Men, rats not too different

July 02, 2000|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Are you a male or a female? To find out, take this scientific quiz:

Your department is on a tight deadline for developing a big sales proposal, but you've hit a snag on a key point. You want to go one way; a co-worker named Bob strongly disagrees. To break the deadlock, you:

a) Present your position, listen to the other side, then fashion a workable compromise.

b) Punch Bob.

2. Your favorite team is about to win the championship, but at the last second the victory is stolen away by a referee's call. You:

a) Remind yourself that it's just a game, and that there are far more important things in your life.

b) Punch Bob again.

If you answered "b" to both questions, then you are a male. I base this statement on a recent article in the New York Times about the way animals respond to stress. According to the article, a group of psychology researchers have made the breakthrough discovery that males and females are different.

The researchers discovered this by studying both humans and rats. The studies show when males are under stress, they respond by either fighting or running away (the "fight or flight" syndrome); whereas females respond by nurturing others and making friends (the "tend and befriend" syndrome).

This finding is big news in the psychology community, which apparently is located on a distant planet. Here on Earth, we know that if two males bump into each other, they will respond like this:

First male: Hey, watch it!

Second male: No, YOU watch it!

First male: Oh yeah?

(They deliberately bump into each other again.)

Two females, in the identical situation, will respond like this:

First female: I'm sorry!

Second female: No, it's my fault!

First female: Say, those are cute shoes!

(They go shopping.)

If the psychology community needs further proof of the difference between genders, I invite it to attend the party held in my neighborhood each Halloween. This party is attended by several hundred small children whose bloodstreams contain the same sugar content as Cuba:

* The females, 97 percent of whom are dressed as either a ballerina or a princess, sit in little social groups and exchange candy.

* The males, 97 percent of whom are dressed as Batman or a Power Ranger, make martial-arts noises and bounce off one another like subatomic particles.

Here are some other syndromes that the psychology community might want to look into:

* The "laundry refolding" syndrome: This has been widely noted by me and my friend Jeff. The male attempts to fold a piece of laundry, and when he is done, the female, with a look of disapproval, immediately picks it up and refolds it so that it is neater and smaller.

* The "inflatable-pool-toy" syndrome: From the dawn of civilization, the task of inflating the inflatable pool toy has fallen to the male. It is often the female who comes home with an pool toy the size of the Hindenburg. But it is inevitably the male who spends two hours blowing the toy up, after which he keels over, while the kids, who have been helping out by whining impatiently, leap joyfully onto the toy, puncturing it immediately.

I think psychology researchers should put some rats into a cage with tiny pool toys and miniature pieces of laundry, then watch to see what happens. My guess is that there would be fighting. Among the male researchers, I mean. It's a shame, this male tendency toward aggression. It frankly makes me ashamed of my gender. I'm going to punch Bob.

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