Friday, November 04, 2005

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

In my personal experience -- and with nine nieces and nephews under ten years old, we're talking more personal experience than Donald Trump has assets -- little girls almost universally start talking before little boys. At three, most little girls have begun articulately expressing abstract conceptualizations, while their male counterparts are still pointing and grunting. This stark contrast between the sexes is merely a portent of the confusion that is to come.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that men and women speak different languages, and that, in spite of relationship manuals with admirable intentions but dubious efficacy such as The Rules and Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus (all of them exclusively read by women), never the twain shall meet. Although the various grammatical and syntactical structures of Guyspeak and Girlspeak are very similar, idiomatic expressions and even word choice can vary drastically. For example, when a guy says "I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes," he actually means, "I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes." This linguistic anomaly is unheard of in the female dialect, in which all expressions of time are metaphorical. "I'll be ready in fifteen minutes," in Girlspeak, may be loosely translated as, "I'll be ready when I'm darn well ready."

Another key aspect of Girlspeak is its profligate use of the Rhetorical Question. "Do I look fat in this?", "Do you think she's cuter than me?", and "Do you love me?" are examples of this genre. Woe to the man whose knowledge of Girlspeak is so rudimentary that he actually believes that such questions demand profound answers. The appropriate response to any of the previous inquiries is immediate cuddling and professions of undying, eternal devotion; any other sort of answer may result in rage, rejection, eviction, and/or a night on the couch.

Another curious feature of Girlspeak is its insistence on a phenomenon known as the Relationship Defining Talk. "Where do you think we stand?", the female of the species asks the male with a probing look, at which point the male promptly looks down at his feet and musters up some tentative response such as "On the sidewalk outside the library next to the dorms?", which is, of course, the wrong answer. Consequently, the male, whose most abstract thought of the entire day was about which burrito place in town had the cheapest beef-'n'-bean, is forced to sit down and articulate his feelings for the next 7.5 hours (an atrocity which, in some more primitive cultures, is considered a capital offense.) Generally nothing more is resolved in these conversations except that the couple is in fact, dating, a fact which the male seemed to previously consider self-evident but the female needed further assurance of.

Guyspeak, while typically not as intricate as Girlspeak, has a few of its own idiosyncracies. Here is a brief, though not comprehensive, overview:

"I'll call you sometime" = "I'll call you when Rosie O'Donnell makes People's 50 Most Beautiful People list."

"Of course I never think about other girls." = "Except for Keira Knightly in a corset... and that cute blonde from work... but other than that, never."

"No, you don't look fat in that." = "You don't consider a beached whale fat, do you?"

"What are you talking about? I love your mother." = "I think she might have even inspired Faye Dunaway's performance in Mommie Dearest."

"I'm here for you, anytime, anywhere." = "Unless I am watching the Super Bowl, making bodily function jokes with my buddies, or playing Halo."

Eventually, if one is persistent enough, one may hope to master the art of translating these sometimes-frustrating and enigmatic languages, and attain to a more thorough understanding of the psyche of the opposite sex. Consequently, the turbulent waters of intergender communication may at last be bridged, and peace will triumph.

Actually, it's hopeless, but at least you'll know why you're sleeping on the couch.