A Last Thought


Text by Claire Baiz

While I discuss the relative merits of a tile sample, my husband tilts his head and gazes, puppy-like, past my shoulder. I get it. He wants to go outside. Well, Buddy, not until I get some cogent feedback.

Men prefer to point and grunt. Women have a much more complex relationship with stuff.

If you disassemble males and examine their interface with physical reality, you’d see a lot fewer wires. Is it edible? Can it be thrown/caught/hit or wagered upon? Can I go fast in it? Does it make a loud noise or accommodate an appendage? Men are equipped with toggle switches, women with an empty space. One gender prefers yes or no answers, the other yearns to be fulfilled…for us, “stuff” is never easy. Even household appliances elicit a wide spectrum of feminine emotions.

My husband would never understand the love-hate relationship I had with my oven. I had to have the Viking professional oven trucked up from Salt Lake City. Shoving in two huge cookie sheets gave me culinary power. The 40-minute pre-heat, the way the convection fan rattled like a cheap outboard, the gap in the insulated door, uh…not so much.

For women, the joy of ownership is tarnished by the maddening notion that there’s something better out there, or at least some way to improve what we already have.

There are moments when we get the urge to improve our men. After 35 years of marriage, here’s my advice: when you feel that way, remodel the kitchen.

My ambivalence began with Barbie. I never really played with Barbie—I just tried to improve her lot in life by surrounding her with smelly vinyl accessories and insincere companions. I’d enhance each Barbie until I couldn’t stand the sight of her: by that time, her hair was hacked off, her neck was loose from repeated decapitation—and once, her elbows were burned splotchy black (I thought holding them over a candle might help bend them). The more I tried to help Barbie be perfect, the more I resented my boring brown eyes and boring brown hair and metal-shafted orthopedic shoes. I couldn’t get a new me, but I could buy a new Barbie.

Maybe my Mattel addiction explains why I still struggle to turn wherever I live into Barbie’s Dream House.

Stuff women “can’t live without” can turn ordinary with breathtaking speed. Sometimes the clang of a cash register is enough to trigger buyer’s remorse. We grow indifferent, or we see the exact same Coach bag on a city bus, and WHAM: coveted possessions become…icky stuff. If you put icky stuff in storage for a decade or two, it could become retro stuff, worthy of another spin of our wishy-washy want-it wheel…or it could still be icky stuff: box it up, boys. We’ll have to wait and see.

Men don’t think like this. You can go out to the garage and throw away everything your man hasn’t touched in the last decade. Six months (or six years) from now, when he realizes you took his T-square to Goodwill, he won’t fret about replacing it. Either he will, or he won’t. For women, the loss is personal.

Some comic or philosopher once said women are incapable of happiness for more than fifteen minutes at a time. I’m betting, nine times out of ten, that happiness occurs before the novelty of new stuff wears off.