In The Blog House

Life can be tough sometimes. But who has it harder – men or women?

If you ask a man that question, he will either make a feeble and unconvincing case for the male half of the species getting the raw end of the deal, or (if his wife, girlfriend, or any female member of his family is nearby) he will gallantly admit that it’s ladies who face the greater struggles in life. Of course, he only does this to score points with said female, hoping to be rewarded with a nice birthday/Christmas present (if the female in question is a family member) or some bedroom action (if it’s his girlfriend or wife). Neither will ever materialise, but men are optimistic beasts.

Women, on the other hand, will rarely surrender the argument. In fact, if you put the same question to a woman, she will immediately insist that females have a much harder time, and will reel off a (seemingly endless) list of examples to reinforce her position. It’s as if she has been preparing for this argument for years – which, as it happens, she has. Fortunately, men have the attention span of a goldfish, so we’re more than likely back to thinking about food or boobs before she’s even stopped to take a breath.

The man vs. woman debate cropped up recently in the office, and it got me wondering if there is any kind of scientific basis with which to settle it. It turns out there isn’t, as far as I can tell, so I decided to devise one myself.

After some in-depth analysis, I have created a list of the ten areas where I think men and women differ the most, with the objective of answering the question once and for all. To illustrate my points, I will use two characters: ‘man’ and ‘woman’. I should stress that these characters are in no way representative of my wife and I – or anyone else I know for that matter – and are just a sweeping generalisation of humankind. They are stereotypes, nothing more.

I am, however, conscious that my readers are predominantly female (and most of the men probably stopped paying attention when I mentioned boobs earlier), so I run the risk of that number dwindling, not to mention getting a clip around the ear from my wife, if I appear biased in any way (hence the title to this entry). I promise, therefore, to be entirely impartial….

1. Puberty

A flying start for woman, as this one is a no brainer. Sure, man has to deal with things changing and getting hairier, not to mention the embarrassing ‘voice breaking’ fiasco, but this is nothing, and I mean nothing, on suddenly discovering that you’re going to be bleeding once a month for the foreseeable future. Yikes.

Man 0-1 Woman

2. Growing old

Man quickly draws level. Ok, there will be members of both sexes who look good for their age, but it’s when the ageing process doesn’t go so well that man really suffers. Everyone has to deal with going grey and wrinkly as they get older, but man has the additional struggle of his hair suddenly succumbing to gravity, so that it disappears from his head and travels to a more southerly facial position – usually the ears and nose.

Also, whilst no one likes putting on weight as they age, it is man who is more adversely affected, as he slowly loses his lifelong battle with the beer belly. This is not to say the larger man isn’t sexy, (although, I should make it clear that I do not find large men sexy myself), but there is nothing more depressing than the first time man looks down towards his feet and realises he can no longer see his genitals.

If there was any lingering doubt over which gender suffers more with the ageing process, consider this: When was the last time you heard about a woman turning 40, going bald, and buying a convertible?

Man 1-1 Woman

3. Clothes

This is a tough one. You could argue that man has it easier, since he only needs around twenty items of clothing to survive (excluding pants and socks – he can never have too many pairs of those), whereas woman would struggle to stick to twenty items of clothing a week, but that’s her decision.

The important distinction here is that man needs clothes, while woman wants clothes. Woman could easily survive on twenty items of clothing if she wanted to, but argues that she needs lots of clothes to feel good about herself.

The same goes for shoes, of which man requires just three pairs (‘smart’, ‘trainers’, and ‘smart trainers’), whereas woman needs at least three pairs (‘flat’, ‘slight heel’, and ‘unable to walk more than twenty yards’) in every colour imaginable.

Then there are pyjamas. Unless he is sleeping au naturel, man requires two pairs of night garments (‘wearing at the moment’ and ‘somewhere in the region of the washing basket’) but woman insists on acquiring more pairs than she can ever possibly wear. Woman is addicted to pyjamas.

