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« New York Goes Progressive, Outlook Poor | Main | Elsewhere »

August 07, 2003

Gals, Guys, etc.

Friedrich --

* I've watched a few episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and a few episodes of Sex in the City. Good stuff! Clever, funny, well-turned, exuberantly performed. Yet I didn't enjoy them and will probably never watch them again simply because the women portrayed in the shows are too much like many of the women I work with in my mediabiz job. ("Insane media broads" is my general category for them.) When I leave work, the last thing I want to do is spend more time around these loons, even if they are on a small electronic screen, and are being satirized. Unfair, but then again I'm not writing criticism or reviews here. No, instead, I'm reflecting on life's passing pageant ... (Chirp, chirp. Tweet, tweet.)

A woman friend from out of town who's a fan of "Sex in the City" was once expressing her enthusiasm for the show, then said to me, "But the women in NYC aren't really like that, are they?" Um, er. Well, actually, if you drained the satire out, you could take the shows as documentaries about that class of gals -- the ones who abso-positively have to eat at the restaurant that the glossy magazines won't catch up with till next week. Women who are trying to live out the fantasy lives of a certain type of thrilled-by-the-scene gay man, in other words.

I have an easier time watching "Ab Fab" than "Sex in the City" because the Ab-Fab gals are portrayed unapologetically as raging, unhappy, self-centered monsters, while the "Sex in the City" gals are presented as high-strung, maybe, but also cute and lovable. (Ah, American audiences and their difficulties with satire.) I watch the show thinking, "Cute? Lovable? How about selfish, hysterical and vain????!!!" (Then I pull myself together and change the channel.) It's quite an experience watching a tableful of these narcissistic NYC mediagals babbling about their favorite topic -- which is how unfair it is that a bunch of such really super women should have such a hard time finding decent men. It's one of life's funnier jokes that many of these gals -- active creators of their own unhappiness -- make a living telling other women how they ought to live.

I'm a little bewildered that so many noncrazy women enjoy not just laughing at but identifying with the "Sex in the City" characters. What do you suppose they're enjoying? Picturing themselves as glamorous, freely sexual, and sophisticated (yet still cute and vulnerable)? If so, I guess (sigh) that's harmless. Still, living the media-centric life I lead, I find myself dwelling on how nuts the real-life counterparts of the "Sex" gals are. I've made a couple of visits to the red-hot heart of "Sex in the City" country -- the Conde Nast building in Times Square. Conde Nast is a media empire that publishes a ton of lifestyle and beauty magazines; its lunchroom is famous for having been designed by Frank Gehry, and its staff is heavily female (and gay-male). And what a terrifying hothouse it is. Short skirts, clattering heels and jewelry, darting and vindictive glances, air kisses galore -- I've never breathed an atmosphere so thick with stressed-out, unhappy female hormones.

Well, anyway. It's not as though Sarah Jessica Parker, the star and producer of "Sex," is fooling herself about these gals. I remember seeing her interviewed on TV. At one point she was asked about Carrie, her "Sex" character. She shook her head and said, "Carrie? Well, she's got a lot of problems."

* Fred Reed writes a hilarious -- and no doubt unfair, but what the hell, humor usually is -- column about how insane American women can be, here. It being understood that his observations don't apply to the tasteful, classy women who visit 2Blowhards.

* Last night, as I was getting the apartment ready for the Wife's return -- she's been away for a number of weeks -- I noticed that most of what I was doing was "putting things away." Putting my things back in closets, drawers, etc. It got me wondering about something. I like to live spread-out while the Wife prefers that things be put away. Could this be one of those gals-are-like-this/ men-are-like-that, roughly-true, semi-acceptable generalizations?

Let's agree that 95% of what I'm talking about is simply a matter of het men (or me, at least) being slobs. Still, I genuinely do like keeping my things out -- partly for the convenience of it, but also for another reason; I find it agreeable to be able to wander into a part of the apartment and pick up where I left off. I don't want to have to go to the trouble of recreating where my mind was last time. (I often lose track when I try.) Left to my own devices -- and I hope this will never happen -- I'd have lots of surfaces and open shelving, with my various projects and chores (and clothes) right there to be dived into or grabbed. The Wife, on the other hand, feels that her life is going to pieces unless things get put back where she's convinced they belong. Her ideal apartment would probably be full of shelves and closets too -- but all of them behind sliding doors kept firmly shut.

If there's anything to this observation, perhaps it helps explain a common married-couple arrangement -- that the guy is assigned his own space (the garage, the basement, the study, the workroom), where, typically, he goes and spreads out. The gal runs the house (where things, at least sometimes, get put away), but you gotta let a guy be a guy.

* Ah, gals and guys. It goes deep, doesn't it? Hara Marano in Psychology Today (here) does a good job of reviewing what's known about basic cell-and-hormone-level diffs between the sexes. To say they're numerous is to understate matters. Did you know that women's brains have more gray matter and men's have more white matter? Apparently helps explain the spatial/verbal thing. Asperger's, depression, mid-life crises -- what could be more fun?



posted by Michael at August 7, 2003


Dude, from what I've seen, maybe 50 % of gay guys are slobs too....
Not that there is anything wrong...

