My friend Dan Menaker, a former New Yorker editor who also spend some time running Random House, has a new book out: A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation. In person, Dan is uproariously funny, and quite a raconteur--he's always cracking jokes and telling stories--and I'm happy to report that all of his natural oratorical talent comes through in the book.
(BTW: as it happens, I play a pretty big role in the book, although Dan uses a pseudonym for me.)
Dan makes a number of hilarious observations about the differences in the ways that men and women converse. He claims that:
1. Women take longer to say good-bye. "Women would basically have it go on forever," he writes. Their valedictions usually include "assurances of getting together again very soon ... and [mentions of] the lovelines of everything about the house or restaurant and cuisine and decor. Men just want to get away fast, fearing that they may yet manage to screw up the miracle of social civility that they've just accomplished." Ha, ha!
2. At restaurants, women want to know what everyone is ordering. "Women examine menus as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls, holding culinary secrets that have never before been revealed to a world that desperately needs them." Dan goes on: "Women will always wish they had ordered the thing that someone else ordered, while men would never admit to such a mistake and will choke down the crab cakes with vanilla beans and puree of ibuprofen without complaint or comment." Hee haw!
3. Women always want to try other people's food. And the men don't. This, I just cannot agree with. I think a penchant for tasting other people's dishes is not something predominantly assocaited with those who have the double X chromosome.
4. Women touch other people more during conversation than men do. I think this is a topic that deserves a post of its own. Because my friend Ruby Finch is a GREAT and natural toucher--she never misses a chance to give me (or whomever is around) a quick back massage or an enticing arm rub--and I swear this is one of the reasons she is so attractive to men. Whenever she does it, despite the fact that I am not a lesbian, I always feel a little burst of sexual energy. ... Speaking of ...
5. There is always a sexual element, buried however deeply, in a conversation between a hetero man and woman--as well as between two gay men, or two gay women. This, I'm not so sure I agree with. Although, if we modified it so that it says "in a first conversation, there is always a sexual element ... " I would sign on. Because even it's an idea I dismiss within a fraction of a second so small that it never registers in my conscious mind, I'm pretty sure I probably think about whether or not I'd ever want to have sex with any man I meet, at least briefly.
Dan concludes this section of his book by saying he's being a little silly, and that any "good conversation between a man and a woman ... soon turns such grossly valid generalizations into nonsense."
But ... loves, what do you think? Do you think Dan has more or less hit the nails (or the females) on their heads?
-Paris, your sense of humor, I love. (Add a few more syllabyles in there <--- and that might be a haiku.) This is hilarious: http://www.honku.org/ I might just have to throw some eggs.
-Odette, thanks for mentioning the Atlantic article. What a compelling beginning, by the woman writing it: "SAdly and to my horror, I am divorcing. This was a 20-year partnership. My husband is a good man, though he did travel 20 weeks a year for work. I am a 47-year-old woman whose commitment to monogamy, at the very end, came unglued. This turn of events was a surprise. I don’t generally even enjoy men ..." Also, when I think about your point--about how much we change--and how drastically I myself have changed in last decade (and about the people I thought I loved whom I now have trouble talking to for more than 10 minutes), I have to wonder ...
-Hey, Jessica! I've thought of that. I did tape up a very sad little sign saying "Please stop the honking. Your neighbors want to sleep." It either blew away or was torn down already.
-Edwinna! I like that you're always a shining beacon, a reminder that we should have hope and we might have happiness.
-Jenny, I like your points. The idea of one (and only one) romantic relationship is really comforting to me tooo ... but can I find it, is, of course, the $365,000 question.
-Diana: meet you all the way, Di-anne-ahh, yeah.