the sexes 2

I like to think men and women aren't really that different.

At the end of the day, I think we all say what we mean. Except when we don't. Men have just as many games as women do. I have a buddy who debates "openers" and "closers" -- the shirts he wears on his first date versus the shirts he wears when he thinks he's finally got the girl. (I've actually never seen his closer. I think it's maroon, though.)

In a time of constant Seinfeld and Sex and the City reruns, when the difference between Maxim and Cosmo is negligible, how many differences could there be?

But reading Alison Pick's The Sweet Edge, I was struck by how similar the main male character is to so many boys I've known.

Page by page, I fell a little in love with this Adam, with his need to go out to the middle of nowhere to find himself. His self-importance, his fear of being alone as he casts off all the things that make him part of something else.

Adam doesn't care what people think of him. He assumes most people are unintelligent. Whereas Ellen gives others the benefit of the doubt. She allows their judgments. She makes a space in her chest for their opinions and she accepts them. But under this she is hardened. There is something frozen at her centre.... (p. 38)

I was moved by this Ellen, left to fend for herself in the stink of a summer in Toronto. Ellen, who had to swim through the muggy heat to find herself, too.

Adam can afford to brood because his life has been easy. He is a nice boy with a nice family and nothing bad ever happens to him. To live close to him is to brush up against contentment. It is like a flashlight: she can see by it briefly, but it shows how her darkness compares. (p. 15)

Some of the remembered dialogue in Pick's poetic novel made me laugh so hard; a conversation between the couple that starts with Ellen asking Adam to take out the garbage. He begins discussing reincarnation. Finally, sick of hearing him talk, she asks when he plans to take out the garbage.

At other moments, I was physically uncomfortable. Pick's writing made me remember every time I felt as though my life were being twisted and torn apart. But slowly, through quiet, calculated attrition. Through soft words weighted by their cruelty.

This moment: These are the things you say when your lover of three years cheats on you. But deep down she isn't surprised. She thinks it's par for the course. Deep down, she thinks she deserves it. (p. 90)

Perhaps it's generational, perhaps it's my poor taste in men. But the book made me wonder whether men and women are entirely too different.

It made me wonder what a man would think of the same stories.

He has come to the wilderness with a belief in osmosis, with a belief that getting close to something makes you part of it, or makes it part of you. But getting close doesn't help. It only highlights the distance that will always be there. Learning to bear this distance is his task. (p. 227)

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