One of the Boys…?

March 15, 2007 at 11:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Last night Llew and I went down to the wharf bar for a “quiet” drink with Matt, who’s in town from Papua New Guinea for James and Melissa’s wedding tomorrow, which should be a cracker if only I can sort out my outfit… Anyway, it was a classic Wookie-Llew-Di sparring frenzy, and things got rather…er…loud.

In the midst of all the ribald hilarity, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that this is why I love being in otherwise exclusively male company: I get to use an entirely different part of my personality. Male chat is fundamentally different to female chat. And I think that’s what I have been missing out on during those previously mentioned nights of gender demarcation: the subtleties and specificities of what men talk about when they’re with other men and there are no women around.

Of course, I’m a woman, so the chat must change at least slightly due to my presence. But there are some guys who seem to have accepted me, for the purposes of these conversations, as one of the boys. Nothing is too shocking, no joke too extreme, no topic taboo. And I love it. I participate wholeheartedly, and I flex what feels like a completely different funny bone than when I am with my beloved girls. The humour and group dynamic involved is very different.

A couple of months ago Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens wrote a piece called ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny.’ Hitchens obviously thought he, on the other hand, was a laugh riot. It was an interesting piece, although it ended up being patronising and sexist in its insincere and backhanded-insult conclusion, that women don’t have time to be funny what with all that work they have to do making up for the innumerable shortfalls of men. Oh, really?

And it was a stroke of genius, in a way, because of course there’s no response one can make that doesn’t seem to prove his point. In the letters teemed nonetheless. I resisted the urge to write one, but the thought, I’ll admit, crossed my mind. But then I realised he had me. He had me good. There was no way to be funny in replying to a charge of being unfunny. The whole structure is set up for flat-on-your-face failure. There is no possible humour to be found stridently insisting to him and the world that we’re capable of it. Think about it. “My friends say I’m hilarious” and “I’m a funny person” and “People at work are always telling me I should do stand up” are three of the most cretinous, unfunny lines known to man. And woman. And yet women in their droves rushed to tell Vanity Fair these very things. I actually winced reading some of the letters the following month. Atta girl, that’ll show ’em…that’ll have ’em rollin’ in the aisles…

But what Hitchens underestimated or didn’t understand or didn’t stop to think about is that female chat is rather different when he’s not around. It changes radically, in the way that conversation alters when I join a group of guys who don’t know me as well as Llew and Matt or James and Evo do. I’m betting from the size of this particular columnist’s ego that he’s not exactly treated as ‘one of the girls’ when he has occasion to be surrounded by the so-called fairer sex. Some of the sharpest people I know are women. And sometimes I only know just how sharp they are because I’ve spent girl time with them. It’s not missing, it’s just different, and last night as I nearly sprayed my drink across the bar I was laughing so hard, some of those differences started to seem a little clearer to me.

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