I’m sure you’ve all heard of Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity. I’m sure, too, that you probably couldn’t explain this particular theory to me, nor could I explain it to you. So instead of discussing The Theory of Relativity today, I’d thought we should discuss a much more interesting and more easily understandable theory called the Theory of Femininity.
The general idea behind this theory has probably been around for some time in various forms, but the specific Theory of Femininity I’d like to discuss is the Dan Dugan version which was first formalized during the summer of 1978 and actually tested later that year. Before I go into the specific details of the theory, however, let me give you some background information on the author.
Dan Dugan is, of course, a fictional name, and once I explain his theory to you, you’ll see why he wants to remain anonymous. Dan and I grew up together, we attended all the same schools right up through college, and we also played baseball together. After college, I worked as a teacher in the Peace Corps for two years while he began his career as a college admissions officer. When I returned to the States, we hooked up again and decided to share an apartment. And during the spring of 1978, Dan and I arranged our summer vacation schedules so that we could take a six-week, cross-country drive to California and back. During this particular trip, The Theory of Femininity was born.
At the time, Dan had been dating the same girl for about four years, and I was not seeing anyone regularly. Those were pretty much our patterns. Dan was usually involved with his girlfriends for long periods of time while the longest relationship I ever had lasted about nine months. On our journey westward, we visited some friends in Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, and Nevada, spent about three weeks touring California, and then headed back east. While we drove, we spent most of our time talking about females. Naturally, we each shared our thoughts, experiences, and observations, and gradually Dan came to this conclusion, a conclusion that he called his Theory of Femininity. According to Dan, “Women, no matter how much they claim they want to hear the truth, don’t really want to hear the truth.”
When I first heard him put it just that way, I was a bit skeptical, so I asked for some examples. He had plenty. “When a woman gets her hair cut,” he began, “and she asks what you think of it, she doesn’t really want to hear the truth. What she wants to hear is that her hair looks great, no matter how terrible it may look. If you try to be honest and say that her hair looked better when it was long or that the new style doesn’t really look that great, she’ll get all upset and frustrated, and she may even cry. Then, instead of having a contented girlfriend on your hands, you have to deal with an emotional wreck who may not recover until her hair grows back. It’s not worth all the effort. You may as well just lie to her and tell her that she looks beautiful. Trust me. I know these things. I’ve learned the hard way.”
“I don’t know if that’s true,” I responded. As an optimist at heart, I really wanted to believe that women not only could handle the truth, but that they also wanted to hear the truth and would shower their affections on any man strong enough to be completely honest with them. Dan, however, was ready immediately with another example.
“The same thing happens when she wears a new dress for the first time. Don’t even think about saying it’s not the right color or that it makes her look heavy. If you say anything negative whatsoever, you’re in big trouble. She’ll call off the date, or she’ll want to change dresses, which will take a half hour at least, or she’ll want to go shopping for something different which is the worst punishment of all. So, again, if you’re smart, you’ll memorize this line and try to say it with emotion: ‘Sweetheart, that dress looks great on you!’”
I still wasn’t convinced, but before I had a chance to speak, Dan could see the doubt on my face, and he launched into his final example. “Cooking. If a woman ever prepares a meal for you and if you hope to finish it, you must say the word ‘delicious’ before you finish your first mouthful. You can’t say ‘It’s dry’ or ‘It’s chewy,’ and you better not go for the ketchup unless she puts it on the table and uses it first. Also, you have to eat everything she puts on your plate and ask for seconds, even if you feel like a stuffed pig. Violate any of these commandments, and you won’t ever be enjoying dessert, if you know what I mean.”
Despite Dan’s somewhat believable examples, I still wasn’t ready to accept his theory wholeheartedly. As a young, naïve, and foolish romantic, I desperately wanted to believe that eventually I could have a completely honest relationship with a woman. I was tired of the white lies and the little games and the cynicism. Quite honestly, I wanted to be able to share every deep thought and emotion without worrying that the woman of my dreams would be unable to accept the truth.
When I told Dan this, he laughed at me. And when I told him that I would try to test his theory if the right opportunity ever presented itself, he warned me.
“Don’t do it,” he said. “If you do, you’ll be in big trouble. You’ll regret it forever, and you may never recover. That’s all I’m going to say. From here on in, you’re on your own.”
Little did I know at that moment that my opportunity to test Dan’s theory would come so soon. As we were driving back through upstate New York, we stopped to see one more buddy who lived in Syracuse, and while we were there, I found out that Bob Dylan was scheduled to appear at the War Memorial Coliseum a month later. Since Dylan had always been one of my favorites, I bought two tickets and figured I could find someone to go with me, though I wasn’t quite sure who at that time.
