IDON'T know, maybe I'm nuts or maybe I'm heartless but I find it hard to muster up much sympathy for a man whose left butt cheek has gone into spasm from too much . . . bowling.
''Ohhhh. Aw, man. It's the left one. Geez, I don't think I can make it to the remote control. Can you change the channel for me?'' I called my girlfriend, Iris. ''Grace has got the flu and Joe's got Bowling Butt.'' ''Got what?'' ''She picked up some strange flu bug in Sri Lanka and . . .'' ''No. The other thing. The bowling thing.'' ''Bowling Butt. He bowled his behind into a seizure. My buddy Walter got it once in the States and hobbled around the house for about a week. I'm not sure I can last that long. He asked me to massage it.'' Iris was skeptical. She'd recently bowled a heated three games with her eight-year-old and managed to keep her glutinous maximus perfectly pliable. But we decided that this really is a ''guy thing'' all to do with weight distribution and why a man can't pull out a chair or open a door unless a gun's to his head and why . . . Oopsy. Hostility factor 10.
My conversation with Iris moved away from animosity towards husbands with sports injuries to sick children and how I sat up all night in a hotel in Sri Lanka trying to reconstruct the pattern of Grace's fever for the next morning's doctor appointment. Iris recounted an evening spent lying on the floor next to a sick baby's crib and amazingly the conversation crept its way back to husbands and their extraordinary capacity to sleep through everything . . . except maybe a slight cramp in the left buttock.
I'm gonna let you in on a little secret fellas. You know how you imagine that women get on the phone and whip each other into a frenzy over all the little things you do that irritate them? Well, you're partially right. Except that by the end of the conversation the things you do aren't little anymore.
The fact that you set the kids in front of the television and fed them Oreo cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the one Sunday she had an unscheduled meeting at the office transforms itself, during the course of a heated Sunday afternoon chat on the phone with her best friend, into a case of child neglect and (if they're both in the mood for it) maybe even poisoning. (What is in that white stuff between the cookies anyway?) The only consolation I can offer you guys is that we mothers are absolutely the most sexist, gender-biased creatures on the planet and usually end up absolving you with pretentious cliches like: ''Men. Can't live with 'em, can't procreate without 'em.'' Or, if we're feeling really generous and love you bunches and bunches in spite of your being nurturing impaired, we blame it all on your mother, which sort of evens things out in the grand scheme of things don't you think? Because eventually Iris' daughter-in-law will be on the phone with her best friend bemoaning the fact that Ben let the dinner dishes sit in the sink growing penicillin cultures while she nursed a baby with a fever, etc, etc . . .
Of course this doesn't help you fathers out much when she's zipping around the house in a huff saying things like ''Oh no, don't get up off your Bowling Butt to help me mop up the maple syrup that your son spilled all over the kitchen floor three hours ago and has since tramped across the Oriental rugs in the living room. It's easy enough for me to do. I'll just follow the parade of ants. Or perhaps the floors will just get fed up and clean themselves.'' My husband hates this approach. He just wants me totell him what needs to be done and he'll do it.
Or at least he says that's what he wants me to do. But in fact, he wants what every sane person wants - what I want during the week when wonderful Barbara is here on the home front keeping the fabric of our household from unravelling around us. He wants somebody else to do the dirty work. But lines have to be drawn somewhere and although I'll happily bake the bread on Sundays, Joe'll have to knead his own buns.
The only consolation I can offer you guys is that we mothers are absolutely the most sexist, gender-biased creatures on the planet