So woman certainly spends more on clothing and footwear, but man cannot be held accountable for her insecurities/addictions, so it cannot be said that woman has it harder.

Ultimately, the deciding factor is that woman can wear what she wants, whereas man cannot. She can wear trousers, but he cannot wear skirts (unless he is Scottish). If woman chooses to sleep in man’s shirt, this is considered sexy, but if man climbs into bed wearing woman’s dress, woman thinks they ‘need to talk’ (again, I must stress that this is just an example, not my personal experience).

Woman also gets immense pleasure from shopping for clothes, whereas man does not.

Man 2-1 Woman

4. Physical pain

Man makes a feeble case for the fact his most sensitive area has been cruelly stuck on the outside of his body, making it susceptible to door handles, toddlers, and footballs (to name but three potential hazards), but knows full well that woman is going to play her ace card at this point: childbirth. Woman will never know the pain of a well-struck football to the squishies, but when she asks man to envisage pushing a water melon out of his ear, he has to accept that it would sting a tad.

Man 2-2 Woman

5. Getting ready

Man has mastered the art of getting ready to go out, to the extent that he can complete the ‘Three S’ regime (shit, shower, shave) in well under half an hour. In that same time, woman still hasn’t got off the phone to all her friends to find out what they are wearing. She must still shower (which involves, on average, seventeen different products), shave her legs (even if she plans to wear trousers), apply make-up, and work out what she is doing with her hair.

When it comes to hair, the rule for woman is simple: she wants whatever hair she doesn’t have. If she has been blessed with straight hair, it must be curled. If she has curly hair, the straighteners come out.

There then follows somewhere between three and six costume changes, before woman finally settles on the first outfit she chose, and is ready to leave the house.

Woman certainly struggles more with getting ready. Man tries to argue that this is her own doing, but woman counters by asking if man doesn’t want her to look nice. Woman’s lip wobbles. Man concedes the point.

Man 2-3 Woman

6. Work

Woman argues that it remains a man’s world, and there are certain jobs where she still faces discrimination, but man suggests this is the same for both sexes. They agree that no individual should face discrimination in the work place, but even in modern society it is still typically the woman who is affected more by having children, and some employers see this as detrimental to her prospects of progressing in her chosen career.

Man 2-4 Woman

7. Parenting

Woman has an instant bond with her baby, which man cannot replicate, and this is even more apparent if woman has chosen to breastfeed. Man has to work harder to form a bond with his children.

If man has a daughter, he has the additional pressure of watching her grow up (keeping a close eye on any boys she is in contact with), and if said daughter chooses to get married, custom dictates that he should embarrass himself by giving a speech at the wedding, during which he must cry.

Woman has an innate and natural ability as a parent. Man is generally useless, and must work very hard to be a good parent.

Man 3-4 Woman

8. Illness

Man not only has the potentially lethal ‘man-flu’ to contend with, but is also denied that most perfect of excuses to call in sick at work – ‘woman troubles’. If man were to phone his employer and suggest he has ‘man troubles’, said employer would assume it has something to do with his car and will want specific details. Woman, on the other hand, can refer to her ‘troubles’, and if her employer is also a woman, she receives a knowing and comforting response, with confirmation that she can take as long as she needs. If woman has a male boss, he is scared shitless by these two words and can’t get off the phone fast enough.

Plus, it has already been established that man’s pain threshold is lower than woman’s, and it is the same with his ability to deal with illness. Man is a wimp.

Man 4-4 Woman

9. Going to the toilet

Now, the last thing I want to do is drag this blog into the gutter – ok, more into the gutter – so I will be focusing purely on going for a wee (although woman would argue that man apparently never focuses when going for a wee). Besides, I assume both genders ‘unleash the brown bear’ in much the same way – not that I have ever watched a woman do so, and have no desire to for that matter.

