My friend Pamela and her husband had two sons, so she knew what it was like to live in a heavily male household. She used to tell me the story of how the three guys would watch the Three Stooges on TV, each of them identifying with a separate Stooge. They wouldn’t allow Pamela to come into the TV room till “the girl” on the Three Stooges made her appearance.
“You’re kidding,” I used to say, screaming with laughter and disbelief.
“I’m not,” Pamela would say.
Anyway, I used to find that story hilarious. It was funny right up to the minute our daughter left for college and I was left in a household that was lopsidedly male. That’s when I began to understand the essential truth of Pamela’s Three Stooges story. I was living with two people who often liked to eat standing up in front of the refrigerator. When we had canned whipped cream, they tipped their heads back and sprayed it in their mouths.
God. It was awful. Aside from several apt descriptions like “nauseating” and “disgusting,” I believe this is a good example of Testosterone Poisoning. I’d never known it was so bad till I saw it myself, unedited, unexpurgated and up close. “Get your own damned whipped cream,” I told them. I took to marking my own, personal can of whipped cream with threats to vital parts of the male anatomy. “Do you really want to risk it?” I wrote.
In recent weeks, one of these males — a recent college graduate — is back in our house. I mention this educational achievement since it isn’t terribly obvious in the mostly monosyllabic household conversations he has with his (also allegedly well-educated) father. Most of the conversations go something like this:
“Hey, you’re getting fat, old guy!”
“Ha. You weigh more than I do! You’re gonna be a tub of lard when you’re 40.”
Or, “Wanta race at the hike and bike trail?”
“Sure. I’m gonna kick your butt, fatso.”
And so on and on. The insults, the abuse, the total competitive male weirdness are unreal — at least to me, as someone who grew up in a mostly female household, without brothers and with a father who rarely spoke. So this is how men talk when they’re by themselves, I think. It’s even worse than I imagined.
When you’re a female without brothers, you think the Three Stooges are an aberration who couldn’t amuse anybody over the age of 5. You have to live with men before you grow to understand a few things. They like the Three Stooges. They think they’re funny. They think they’re role models, for God’s sake.
Like a lot of other things in life, what you originally took to be fiction is true. My apologies to Pamela for ever failing to believe her. She knew a lot more than I did.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)