Sunday, June 28, 2009

You're a Y Chromosome-challenged Guy

In Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys he writes, “To understand guys, it is essential to remember that, deep down inside they are biological creatures, like jellyfish or trees, only less likely to clean the bathroom.” Too true. But in our simplicity we can be efficient. There’s less to clean by leaving the toilet seat up.

New York Times superstar scriber, Maureen Dowd, doesn’t mince words, titling a recent book, Are Men Necessary? Her mother suggested her title be “Why Men Are Necessary” saying, “Men are necessary for breeding and heavy lifting.” Later Dowd debunks the breeding part with an exchange with Brian Sykes, a leading British researcher on sex chromosomes.
“Are men necesssary? I asked Dr. Sykes
‘Clearly not,’ he replied
Are men necessary? I asked British geneticist Steve Jones.
‘You don’t even need the sex slaves,’ Dr. Jones assured me.
‘You only need their cells in a freezer. You’d have to have a very good electricity supply.’ “

I have a one word response to this - British.

Dowd goes on to write, “The latest research on the Y chromosome shows that my jittery male friends are not paranoid. They are in an evolutionary pratfall…The Y chromosome has been shedding genes willy-nilly for millions of years and is now a fraction of the size of its partner, the X chromosome…Size matters, and experts are suggesting that, in the next one hundred thousand to ten million years, men could disappear, taking Maxim, March Madness and cold pizza in the morning with them.” Great, guys got jobbed from the get-go with one each of the Y and X chromosome. Women were gifted two of the X factor. Plus, the X chromosome has 1098 genes to the Y’s paltry 78. Making matters worse, the Y chromosome is smaller and still shrinking. That alone explains viagra.

What, me worry? My faith in evolution fortifies me. It took this long for our Y chromosome to dwindle to dwarf-like, what’s another one hundred thousand to ten million years of devolution? Besides, if women were born into gene wealth, what’s taking them so long to dominate? (About now, I’m heading for cover to avoid the incoming.)

Leave it to an American to stand up for us Y-types. Dr. David Page of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts calls himself “the defender of the rotting Y chromosome,” saying “I prefer to think of the Y as persevering and noble…not as the Rodney Dangerfield of the human genome.” Dr. Page later concludes, “The Y married up. The X married down.” That pretty much describes my marriage.

We Y-types are “persevering and noble.” When you consider our starter kit, we have made the most of it. Our Y is wimpier, but when comes to the Olympics, professional sports and heavy lifting, who ya gonna call? Regular Y-guys counter their wimpy Y with Smith & Wessons, Harleys, monster trucks, Hummers, triathlons, and when 40-something is in the rearview mirror, viagra.

Infinite changes notwithstanding, I say why fight osmosis? Let’s take our gene-shedding Y chromosome and fight back, chromosome-boosting in the kitchen. Where else can you dice, mince, chop, grate, pound, whip, peel, boil, broil, roast, flame, fry, crush, mash, toss, stuff, shake and bake? Legally. Bring out your inner-chef and come out of the closest. Just remember to bring an apron.

And women need men for more than sperm and heavy lifting. According to Jill Connor Browne’s The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love women want five things from guys:
Someone to talk to
Someone to fix things
Someone to pay for things
Someone to dance with
Someone to have sex with

Or, in my case, I have engineered a blockbuster trade - cooking in lieu of paying for things.

We have to work with the Y’s and wherefores we were given. Compensating by buying a Hummer doesn’t change anything, other than your tank account.

While I’m at it, let me debunk another myth. Men cannot multi-task. Bull. Any male cook worth his Harley-powered Kitchenaid mixer, multi-tasks every meal. Consider - the cocktails are being sipped, the appetizers are being plated, the wine is breathing, the pie is in the oven, the entrĂ©e is rubbed and ready for grilling, the sauce is soon to be assembled, the conversation is two-way, the CDs are mood-setting, the muted football game is in the sight-line, and he’s fantasizing about the post-dessert festivities.

That said, I bow down to my sister-in-law who can process three laundry loads, and prepare a five-course meal for 16, all while talking to three friends on the phone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reality Bites

This is off-message from my usual postings, but now and then life intercedes in a way that gets my attention.

A few days ago I made a quick run to my regular supermarket – Vons – a California chain owned by the mega-chain, Safeway.

I only needed a few items, so I headed for the quick checkout line. Several people were in front of me, and directly in front of me was an elderly, short, Latina woman. I noted nothing else about her until it was her turn to checkout. She placed on the conveyor belt a single ear of corn.

The employee asked her if she had a Von’s Club card, the kind most stores promote, offering discounts for a litany of items each week. She did not. Yet, the corn was on sale for 25 cents an ear – with a Von’s Club card.

She showed me the 25 cents in her hand. Expecting she would have a problem, I began foraging for coins in my pocket.

To the credit of the Von’s employee, he handed her a Von’s Club card application, and rang up the sale of an ear of corn for 25 cents.

I have no context to this story – I know nothing about her. Our lives only crossed for a moment - a moment that gave me pause.

We all need more moments that give us pause, and touch our souls.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bookish Club

Like most guys, heretofore your reading tastes have not progressed much beyond espionage novels, the wit and wisdom of Yogi Berra, and fart-joke books.

Maybe writing the great American novel is not on your “to do” list, or any tome for that matter, but there is still time to correct that “C” you earned in English Reading and Comprehension. Just be prepared - there are few male heroes in literature, at least literary literature (as contrasted with commercial literature - think Tom Clancy and John Grisham)*. If you need male heroes, read romance novels. I tried once and did not make it past the first chapter, but my romance-novel-addicted-wife forces me to listen to passages all of the time. She may be trying to tell me something.

For the times you cannot laugh at yourself, read anything by Carl Hiaason, or Dave Barry. For you golf gophers, Hiaason just published a non-fiction rant entitled Down Hill Lie.

If joining a book club appeals, I have bad news - you actually have to read 10-11 books a year and mutter something reasonably succinct other than thumbs up or down, or “hated it.”

If you are a male minority member of your book club, be prepared for the pre-discussion gabfest to range from the latest dog obedience school certificates to the pros and cons of tile versus slate versus limestone kitchen countertops.

After a few years, you too can discuss the subtle distinctions between post-modern and southern gothic literature**. Your vocabulary will finally surpass 10th grade level. This strategy, plus the daily crosswords, will replace some of those dead zone brain cells.

If the group picks The Brothers Karanazov, call in sick. If you are having bouts of depression, don’t read anything by Sylvia Plath.

More bad news - you have to host 1-2 times a year. You could dash out and buy prepared grub 1-2 hours in advance, but where’s the challenge in that? Besides, if you failed to finish the monthly selection, you need to redeem yourself with the spread you prepare.

We usually open three wines, two reds and a white. This further makes for a lively discussion. Better parting hugs, too.

Our book club could more appropriately called a Book, Cooking, and Wine Tasting Club. After eight years we could assemble a pretty top-notch collection of recipes.

* The library shelves are quite bare. But, it would be hard to top the modeling of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, even if he doesn’t cook. Sadly, there are too few Atticus Finches in the world, and in literature.

** Southern Gothic Literature usually deals with the struggles of those oppressed by traditional Southern culture. Southern Gothic authors include Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Carson McCullers. As for Postmodern Literature, I still haven’t a clue. They let me stay in the club anyway. I think it’s because of my cooking.