The main difference between man and woman is that man (unless he is tired or drunk) will stand up to wee, whereas woman (unless she is tired or drunk) will sit down. This causes woman some issues. Firstly, if she is away from the comfort of her own home, her toileting options are limited, as not only must she seek out a suitable convenience, she must then check it is clean enough to be graced by her derrière. Man, in contrast, will only risk contamination of his footwear in even the vilest and most badly kept public toilets – such as at festivals, football grounds, or dodgy pubs.

Another difference is when man and woman are out with groups of friends. Even if man is desperate for the toilet, he will wait to ensure all other men from his party have returned from the bathroom before he will go, to avoid any awkwardness. In contrast, even if woman is bursting for the loo, she will have to wait until at least two other friends are ready to go, so that they can go together in a group.

Man 4-5 Woman

10. Arguments

Man will never, ever win an argument against woman.

Man 5-5 Woman

Conclusion

So, somewhat diplomatically, it’s a draw. However, when we take into consideration the final category, woman will always win an argument against man, even when she is wrong, so woman must be declared the overall winner. This is entirely unfair on man (and makes the whole exercise rather pointless) but therein lies the gender paradox – man can never win against woman, yet somehow it is woman who has the harder life.

No, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s women for you.

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The Blog Princess

I am not what you might call a ‘manly’ man.

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I wouldn’t necessarily refer to myself as camp – although I certainly possess camp qualities at times, especially when my obscure sense of humour demands it – but there are elements of my personality that you would not ordinarily associate with the manliest of men.

For example, I’m not very good at DIY. I mean, I try, I really do, but any little projects that I embark upon around the house, often end up looking worse than before I started. Besides, I don’t really look the part for DIY, do I? Put a vest top, cargo pants and a tool belt on me, and your first impression will be less ‘Bear Grylls’, and more ‘Village People’.

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It’s not that I’m completely hopeless at DIY. I mean, I can build flat-pack furniture; but whereas a manly man will open the box, immediately throw away the instructions, and then plough on with reckless abandon making it all up as he goes, I insist on organising all the pieces methodically, checking that I have the correct number of screws (twice), and then following the instructions meticulously – as, perhaps, a woman would.

Then, there are cars. I can manage basic maintenance, but anything more complicated than that, and I turn into a quivering wreck. Some men, when faced with a car that has spontaneously broken down on them, will immediately open the bonnet and begin twiddling with bits, even if they haven’t the first fucking clue what any of them do. I, on the other hand, would far rather phone the RAC then pretend I know what the problem is, but explain that I simply don’t have the right tools to fix it. You see, my tools are in the other car, and the wife took them out the other day. I know, women, right?

It’s the same when the car goes in to a garage. Men like me, who are not manly, are embarrassed by our lack of knowledge about cars, and try to persuade mechanics that we know more than the minimal amount we actually do. And by ‘minimal’, we’re talking water and oil here. We nod along sagely, when they point out that the exhaust manifold has gone, or the head gasket has dropped off; when, in all honesty, they’re just terms I think I’ve heard on Top Gear at some point, and I haven’t the foggiest where to find them on a car. If you showed me the inner workings of a car, I’d have as much chance of telling you how a space shuttle works. Or a woman, for that matter (although, I’d have far more fun twiddling around with the latter to work it out).

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Why do men like me feel the need to pretend we know how a car works? Is it just so that the garage don’t try to rip us off, or is it because we’re embarrassed about letting the side down? Probably a bit of both. It’s stupid though, because if we were all manly men, who knew how cars worked, mechanics would be out of a job. I might start with that argument next time I need to take the car in: “Listen, sunshine, if I knew how to fix this, you’d be out of a job, so don’t be so patronising little shit, ok?”

It’s not like we do that with all professions that are outside of our comfort zone. You don’t go to your GP, and get all embarrassed because you didn’t know it was your spleen that was giving you trouble. Yet, I’d have as much chance of pinpointing the location of my spleen, as I would finding an exhaust manifold on a car. “Yep, that’s just what I was saying to the wife earlier, doc, it’s probably the spleen that’s bloody gone again. Yep, splenomegaly, that’s the one. Bloody spleens eh, what would you do with them?”