Danny thought I was being a little too overconfident, and he tried to talk me out of my purchase. “Wait until you get a date,” he advised. “Otherwise you’ll get stuck eating those tickets.” This was another one of his theories, of course. He wouldn’t ever buy two tickets to anything unless he knew for sure that he had a date already lined up. I was confident and determined, though.
“Don’t you worry about me, Danny Boy,” I told him. “I’ll definitely come up with someone. I guarantee it.”
I started working on my task as soon as I got home. First, I called Laura, a girl I had met just before leaving for California. She worked at a photo shop in the mall, and we had gone out once for pizza and a movie. I had told her that I’d call her again when I got home from California, and when I called, she seemed pleased to hear from me. She even said she like to go to the concert. Unfortunately, she had another commitment for that evening, so she had to say “No.”
Undaunted, I pondered my next move for a while, and a week later, I called Diane, one of my sister’s friends. She had just moved back to the area, and I figured she’d be up for a little excitement. She also sounded enthusiastic at first, and, in fact, we did go out for a drink that very weekend, but she, too, was unavailable for the trip to Syracuse.
With two strikes on me, and with Danny constantly pestering me about who I was going to bring to see Dylan, I was starting to feel the pressure. If Laura and Diane were unavailable well in advance, I knew my odds of success were decreasing the closer I got to the actual concert date. So, a little over two weeks before the big day, I call Kathy, a girl I hadn’t spoken to in over a year.
Kathy and I had dated during the previous summer for about three months. We got along pretty well, but I knew we weren’t meant for the long term. She was a little too emotional for me. I prefer stability. Anyway, once I realized this, I gradually stopped calling her and figured that was the end of it. What made me think of her again, however, was the fact that she was also a big Dylan fan. I assumed that even if she didn’t really want to see me again, she might be interested in seeing Dylan. And I was right. She was upbeat when we spoke, and she said “Yes” immediately. I arranged all the details with her and couldn’t wait to tell Danny about my success.
To his credit, Danny actually seemed pleased that I had gotten a date, and he wished me well.
When I picked Kathy up at her apartment, I was really psyched for the two-hour trip to Syracuse for the concert, and so was she. We had no conversational gaps despite the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in over a year. I told her all about our cross-country journey, and she told me all about her new position in state government. And the concert was even better.
Dylan played the first set completely alone, and he mixed old songs with new, some with guitar alone and some with both guitar and harmonica. After the break, though, he came back with a full band behind him and a trio of female Gospel singers. Together, they rocked through all his classic hits, and Kathy and I were singing and dancing with everyone else in the arena. This concert was the absolute best I’d ever attended.
Afterwards, Kathy and I grabbed some burgers and brews in a bar near the arena, and then we got back in the car for the ride home. By then, we had begun to calm down, and I settled in comfortably for the ride home. The evening had been a complete success. Or so I thought.
“So, Jim,” Kathy said to me as she relaxed in her bucket seat, “what made you call me after all this time?”
Whoa, baby. The question had come more quickly than I had anticipated. Fortunately, I was prepared for it. Since I hadn’t called Kathy in so long, I knew she’d ask this particular question, and I was all set to tell her that I just thought it might be fun to see Dylan in concert together. After all, I didn’t want her to think that we’d start dating again. But, then, I got a crazy idea, probably because the evening had gone so smoothly and because I had already disproved Danny’s Theory of not buying tickets without a date already lined up. I actually thought about testing the Theory of Femininity. Obviously, I didn’t have a lot of time to mull it over, so I made a rash decision, one that would not only satisfy my curiosity, but also be beneficial to all men everywhere. I decided to tell Kathy the truth, “the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”
“Well, Kathy, to be perfectly honest with you, I asked two other girls to come to this concert, but they couldn’t make it, so I called you.”
When I finished this particular statement, Kathy was silent for a few seconds. Quite honestly, I wasn’t surprised. After all, she probably hadn’t met very many men who were willing to be completely honest with her. She was probably in shock temporarily, and after she recovered from her initial amazement, she probably wanted to formulate in her mind the precise words to express her appreciation to me. While she pondered all of this, I kept my eyes on the road in front of me and tried to come up with my own words to express my thanks and my humility for the kind feelings that she was about to express.
Imagine my amazement, then, when she finally awakened from her trance and said in disbelief, “You what?”
“Pardon me?” I said, thinking initially that she wanted me to repeat everything.
“Do you mean to tell me that you asked two other girls to come to this concert with you and that when they said ‘No,’ you asked me? And then you had the gall, the temerity, the boldness to tell me that I was third on your list of invitees, as if I should be happy to be graced with your presence?”
