Anna was a Smith graduate who had double-majored in Psychology and Economics before moving to Boston and deciding to become a nurse instead. She worked part time in the Sleep Research Lab and, on the day of our one conversation, was being paid to sit and talk with me during the second five hours of my Constant Routine. We discussed Northampton and the surrounding area schools; she recounted the time she had seen Kurt Vonnegut sit on a bench marked WET PAINT; and I couldn’t resist making the usual Smith jokes when I found out she was straight. Recalling Cameron’s experience at Mt. Holyoke, I asked Anna if she had liked her school.
“It was refreshing not to be around immature guys all the time,” she said after some thought. “I found the all-female environment to be much more sophisticated.”
Feeling compelled to defend my gender; I replied that not all guys behaved immaturely, and at Bennington there had been little distinction of any kind between the sexes.
“I don’t know about that,” she said. “Men behave ridiculously a good deal of the time—it’s the excess of testosterone. For instance, I used to live below these two frat guys from Bowdoin—total rich kids. Their parents had bought them a TV that took up an entire wall and other things no twenty-three year-old could afford. Every night they would get hammered and make so much noise that we could barely sleep.”
I suddenly felt glad Bowdoin had rejected me. “But that’s not necessarily a guy thing,” I argued, “anyone could be obnoxious and spoiled like that.”
“Consider this then,” Anna said, on the defensive now. “One day we came home to find their brand-new car had been horrendously smashed. I had forgotten about it until a week later, when my roommate overheard one of them at a bar bragging about how they and a bunch of other guys had gotten piss-drunk, stripped naked in the middle of winter, and spun donuts in an icy parking lot. Of course, they crashed into a streetlight and totaled the car.”
“But I’m a guy, and I would never do anything that stupid. I also never get naked around other men. There are any number of guys who would have your same reaction at hearing that. Gender has nothing to do with it; some individuals are just prone to reckless, moronic, childish behavior.”
“But you couldn’t picture a girl doing anything that dangerous or homoerotic, could you? Don’t you think there’s something in the male makeup that enables such stupidity?”
I wasn’t sure.
“Here’s another one,” she continued. “My brother and some friends took a trip to Japan, and one night they all got ridiculously drunk off sake and Asian beer. He said they drank all night and ended up wandering around the city daring each other to do stupid things.” She lowered her voice, as if the Techs outside might be listening. “It reached a peak when one of them dared another to stick a bottle of Tabasco sauce up his ass, and then do a headstand! And the guy did it!”
I was so taken aback by the idea of someone willingly sticking such a thing up their ass and not even getting paid for it that I was speechless. Anna sat back, triumphant; and I finally admitted that yes, maybe there was something that drove certain individual guys—I was very clear on this—to commit moronic acts that girls would never dream of.
But of course—it occurred to me later—girls can be crazy in a very different, non-homoerotic drunken-antics way, as we all know. I could have brought up any number of malicious examples from high school or college to prove that point. But such individual actions should never coerce us into stereotyping people of either gender—it leads to far too many misunderstandings.
Anna and I laid the matter to rest and moved on to relationships instead.