Then, there’s fighting. Now, I’m not suggesting that fighting is something to be proud of, or indicates that you are manly necessarily, because in reality it just shows that you are in fact a lobotomised gibbon towards the lower end of the evolutionary scale; but it’d be nice to think that I could handle myself if required.

However, from recollection, I believe I have been involved in two physical fights in my 35 years of being and, like my beloved Stockport County, my win ratio is not great. Played two, lost two. They weren’t proper fights – mostly because they both took place when I was at school (when it’s hardly bar-room brawling), and because I adopted the foetal position early on to try and protect my face – but if I were to now find myself in a skirmish (see, even talking about fights I sound camp), I’d probably not be much use. I might do a better job than simply squealing and adopting a frantic girly slapping approach, but I wouldn’t bet my house on it.

Problem is, I’m quite a passive-aggressive person anyway, to the extent that I don’t like any awkward arguments at all – even if there’s no threat of physical violence whatsoever. Obviously I back down immediately when any disagreement starts with my wife, as that’s just common sense (they teach boys this at school, as part of Sex Education, to save us problems in later life), but I don’t even like complaining about a bad meal, or falling out with a friend/work colleague. It’s because I don’t deal well with awkwardness and confrontation, which may just be a British thing, rather than a lack of manliness, but it doesn’t help my image all the same.

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Then, late last year, I suffered the final nail in my non-manly coffin.

You see, my wife is a big fan of blankets, and keeps a few in the lounge (of varying colours and sizes), which she will often choose between – and crawl under – before we embark on our nightly Pointless viewing. Much as I had mocked her in the past, on one particularly chilly evening last winter, I decided to join her and grabbed one of the spares. Then, to my horror, she asked me the most unmanly of questions – “Do you want your own blankie for Christmas?”

Astonished that she could even suggest such a thing, I immediately scorned her with something like “Hell no, woman”, and pointed out that I, her husband, am a manly man, and manly men DON’T DO BLANKIES. Of course, being my wife, she completely ignored this and bought me one anyway.

Now, the thing is, I’ve tried my very best to loathe and discard it, I really have, but in all honesty, I bloody love it. It’s a Star Wars one, with Darth Vader on it, and if there’s a comfier way of having a nap on the sofa, short of falling asleep on Dawn French’s bosom, then I am yet to discover it.

You can judge me all you like, but when push comes to shove, I’m now nice and toasty of a winter’s evening, whereas you’ll probably get the ‘flu, or piles, or something like that.

So, yeah, I’m not butch. I can’t mend cars, or anything else mechanical for that matter, and I’m not very practical. I’m not muscly, or rugged, and I’d be shit-all use in a fight. I cry at any programme involving sick children, or puppies, (although that’s not necessarily a sign of weakness, since, if you don’t cry at Children In Need, you’re obviously dead inside). I eat red meat, grrrrr, and like barbecues, grrrrr, but I’m also just as happy under my blankie, with a glass of sherry.

I think, therefore, that I’ve finally started to realise I’m fighting a losing battle, and have to come to terms with the fact that I will remain distinctly unmanly until the day I die.

That’s ok though. I mean, my career does not require one iota of manliness to be successful (not that I’m particularly successful anyway), and I’ve already got a wife who loves me, and seems to find me attractive; so it probably doesn’t matter that I can’t re-plaster a wall, do basic plumbing, or satisfy her in bed.

I don’t care anyway, because deep down I know that, if I wanted to, if I needed to, I could be manly. If my life, or any of my family’s lives, depended on it, I would rediscover my inner manliness. I know this to be true, because I have fathered two children, and they are both boys. Procreating is the most basic thing a human can do, and when I do it, I only produce boy sperm*. How manly is that? So there must be raw, unadulterated, manliness somewhere in there.

*believe it or not, I actually have an A-level in Biology.

You can mock me, and think that I’m camp, all you like, but I know that deep down, there is a big strong man stuck inside me.

Wait, I’d better rephrase that.

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