Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Charlie Brown Syndrome

Peter: Wendy? One girl's worth more than 20 boys.
Wendy: You really think so?
Peter: I live with boys, the lost boys, they are well named!
Wendy: Who are they?
Peter: Children who fall out of their prams when the nurse is not looking. If they are not claimed in seven days, they are sent to the Neverland.
Wendy: Are there girls too?
Peter: Girls are much to clever to fall out of their prams.
- Movie script, Peter Pan (2003)

At the beginning of Lisa Genova's excellent novel Still Alice the husband of Alice, the protagonist cannot find his reading glasses. Alice finds them.

"He stood in the doorway, looking at the glasses in her hand but not at her.

'Next time try pretending a you're a woman while you look,' said Alice, smiling.

'I'll wear one of your skirts, Ali, please, I'm really late.'" (Still Alice)

I wonder - is it true that women are innately better at multi-tasking than men? Or is it a learned ability, learned during our child-raising days when we breast feed while reading while working out what to cook for dinner?

Certainly it is the common perception by women, that the females of our species are superior multi-taskers. And along with the idea that male humans can only concentrate on one thing at a time, is the image of the male child as being more innocent and trusting than his sisters. Just look at Charlie Brown. And Linus. And their tormentor, Lucy van Pelt.

The little girl in the photo (above) is one of the many Lucys I've come across. Look at the way she's peering at the small boy, her very stance shouts condescension, it is as if he's not quite human. She regards him as she would a cute puppy.

home depotAre we women responsible for men's comparative naivety? Do men escape to man-places like "Home Depot" and man-caves as places of refuge from the sharp tongues and wily ways of women? Do DIY home renovation supply stores owe their success to the Wendys', the Lucys', the Alices' and Tinkerbells' influences on the Lost Boys, Charlie Browns, Christopher Robins and Peter Pans of this world? I think so.

When my son was very small I tried to see the world from his little boy view. It was a scary place, populated by an older sister ("I'm glad she's not a twin!" he told me when he was barely two), witches and super heroes. Perhaps the real problem with the fantasy creatures that populate a child's imagination, is that the female ones are all too believable, whereas the male ones - the super heros are completely over-the-top and obviously "pretend".

This was brought home when at two and a half my son suddenly took a stand and refused to visit his grandmother. When the car would come to a stop outside her house he'd cling frantically to his car seat and scream. We didn't have the heart to take him inside and we'd turn the car around and leave. It took many weeks before I got to the bottom of his dread. He'd recently heard the story of Snow White and because my mother had been in the habit of giving the grandchildren shiny polished red apples he'd become convinced that she was a witch.

I, of course, took great pleasure in informing her of this discovery. "It is because he thinks you are a witch," I explained straight-faced on the phone.

Ah! The joys of being a grown-up daughter! I smiled my Lucy smile ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seriously? You turned around and drove home because you couldn't control your kid? Sounds like he's going to have a few more problems than your small-minded misandry limits itself to.



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