This wasn’t exactly what I expected, so when I was speechless for a second, she continued.
“Am I supposed to look at this date with you as some kind of Olympic reward? I wasn’t pretty enough to get the gold or sweet enough to get the silver, but because of my willingness to persevere, I should be happy to take home the bronze?”
“Kathy,” I stammered, though I had no idea of what I was about to say. I just felt I had to say something to keep her from taking up the attack again. My stammering didn’t matter.
“Stop the car!” she said next.
Reflexively, I took my foot off the gas, but I didn’t apply it immediately to the brakes. Looking back, perhaps I should have. Maybe I should have pulled over, let her get out of the car, and walk the remaining 100 miles as she intended to do at that moment. Then, I wouldn’t have had to listen to her all the way home. I could have listened to the Mets and the Braves on the radio, instead.
But no, I couldn’t do that. I was too much of a gentleman, too much of a good guy. Besides, I was still in shock myself that Dan Dugan might be right after all.
“Stop the car,” she repeated.
“Kathy, I’m not going to stop the car so you can get out on a dark highway and walk or hitchhike all the way home.” Determined to get her out of my hair as quickly as possible at that point, I stepped on the gas again.
“Why do you care all of a sudden? She asked. I’m number three, remember?” Then, like a disc jockey counting down the top-ten hits, she repeated the number for me. “Three! Three! Three!”
“You’re overreacting a little, don’t you think?” This was the second dumb thing I had said within the last few minutes.
“Overreacting! Overreacting! Overreacting!” When she repeated the word in that same way again, I knew for sure that she’d definitely make a great disc jockey if she ever decided to give up her bureaucratic career.
“You go an entire year without calling me. Then, out of the blue, you call me up and invite me to a Bob Dylan concert, as if “The Times They Are A Changing.” You share with me all your cross-country experiences, and I start to think maybe you’re finally ready to get serious and settle down, and then you tell me that I’m still number three on your list of girlfriends, and I’m overreacting? I’m overreacting?”
Please don’t say it again, I’m thinking.’
“But, Kathy — “
“Don’t ‘But Kathy’ me. How much were those tickets?”
“Twenty dollars,” I answered authoritatively, relieved that I finally knew the correct answer to one of her questions.
At that point, she dug into her pocketbook, found her wallet, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, and shoved it into the small opening above the radio where I kept my loose change for tolls.
“I’ll pay for my own ticket. Thank you very much,” she said without repeating herself.
“I don’t want your money,” I lied. By now, I knew for sure that this woman couldn’t handle the truth, and I was more than happy to take her money. I figured I deserved it for all the abuse I was taking. Still, I felt like I wanted to make one more attempt to explain myself. “You know,” I said slowly, “I thought you might appreciate the fact that I told you the truth. I didn’t want to mislead you in any way.”
“Oh, you didn’t mislead me. That’s for sure. But did you ever hear of the word ‘discretion’? Or the word ‘malicious’? It is possible to tell the truth without hurting someone’s feelings. ‘Feelings. There’s another word you’re probably not familiar with. What were you thinking?”
Though I wasn’t willing to share any more truth with her, I was thinking about Dan Dugan’s Theory of Femininity, obviously, and I wanted to prove once and for all that women could, indeed, handle the truth, no matter how difficult or painful it might be. All right, so maybe I was wrong. Maybe Danny Boy was right, and I was wrong. And as much as I hated to admit it, I had just learned a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, I still had to put up with almost two hours of verbal abuse before I’d be freed from this ferocious female. Even today, almost 25 years later, whenever I drive on that particular highway from Syracuse, I’m reminded of this nocturnal nightmare.
She criticized me, she criticized the way I handled the end of our relationship from the previous summer, and then she criticized just about every guy on the planet. Believe me, no one was spared. Fortunately, I had learned my lesson by then. I didn’t try to argue with her or reason with her or defend the male species in any way. I let her say whatever she wanted, so by the time she was finished, I was off the highway and preparing to drop her off at her apartment. When we arrived at her place, she opened the car door before I even had a chance to put the car in park. “Don’t even think about walking me in, and don’t ever call me again.” Believe me, that last thought has never crossed my mind.
So did I learn my lesson? And have I applied that lesson to my subsequent dealings with those of the opposite sex? Absolutely not. What I did learn is that this particular woman could not handle this particular truth. So, yes, maybe I should have been more sensitive, but when it comes to women and the truth, perhaps Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is helpful after all. In other words, gentlemen, when it comes to The Theory of Femininity, you’re on your own.