Miklos
« Je donne mon avis non comme bon mais comme mien. » — Michel de Montaigne

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17 octobre 2010

Logic, gender and the Internet

Classé dans : Humour, Sciences, techniques, Société — Miklos @ 11:34

The following deep (or amusing, or both, depending on your current mood) thoughts have been circulating on the Internet the way rumors or viruses do, ever so modifying itself in subtle and no-so-subtle ways and applying itself to a variety of different situations from the original one, i.e., a woman writing about men:

Men

Philosophical reasoning!

Who understands men?

The nice men are ugly.

The handsome men are not nice.

The handsome and nice men are gay.

The handsome, nice and heterosexual men are married.

The men who are not so handsome but are nice men have no money.

The men who are not so handsome but are nice men with money think women are only after their money.

The handsome men without money are after our money.

The handsome men, who are not so nice and somewhat heterosexual don’t think we are beautiful enough.

The men who think we are beautiful, that are heterosexual, somewhat nice and have money are cowards.

The men who are somewhat handsome, somewhat nice and have some money and thank God are heterosexual are shy and never make the first move!!!!!

The men who never make the first move, automatically lose interest in us when we take the initiative.

Now… who the hell understands men?

As far as we can ascertain, this text first appeared on August 10, 2000 in the Usenet group umn.ee.chatter, dedicated to “talk for/about the University of Minnesota Electric Engineering Department”, and was signed “Barbara Flora”.

No wonder: the kind of men she so aptly reasons about is often found among engineers (no offence intended), geeks, nerds and dorks. Serves her right for having studied there, if you ask me. Had she been really logical, she would have avoided that kind of department. But women are known to be illogical (no offence intended) and quite charming even just for that. To wit:

Women’s logic

You imagine you have married a creature endowed with reason: you are woefully mistaken, my friend.

Axiom.

Sensitive beings are not sensible beings.

Sentiment is not argument, reason is not pleasure, and pleasure is certainly not a reason.

“Oh! sir!” she says.

Reply “Ah! yes! Ah!” You must bring forth this “ah!” from the very depths of your thoracic cavern, as you rush in a rage from the house, or return, confounded, to your study.

Why? Now? Who has conquered, killed, overthrown you! Your wife’s logic, which is not the logic of Aristotle, nor that of Ramus, nor that of Kant, nor that of Condillac, nor that of Robespierre, nor that of Napoleon: but which partakes of the character of all these logics, and which we must call the universal logic of women, the logic of English women as it is that of Italian women, of the women of Normandy and Brittany (ah, these last are unsurpassed!), of the women of Paris, in short, that of the women in the moon, if there are women in that nocturnal land, with which the women of the earth have an evident understanding, angels that they are!

The discussion began after breakfast. Discussions can never take place in a household save at this hour. A man could hardly have a discussion with his wife in bed, even if he wanted to: she has too many advantages over him, and can too easily reduce him to silence. On leaving the nuptial chamber with a pretty woman in it, a man is apt to be hungry, if he is young. Breakfast is usually a cheerful meal, and cheerfulness is not given to argument. In short, you do not open the business till you have had your tea or your coffee.

You have taken it into your head, for instance, to send your son to school. All fathers are hypocrites and are never willing to confess that their own flesh and blood is very troublesome when it walks about on two legs, lays its dare-devil hands on everything, and is everywhere at once like a frisky pollywog. Your son barks, mews, and sings; he breaks, smashes and soils the furniture, and furniture is dear; he makes toys of everything, he scatters your papers, and he cuts paper dolls out of the morning’s newspaper before you have read it.

His mother says to him, referring to anything of yours: “Take it!” but in reference to anything of hers she says: “Take care!”

She cunningly lets him have your things that she may be left in peace. Her bad faith as a good mother seeks shelter behind her child, your son is her accomplice. Both are leagued against you like Robert Macaire and Bertrand against the subscribers to their joint stock company. The boy is an axe with which foraging excursions are performed in your domains. He goes either boldly or slyly to maraud in your wardrobe: he reappears caparisoned in the drawers you laid aside that morning, and brings to the light of day many articles condemned to solitary confinement. He brings the elegant Madame Fischtaminel, a friend whose good graces you cultivate, your girdle for checking corpulency, bits of cosmetic for dyeing your moustache, old waistcoats discolored at the arm-holes, stockings slightly soiled at the heels and somewhat yellow at the toes. It is quite impossible to remark that these stains are caused by the leather!

Your wife looks at your friend and laughs; you dare not be angry, so you laugh too, but what a laugh! The unfortunate all know that laugh.

Your son, moreover, gives you a cold sweat, if your razors happen to be out of their place. If you are angry, the little rebel laughs and shows his two rows of pearls: if you scold him, he cries. His mother rushes in! And what a mother she is! A mother who will detest you if you don’t give him the razor! With women there is no middle ground; a man is either a monster or a model.

At certain times you perfectly understand Herod and his famous decrees relative to the Massacre of the Innocents, which have only been surpassed by those of the good Charles X!

Your wife has returned to her sofa, you walk up and down, and stop, and you boldly introduce the subject by this interjectional remark:

“Caroline, we must send Charles to boarding school.”

