Saturday, January 13, 2007

Unintelligent Design

Lets just assume, for the sake of argument and the $18,000 we spend to send our jawa to school, that there is a God. And just in case there is, I capitalized His name.

Assuming that there is a divine being, and going several steps further and acting like there is truth to creation and/or intelligent design, one must assume that each and every element of human design is intentional. Nothing was left to chance.

Take, for example, the miracle that occurs when you cut your hand. With help from no outside source, the skin on your hand -- provided it is not a truly injurious gash -- eventually heals itself. If you pay attention, you can actually watch your skin heal. The process begins almost immediately and, in most cases, is completed perfectly. Good as new.

There are glitches, though, and this is where it becomes too easy to poke holes in "intelligent design." Why do I have high cholesterol, bad eyesight and a lousy throwing arm? Why does Flush Puppy get headaches? Why do some people stop eating when they're anxious, while some only eat more?

Most tellingly, why did God bestow only men with stage fright, when women would handle it with so much more grace?

Please understand what I mean by "stage fright," for this is not a universal expresssion, nor does this usage have anything to do with the theater. The "stage fright" I speak of is a benign name to place onto a truly terrifying experience, that of a boy or man who, when called upon to urinate in a public restroom, cannot get the liquid out of his body, no matter how badly it seems to want to get out.

Most women -- and many very confident and/or completely non-self-aware men -- have no idea what this means. For them, a trip to the restroom is simple: you go in, you unzip, you let 'er rip, and that's it. Girls actually go to the bathroom in pairs.

For some of us, nature's call in public can become a truly horrifying event. If it gets bad enough, we may have to plan the entire evening around the possibility that me may have to go, won't be able to go, and then will spend the balance of the night uncomfortable, thinking of nothing else but the fact that we are dying here, and must find a safe place in which to empty our bladder.

It gets better with age and the greater mind control that comes through maturity, though I've heard that the process, now physical and not mental, will soon reverse itself. Back in college, just the idea that someone might be within ten feet of the door of our dorm floor's bathroom was enough to send me in the other direction. You can forget about urinals, or enlisting in the military. I guess I would have failed at San Franciso's inner-city schools, as well, where they have removed the stall doors to prevent drug dealing. And you ask why we spend $18,000 on 4th grade.

As a young guy, even one whose guy credentials are sketchy at best, you don't want to admit that this is a problem. In a world where people routinely greet their best friends with homophobic slurs and painful blows to the shoulder, to come clean to the fact that while you may have gone into the bathroom to complete the simplest act in the world, you have emerged several minutes later unsuccessful in your attempt is to turn in your membership card in the world of emerging men.

To hide in the stall is to risk the assumption from strangers that whatever you've gone in their to do has been foul and repugnant enough to last several minutes, so that's out. And to stand at the urinal motionless, literally going through the motions but fooling no one is to invite embarassment on the level of being punched out by someone's little sister.

Ladies, you cannot imagine. You stand there, thinking of anything except the all-too-real fact that everyone has come and gone while you are still there, looking straight ahead, trying to ignore the fact that the only liquid coming out of your body is sweat when you can think of nothing else. Eventually, the urine actually seems to go backward into your body rather than coming out. Meanwhile, every other guy stands there, proudly doing his business, with no thought other than "Who's the loser with the stage fright?"

I mean, we all know what it is. And we all hope it happens to someone other than us. Having suffered from stage fright for most of my adult life, I get a certain joy from realizing that someone else is so afflicted. Since I am already hidden in the stall, I can do whatever celebratory dance I choose without worry that someone will see.

Of course, that's the worst part, of course, the reason why any architect behind something called "intelligent design" would have thought to spare the males of the species of this particular foible. For one, who has more to lose, dignity-wise, by admitting something like this? More to the point, consider something we all know: if it were women who got stage fright, the woman in question would be enveloped by her understanding, supportive friends, who'd help her work through this problem, ultimately solving it.

If women got stage fright, there would be no stage fright.

"Oh, honey, it's okay. Don't you worry about it. We're all here for you."

The best guys can manage is the completely useless, though well-intentioned, "Even if it's just ME in there with you? I mean, we've known each other since we were 12!"

"Yeah. That's actually worse."


Even gay guys aren't likely to show sympathy, finding it hilarious and the springboard for a barrage of jokey insidey references that may be a stretch for straight guys' appreciation, coming as they are in a time of awkwardness and tension. Only women, to other women, would provide the comfort and empathy needed for some social anxiety-wracked, urine-filled slob to overcome this dastardly handicap.

Honestly, I have had a few friends who've ultimately understood, though normally after a period of hysterical laughter, and always because they know of what I speak. Roger A. Hunt once told me that, as a child, he would visualize the poster that hung over the toilet at home, thus mentally transporting himself to the safety and isolation of his own bathroom. Uncle Sam, for whom nothing is cause for embarassment, obeyed my instructions to "get out of here!" many times while we were in college, waiting patiently outside for his turn, which eventually came.

One time, at a crowded Lower East Side bar, my friend Dan barred the restroom door from multitudes of bargoers hip enough to believe him when he told them, in hushed tones, that there was a drug deal going down in the bathroom, and it would just take a few more minutes.

But these are special men, the kinds of men I have taken great care to select as the foundation of my social circle.

Yesterday, as I climbed away on the Precor at 24 Hour Fitness, I eavesdropped on the conversation of two women nearby. I noticed how obvious it was that their conversation would never have taken place between men. "Your hair looks great! Did you just get it cut?"

"Oh, no it's still flat. It'll get better in a few days."

"No, no, it's great. Did you lighten the color?"

They asked how their mothers, daughters, sons, husbands and dogs were, recounted some great things they had talked about last week, and then showed great enthusiasm and interest when some other guy they knew came up to say hello. All he had to do was show up. They carried the rest of the conversation, asking him all kinds of questions about his new baby, his wife and his recent move to a larger house only two blocks from his old home.

Then one of them said, "Well, when things calm down, we'd love to come see the baby!"

Him: "Yeah, whenever. Now's fine."

Them, together, laughing as they would have had he just told them it was appropriate to pin thumb tacks onto bunny rabbits' tails: "Oh, no, no, no!"

Confused: "Uh, you can call first. It's okay."

Again: "No, we'll wait until things have calmed down."

He looked at them, his face screwed up, and went back to something he could understand, the free weights.

So okay, we're different, and that's fine, and no matter how many dolls and pink t-shirts we give our sons, they may end up not noticing their wives' haircuts and never hugging their buddies and telling them they love them. With some practice, they might invent stories about drug deals to spare their friends some dignity while attempting to urinate in a packed Lower East Side bar, which is worth something, actually plenty.

But I promise you that if there were such a thing as "intelligent design," somewhere along the way they would have made it so that stage fright was a thing women fear, not men.


Anonymous flush puppy said...

I'll trade you bone-crushing, soul-sucking headaches for the fear of peeing in public ANY DAY. I'd wear freaking Depends if I had to.

8:05 AM  
Anonymous anotherlefty said...

More information than I ever needed

11:07 AM  

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