marked-up on Jun 8 1995, 21:39 by Comments and corrections welcome. No, I have no idea where the last few lines went.