CHEYNEY, WASHINGTON. — Cheyney, Washington -- And now Mike Tyson, for Pete's sake!
I know girls are not supposed to hit. And, generally, they shouldn't. But considering how several of the best months of my life have been frittered away lately (the Thomas-Hill affair, that William Kennedy Smith business and now this Mike Tyson trial), I think maybe it's time to revive a fine old American tradition: the slap.
Given the growing cold war between the sexes, what we seem to need right now is a better understanding about just what it is the other sex wants. If women have always had a pretty good idea of what it is men want, the reverse has never been true: Even Sigmund Freud, who knew everybody's secrets, wondered: ''What do women want?''
The slap, for all its brevity, at least lets men know what it is women don't want. And what they do want . . ., well, that's the fun part, isn't it.
Think about it. The traditional slap in the puss cannot be confused with a ''yes'' -- as in, she says no but she means yes. A slap cannot be confused with a ''maybe'' or a ''keep trying'' or ''perhaps later.'' As a mode of feminine communication, a slap is a universal, perfectly clear statement that can be made by every properly offended woman. And generally with a certain style and class.
Bette Davis didn't need to articulate her feelings through ''dialogue'' with some offensive lout; she just popped him one. Open-handed. You could hear the communique across a crowded room. The oaf's attention focused wonderfully; even the dimmest wit knew he'd crossed some line or other. And so did every other person in the room.
A single, crisp, well-timed slap from Anita Hill might have saved us all from wasting a third of our lives watching this miscommunication imbroglio on national television. A slap might have saved us the other two-thirds of our lives watching the William Kennedy Smith rape trial. A slap here and a slap there and even Iron Mike might have saved himself a knockdown.
I'm not sure who first slapped a slapping woman back (probably either Paul Newman or Steve McQueen), but whoever it was did us all a great disservice. The cultural prohibition that gave women immunity from a counter-punch was lost; male counter-aggression toward women was approved. It's too bad. Whereas a man can get over a slap, a sexual harassment or rape charge can ruin him. And sometimes her.
I don't know about other men, but I was raised that you never hit a woman. But if you offended a woman, she could hit you. And that was OK; you usually had it coming. Besides, it is women who generally have to teach men manners.
Frankly, I always liked the way Lauren Bacall could settle a bum's hash with an open hand. I liked the cat-like quickness of the slap, the way it sharpened the understanding between the sexes and cleared the air. A timely slap could instantly raise a man's social IQ. You could see his eyes widen as he gained a flash of insight about the nature of women.
''Why . . .,'' the fellow would mutter, rubbing his check. ''Why did you do that?''
A proper slap required no explanations.
So ladies, if we louts would all agree to not hit back, could we please bring back the slap?
Paul Quinnett is a free-lance writer.