Posted by: sumdumgoy on August 7, 2003 1:49 PM

I haven't watched "Sex and the City" for a couple years, but when I watched and enjoyed it, it was not for Sarah Jessica Parker, cute though she may be. (However, calling her "cute" proves just how much "marketing" goes into that---I saw her interviewed and she said early in her career she couldn't get into movies because the casting agents thought men wouldn't find her attractive (!)). Anyway, I enjoyed Kim Cattrell (sp?) just because she isn't like any woman I've ever met, but of course I live in the simple ole midwest and not in NYC, and for the redhead attorney, just because she gets all the best sarcastic lines, and a good mouthpiece for many social frustrations professional women everywhere do have. But I never truly "related" to it---they all seem to have more money, clothes, men and adventures than most real people have, and they should, by and large, be much happier for the having of them than the characters are. Or else, I mean---move to the country and grow tomatoes. Oh---and I watched it for Chris Noth, also! :)

And...I like leaving things spread out, too, which is why I invest in a cleaning lady.

Posted by: annette on August 7, 2003 2:06 PM

Hmmm. I have my own space not so that I can spread out, but so that Jane and the kids don't spread into it. (Hah! Like that works. I should take a picture of all the Lego "creations" my kids leave on my desk.)

Posted by: Will Duquette on August 7, 2003 3:01 PM

As a fan of Ab-Fab, I can echo Michael. Eddy and Pats are never supposed to be likable, they're self-centered, raging hedonists, joyously smoking and drinking and spouting one-liners. What Little I've seen of Sex in the City shows women who are vain, self-centered..and yet uppity. Pinched. Tight-laced little bitches who are held up as paragons of The Modern Woman. None of the gals seem to enjoy life much, they're obsessive and neurotic and a little promiscuous (But oddly curves on these gals...and don't get me started on that horse-faced manticore Sara Jessica Parker. When did women have to be made of straight vertical lines?) but not fun. I can't imagine a night out with the Sex in the.. Gals that wouldn't turn into whining, bitching, and primping. Eddy and Pats would be loud and boozy, sure, but they would have a good time and be blissfully unapologetic about it. They're not asserting their FEMALE POWER by being loose and dissolute, they're just being themselves.

A good article summing up the Problems With the Modern Woman (from the view of Sex in the City) can be found here
I think he hits of the head when he says they show indulges and celebrates all the girl's bad behavior in the name of feminism.

I'm interested in this cause I go to FIT, a school in the heart of Manhattan's Fashion district...where the schools population is 75% female....and the bulk of them are Carrie Clones. Tall, skinny-assed tanned girls from Scarsdale who's noses scrape the ceiling. It's like being trapped with all the people you avoided in High School. The smarter ones, to their credit, admit they watch for the pornography and the shoes.

Also, Ab-Fab is funny. Sex in the City isn't.

The end.


Posted by: JLeavitt on August 7, 2003 5:35 PM

Hm. My partner and I pile. Then the piles fall over and each blames the other for an aisle lifestyle, as in, "I hate having to walk through an aisle in the center of the room!" We're talking about more open shelving, by the way.

And I like AbFab because Pats and Eddie are so horrible. I couldn't bear to be around such creatures in real life. (Maybe going out for a drink every 8 months.)


Posted by: Glenn on August 7, 2003 8:03 PM

OK---I tried...I can't resist the bait.

I just read Fred Reed.

D'ya think he has a "Chip"?

My guess is....a little bitty chip.

Before he goes to Asia, where his idea of perfect companions live...can the State Dept. warn that country so we don't piss off ANOTHER whole portion of the world?

Posted by: annette on August 7, 2003 10:23 PM

Fred is obviously just a tad over the top in his rant. However, overlooking the one-sidedness of his discussion, I'm not so sure that he's not accurately describing many, many relationships. It's sad that us humans are so determined that our mates and significant others must fill every hole and gap in our emotional lives, and that we turn with such eager anger when this ambition is thwarted (as it always is.) I'm astonished at the depths of sadness and loneliness that can crop up when I feel overlooked or neglected emotionally. I had thought that as I got older my emotions would be, frankly, gentler and more mellow. I can only report that--approaching 50--I have not so far found that to be the case.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 8, 2003 2:45 AM

Hmm, my attempt at a valid female/male generalization is falling flat. Well, you gotta be willing to lose a few, I guess...

Did no one else find the Fred Reed piece funny? Amazed at the juicy prose? The cussed personality? I'd probably want to avoid him personally, but what a writer. No one else?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 8, 2003 10:59 AM

Micheal -

I love Fred, but he's on my list (along with Steve Sailer) of "writers to enjoy in private" - just too far out of the mainstream to show anyone else without getting funny looks and/or a nasty argument...

Posted by: jimbo on August 8, 2003 11:22 AM

That's probably wise. You could always hide behind a pseudonym. Not that doing such a devious, deliberately misleading thing would occur to the likes of "Michael Blowhard"...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 8, 2003 12:04 PM

I THOUGHT I was a slob, but after almost 3 years living with my fiancee, she's definately the slob.
We're both 'make piles' type of people too (haven't ever gotten to the aisle living point, I fear it!)

I liked that Hara Marano piece a lot. It's nice to know WHY women tend to obsess over things and plunge into a dark pit, now let's hope they make some progress on helping them crawl out of it.

Posted by: David Mercer on August 8, 2003 8:08 PM

Hana Marano:

"In his new book, The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain, Baron-Cohen argues that autism is a magnifying mirror of maleness." Geez...'nuff said!

Posted by: annette on August 8, 2003 10:10 PM

Men are slobs, and so are half the women in the world. Gender roles force the slob women to at least pretend to care, some of the time.

Some friends of mine and I have a theory that the real reason women were relegated to the hut-keeping childcare role because men simply couldn't do it.

The only men who've made me happy in the other rooms of the house were victims of military school. Shipshape, indeed.

Posted by: j.c. on August 10, 2003 6:08 PM

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