When I was growing up, while the men were out hunting and gathering, we women would gather round the hearth in the kitchen solving all the problems of our lives, our family's lives, and, if there was coffee and maybe a cheesecake or danish, the entire world's lives. We'd lean against this or that major appliance, waving the minor appliances now and then for emphasis, and dabbing our eyes with a kitchen towel when the truth hit home. There is so much to be learned, with or without the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. An executive summary follows.
Fact: Understanding each other is over-rated. Women know this. Men don't talk enough to find out. Let's just keep buying those chocolates with the anatomically-incorrect heart boxes and leave it alone.
Fact: The jokes about shoes and closet space are alive and well on HGTV's House Hunters. The one about Fred being a pretty good dancer but Ginger doing it backwards and in heels turns up now and again on soft news segments about feminism. And it's okay. It distracts from the recent conspiracy by women to deploy weapons of mass destruction now disassembled in little zip-lock freezer bags at the backs of refrigerators all over Ohio, Indiana, and Iraq, code name "chicken thighs." "I thought about the code name buffalo wings," one source tells me, "but I was afraid that some guy, unless he happened to be Jacques Pepin or the chef at Craft, might microwave it and try to eat it."
Fact: Listening is over-rated. Nobody really listens to men. If they did, we'd have solved everything by now. Let's just keep buying those pricey little Paloma Picasso jewelry designs for Valentine's Day, or put a pink bow on Francoise Gilot's Living with Picasso and hand it over.
Fact: Yes, the "she should have left him long ago" is practice for leaving you. We practice it often. We text it. We journal it. We send each other e-mail jokes and rhymes about it. And if we're from California, we meditate on it.
Fact: Forget what you've heard about men dying sooner because they want to. According to the late comedian Alan King about why women live longer than men, one woman leaped from her five storied terrace in a suicide attempt after she learned her husband had cheated on her, landed on him because he happened to be outside messing with the car, and survived but killed him.
Fact: More than ever, it pays to marry a psychoanalyst -- 24 hours a day times $150 an hour, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for say, 40 years. That comes out to $3,600 a day, $24,200 a week, $169,400 a year, or an estimated $7 million+ for life, assuming you don't divorce or kill each other slowly with untraceable stress-related diseases.
Fact: It was the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Lowell, not his wife, who wrote "To Speak of Woe That Is In Marriage." The line comes from Chaucer, also a man, whose wife was smart enough not to wind up the hated target of "Writing and Literature" students from Nassau Community College to the University of Phoenix in the 21st century.
Fact: There is no actual woe in marriage, if you read the self-help corridors of Barnes and Noble, only opportunities wrapped in challenges. Or as I say to my husband, who grew up in Belgium and speaks Flemish, "enigmas wrapped in pantoofels and kartoffels." One is slippers. The other is potatoes. I don't think I've spelled either correctly. Women are the superior proof readers, but not in this case.