Men and women are different. No, I didn’t just learn this lesson from seventh grade physiology.  As I age, it just continues to strike me how completely dissimilar our wiring is. There are days when I’m not even sure we’re the same species. I found these gender contrasts especially vivid in my MFA program, and I was reminded of that on a recent vacation with two of my grad school besties.
Twice a year we attended a residency.  Think of summer camp but for grownups and with lots of reading and writing, and it cost more than any summer camp ever…and there was alcohol. 
Residencies were intense, and incredible bonds of friendship were made.  When you read someone’s writing, not the polished and edited finale, but their raw, neonatal words, you
peek into their soul. 
At one residency, on Star Island, I went to visit one of the aforementioned vacation besties. 
This woman is an all around awesome human.  I would not describe her as “girly,” and I mean that as the highest of compliments.  There was a group of our female classmates in her room, and they invited me in.   They had snacks in serving bowls.   We were on an island.  Where the hell did they get serving bowls?  They had napkins. They had a bar set up, with glasses, and all arranged on a lace doily.  I can’t even speculate where the doily came from.  We sat and talked writing and lives and kids.  They comforted and consoled one another about manuscripts and edits and deadlines.
In contrast, my room had a bottle of bourbon and no glasses.   When the guys came over, we just passed it around.  There is a monolith on that island.  Think Washington monument, but smaller.  Every night, at midnight, even the night the Nor’ Easter raged, a group of males navigated
through the dark to the monolith, and we read something we’d written.  Then we insulted each other, made jokes  about penis size and writing ability, and assured each other that they were all
going to fail.  
Why did we hike to the monolith at midnight?  Because it seemed cool in a “Dead Poet’s Society” sort of way.  Why did the women need a lace doily?  I assume it brought a degree of civility.  No female
hiked to the monolith in the middle of a near hurricane to read and be insulted.  It probably didn’t occur to them.  In my group of guys, it certainly never occurred to us to have things like glasses or mixers.  
Yes, I know these are sort of routine, stereotypical gender examples.  What I found fascinating
was the subtext.  In both cases, there was a fostering of community and support.  How we went about bonding was so polar opposite. Jon and I became lifelong friends out of a shared, competitive desire to eat well.   Dining on that island is communal and family style.   The first night they ran out of food, and Jon and I were given bowls of soggy, overcooked carrots for dinner.  We spent the rest of our time there devising and perfecting a system that ensured we were having seconds before most people sat down.   (it involved excluding vegetarians and kosher Jews, required exactly ten
people who could move quickly, etc).   Shane and I bonded over our mutual enjoyment of stealing a guy’s  wheelchair.  Jon would take a bullet for me.  Shane probably would too, but he’s so scrawny it would just pass through and kill us both. Jon, on the other hand, could definitely stop a bullet…or a missile.
I was reminded of these things on the recent vacation.   The BSW (that’s Beautiful Sunny Woman for the uninitiated) and I rented a beach house. Two great friends, females, from the program, joined us.  As we prepared for the trip, the BSW wanted to know lots of things.  What did they take in their
coffee?  Were there certain foods they liked or didn’t?  Were they early risers?  One of them was  coming with her husband and kids.  What do the kids like to do?  What kind of cereal do they like? And on and on.
My answer to all the questions was, “How the fuck would I know?”  She gave me the “I’m being patient with you because I know you’re borderline retarded” look.  I was pretty proud just to recall that one of them was deathly allergic to seafood.  I really only remembered that because I wanted to stab her with her Epi pen in the event of anaphylactic shock.
By day two of the vacation, the BSW knew the answers to all those questions.  In contrast, the other
husband and I stayed up late one night and compared broken bones and best fight scenes in movies.
Really, isn’t awareness of a fractured collarbone more important than one sugar and a dash of cream?  Nah, they’re the same.  They’re how we connect.

7/5/2013 02:16:59 pm

First of all, as one of those female friends on Star Island, we also talked about penis size once you left the doily room. Secondly, you never invited me to the monument, surely for fear that when the insults started I would have made you big men cry like little girls. Yes, men and women are definitely different. :)

D.R. Leo
7/5/2013 02:28:55 pm

Kelly, we may be dumb, but we're not stupid. That is exactly why you weren't invited.

Jon Stern
7/5/2013 02:32:42 pm

Kelly made me cry three times today.

7/5/2013 02:23:15 pm

"some guy"

Remind me why I'm not making you a cherry tomato shaded mr. potato headed guy in my MS instead of a integral, character-shaping, character?

hahaha. :)

D.R. Leo
7/5/2013 02:31:00 pm

Because you love me.

7/5/2013 02:25:46 pm

I think it's funny that you think we've bonded, D.R. Leo.

Or should I say:


Jon E. Stern
7/5/2013 02:34:39 pm

First of all, I will share a carrot, but a bullet....hmmm...let me get back to you on that.

D.R. Leo
7/5/2013 02:48:10 pm

I was trying to portray you in a good light. I'll revise it...."Jon was and remains a douchebag."

Jon Stern
7/5/2013 04:29:50 pm

For more information or application, apply at: Become an official of the Douche Baggery Society.

7/28/2013 10:31:26 am

I feel honored that I was included in your system/scheme on Star Island. I know I was only invited because you needed that tenth person and you guys wanted more females, thinking they eat less (not necessarily so), leaving more food for you, but what the hell, it made dinner time so much fun.


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