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Wednesday, 20 February 2008 00:00

The innate traits of the male species

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By Stephanie Wampler

Step-by-cautious step, the man crosses the room, casting his eyes in all directions to make sure no one is watching. He moves quietly but intently, focused completely on the object which beckons to him from across the room. It’s not a woman who calls, or a buddy. It’s not even a bowl game on TV. It’s something much more elemental: a light saber. He reaches out to touch it, and his fingers caress its polished silver surface (OK, plastic surface). He grips it carefully, presses the button to extend the blade (how does he know to do this?), and from deep within him comes ... zzzwwwhhh. The classic light saber sound.

I know, I know. All you guys out there are correcting me. The classic light saber sound is not zzwwwhh. It’s zhwhoosh. No? Please, cut me some slack. I am, after all, a woman.

As if to prove my point, while I was typing that last sentence, my son wandered by and glanced at my computer screen. He immediately spotted “zwhoosh” and said, “That’s not spelled correctly.”

Oh, really?

Scientists and psychologists have spent millions of dollars trying to figure out if our genes or our upbringing are more important in determining who we are. They should have saved their money and just asked me. Clearly, it’s genetic. All members of the guy species have a number of unique traits that set them entirely apart from the rest of us.

(You wonder how a woman speaks with such authority? I live in a house with a husband. I have given birth to two sons. I have a male dog, albeit without some of his machinery. I used to have a male Beta fish, until he puffed up and died six months ago. As far as I can tell, I am the only female for 50 miles around. Raised toilet seats haunt my dreams.)

We are all familiar with one of the first genetic guy traits: a predisposition for outdoor urination. When I was a kid, I remember going on family vacations with my father. He marked at least one tree in every single state between the Mississippi and the Pacific. The girls in the family ... did not.

I remember a couple of years ago driving home with my son. He had said that he had to go, that it was absolutely an emergency. With that in mind, I was driving 120 miles per hour to get him home so he could make it to the bathroom. We flew into the driveway, scattering gravel, toys, and chickens, and jerked to a stop I leapt out of the car and raced to the door to unlock it for him.

But he wasn’t behind me. After half a minute or so, I glanced back at the car to see if he needed help with his seatbelt. It was an emergency, after all, and I didn’t want him struggling hopelessly to free himself from the car seat. But he wasn’t in the car at all. I scanned the yard. There. He was standing by the edge of the woods, casually peeing into the trees as if toilets had never been invented.

What? In the yard? We have indoor toilets, two in fact. You know, if I had realized that that was his plan, I could have stopped the car a long time ago and just let him out.

But what could I do? He’s a guy. I guess he had no other choice.

The next essential guy trait is a predisposition for violence. In my sons, this manifests itself primarily through hitting, kicking, wrestling, and my personal favorite, light saber fighting. My boys always talk me into battling with them and are usually generous enough to loan me a light saber. Once, after my son had cut my legs off for the fifth time and I was lying on the ground dead for the second time, I began to wonder why my sweet little petunias so loved to fight. I certainly had not taught them that. Non-violence is my personal preference. But then I remembered the gleam in my husband’s eye when they brought home their first light sabers. I knew then that it’s genetic. He’s where they got it from.

Then, as I lay dead, I reflected further and thought about grownups who have been invited to play light sabers with them. The grown-up guys seldom even waste their breath on a reply. They grab the nearest light saber and jump into the fray. One even throws in a re-enactment of the classic Monte Python sword fight. (The knight’s hands, feet, arms, legs, and finally trunk get cut off, while the head yells something to the effect of, “This fight’s not over! I’ll bite your knees off!)

It’s not just my sons or my husband. It’s genetic.

Related to the predisposition for violence is a natural ability for sound effects. The light saber sound effect is the most obvious. I have scientifically observed that all grown men who come within five feet of a light saber automatically make the sound. They can’t help it. They probably don’t even realize that they’re doing it. Other sounds that seem to be genetically pre-determined include the sound of a car revving up, the sound of a gun or machine gun going off, and the sound of a bomb or airplane dropping. Living in the male bastion that is my house, I occasionally attempt some or all of the sounds, but even to my own ear, they are simply feeble imitations. I just don’t have it in me.

The last guy trait that I am going to mention is a love for capes. Even before my boys knew about superheroes, they knew that if they were wearing capes, they could fly. I recently found a picture of two tiny little boys in green capes, standing on their dresser, poised for flight, their grins as big as their faces.

I remember, as a child, cutting up my pink curtains to make a cape for my younger brother. My mother didn’t think much of the plan, but my brother loved it. He wore his cape everywhere. Since that time, I have avoided pink fabric for cape-making, but I have made capes for my sons out of green fabric, blue fabric, black with silver stars, sparkly gold, and shiny red. They wear their capes to jump off their dressers, their beds, the couch, me, the kitchen counter, and the car. Flying just doesn’t get any better than that.

Although we don’t often see our grown-up guys in capes, I have a suspicion that it might just be a lack of opportunity. I’m thinking that the next time my husband has guy’s night at our house, I might just leave a man-sized, shiny red cape laying on the table. I’ll leave it there, and then I’ll get the video camera and hide out in the yard. If I’m lucky, I might get a clip of an oversized superhero flying off the roof.

Why on earth would a grown man jump off the roof? For the same reason that he is a master of sound effects and an outdoor urinator. He can’t help it. It’s genetic. He’s a guy.

(Stephanie Wampler is a writer who lives in Waynesville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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