“Charles cannot go to boarding school,” she returns in a mild tone.

“Charles is six years old, the age at which a boy’s education begins.”

“In the first place,” she replies, “it begins at seven. The royal princes are handed over to their governor by their governess when they are seven. That’s the law and the prophets. I don’t see why you shouldn’t apply to the children of private people the rule laid down for the children of princes. Is your son more forward than theirs? The king of Rome—­”

“The king of Rome is not a case in point.”

“What! Is not the king of Rome the son of the Emperor? [Here she changes the subject.] Well, I declare, you accuse the Empress, do you? Why, Doctor Dubois himself was present, besides—­”

“I said nothing of the kind.”

“How you do interrupt, Adolphe.”

“I say that the king of Rome [here you begin to raise your voice], the king of Rome, who was hardly four years old when he left France, is no example for us.”

“That doesn’t prevent the fact of the Duke de Bordeaux’s having been placed in the hands of the Duke de Riviere, his tutor, at seven years.” [Logic.]

“The case of the young Duke of Bordeaux is different.”

“Then you confess that a boy can’t be sent to school before he is seven years old?” she says with emphasis. [More logic.]

“No, my dear, I don’t confess that at all. There is a great deal of difference between private and public education.”

“That’s precisely why I don’t want to send Charles to school yet. He ought to be much stronger than he is, to go there.”

“Charles is very strong for his age.”

“Charles? That’s the way with men! Why, Charles has a very weak constitution; he takes after you. [Here she changes from tu to vous.] But if you are determined to get rid of your son, why put him out to board, of course. I have noticed for some time that the dear child annoys you.”

“Annoys me? The idea! But we are answerable for our children, are we not? It is time Charles’ education was began: he is getting very bad habits here, he obeys no one, he thinks himself perfectly free to do as he likes, he hits everybody and nobody dares to hit him back. He ought to be placed in the midst of his equals, or he will grow up with the most detestable temper.”

“Thank you: so I am bringing Charles up badly!”

“I did not say that: but you will always have excellent reasons for keeping him at home.”

Here the vous becomes reciprocal and the discussion takes a bitter turn on both sides. Your wife is very willing to wound you by saying vous, but she feels cross when it becomes mutual.

“The long and the short of it is that you want to get my child away, you find that he is between us, you are jealous of your son, you want to tyrannize over me at your ease, and you sacrifice your boy! Oh, I am smart enough to see through you!”

“You make me out like Abraham with his knife! One would think there were no such things as schools! So the schools are empty; nobody sends their children to school!”

“You are trying to make me appear ridiculous,” she retorts. “I know that there are schools well enough, but people don’t send boys of six there, and Charles shall not start now.”

“Don’t get angry, my dear.”

“As if I ever get angry! I am a woman and know how to suffer in silence.”

“Come, let us reason together.”

“You have talked nonsense enough.”

“It is time that Charles should learn to read and write; later in life, he will find difficulties sufficient to disgust him.”

Here, you talk for ten minutes without interruption, and you close with an appealing “Well?” armed with an intonation which suggests an interrogation point of the most crooked kind.

“Well!” she replies, “it is not yet time for Charles to go to school.”

You have gained nothing at all.

“But, my dear, Monsieur Deschars certainly sent his little Julius to school at six years. Go and examine the schools and you will find lots of little boys of six there.”

You talk for ten minutes more without the slightest interruption, and then you ejaculate another “Well?”

“Little Julius Deschars came home with chilblains,” she says.

“But Charles has chilblains here.”

“Never,” she replies, proudly.

In a quarter of an hour, the main question is blocked by a side discussion on this point: “Has Charles had chilblains or not?”

You bandy contradictory allegations; you no longer believe each other; you must appeal to a third party.

Axiom.

Every household has its Court of Appeals which takes no notice of the merits, but judges matters of form only.

The nurse is sent for. She comes, and decides in favor of your wife. It is fully decided that Charles has never had chilblains.

Caroline glances triumphantly at you and utters these monstrous words: “There, you see Charles can’t possibly go to school!”

You go out breathless with rage. There is no earthly means of convincing your wife that there is not the slightest reason for your son’s not going to school in the fact that he has never had chilblains.

That evening, after dinner, you hear this atrocious creature finishing a long conversation with a woman with these words: “He wanted to send Charles to school, but I made him see that he would have to wait.”

Some husbands, at a conjuncture like this, burst out before everybody; their wives take their revenge six weeks later, but the husbands gain this by it, that Charles is sent to school the very day he gets into any mischief. Other husbands break the crockery, and keep their rage to themselves. The knowing ones say nothing and bide their time.

A woman’s logic is exhibited in this way upon the slightest occasion, about a promenade or the proper place to put a sofa. This logic is extremely simple, inasmuch as it consists in never expressing but one idea, that which contains the expression of their will. Like everything pertaining to female nature, this system may be resolved into two algebraic terms—­Yes: no. There are also certain little movements of the head which mean so much that they may take the place of either.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), Petty troubles of married life. Transl. from the French by Katharine Prescott Wormeley.

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