Friday, August 30, 2013

Why It's so Difficult to Talk to a Man

Joe talking to his daughter, Meghan.  You can tell by the look on her face that it's something boring.

When I moved to Midtown Atlanta and began teaching elementary school again eight years ago, the only people I talked to were women and kids.  Women and kids are easy to talk to because they are logical and make sense. Men, on the other hand, aren't and don't.

About six months ago, Joe re-entered my life - an old friend who became my new love.  The very good and very bad news is that Joe is a man.

I now remember why it's so difficult to talk to a man.  Here are just some of the reasons:

1.  Men can't (or refuse to) remember important things.

 Joe can recall the names of every athlete, author, musician, actor, poet, composer, or protagonist he's ever watched, listened to, or read about in his entire life, but he can’t remember the names of any of my friends. 

For example:

Me:  “I’m going to call Bonnie.” 
Joe:  “Who?” 
Me:  “You know Bonnie, the one we visited whose husband is the banker.  They have the baby named Jasmine.” 


Me:  “We’re going to visit Portia on the 10th, right?” 
Joe:  “Who?” 

Me:  “Portia, my cousin, the one we are going to visit on the 10th.”

So it’s hard to carry on a conversation when I'm always having to regurgitate everyone’s biography every time I start talking.

 2.  Men don't gossip (at least not well).

 Joe doesn’t know how to gossip.  He just doesn’t get the point of it.  This is made more difficult since he can’t remember anyone’s name and I have to provide the back story before I start in on the juicy stuff.

For example:

Me:  “Remember Mavis?”
Joe:  “Who?”   
Me:  “My friend whose brother accidentally set himself on fire.  Well, her other brother, not the one who set himself on fire, his wife ran off with another man.  Mavis is so upset.”  
Me:  “Who?”

3.  Men aren't interested in anything interesting.
 Joe only speaks in sports or old movie or Bob Dylan analogies, which are stupid. And when I ask him a sports question just to pretend I’m interested, he goes on too long, with too many facts, too much analysis, and, before I know it, the commercial break for House Hunters International is over and I’ve missed out on which house the cute couple chose.

4.  Men's sense of humor is different (and less evolved) than that of women. 
Joe only knows one joke, the string joke, which is not funny.  In spite of that, he doesn’t get my jokes, which are funny, although they are often dirty.

5.  Men are not good commiseraters.

When I want to complain about something or someone, Joe provides a solution.  A woman would never do that.  She would just agree with me about what an ass that person who wronged me is.  Joe doesn’t understand that I don’t want to solve the problem, I just want to bitch about it in a friendly and agreeable milieu.  I want to be validated, not fixed.

6.  Men are literal and without nuanced layers.

The other evening, Joe and I went out to his back patio for an after-dinner drink when he noticed that something had torn the upholstery on his patio chairs.  After some brainstorming about what it could have been - a squirrel, a snake, a cat, a dog, a mountain lion (in Coastal Georgia), or an angry neighbor, Joe finally conceded that it just might have been a raccoon since they are known to frequent his neighborhood.  

At that point, Joe said, "I wonder if Robert would let me use one of his traps," to which I said, "Now, remind me of who Robert is", hoping that he'd fill me in on some kind of interesting information (if not gossip) about Robert.

But alas, Joe's reply was

"He's the guy with the trap."

And so, there, in one big ole man-sized nutshell,  is why it's so difficult to talk to a man, or least to Joe.*

*If you have any commiseration to offer, let me know. Otherwise, keep all solutions to yourself.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How Raphael Saved Père-Lachaise for Joe and Me

 Raphael and Marcia invoking Marcel Marceau

Everyone had told us how great Père-Lachaise, the historic cemetery in Paris, was and that we should visit, as everybody who was anybody is buried there.  Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Sarah Burnhardt, and both Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are just some of the more famous dead people living there.

Joe and I had been in Paris for just a few days and were still figuring out the metro system, but it seemed that the cemetery was an easy enough walk so that’s what we did.  We arrived in the midst of a dappling morning that would soon give way to a warm day.  As is typical of us, we entered through the closest, albeit perhaps not best, entrance and just started wandering around.

Oh my God!!  There are a lot of people buried in Père-Lachaise!  Some in grand tombs, others under slabs, all packed in tighter than the rush-hour metro traffic we were still getting used to.  We found a couple of famous graves, but overall, we just stumbled around, growing hotter and hotter and more exasperated.  The other back-door meanderers seemed just as lost as we were.  Joe would ask them in French if they knew where the heck we (and they) were, but their answers were typically a sad “Non.”

At some point, we decided to give up for the day and do some research and come back.  We were hot and our feet hurt.   

But just as we tried to figure out how to exit the labyrinth that was Père-Lachaise, out of a small grove of trees appeared what seemed to me to be a wood nymph of some kind.  It was wearing a black shirt and trousers with dark curls encircling its head.  I had thought our wood nymph was female until I noticed the male pattern bald spot peeking out of her curls.  He introduced himself as Raphael  and then said, rather than asked, in quite good English, that we were looking for Jim Morrison, which, of course, obviously being Americans, we were.  I thought it was so sweet of this petite Parisian to take time out of his day to show us that iconic American tourist destination.

Before we knew it, we were following Raphael all over Père-Lachaise.  Boy, was that rascal fast!  At some point, Joe and I whispered to each other that we were going to have to pay this guy, but we tacitly agreed, whatever it was, it would most likely be worth it.  Not only did Raphael know his way around, he knew the shortcuts and he knew stories about the most famous of inhabitants.  He knew who died of what (often something messy or scandalous), he knew how many dead-people layers were allowed and who would have to be dug up after 99 years so others could be buried, and who was famous enough to stay forever.  He was bossy and sometimes just on the edge of boorish, but he was always interesting and entertaining. He told us that he wanted to be cremated when he died, or "barbecued" as he put it, and said that those who were dug up for others to be buried were typically "barbecued" at the end.

One of the most interesting of Père-Lachaise stories was that of Victor Noir, a journalist killed by Pierre Napoleon Bonaparte in a dispute over a duel.  It wasn't his death so much as his tomb, which is notable for the realistic portrayal of the dead Noir, that makes him, according to Raphael, the most visited of all Père-Lachaise dead people.  And the photo that Raphael bullied us into posing for and which embarrasses Joe just a tad, became my absolute favorite of our whole Paris trip.  I'll leave finding out the entire story of why Victor Noir is such a hit with cemetery visitors up to your own investigative resources (as in, how fast can you google Victor Noir?) but I can tell you that my right hand in the picture is placed (under Raphael's assertive instruction) just where you think it is.

Apologies to Joe Guiendon for including this great picture!
Finally, after lots of stories, a few yarns, and, most likely some outright lies, Raphael was spent and so were we.  Joe shook Raphael's hand and thanked him, asking how much we owed him.  Raphael responded with something about how our enjoyment was all that mattered to him. But when Joe pulled a twenty out of his pocket, that scamp, Raphael, intoned with "More."  When we laughed at his cute retort, Raphael responded again, this time with, "No, really.  More."  At that point, I pulled my own twenty out of my purse, which led to a couple of "Mercis", several "Adeux", and quite a few cheek kisses.

Joe and I agree that meeting Raphael and his "friends" at Père-Lachaise was well worth the forty euros we were coerced into spending, especially since our intrepid huckster guide also showed us how to exit the cemetery.  Otherwise, we might still be wandering around in there somewhere.

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