I seldom speak for my entire gender. Or maybe I do more often than I realize, and I should shut up before I give away the secret.
But I spent this last week in the company of my sister and a couple of my nieces in East Texas, including an eight-hour road trip from near Dallas to Garrison and back to see my brother. If you’ve never been in a car with grown women, you may not know that we talk. A lot. And, if it’s my family, you laugh a lot, as well. We have kind of a skewed outlook on life, which you may know already if you read my stuff.
As an aside—thank you for reading this. And thank you very much to those of you who stop me and ask if I’m the one that writes the articles in the paper. It never fails to make my day every single time. Hey, Fort Stockton fame is not to be sneezed at, especially when you live ‘round these parts.
Anyway, as any group would while trapped in a metal box hurtling down the highway at 75 miles per hour for a long space of time, we traded information back and forth. The conversation often turned to the other gender. You know, menfolk.
The consensus from the wise women of the group was that the vast majority of men do not look at a woman and see separate bits of her in the same way women do. The exception, of course, being extremes, like massive accouterments attached to her leading edge, and so forth. But normally, men just don’t pick women apart.
No man that I’ve met ever looked at a woman and said, “Wow, she does not have a thigh gap. I don’t think I can talk to her if she doesn’t have a thigh gap.” Seriously. Not saying men are simplistic, they’re actually quite complex. However, when they look at the vast majority of women, according to some very good, male friends, they think, “Mmm, a woman. I like women.”
A woman, on the other hand, will look at another woman and see her in bits and pieces only, almost never the whole picture. I’ve heard all of these at some time or another, and all in a woman’s voice, never from a man:
“She’s got way too much makeup on.”
“If she lost 20 pounds, she’d be gorgeous.”
“Those jeans are so tight they’re making her eyes bulge.”
“She needs to wear some other color. Yellow makes her look like one of those zombies from the Walking Dead.”
“If you strapped a brush to each hip, she could paint the hallway just walking down it.” I actually heard my mama say that about a girl we knew who had a tendency to strut a bit.
OK, a lot.
We do (I swear) also think and even occasionally say positive things. These, instead of as an aside to our friends or husbands, are usually said directly to the woman. I’ve heard all the following at one time or another:
“I love your hair, who does it?”
“Oh my God, that dress is amazing, where’d you get it?”
“You have the most beautiful face, if you lost some weight, you’d be drop-dead gorgeous!”
OK, that slid a little sideways, but you know what I mean. Women look at other women, as well as ourselves, in pieces and parts. Makeup, legs, chest, thighs, and so on.
Unfortunately, we’re not necessarily good at separating either ourselves or other women from the way we look. “Bad hair day” certainly did not begin as a male concept. We allow the way we look (or the way we think we look, anyway) to affect the way we feel about ourselves, as well as the way we feel about each other.
Women also tend to see the separate pieces and parts things with men—nice rear end, nice abs, nice legs Well, I think “nice legs.” I have this weird thing for Dwight Yoakum’s legs. His face looks like ten miles of bad road, but his legs are kind of amazing. Note that I’ve only seen those legs in jeans. If I saw him in shorts, I would probably think he had chicken legs.
I think that women genuinely need to take a page out of the way men think about us and try it on for size. When you look at another woman without tearing her apart, it might actually be easier to make her a friend.
I’m thinking out loud it’s certainly worth trying.
What have you got to lose?
Lisa C Hannon’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She lives and writes in West Texas.