Just a Thought—Viva la Difference



By Janice Lane Palko

During the Christmas holidays, my husband, 25 and 20-year-old sons and I went to see Les Misérable at the movie theater.  It was the only movie that all four of us had not seen so that’s why we chose it.  While I enjoyed it, I could tell after 10 minutes, that my male counterparts were less than enthralled.  My hubby nodded off every here and there while my 20-year-old began to surreptitiously text, and I noticed a scowl periodically creeping crossing the 25-year-old’s face. 

 As the credits rolled by, I asked for their critiques.  The hubby said it was a good story, but had way too much singing.  The 25 year-old, who has a master’s degree in Political Science, said he wished they’d delved more into the history of the time instead of all that “fluff,” and the 20-year-old said he knew why they named it “miserable.” Although he did relate how during an architecture class last year he learned how the Parisians redid the lay out of the streets of  Paris after this time so that barricades could not be constructed by rebels.  Clearly, they are not uneducated bores, but boys.     

 In contrast, the females I know who saw it gave it reviews that ranged from great to glorious.  While some may think what I’m going to say next sexist, I believe that generally, there is a difference between boys and girls—what they like, how they think and how they behave.  And after watching the movie, I began to wonder if it was my boys’nature that predisposed them to rate the move as so-so.     

 I am fortunate in that when I had my twins I gave birth to both a son and daughter and, for more than two decades, have been able to observe the difference between boys and girls.  Like Jane Goodall living among the chimps, I’ve lived in my own gender study lab for 25 years.   I know it’s not politically correct to say that boys and girls are different.  Remember, all the trouble Larry Summers, President Obama’s former economic advisor, got into at Harvard?  He was fired from his post as president for observing that males have a greater aptitude for studying the sciences and math as evidenced by the far fewer women entering those fields.  When the evidence is staring you in the face, you can’t ignore it. 

 The first great difference between boys and girls that I noticed occurred when my twins mere tots at the playground.  My daughter was having trouble getting on the merry-go-round.  The older little girls playing there stopped the merry-go-round, helped her up on to it and took care to keep her safe as it spun.  My son who was attempting to climb the ladder on the slide was very slowly placing his feet on the rungs—too slowly for the boys behind him I guess, because they pushed him aside and went ahead leaving him lying in the dust.  

 I’ve often noticed that girls are more “pack oriented,” while with boys it’s an “every-man-for-himself” type of world.  Any mom who has ever heard a teenage daughter rant about the group of “mean girls” at school knows what I’m talking about.  Boys are more solitary; they don’t need a posse to accompany them to the bathroom. 

 As they were growing up, we always had “girl toys” and “boy toys” for them to play with and let them play with whatever they wanted.  No matter.  My daughter always tried to put the Transformers in her dollhouse while my son would take her Barbies and bend them in half to pretend they were guns.  

 When they celebrated their 12th birthdays, I had separate parties for them.  I bought the girls a bunch of nail polishes and decals to play with.  I thought that would occupy them for 15 minutes.  They painted nails for an hour and a half—the fumes were so bad, we had to open the windows in March before everyone passed out.  I took the boys to see Star Wars.  When they came back to the house for cake, every time I turned my back, a wrestling match broke out.  It would have been better had I rented an Octagon and staged a cage match. 

 Style has been another area of contrast.  My daughter placed style over comfort when selecting clothes, while her twin and younger brother always dressed for comfort.  In fact, at one time her little brother refused to wear anything that had snaps, zippers, buttons, or was made from denim (too scratchy) or “sneezy” stuff (fleece—he claimed it caused his allergies to flare and made him sneeze).  So exasperated, I once exclaimed, what am I going to dress you in for school?  Scrubs?

 In observing that boys and girls are different, I’m not implying that one gender is superior. In fact, I like that they are so different in their proclivities and characteristics and think it’s unfortunate that so many equate sexually equality with sameness.  When my kids were scouting out colleges all we heard about from Admissions Officers was “diversity,” how they had students from all over the country, the world, every religious denomination and sexual orientation you could imagine.  While society prizes diversity elsewhere, why can’t we let boys be boys and girls be girls?  Let’s embrace diversity there too.  As they would say in Les Mis, Viva la Difference!