My wife has a rule she follows every time we go out to eat. For a long time I, being a guy, was unaware of this. But she reminded me of it the other day when we chatted about something I can't remember. She will never order more food than I do. She just doesn't like the idea. "What do you care what other people think?" I ask. It's not that, she says.
I've come to realize, over the years of what has been a great relationship with my beautiful bride, that no matter how dearly women love men, they all pretty much agree on one thing: Despite the good qualities of their men, most of them can't help occasionally displaying the sloth of a caveman, or a barnyard animal. Or, more specifically, a pig.
The "most men are pigs" theory is an understood high truth among the sisterhood regarding husbands, boyfriends or guys in general. It's not an indictment, just an accepted condition. So the girls don't feel a need to talk about it much.
This whole notion was captured in an animated short film I saw a few years ago. It has a scene in which two beautiful women stroll by a construction zone.
Checking them out from scaffolding above is a line of pigs sitting shoulder to shoulder, dressed in bib overalls and hard hats, eating their lunches. They hoot and whistle as the girls sashay by. This prompts one of the women to say offhandedly to the other:
"Look, those pigs are acting like men."
Our male histories of myriad crude, grotesque and slovenly ways make women shudder in horror.
Guys, you know what I'm talking about. We know we do things we don't think are piglike at all. But, she'll remind us, oh yes, yes they are. At least to the civilized world.
Seeing us being our raunchy selves is the very reason we remind women of pigs, happily snorting and rolling around in the muck.
Think back, guys, or maybe you've yet to curb some of these oink-like habits: snorting, spitting, slurping, power belching, gulping, stuffing as much food as possible in our mouths while talking and joking; staining clothes with something liquid-like, never thinking these clothes aren't to be worn again and again; telling, then hysterically laughing at, tasteless "guy" jokes to unsuspecting well-mannered folks, who recoil in a horror-stricken wince at you, then shake their heads in sympathy at your girlfriend or, poor thing, wife.
There are countless other such scenarios, each of which could cause even Miss Manners to spray a freshly spooned mouthful of tomato soup across her crisp white-linen-covered table.
Strangely, some of this behavior is endearing to women. But it's usually at the beginning of a relationship with a really raw-headed guy, who at that point is merely an amusing diversion.
"Aw, isn't he cute with all that vomit on his beard," she'll chirp, sighing as her manly man snores violently, head jerked back on the couch.
But over time, if a guy is lucky enough to have a woman who puts up with him for an extended period, shepherding him past his most offensive early pig-ugly behavior, he will learn from her, via a series of intricate cues and signals -- glares, under-the-table kicks, or even punches -- that the behavior must stop ASAP.
And while there are exceptions, women generally never develop any of these crude, manpig habits. Unlike most men, they'll go out of their way to make that point clear to all. Even if it keeps them from getting what they want.
Case in point: Elena and I go to a restaurant. She's starving and I'm not. Being somewhat evolved, yet still uncured from some pigisms, I'm not aware that she's more than a little bit hungry. (Advice to guys: Always find a nice way to find out how hungry she is before going out to eat. It's a bad idea, for instance, to ask, "Ready to pound a lotta food?")
So I order a salad. She wants more than that, but she holds off and also orders a salad. Why? It wouldn't look right if the guy orders a salad and the woman orders a steak with mashed potatoes and spinach. Somebody would get the wrong idea, even though she's fit and trim.
In our defense, we guys, after all our blundering about, still must be doing something right. Just look at all the better halves out there who put up with us, despite ourselves. These wives and girlfriends are showing that they really love us. And guys, if you're lucky enough to have a woman who loves you, do right by her. Hard as it is, it's important to keep a lid on your pig-happy ways.
Just remember this, guys: We need them more than they need us. Thank God we have them. Would it kill us to do a few things to show we're not just about barnyard behavior? Would it?
We can strive to display only the best qualities of a man; we can be something more, something better.
How about a gentleman? You know, a guy with manners. What a concept. What a catch.